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
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.