Tag Archives: Curt Wallgren

Memories of my brother

Not a January 17th can pass without me thinking of my little brother.

Curt died 20 years ago today in a car accident during a blizzard. I suggested to my sister we should do something significant and showy to remember him on this milestone day, and she said, “I don’t want to memorialize his death. I would rather remember his life.”

She made a valid point, so I will not be doing a Facebook fundraiser or lighting a trail of luminaries or visiting his grave (it’s too blasted cold to be visiting graves in Minnesota this time of year anyway).

Instead, I will remember his sweetness and light.

I was six years his senior, and alas, I did not get to know my little brother very well as an adult. I had other priorities at the time. Those other interests now seem dim and self-important, but that pretty much summarizes me at that time in my life—dim and self-important. What can I say? I was 32, and I thought I knew it all. At least now I understand how uninformed I really am.

But other people with better perspective who knew him well offered beautiful eulogies at the time of his passing. There was a newspaper story about his death in the local paper, and one of his friends said, “He was kind.” The copyeditor ended up using that quote as the headline, and it seemed like—still seems like—the best thing anyone would ever want to have said about them once they’re gone: “He was kind.” We should have put it on his headstone. The whole world could use more kindness.

Several months before he died, I found out he spent his last dollar bailing a friend out of jail, and at the time I thought that was just stupid. But really, it was evidence of his kindness. And after he died, my parents found a movie ticket stub on his grave; we learned a friend with whom he shared a love of movies had left it there, and he was missing Curt profoundly. That’s the thing a kind friend does—he makes a bright spot in your week by going to the movies with you and debating their relative quality afterwards when no one else will.

My Beloved would have loved my brother, but he came along too late to have the pleasure. More importantly, my brother would have loved him and his “go big or go home” approach to life. But the truth is, my brother probably would have loved anyone I loved; he and my ex-husband got along famously, and if Curt had anything bad to say about the guy I ended up leaving, he kept it to himself. That’s how Curt was. He looked for the best in people and found it, even if it was a little hard for other people to see.

Curt was built that way, full of compassion for bugs and animals and people, from the very beginning. When he was 9, he made me, his mostly inattentive teenage sister who was only interested in cute boys her own age, a Valentine. I ran across it not long ago in my Judy Blume diary from the time, and it made me laugh because it showed his sweetness and his sense of humor. Who needs rhyme in a “roses are red” verse when you’re getting straight to the heart of the holiday?

curt valentine's card

Isn’t that sweet? (And in pretty good condition for being 40 years old; they don’t make construction paper like that anymore!).

That was Curt. Full of love and laughter and willing to share it. The world is a little bit emptier for not having him in it the past 20 years. I miss him.

Halloween 1978

Minnesota Transplant as an artist, her sister as Raggedy Ann and her brother as Superman at Halloween in 1978. Superman was kind, too.

My brother, Curt

Today marks an unhappy anniversary.

My brother, Curtis, died in a car accident 10 years ago today.

He was on his way home from watching a Vikings play-off game with friends in northern Minnesota, and it was snowy and blowing, as it often is near Fargo, North Dakota. In the flurries, he accidently crossed the center line and hit another car head-on. The other car ended up in the ditch, Curt’s Bronco ended up in the middle of the road with him still inside. In the poor visibility, a semi truck then hit Curt’s car. He died at the hospital a couple hours later.

It was a terrible, terrible shock at the time. It is the only grief I have ever felt physically, besides emotionally.

I still miss him, and my sister asked me the other day what I think he’d be doing now. Well, he’d be 36. If he survived the accident, he’d probably be in a wheel chair, but if he didn’t ever have the accident …

Probably married. If he married the woman he was with at the time, he might be divorced by now, but I actually don’t think so. Curt was pretty easy-going and forgiving, and he was willing to work hard. He would be making it work.

He’d have a ton of friends at work. Probably some blue-collar job that was barely making ends meet. But he wouldn’t care about that all that much. I think he’d probably be happy, because in general, he always was pretty upbeat about things.

A friend of mine lost her 40-year-old brother this past week. An unexpected death. It is very hard not to be able to say goodbye. Brothers and sisters can have complex relationships. I think Curt knew I loved him, but I don’t think I was ever very explicit about my feelings for him (how Scandinavian-German of me). So instead of goodbye, I would rather think I can talk to him now, and he would forgive me for being judgmental and aloof.

He is present, if not here physically. And that helps the anniversary pass without too much sorrow.