The summer of '65, I was just 5 years old. My big brother Billy owned a motorcycle and I thought he was the coolest guy on the planet. He'd let me ride on the back of that bike on so many occasions. Rides home from kindergarten were simply the best. He was a very responsible young man and he drove with great care knowing that I was clutching him tight while perched on an impossibly small seat.
I remember one summer day in '65 when he took me out to an old, abandoned horse racing track near Bowles Airport in Agawam. This entire area is now an industrial park, but back then it had some open fields surrounding the track. This is when my brother would get a little adventurous with me and man, we had a blast. We blew through the fields and around the outside of the track. I thought is was a wild ride, like nothing I had ever experienced in my life.
He was my hero. He was my life. He was taken way too soon from me and my family. We've never been the same since... This man would have gone on to do some truly great things. I could see it in him even at the tender age of 5. So many people loved this young man. He left a wonderful legacy of goodness and love.
And that motorcycle... He lost his life on it due to the recklessness of a drunk driver. I was supposed to be on that bike that day, but for some reason, I decided not to ride with him. Instead, I watched in horror as his life was snuffed out in an instant. Not getting on that bike made me feel so guilty for so many years. Could I have changed the turn of events if I was actually on that bike with him? I will never know.
I have come to terms with this after 50 years and I take solace in the fact that he was a huge influence on me growing up. I always asked myself, "what would Billy do?" He's been there for me in ways that I couldn't comprehend until many years after that fateful day.
I still cherish the fact that he loved me beyond words. The memories of holding him tight on a warm summer day with not a care in the world are comforting and inspiring. Thank you Billy for giving me the strength to carry on for 5 decades while making every attempt to embody all of the goodness that you stood for.