Whenever Randy was happy, so was his kid brother, Todd. And even though Todd had Down’s syndrome, it didn’t stop him from being the mirror-image of his idol.
In fact, Todd never knew he was any different than the rest of us. His brother didn’t permit such ideas. If anyone even looked at Todd sideways, Randy would tighten his fists.
Sometimes, the two seemed less like brothers and more like one person.
We’d take Randy fishing; Todd came along. We’d go camping; they’d share a tent.
Consequently, one night I felt splattering against the side of my tent, and heard Todd whistling Dixie.
The next morning, Todd said, “Sorry, I thought you were a tree last night.”
Still, it was impossible not to like Todd. He laughed hard at jokes, sang loud at campfires, and made simple things seem like privileges.
One summer, Todd got a job on the same construction site his brother worked. He wandered around picking up nails and screws for pocket change. He lost the job when he started playing with a high-powered nail gun—accidentally making pin-cushions out of Randy’s truck tires.
Another time: Todd drove his brother to the doctor when he came down with the stomach bug. He piled Randy into the vehicle, fired the engine, and broke the sound barrier.
When the cop pulled him over, Todd instructed the deputy to write him two tickets to save time. The officer was more interested in why Todd was driving without a license—and why he was driving on the median.
But that was long ago. Todd and his brother moved to Tennessee when work slowed down. They grew up, sprouted facial hair. We lost touch. But I still remember the younger versions of them, and how they did everything together.
And I recall the time Todd fell prey to a fistfight because someone called him, “retard.” Randy stepped in and ended the rumble in a few seconds. When the scrape was over, Randy told me through bloody lips:
“My dad left us while Todd was still a baby, he called him an ugly freak. He was too stupid to see how great Todd is. Why, he’s the thing I love most in this world.”
Anyway, a few weeks ago, Randy was on his way home from work and fell asleep at the wheel. I’m sorry to say that it was a dark day in Tennessee.
They tell me Todd gave one hell of a eulogy. And when somebody asked why he wasn’t crying, he answered:
“Because. Randy’s happy right now. And we always do everything together.”