The last time I saw my oldest brother Kevin was the morning after my daughter’s wedding, this past June. Brad and I hosted a brunch for family, and Kevin and his new wife, Bobbie were able to join us before they took off for their several-day drive back to their home in Lincoln, Nebraska.
It was rather amazing that Kevin came to the wedding, because, well, as we’ve always said, “Kevin is Kevin.” In other words, you just never knew whether he would show up or not. But, when it came to the BIG events, Kevin was there, sliding into home last minute. And when he made an appearance, Kevin was all in.
When a week after the official wedding RSVP deadline passed and we had not heard from Kevin as to whether they could join us for the joyous occasion, I tried to reach out to him. I texted, I called, and left messages. Finally, days later, I heard from him.
“Hey, sis, what’s up?” Kevin asked.
“Well, we’re hoping that you both will be able to come join us at Kyle’s wedding on June 4,” I said.
“Yeah, I think we can do that.”
Not exactly the vote of confidence I was hoping for.
“That’s awesome,” I said. “So, part of the RSVP was to choose what you would like to eat at the reception.”
“Okay, kiddo (I loved that nickname) what are my choices?”
Without hesitation, I responded, “At this stage, Mcdonald’s.”
I’ll forever miss his hearty laugh, and his big shit-eating grin I imagined from the other end.
Kevin, always the protective big brother. He’s 7 and I’m 2 in this picture
On Saturday, September 10, Kevin left us just as he made his appearances throughout the years, suddenly, without fanfare and on his own terms.
He was just 66 years old.
Kevin filled his shoes well as the oldest, and as the youngest sister, I think he felt compelled to teach me important life skills throughout the years. How to survive guerilla warfare that involved him digging a massive hole in the ground and standing on the far side of its opening, covered by weeds and grass, to see if I’d actually fall in. Kevin and my other older siblings, Karen and Jeff, spiced up the situation to challenge me to outrun our visiting friend, Gwen Thees out to the garden.
I won and lost if you get the picture. I’ll never forget the images of all of them standing above me, as I was literally up to my shoulders in a hole.
This was the infamous Radio Flyer, before the grand adventure that follows…
Or, rigging up the Radio Flyer wagon filled with library books, tethered by a rope to the minibike Kevin drove like a madman to get to the bookmobile. Kevin and older brother Jeff were on the minibike, younger brother Greg and I were wedged in with the books in the wagon, youngest brother Gordie was tied up behind the wagon on his tricycle (who thought up this scheme????) and older sister Karen rode along on her bike to supervise. We lost Gordie at the first turn and turned him over to the neighbors. Soon after, as the wagon wove back and forth, Greg had a look in his eye that said, “It’s either you or me” and bailed out of the wagon. With the shift in the weight distribution, the wagon flipped, and somehow, I was trapped underneath, books scattering all over, and my back getting dragged against the asphalt. I still have remnants of scars from the small pebbles and black tar of the hot country road.
And then there was the time that he rebelled and ran from mom as she came after him with the wooden handled hairbrush that she whacked us with when we got out of line. I’ll never forget the rest of us, standing looking out the front window as he ran, cheering, “Run, Kevin, run!!” He taught me to be a survivor, and that sometimes there was a path to resistance.
Kevin enlisted in the Army and left for boot camp soon after graduating from high school. I was only in 8th grade but felt his absence every night at the dinner table, and when the cookies all disappeared, we didn’t have Kevin to collectively blame anymore. I remember a time when he came for a visit when I was a senior in high school. He was shooting pool in the basement, the glow of the fluorescent light suspended above offering a halo effect around the table. I sat on the basement steps, my hands cupped under my chin, lamenting that I couldn’t wait until I turned eighteen.
“Wait a minute, sis. Don’t be in such a hurry. When you turn eighteen, you’re going to want to be 21, and when you’re 21, you’re going to wish you were 18 all over again.”
Kevin’s wisdom was the greatest lesson in just enjoying the moment that I ever got.
Then he proceeded to teach me how to shoot pool. Left-handed. I never realized that, as a southpaw, Kevin taught me his way, until years later when Brad noticed while we were out with friends playing 8-ball.
As I got older, Kevin taught me important social and gaming skills. Throwing darts at his local watering hole, the Winking Lizard in Cleveland. Being able to hold my own, whether in a crowd or in a crowd drinking beer. How to come prepared for a white-water rafting trip when it rains all weekend. Sleeping upright in a car never felt so good.
When the kids came, Kevin became the “fun uncle” (our son Ian’s observations) and since he was working in Toledo for a time, was never more present in my life than during their early childhood years. Or, should I say, never more present up until that point. When Claire died, I’ll never forget his huge bear hug when he made it into town for the funeral. He always had such big hugs.
Months later, we all gathered together as a family to celebrate the nuptials of younger brother Greg and his Lisa. Our hearts were still collectively breaking over our loss of Claire, but, true to form, we held on to each other, told stories, and rallied. It’s the Zeigler way.
Greg and Lisa’s wedding, September 2000.
Kevin moved to Lexington, then to Colorado, and eventually to Nebraska. We didn’t see or hear from Kevin much when he was out West, but when mom and dad died, he came home.
I’m so glad he made it for our daughter’s wedding. We had one more chance to joke together, take pictures together, and tell stories together.
With my brothers celebrating my daughter Kyle’s wedding to Will Letton on June 4, 2022.
You just never knew if Kevin would show up, but when he did, he was all in.
We lost Kevin way too soon.
As we gathered on October 15 to memorialize Kevin, my siblings and I, along with Kevin’s wife Bobbie and extended family, shared our collective remembrances. The stories rolled, as did our laughter and tears. We searched through old photo albums, recalling shared adventures.
Throughout the weekend, I felt like my memories became full color as we sifted through black-and-white photos.
I’ll never forget what he taught me.
And I still shoot pool left-handed.
Rest in peace Kevin.