Today would have been my nephew's 44th birthday. Yes, Harry Jr., was only 17 months younger than me. So he was more like a brother. He and his sister, Missi, used to spend six weeks with us during the summer when we were kids, along with a week at Christmas.
Today would have been my nephew's 44th birthday. I say "would have been" cause he was killed on March 9, 1986. Such a long time ago, but it seems like yesterday that we got that horrible call. The "how" of his death is not as important as the significance of his life. In the short 17 years he was in this world, he made an impact. He was loved and he loved. He made people smile and laugh. He loved horses and cars and his sister and even his bossy Aunt Elizabeth. He would have been the greatest uncle, as well as father one day, I'm sure.
Oh we fought, like kids do. Missi and I were so jealous of him cause my daddy (their grandpa) let Harry by with things that Missi and I couldn't dream of getting by with. And Harry loved to play practical jokes on us. Like sneaking up on us and making us scream. He thought that was hilarious. He was a boy; he loved to aggravate the girls.
He loved his grandma's cooking. He loved cornbread and sweet tea. He loved rock music and being outside. He loved riding horses and driving Grandpa's Jeep. He loved popping the horse whip. He had a kind heart and a sweet soul. He hurt easily, though he tried so hard not to show it.
There are so many things I don't know or I don't remember. I only got to see him a few weeks a year. Now he's been gone for 26 years. More than half my life. I can't remember his voice. I do have a cassette tape locked away in the safe. I recorded one side and then sent it to "the kids" as we always called them, and they recorded on the other side and returned it. So I have his voice. When I can bring myself to listen to it. Now I don't think I own a cassette player. His child voice is forever frozen on an obsolete piece of technology.
The last time I saw him was the Thanksgiving before he died. He was excited cause he drove himself and Missi from Jacksonville to Swainsboro. Right by themselves. He took me for a ride during that visit. Just the two of us. He was so proud.
The night he died, a piece of my heart died also. Well-meaning people will tell you it gets better with time. It does not. Oh I cry less. And I smile when I remember him. But the missing him is always there.
Harry Earl Tapley, Jr., my dear nephew. I love and miss you every day. You have not been forgotten. I feel you with me. I know you keep tabs on what I'm up to. I just know you are up there humming a Foreigner song. I look forward to seeing you again.
(Music has always been important to me, and in many cases, songs can express what I'm feeling better than I can in words. This song "Who You'd Be Today" by Kenny Chesney is one of those.)