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  • Writer's pictureLizzy Shannon

A Brother For St.. Paddy's Day

I've scarcely had a chance to gather my thoughts about the St. Patrick's Day party last month. The week before I sent out the Evites, I'd been talking on the phone to my brother Steve, who lives in Inverness, Scotland. I wasn't long out of hospital and was feeling the worst I've felt in a long, long time. The beta blockers I need to take to slow down my crazy thyroid-induced racing heart were making me violently ill. Even a turn of the head made me feel like hurling. I'd tried to stay cheerful on the phone, but weeks of stress and the near-death experience at hospital had my emotions close to the surface. Through tears I lamented, though in a teasing way that he hadn't come to visit me since about 1996, and that I'd rather he came to visit me before instead of after my funeral. He joked about flying in for the St. Patrick's Day party, for he was supposed to have been born on March 17th instead of March 20th.

When I was sending out the Evites, with a rueful smile I added him to the list, knowing full well he wouldn't be able to make it. About a week later, I got a notification from Evite that Steve had RSVP'd 'yes'. I knew it was a joke and moved on to the rest of my inbox. To my astonishment I found one from Steve entitled 'My Itinerary'. He had to be kidding! I opened it up and sure enough, he'd only gone and booked flights, coming in a couple of days before the party and returning home a week later. I almost had another heart incident when I saw how much he'd paid for the ticket. Flying First Class for the international part, it ran him a cool four thousand British pounds. That works out at about seven thousand American dollars. I grabbed the phone and speed-dialed him, heedless of the time in Scotland.

"Have you lost your mind?" I demanded, my voice about an octave higher than it should be.

Fortunately Steve knows me well enough to know I wasn't being mean. He laughed. "It's my birthday," he replied simply.

"I can't believe it." I was in danger of crying again, so moved onto such details as who would pick him up at the airport.

It was a tremendous visit. We spent many hours talking. Sharing common memories of our dead mother, why we both ultimately decided not to have children, our Dad and brother, and our careers. We didn't get along as kids, but once we both grew up and left Northern Ireland, we became great friends. We even shared an apartment for a few months in England. The neighbors were scandalized when they saw us both bringing home friends of the opposite gender. The tension in the apartment building was almost tangible for a while until we sorted out the mystery. Not swingers, just siblings.

At the St. Paddy's Day party I was proud to show him off. My brainiac brother, who not only nicked all the brainy genes before I was born, but the skinny genes, too. I wanted to boast to everyone who met him that he is a professor, and was Head of Applied Physics in Strathclyde University before going into the private sector. I had a little 'Awards Ceremony', having added a last-minute trophy earlier that week. I handed Steve a couple of birthday presents and a trophy with a star on top, proclaiming: Saint Patrick's Day 2012, Guest Who Traveled the Furthest: Steve Blythe.

The other awards were Best Musician, which went to the talented and lovely Michele. She has been coming to the St. Paddy's party for several years now, entrancing everyone with her amazing harp and piano playing. Best Chef went to Scott, for preparing the party food, and for cooking up incredible meals for me any time he comes to visit. And last, but never least, the Guest of Honor went to Bill, William F. Nolan, author of over a hundred books, his best known Logan's Run. He is the sweetest of gentlemen, and seemed to like his trophy very much. He and the two adorable friends who brought him, Sunni and Jason, were among the sturdy few who made it to the wee small hours of the morning as we wrapped up the party.

In the end we counted just over a hundred people at one time in the house. So many friends came, I was overwhelmed with love and gratitude. I've made a family amongst these people of the Pacific Northwest, and it was a wonderful thing to have them all there together, my brother there to share it all. The house was filled with music, laughter, and happiness.

The day after the party Steve and I vegetated and watched movies, including Logan's Run. Even after all these years it still held our attention. I'd forgotten how incredibly attractive Michael York as Logan was. Yummy. :-)

The next three days sped quickly past. My friend Jessica surprised us both by making a gorgeous birthday cake for Steve on his actual birthday. We celebrated with cake and champagne, and one candle to blow out.

Any sightseeing we attempted to do was foiled by sleeting rain. The most poor Steve got to see was Multnomah Falls. The rain was so icy, my hands were stinging with pain by the time we'd crossed from the parking lot to the lodge. The only souvenir he'd let me buy him was a ball point pen containing ashes from Mount St. Helen's.

On his last evening snow fell in huge, beautiful flakes, and lay... almost three inches. In the silence of the night after Steve had gone to bed, I sat by my window looking out. I have always loved snow... considered it magical. Not for the first time I wished I lived in a place that had regular falls of snow, and where Christmasses are always white.

The morning came fast, and I drove Steve to the airport. The snow had not affected any flights; everything was on time. We'd prearranged to say goodbye quickly to avoid me dissolving into tears. Portland Airport swiftly swallowed him up, and I made my way back home, sad at his going, but so very, very happy that he had come. His visit was just the thing I needed to help lift me out of the quagmire of post-surgery. I truly believe my healing was accelerated because of it.

As soon as I'm well again, (which isn't far away; I improve every day) I'll start planning a trip to see him and his wife Moya, in Inverness, and combine it with my annual visit to Dad in Northern Ireland.

Happy Birthday, Steve

Michele Freeman, William F. Nolan, and Scott Simmons


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