My sister and I fought nearly every day for the first twenty years of our lives. She is thirteen months older than I and could land both a physical and verbal punch better than a Muhammad Ali.
I gave as good as I got but I could never match her ability to flatten me with a well-placed left hook or an ironic barb worthy of George Carlin.
When she married Mike I was a bit surprised she asked me stand up with her. I can’t use the term, “matron of honor” because we weren’t the kind of family who bought into patrician monikers and “matron” is such a stuffy term anyway. She wore a purple wedding dress so you get my drift.
It was a beautiful day, rare in Eureka then; before climate change made Eureka into the sunny south of France and before Eureka became the center of the opioid epidemic.
It was a lovely wedding and Mike beamed to the beat of the band which was fitting because Mike became a music teacher in the Sacramento schools and my sister became a lawyer. Talk about a well-balanced teeter-totter of a marriage.
I really liked Mike. He softened the edges of my prickly sister and when they had their two boys, he was really the best dad I have ever seen. And he made my sister happy which is something I never could do...or ever consciously tried to do if I play it fair, here.
I’m writing in the past tense because Mike died last year and we are all still trying to adjust. Especially my prickly sister. Mike was a healthy guy who avoided doctors. When his hearing started to act up, he went to the doctor for a cleaning and, being good doctors, other tests were run. Those tests indicated a serious problem and wham, a diagnosis nobody wants to hear. The doctors gave him just a few months to live but Mike who really disliked the American Way of Medicine, sought alternative care and that path gave him another year of pretty good life. Go plants!
His legacy is vast. He taught music to thousands of Sacramento children. When the economy tanked in 2007, the overpaid bureaucrats who run schools decided music had to go because it was a “frill.” So Mike became a third grade teacher as the music program was sacrificed on the altar of No Child Left Behind. Mike understood that cynical irony and retired as fast as he could, giving him some good years to rear his children, tend his garden and play his music. All those things are still blooming. His sons are great musicians and excellent thinkers. His wife, my sister, is figuring things out as well. She joined the softball team at work which is a stretch for her, but with that solid left swing, I know she’ll be the clean-up hitter.
The world is a better place because Mike Turgeon lived. I have faith we’ll meet again and I’m pretty sure Mike had that faith, too. His faith was built on nature and music and when he met my sister, it expanded to include her prickly family who are all better people because she had the good sense to marry Mike.
Madeleine DeAndreis-Ayres lives in Scott Valley and wrestles with honeybees. She caught four swarms in one day and is over the infatuation.