Monday, January 6, 2014
Memories of Michael...
Michael Grant Devey
November 5, 1956 to January 3, 1994
A Twenty Year Anniversary...
While I was off on my Christmas holidays, an important anniversary passed without my noticing. For some reason, I have never been able to remember the date that my brother Michael was killed in an automobile accident in Cedar City, Utah. It was such a traumatic loss...the first close family death I had experienced...that the funeral remains blurry movie footage in my mind. The casket was closed...so there was no real goodbye to be said. Twenty years later, it's as if he never left Cedar City.
I gave the eulogy at Mike's funeral. I kept it light hearted...a little jokey...because that's the way he would have wanted it. One of my sisters recently asked me for a copy of my talk. I promised her I would look for it, but it slipped my mind. This morning I was putting my office Christmas decorations in the closet. I don't know if it is just coincidence or a small miracle, but there it was, right there on top of a pile of papers! I experienced a strong prompting to sit down and share those memories again with my family and friends. I found a few photos of Mike as well, that one or two of my sisters may not have.
Mike and Shirley...about 1958
Memories of Michael...
I would like to share with you some of my memories of my brother Michael. Since these are my memories, they may be distorted by time...and aging brain cells. If you remember him differently, please indulge me.
Mike was the older brother I never had. For some reason, when I was a little girl, I wanted a "big brother" to protect me from the evils of the world. In those days I believed that the Russians were going to bomb our house...thanks to JFK! Even though he was about 18 months younger than I, he was my "big brother." We all looked up to him...literally. In high school he shot up past 6 feet almost overnight. I didn't win anymore fights with him after that. But my friend, Charlotte, got a few good licks in.
Cute little guy!
Mike loved living in Cedar City. He got a kick out of telling stories about the people he knew. In fact, he was the Mark Twain of the Devey family...the teller of the "Big Story." He could make an adventure out of every day experiences...with himself cast as the hero, of course! Sometimes he would forget and repeat himself, but without exception...the story got better and better every time he told it.
Mike worked at all kinds of jobs in Southern Utah. At one time he was the mighty tow truck man who rescued stranded skiers who tried to travel the snow-packed roads to Brian Head without chains or snow tires. I'm sure he kept them entertained with tall tales of frozen people-cicles who weren't found until spring thaw. I have a feeling those same skiers went to Aspen the next winter.
We sometimes called Mike "Opie."
He often talked about how much he enjoyed living out in the middle of nowhere. The critters that turned up in his backyard were more ferocious...and the wildlife more plentiful...than found on any African safari. And of course, he bragged that his daughter Hayley wanted to make pets of some of them. "Hey, Dad, can I keep this bobcat that followed me home?"
The great outdoors was right on his doorstep and he spent as much time as he could there, hunting, hiking and just driving around to see what would turn up around the next bend in the road. In this way he was just like our dad, a curious explorer with hundreds of miles of dirt road to travel...the dustier the better.
One summer Mike and Dad, took my daughter Melissa and Hayley on a grueling hike through the Zion Narrows...backwards...because they wanted to just hope into a car parked conveniently in a parking lot and drive away. They spent most of the time up to their necks in water...Missy lost her wallet...but it was an unforgettable experience. I'm just glad they didn't go the year before when the water was so dangerous. (Note: The Narrows cannot be hiked if any rain is in the forecast, due to danger of flash flooding.)
Mike couldn't wait to go "huntin' with Dad." One fall when we were young, Dad took us up in the hills for a little deer hunting. Dad was starting to lose patience because Mike was too busy looking for brass and other treasures in the dirt and was constantly falling behind. We had stopped to rest for a moment, when suddenly a buck leaped out of the scrub oak. Raising his rifle to shoot, Dad stopped, biting off a curse. For there, crouched in the weeds between him and the "trophy buck", was Mike. "Dad, look at all the shotgun shells I found!" I'm sure it's not the first one that got away, because I think my dad just loved the idea of hunting...and not the actual shooting...of deer.
The Barn...and it's "broad side."
That was the last time they let me tag along. I kept telling Mike he couldn't "hit the broad side of a barn" and he kept proving me right, so they left me home. I was an annoying little girl anyway.
An outing in the park in Lehi, Utah.
When I was a young teenager who wanted to join John Denver and save the forests, he was actually nice enough to give me a pair of his out-grown hiking boots. I was so excited...until I discovered he had filled the boots with pancake batter and left it to harden to a substance harder than concrete. It took me weeks to chip out the mess so I could take them to girls camp.
In high school, Mike fancied himself the ultimate expert on all things automotive. But in truth, he was an enemy to any vehicle with a working transmission. He had a favorite one mile strip of highway in Highland where he and his friends would the test the speed of whatever clunkers they happened to be driving at the time. In lieu of organized sports...Mike and his buddies lettered in Joyriding.
Mike and Melanie...Prom!
I'll never forget the night of the Junior Prom. George and I came back late from the dance. It wasn't past my curfew, however, so I was surprised to see Mom sitting there in her favorite telephoning chair. I thought I was in deep trouble, she looked so grim. "Your brother and Melanie were in an accident tonight," she told us.
"Oh, no!" I cried. "Did they wreck the Mustang?" I had no thought for their safety or well-being...I LOVED that car! It was the coolest car we had ever owned. It was the first car I wasn't embarrassed to be seen in when Mom drove me to school in curlers.
Mike's friend, Deverl, was chasing them in another vehicle on the back roads of American Fork. The Mustang took a turn too fast and ended upside down in a canal by the Lehi Sugar Mill. They nearly drowned. Melanie's gown and Mike's tux were ruined. I don't remember if they were hurt and I feel bad about that. All I can remember is the sad, sad sight of that crumpled Mustang. And I remember crying. Teenagers can be so insensitive.
Visiting at Grandma Patta's
Mike never forgave me for going to BYU. He called it the "B Y Zoo" and started calling me by the nickname "Zoobie" in 1973. When I started college, Dad helped me to get a loan on a bright red-orange 1966 Volkswagon Beetle...the official car of BYU coeds. That car was my baby and I named him "Adolph." I thought that Adolph was true to me, but I found out that he lived a secret life. Mike was taking him out for joyrides when I wasn't looking...like when I was asleep or working.
Not too long before he died, he confessed that my car was sought by police over twenty years earlier for doing "wheelies" on the putting green at the Alpine Country Club, where I worked as a waitress. Had I know that, I would have been mortified! I was the "goody two shoes" type that never got into trouble. He said my car was also seen taking shortcuts through people's flower beds in American Fork. Though he swore I was with him at the time...I doubt I would have forgotten doing something like that. Is it possible that the experience was so traumatic that I repressed the memory all those years?
Possibly my most recent picture of him.
He used to call me from Cedar City just to shoot the breeze...or he would pretend to be Ed McMahon trying to award me the 10 million dollar grand prize from Publishers Clearing House. We would talk for over an hour and he would tell me a few tall tales and brag about his children. "Uh, Oh!" He would go suddenly. "Better get off the phone now. Melanie's home...she'll think I've got a girlfriend!"
Those were some of my favorite things to remember about my brother Mike...also known as "Bubba!" I started calling him that when I was very small and couldn't say "Brother." I couldn't help but smile as I retyped these stories into my blog post. If you knew Mike, I hope your memories of him are happy ones. Maybe he told you a tall tale that made you laugh. I'm sure he's telling our mother a whopper right now. Catch you later, Bubba!