A Life Well Lived.

Posted by admin on April 20, 2015 in Family |
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I’ve always had the hope that when it comes time to finally leave this big blue ball, I will stand at the gates and be asked one simple question: “Did you enjoy your life?”

I have made that my life’s goal, in large part because of my brother Jon. I’ve talked about him a time or two here. He was taken from us all way too early, and I think the world is a lesser place because of it. He would have definitely redefined the very concept of adventure had he lived longer.

I wouldn’t ordinarily take a drive down this road, but I am currently trying to figure out how to memorialize my mom and dad. Until recently, I didn’t think having a place to visit them was important; only learning this harsh lesson when I started borrowing Kat’s parents to feel nearer to my own.

Who would have guessed that this once harsh soul would become the marshmallow he is now. All I can say is, “About time.”

I know that I can only see my brother through the eyes of the 14 year old Robb who last saw him at a family birthday party in 1972. There is a certain measure of idolization that goes with the territory, yet the events I do remember clearly showed that even in his short life, he lived life it with unapologetic gusto.

Jon at the wheel of his beloved MGA.

It was not an easy life. Forever changed by Vietnam, his marriage ended suddenly because his wife was cheating on him. He moved back home after that. He was a sheet metal worker by trade; he helped build some of Sea-Tac International, the project he was working on at the time of his death. He was also the washtub player in the Dirty Beaver Jug Band, playing all over the Northwest with Dale Marwood on guitar and Larry Capillero on bones.

I certainly remember the mobile KVI truck rocking back and forth as they played out at the Midway Drive-In swap meet, with Veronica, Hardwick and Morton. I was in awe, watching my brother take center stage: funny, talented and bursting with charm and charisma.

I owe some of my love of life to him. One time we were heading into Issaquah to the parachute center. On the other side of the road were two hitchhikers. He swung his flame-painted Volvo around in a big U and asked the girls where they were headed. “To Enumclaw,” they said. “So am I,” he replied and he and I drove them all the way out to Enumclaw. I’m pretty sure he had both their phone numbers by the time we turned the car around.

He was thrown out of the Gaslamp Tavern in Issaquah once, largely because he wanted to see if he could swing from their chandelier in a very Errol Flynn way. He was also arrested once in Carbonado for being a suspicious looking character.

After the D.B. Cooper hijacking he would enter a random tavern with a briefcase stuffed with money. He’d sit there at the bar, his eyes darting back and forth as if he was waiting to be recognized by the Feds, then reach into the briefcase and leave a large tip, never saying a word the entire time.

There was the time he went into Toys Galore in Southcenter to look at toys. Within moments, he was engaged in a fight for his life with a huge stuffed bear, finally being pinned to the ground by it, much to the amazement of the stunned children and parents around him.

And, of course, there was the famous family story of the day in high school when he was hauled into the principal’s office for having sideburns and wearing just a white t-shirt. The principal said, “I have a good mind to call your parents,” at which point Jon reached into his pocket, tossed a dime on the principal’s desk and said, “Go ahead.”

Several trees have gone missing because of Jon. One ended up as our Christmas tree. Jon had harvested it from the side of a state highway, saying that it looked like it needed to come home with him. When we were out at the Issaquah Parachute Center, Jon would regularly take my GI Joes up with him, tossing them out at about a thousand feet. One of them went off course once, blowing over into Lake Sammamish State Park. There was Joe, hanging from a tree. When I told Jon, he drove over in the Volvo, pulled that ever present saw out of the trunk and cut the entire tree down so I could get my errant GI Joe back.

It was there at the parachute center that his biggest wish came true. He had always wanted a pie in the face and one day one of his many girlfriends obliged – a chocolate cream pie that was sticky-stuck in his beard for days.

I was often his date for concerts. Because of him I got to see Johnny Cash and June Carter, Three Dog Night, Creedence Clearwater Revival and god knows who else. I also saw Errol Flynn in Robin Hood for the first time – on the “big” screen at the Grand Illusion in the U District.

He wasn’t perfect, of course. We spent the better part of the day looking for his MGB, which he lost on a drunk driving spree through South King County. We drove for hours, Jon continually mumbling “Bummers, Bummers” until he brought my mother’s 65 Galaxie to a screeching stop on the side of the road, seeing errant tracks off one side. The MG was just over the slope, a couple yards short of a large pond.

Then there were the calls from Beaver Lake to my mom asking her at 3 a.m. if she had seen his blue suede shoes walk by and to bring them to him, the nude skydives, the used car lot of broken and abused $100 cars in the yard.

But still, he was magical. I know this because 15 years after his passing, a guy at a trade show saw my badge and asked if I knew Jon Zerr. I said he was my brother and he told me what a wonderful guy he was and that he would never forget him. Now that’s a life well lived.

Every year since, Labor Day weekend has rung a bit hollow for me. I still can hear the knock on the door, the pit in my stomach as I walked into the kitchen to see my father cry for the first and only time, and knowing without a word being said that my brother, my mentor, and in many ways my hero, was gone.

I still get teary writing about it, as the tears are welling up now as I key these last words in. Death is painful enough, but the loss of someone with so much zest for life and who lived it bigger than any of us could dream, was a tragic loss. I continue to live in his shadow, though I know he’s smiling down on me every day.

In the Emerald City, holding a wonderful place in my heart for my brother and living life to its fullest every day. I love you Jon.

– Robb

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