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as reported by Paul Hillis

This column expresses the personal opinions/views of the writer. If you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column, write a SIGNED letter to the editor. Name can be withheld by request with a valid day time and phone number.

The first time I saw Lyle was about the 28th or 29th of January 1942. I was in the first grade and had just arrived home from school. We lived in a very small house trailer; no more than six feet wide and possibly twenty feet long. As I came through the door on that cold wintry day, I could see my Dad sitting by the bed on the far end of the trailer.

I closed the door and Dad motioned me to the bed where my Mom was lying with a small baby. "Come see your new baby brother," Dad said. I have to say I wasnít all that impressed. I looked at my brother Buzz who was four at the time, and he didnít seem to be impressed either.

"Whatís his name?" I asked.

ĎWeíre not sure yet," Dad said. "But I think weíve settled on Lyle Kermit."

Lyle Kermit. Lyle Kermit. Didnít sound right to me. I had never known a Lyle. I knew where the Kermit came from. It was my Dadís first name. I figured it was alright to have Kermit as a middle name Ďcause no one called you by that. But this Lyle stuff made we wonder.

When the teachers at school asked me about my new brother and what his name was, I told them several stories. Sometimes I would say I forgot. And sometimes I would tell them my Mom and Dad hadnít decided yet. I would tell them we just called him it. Like, "I think it pooped" or "I think itís hungry." I got some strange looks, but I figured it was better than telling them there was a Lyle in the family.

But we got used to it. I mean Lyle. Guess itís like having an ugly baby. The mother will never see it. She will display her precious child for all to see and exclaim, "Ainít he the prettiest baby ever?" And you, not wanting to hurt her feelings, will tell a little white lie and say something like, "Yeah, thatís a baby alright."

I must say Lyle was a great baby brother. He would laugh and coo, and his eyes would shine so bright. All just to let his goofy brothers know he thought they were funny when they made those silly faces and strange noises.

This being during WWII, both my Mom & Dad worked in war jobs. There was a thirty minute span from the time Dad left and Mom got home. During that period, I was in charge. One day I saw a rifle in the closet next to the bed, and I do have to say that even at six I was a dead shot.

I took out the rifle, aimed it at some birds on top of a garage and pulled the trigger. And shot a hole right through our stove pipe. I panicked, sat Lyle on a chair in front of the window, set the clock up fifteen minutes, and departed.

I met Mom on her way home and explained I had left at the prearranged time. She seemed skeptical. I felt the same way about going home that day. Skeptical that is. Just say I survived all the death threats. I never convinced Mom I didnít almost kill her baby by shooting over him as she claimed I had done.

Lyle grew to be a wonderful man and brother. He had the sweetest, kindest, most gentle deposition of any one I have ever known. For years when I tried to describe him, I simple said, "Heís the nice Hillis." And he was. He seemed to always be on hand when help was needed.

Lyle would never ask for help for himself. He was as independent and stubborn as anyone could be. He bought a farm and built a house by himself and never asked one of his five brothers in the area for help. The help was there, he just wouldnít ask for it.

Megan and I visited Lyle in June of 1999. As we were leaving, he was leaning against his cabinet rubbing his arm. Said it really hurt. And the pain never stopped for the next three and a half years. The doctors found cancer in his body three different times. They operated on him twice but said there was nothing they could do for number three.

The last time I saw Lyle was on the 19th of December 2002. He was laid to rest next to our Mom & Dad, just like the first time I saw him. Only this time, he looked just like a Lyle. My brother. Peace.

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   Last Update:  April 30, 2003