Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My Brother's Christmas Gift

Vincent was in a car accident June 1, 1985.  I know that date because I was supposed to at orientation for the Miss Missouri Pageant.  (Yes, I was a pageant girl but that's a story for another time!)  My little brother suffered brain-stem trauma, leaving him paralyzed on the left side, partially on the right and unable to speak.  He recognizes and knows what's going on around him, communicating thru his index finger (yes), pinkie (no) and middle finger (you figure that one out!).  His eyes express his feelings the most - and of course, his cockeyed grin!

There are 2 other dates of that year I recall quite clearly - February 6, when my sister, a college freshman, told me she was pregnant. (I was on toilet-paper brigade while she broke the news to my newly divorced mom & dad).... September 17, when I became an 'Aunt' for the first time. (to John Paul - we knew it would be a boy because God just couldn't take the only boy in our family without giving us one back!!)

But I digress...My dad, who had a stroke and is at the assisted living facility across the street from the nursing home my brother lives in, was getting an early Christmas present, a new mattress.  I brought down a few boxes I had been storing for him to go through while we waited.  Lots of things in that box, including old newsletters, cufflinks and cassette tapes.  Yes, CASSETTE tapes!  I grabbed a few, looked at the labels & laughed as I found old airchecks from my radio days!  One tape in particular caught my eye. I stashed it quickly in my pocket and the next day told Vince about my find.

My car has a cassette player (does that tell you how old it is?!!) so on my trip home I inserted the tape, listened just a few moments and was moved to tears.  As I drove I wondered just how to share this treasure!  It needed to be transferred to a CD but I had no way to do that!  I called my friend Doug, who is a wiz of an engineer, and, viola, it was done!  Complete with special CD cases (Thanks Doug!!) that I dressed up with pictures on the front and back.  I put them away and waited.

Waited until Vince's birthday, December 28th, when we would celebrate his birthday and Christmas with him and dad.  I could hardly stand to wait to give the presents to my mom, dad and sisters. Vince's Christmas gift was an audio letter to my now deceased aunt & uncle - recorded by him!  

I'm sure that doesn't seem very special to you, dear reader, but it is. Why?

Because it has been 25 years since I have heard my brother's voice, 25 years since he has spoken a word to any of us.  And in that recording, he said something to and about every single person in our family.  He spoke with love to all of us......and while we know he loves us, it was nice to HEAR it after 25 years of silence.  My nephew, Vince's nephew, who has NEVER heard his voice, was given an audio affirmation that Vince was, and is, thrilled to be his uncle. 

Vince gave us hope with his positive, optimistic words....he gave us encouragement with his stories...he gave us a snapshot of his life, and ours, in 1985 - of what it was and could have been.  Once the sadness of the "what could have been" was over, we were struck by the awesomeness of the gift; stilled by the timing of God's plan for that cassette;  stunned to silence by the sound of his forgotten voice.

WOW, what a Christmas gift!!   Just......WOW!


  1. I, too, have my Vincent cassettes... I treasure them and listen to them every so often. He was always positive, hopeful, and encouraging throughout the recordings. Traits we should all strive for every day. Lizzie, you have an incredible brother and amazing family. Please give them all kisses and hugs from me. I miss you. Annie.

  2. What a neat story, Liz. I am glad you are writing a blog; I greatly enjoy writing in mine. You are a blessing! I love you!