My brother Walt built a deck on the back of the house, and with a swing and a picnic table, it became the hang out. One hot summer afternoon mom and dad were on the deck. So were Walt’s three boys and Beth and Shelly, playing with Rubik cubes grandma and grandpa brought them. Timmy, probably five or six at the time, came through the house onto the deck and joined the crew. After some time he volunteered to show how to get all the block faces back to the same color. Mom watched in horror as Timmy popped out one cube from a grandchild’s Rubik. She stopped him at once. Timmy disappeared, reappeared with his own Rubik cube, and demonstrated the disassembly and reassembly of a Rubik cube. In short order he made the other children expert, too. Timmy was a geek before there were geeks.
For their birthday I took Beth and Shelly to dinner, with a friend. By the second or third time around, Shelly just brought Timmy. Or, he came anyway. He wasn’t just omnipresent, he was a delight. He leaned back in his chair after one birthday dinner, rubbed his stuffed belly and announced he had gouged himself. The description is part of the family lexicon now.
Timmy and Shelly spent long hot summers under the deck awning, playing every board game and card game in our house or his. In the winter they moved to the kitchen table. At Christmas he crawled up in the attic and handed out the decorations. I have another fond memory of him marching up and down the living room, in an Abraham Lincoln stovepipe hat, memorizing the Gettysburg Address. One summer he showed up just as I was about to take the rented roto-tiller back. I was so tired I was happy to have his help to wrestle the machine back in the car. At the store he took it out, then asked if we could stop at a store on the way home. I protested; I was hot, tired, filthy. He wanted to buy a mother’s day card. We stopped. The next week I got a mother’s day card, too.
When Beth went off to school in 1982 the house seemed a little less empty because Timmy came in every afternoon, just like another kid. But when Shelly went off in 1985, Timmy and I both were at a loss. It wasn’t the same. He looked around right after that first Thanksgiving, went upstairs and came back from the attic with boxes. “We’re putting up the Christmas decorations right now.” And he did.
Timmy was still in high school when I sold the house and left. Shelly kept in touch with him for some time and gave me news. He became a computer geek, of course. Never learned to drive. Lived and worked in Pittsburgh as a graphic designer.
Not too long ago I asked Shelly for news of Timmy, and she admitted she’d lost touch. “You can’t even find him on the internet?” Well, she had no idea how to do that. Timmy would be proud of me; I Googled him up for Shelly in five minutes or less. He’s still in Pittsburgh. He still doesn’t drive. He’s still a geek. They’re back in touch.