I can write a number of stories about Hal. One of his most loveable traits was how he turned fiascos into hilarious adventures. He and his pretty wife, Yvonne, Barry and I went to the Georgia – Florida football game (the world's largest cocktail party) one year. Not known for his punctuality, Hal waited too late to get reservations at a decent hotel. We ended up in a moldy, smelly place called the Floridan across from the bus station.
To get to our rooms on the third floor, we had to take the elevator which must have been installed 100 years before. A small woman with iron-gray hair and deep lines etched in her brown face perched on a stool by the controls. Like everyone in Jacksonville that day, she was drunk as a skunk. Pulling a lever, she did her best to line up the door of the elevator with the opening on the third floor. We lurched up and then dropped like a rock. We lurched up again and dropped again. Over and over, she struggled to get the floor of the elevator even with the floor we were to step out on.
Hal teased the wizened little woman saying, “You know how to drive this thing?”
She cut her eyes up at him and said, “I get you there. Just hold on.” She pulled on the lever and we zoomed up a few feet. She pulled again and we dropped a foot at the time.
I, being the worrier of the group, feared the ancient relic, its operator and all of us, were about to drop to the bottom of the building.
Hal said, “You might need a drink. You got anything to drink?”
She pulled a half-empty whiskey bottle from her pocket and held it up for him to see. We laughed at the smug expression on her face. Hal began to badger her to give him a drink, but she couldn’t be talked out of a drop of her liquor.
Hal and Barry found the entire scenario humurous and especially the old woman. They kept her talking with their banter but she finally managed to line up the spaces enough we could get off.
That was how our wild weekend started. A football game weekend we talked about for years. The bad weather, the crowds and any inconvenience we had did not bother Hal. When he told about it later, he had his listeners wishing they had been with us at the Floridan trying to sleep with the bus station neon light blinking off and on in our windows and bus destinations and departures resounding throughout the night.
Hal said he never felt stressed in his life – not until his wife became seriously ill. He stayed with her day and night at the hospital and in rehab while she recovered from hip surgery. He came home that Sunday morning to change clothes and go back. While putting on his shoes, he collapsed with a heart attack.
I have other stories about my life with my brother, Hal. Do you have family members who could become characters in your stories? Could you write a poem about them?