My brother, the wordsmith

My brother was a skilled user of words. Okay, fine, that’s the exact definition of a wordsmith- but I’m not the one with the impressive language skills, he was. Justin loved words so much that when an opportunity came up to take a vocabulary class in high school- he jumped at it.

The first story I remember about Justin’s abnormal vocabulary was when he was somewhere around the age of two. My uncle would show him off like some people show off a cute puppy. For full effect, he would gather a crowd around before asking, “Now Justin, what’s that thing called when you can see something out of the corner of your eye?” Two year old Justin, who could barely pronounce the words, would proudly exclaim, “peripheral vision!”

Once he took the vocab class in high school, he was off and running. Justin took a lot of joy in knowing the meaning of words that others didn’t. He would drop impecunious into conversation just as easily as circumambulate (two words he taught me that mean ‘having little money’ and to ‘walk all the way around something’, respectively). He had an incredible memory and only had to hear something once to remember it and repeat it for the rest of his life.

One of my favorite memories where Justin’s imagination and love of words came together was one winter in elementary school. We had a large sledding hill in the back yard and he made up a creative game called, “Hi, Jack- bye!” or it could also be known as, “Hijack, bye!” through a little wordplay. Justin loved a good pun.

The rules were simple.

If you were on a sled going down the hill, you were, “Jack.” If you were, “it” your job was to run and jump onto the moving sled once Jack was midway down the hill and hijack their ride. First, you had to greet them with, “Hi, Jack” then you had to try to shove them off their sled while yelling, “Bye!” If you were successful, you rode their stolen sled the rest of the way down the hill like a boss while Jack watched on from the middle of the hill.

It still makes me laugh to think about it. It was a physical game and it usually ended with someone in tears, what with all the snow, ice, running and wrestling on a moving sled kind of stuff.

I’m glad I was able to grow up with a brother who came up with such fun things for us to do. Love and miss you, Gus.


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