Live Well. Laugh Often.

By Ernie Witham   |   February 15, 2022

I was staring blankly at a shelf in the garage. I’d been on a quest for something when I left the house some 15 steps earlier, but my mind stopped working at about step 12. I moved some boxes around for inspiration. That’s when I found the Monopoly game. It was an early edition. Still had the thimble, the boot, and the wheelbarrow tokens. They were voted out in 2017 and replaced by T-Rex, a penguin, and a rubber ducky. Wonder if the thimble contested the vote.

I sighed. My kid brother, Jimmy, and I used to play Monopoly for hours in New Hampshire. Rainy days. Snowy days. Punishment days.

“But Ma, all the other kids were doing it.”

“If they all jumped off Messer Street Bridge, would you do that too?” I decided no answer would be best for that question.

Jimmy was four years younger than me, so I could almost always beat him at Monopoly. So, to be fair (but still win, of course), we used to start by divvying up all the properties and hotels.

“Let’s see that’s Pennsylvania Ave with five hotels… you owe me… everything.”

At this point, normally mid-mannered Jimmy would pick up one corner of the board and flip it into the air. Next would come the bank, paper money flying everywhere, and finally any snacks we might be having like Wise Potato Chips.

This would bring Ma back into the picture. She’d look at sweet Little Jimmy, then me. I’ll let you guess who bore the brunt of consternation. As we were picking everything up, we’d look at each other and burst out laughing.

“Wanna play again?”

“Can I have Pennsylvania Ave this time?”

“Sure! I’ll just take Boardwalk and Park Place. No one ever lands on them.”

As the older, wiser one I always wanted to show Jimmy some new thing I had mastered, like archery. “Watch this!” I took my bow, strung one of those “safety arrows” with the blunt metal tips on it and pointed it straight up. “Let’s see how close it lands.” We both looked up as the arrow all but disappeared, then watched as it came back down. It landed about six inches from us with a loud thwack. We laughed – nervously. Ma just happened to see this and it was goodbye bow.

Somehow we survived adolescence. As teens, we took up music. Jim had a drum set, a guitar, and could sing. My musical highlight was when the neighbor rushed over as I was strumming and vocalizing a popular ‘60s hit, because she thought the cat was caught in the screen door.

A few years later, I became interested in photography. I told Jim I was going to buy a single lens reflex camera and he wanted to know all about it. He even went to the camera store with me and we ended up both buying German-made Rolleis. We took photos of everything. “Look at that weird bug!” Click-click-click-click. Do you hear a plane?” Click-click-click-click. “Get a photo of this Frisbee coming at you… oops, sorry. Don’t tell Ma.”

We both looked up
as the arrow all but disappeared, then watched as it came back down. It landed about six inches
from us with a loud thwack.
We laughed – nervously.

Maybe the greatest time together was when we got into motorcycles. I bought one first, learned how to ride it in our long dirt driveway, which was bordered on one side by wild blackberry bushes. “Never gonna get those stains out, Bro.”

“I know, Bro, just help me get the thorns out.”

Jim bought a van in the mid-‘70s and decked it out with captain’s chairs, carpeting, padded walls, and a CB radio. He called it “Shelter From the Storm.” We took it to a two-day blues concert headlined by Canned Heat. We sang “Going Up the Country” at the top of our lungs, along with a couple thousand other stoned campers.

We lived together as adults for a while until I moved to California in the late ‘70s. I sold my bike. Jim moved up to a Harley Davidson. He’d always let me ride it when I visited. Of course, everyone in Laconia knew Jim and his bike, so I got some strange looks when they saw me on it. 

“That Hawaiian shirt didn’t help, Bro.” Ha!

Good times. My brother died of COVID in early January. I sure will miss him. 


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