Vol 1: Spellbound‎ > ‎Read‎ > ‎

Ch. 07: Brothers

Larry & Gary

Larry started college at age seventeen.  He had always been the youngest at school, so this wasn’t hard for him.  He was ready to leave his parents house and be free from his brother.  Sharing a bedroom with his brother had taken its toll, and college was his ticket to independence.  He didn’t go too far, though.  He enrolled in the University of Washington just across the lake.  My uncle told me that teaching other people about sex and drugs couldn’t be that bad, so he chose Health Education as his focus.

His first teaching job was in Tacoma, Washington.  Larry loved teaching, sailing, and playing the fiddle.  Not long after he moved to Tacoma he bought a do-it-yourself house kit from Gary, who was working at Boise Cascade Lumber.  The company delivered blueprints and a truck full of lumber, and the buyer had the option to hire a Boise Cascade crew to help with the building or do it on their own.  Since Larry was trying to exercise his independence from his parents, he hired Gary’s crew to help build the house rather than asking his dad for help.  To save money though, Gary and Larry built the roof together rather than paying Boise Cascade.  It was a rustic A-frame house with a loft, located on a beautiful lot near the water.  He had a short commute across the Narrow’s bridge to the high school where he taught.  Grown up life was starting to shape up how he imagined it would, and he was enjoying himself.

Over the previous couple of years his dad asked him a number of times to go to French Polynesia with him and Jody.  Loren told Larry that they needed a crew and he wanted his family to go.  Larry repeatedly said no – he had a job and a new home.  But he did find himself helping out on the boat for weekend cruises.  And it turned out that the year he bought the house was the first year he felt burnt out on teaching.  He didn’t want to become one of those old, drained, uninteresting teachers that everyone dreads having, so he finally accepted his dad’s invitation. He figured he could take a few years off and recharge, and then return and teach with renewed energy.

The other reason he accepted was that Loren told him Gary was not going on the trip. Even though Larry and Gary are only a little more than a year a part, they were never very close and had a tumultuous relationship at best.  When they were kids, Gary would pester Larry over and over again until he would blow up and knock Gary around a bit. Gary would harass Larry beyond normal sibling pestering.  After things got physical, the brothers would return to a somewhat normal relationship until it built up again. And so the cycle would repeat, over and over again.  This was the nature of their relationship until Larry left home for college when Gary was sixteen.  After Larry left, he didn’t see Gary much, which suited him just fine.  He considered his brother very smart, but also arrogant, lazy, and self-centered. 

Over the years that followed, they seemed to develop a tolerance when around each other for short periods.  They had gotten along quite well when putting the roof on his house.  Perhaps Larry hoped, over many more years, they could develop a healthy brotherly relationship.

After Larry agreed to go with his parents, he started to help with the preparations for such a long sailing trip.  When school ended in June 1977, he dedicated himself full time to the task.  It was in July that Loren told Larry that Gary would be joining the Spellbound crew after all. Larry felt Loren had always been blinded to Gary’s true nature.  He thought that in his dad’s eyes, Gary would always be his little boy, the one who had suffered too much at the hands of their biological mother.  Larry thought this is perhaps what caused Loren to turn a blind eye to Gary’s drug use and mischievous ways. Loren said the boat trip would be good for Gary, perhaps help him to learn the value that a little hard work does pay off.  Larry had already quit his job, he had nothing better to do, so he figured he could wait and see what it would be like with Gary, Larry, Kerry and his parents living together again.  Gary’s attitude had improved since they were children.  Maybe now that they were adults, they could be the happy family Loren envisioned.

Really, it was Loren’s optimism that convinced Larry that maybe they could make it work.  Larry was willing to try for his dad’s sake.  He knew mom thought Gary was impossible to get along with, too.  Mom had her own issues with his brother. I n fact, everyone in the family had a story or two about Gary.  For example, when the kids were young, Gary would hide downstairs in the house they grew up in.  He waited until someone turned the light on to come down the stairs.  When they were almost all the way down, he turned the lights off using the second switch located on the other side of the basement. It would be pitch black without the light on.  Gary then quietly snuck up behind the person and grabbed them.  But, for his dad Larry would make a go of it.

The Spellbound was set to sail shortly and Gary had just agreed to be part of the crew. Rather than postpone their departure date, Gary decided to fly down to San Diego and meet them in a month after he got his affairs in order. Gary had recently been in a car crash and needed to finish negotiating his settlement from the insurance company.  The crash left him with minor injuries and a bit of cash for the trip.  Jody, Loren, Kerry, and Larry sailed for San Diego without him.

It was great for the family to finally be on the open seas.  Of course, everyone was seasick almost instantly, except Larry, who earned the nickname “Ol’ Iron Gut.”  They had a marvelous time sailing down the western coast of the United States and arrived in San Diego about a month later.  When Gary joined the crew, Larry was in conciliatory spirits after their fabulous trip down the West Coast.  At first, things seemed like it would work with Gary.  They settled into a routine on the boat.  Kerry slept in the V-berth in the bow, with Larry’s bunk in the room between Kerry’s and the dinning area.  Gary’s berth was aft before my grandparents cabin in the very stern of the boat.  Whether by design or by chance, it seemed the distance between berths might reduce the friction between Gary and his siblings.

One day, Jody and Loren took Kerry to get supplies and left Gary and Larry with a short list of things to do on the boat.  Gary reverted to his childhood lazy ways, especially when their parents weren’t around.  He found all sorts of excuses to avoid doing his share of the work for the Spellbound preparations.  Gary often groaned, “I’m in pain from the car accident and need to lie down for a while on my wedge.  It’s the only way to stop the pain.” Larry hated hearing about the wedge, a piece of foam Gary used to support his back.  He thought it was a joke.  Gary always followed this line with a swig of water and a couple pain pills.

Larry was trying to finish their tasks when Gary walked by and mumbled something.  Larry asked him, “What did you say?”  He was frustrated from doing what he thought was more than his share of the work.  His childhood memories were boiling up.  Gary made a snide comment about Larry not understanding English.  Great, Larry thought, we’re back to being kids again.  The thought made something in Larry snap.  All the conflict and resentments of their childhood blinded him.  He grabbed Gary by his shirt and shoved him against the wall.  “Don’t make me beat you up like I used to,” he threatened.  Gary just sneered.  Larry clenched his fist, pulled his arm back, and Gary flinched.  No Larry thought, I am an adult, not a child.  Larry released his brother and walked away.  Mentally, he kept on walking.

He realized then he couldn’t do it again – live with Gary like he had growing up.  It had taken too much effort then, and it was starting to now.  However, unlike when they were kids, as an adult he was able to walk away.  It was obvious that Gary hadn’t changed at all.  He had no desire to change, and there was no way for them to get along.  Even as large as the Spellbound was, it was too small for the two brothers.  Larry wished his dad would stand up to Gary.  Between Gary’s attitude, his dad’s inability to take charge, and Larry’s lack of patience, Larry decided to leave the Spellbound and stay in San Diego.

Larry felt guilty.  The Spellbound was large enough to need a crew to sail her.  And, Larry was the only person besides his dad with sailing experience.  But, he had to follow what his inner voice was telling him – run the other way.  He waited for the right time to tell his parents.  He made the announcement when the family spent a week sailing around the West Coast.

Afterward, he pondered his decision to leave.  He was riddled with guilt until he learned that Lori, a family friend who was Kerry’s age, would join the crew.  He tried to make himself believe he wasn’t leaving his parents shorthanded.  This was partially true.  Lori had little experience in the world and no experience on a boat, but she was another body who could do some of the hard work of sailing.  While my grandparents did gain an extra hand, they lost someone with the will to stand up to Gary. 

Eventually, Larry bought a small boat, which became his home, and took a job doing freelance writing.  San Diego acted as a catalyst, rather than an exotic South Pacific sailing trip, to jump-start Larry’s life.  He returned to what he liked doing, fiddling and sailing, and decided to try writing for a little while rather than teaching.  Writing soon became his passion and his career.