Sunday, April 20, 2008

TERRY HENSHAW 1950 - 2008


I first met Terry Henshaw when I was 15 months old. My parents had told me I would be getting a baby brother and explained that it would be my job to protect him, look after him and teach him all the things I knew about life. Unfortunately, somebody must've screwed up, because the kid that turned up clearly hadn't been told the rules and just refused to get with the program.

From the beginning, Terry was completely independent and single-minded. He was a rebel before he even knew he was supposed to have causes. And any rights and privileges due an older brother simply went right out the window.

He would not countenance such concepts as later bedtimes or toys he wasn't old enough to play with. If I took up baseball, he had to make the same team. When I got my first bike, he rode it after wheedling the old man into adding some blocks from the wood shop so he could reach the pedals.

And you didn't want to be the carnival carny trying to explain that you "must be this tall to ride".

Terry simply didn't accept that anybody else was somehow better, more deserving or more privileged. And instead of me looking out for him, it was always the other way round.

I'll never forget the humiliation only a nine year old can feel, facing off with some kid on a baseball diamond as he glared at me and said, "You wouldn't be so smart if your little brother wasn't here!"

Embarrassing me became half of Terry's life work. The torment was endless as he and his gaggle of reprobate friends constantly found new ways to cause trouble.

The other half of his life became devoted to drawing and painting. He entered University around the time I was getting out, studying with a group of Prairie Masters known as "The Regina Five" and becoming their star pupil.

One afternoon a female professor collared me in the halls. "You're Terry Henshaw's brother, aren't you?" By this point, I knew you had to be careful with that question, but nodded. "Well, he hasn't been to my class for two weeks and I need to speak with him." I offered that Terry was probably in his studio painting and showed her the way. He was hard at work on a canvas as she walked up to give him a piece of her mind -- stopped -- stared at the work in progress with wonder -- and told him he could skip her class for the rest of the semester because he had passed.

As we grew into adults, my brother and I lived at opposite ends of the country, and at times on opposite sides of the world. I used to urge him to travel but he was content on his island home with his dogs and horses and a parade of some of the most beautiful women I've ever had the pleasure to know.

And as much as I wanted him to see more of life, I'd take one look at his paintings and realize that he was exploring worlds I couldn't even imagine.

Yet he had another side too, still a rebel and a brawler who refused to accept injustice or undeserved respect. Whether you were richer, more powerful, or feeling completely worthless, Terry treated you exactly the same.

At his funeral, those reprobate friends (still best friends almost half a century later) and I shared the many adventures and misadventures that could have taken Terry from us long before a death that was as quick and painless as I believe we humans are allowed. We all admitted that we were amazed he'd lasted this long.

I'll miss my brother. But I can honestly say that I don't know anyone who lived a fuller life, so my only regrets are the future adventures that will never be.

The last time I saw him, a Christmas ago, I stopped by his home on my way to the airport. The place was spectacularly decorated yet with an artist's sensitivity for the season that set it apart. Out front stood two perfectly trimmed trees. And as we talked on the step, a pair of elderly women stopped on the sidewalk to admire his handiwork.

One of them commented that she'd never seen more beautiful Christmas trees and asked who had created them. Terry threw his arm around me, hugged me close and gave me a big kiss on the cheek. "Well, Jimmy strung the lights, but we both handled the balls!"

I'm not sure who was more mortified, me or those poor women.

When I drove away, my brother was still on his front step helpless with laughter and that's how I will always remember him.

10 comments:

DMc said...

Jim, that's an incredibly moving treatment. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Yaz said...

Mr. Henshaw...A wonderful tribute to your brother ... I didn't know him but I'm sure he would have been amused and moved by your words ... I certainly was.

Brandon Laraby said...

My sincerest condolences, man. He sounds very much like my little brother... eerily so, in fact. Is any of his work online?

Callaghan said...

Jim, what a rough time. I'm truly sorry.

Michael F said...

Jim, I'm very sorry for your loss.

It sounds like you both had a great brother.

Ken said...

A beautiful memorial, Jim. I'm sorry for your loss.

James Goneaux said...

I'm very sorry, Jim. I can't imagine life without either of my brothers. Having almost lost one in a near-fatal snowmobile crash with the requisite days of "touch and go", I learned that the times he stood up for me far outweighed the "noogies, wedgies and swirlies".

Brothers aren't exactly friends, sometimes not even, but mine were always there for me in the crunch. Blood is, indeed, thicker than water.

Time will make the pain duller, but the memories sweeter. And always remember, "Love is stronger than death".

Mef said...

Jim, let me add my condolences. I am truly sorry for your loss.

Mark

Shelley said...

When I think of my first cousin Terry I remember a mischievious grin and a glint in his eye. His laughter was contagious. I remember having the unfortunate "best" rhyming name when he would get going on his "Banana Song" and he loved to get my goat - yes it usually worked. Heaven will be a happier place and I picture angels holding their sides during gales of laughter. Terry you will be missed terribly - Jim your words were a mix of humour and pathos - and made me laugh and sob. We are thinking of you during this time.

Shelley said...
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