Thank you for checking in for part two of my interview with Handsome, aka BW, my amazing husband and the Lazy W artist in residence! If you haven’t seen part one yet, click over and enjoy.
Fred Rogers provided us all the notion of calling upon and thanking all the people from your life who “loved you into being.” I asked Brandy about his, and he surprised me with mentions of not only family mentors but also friends, people whose influence shaped important parts of his personality.
Brandy named childhood friends Larry, Rob, and Erin, who all showed him how to be comfortable, how to get “out of the house and out of the rut,” so much so that Brandy says they all three ruined him for adult friendships, ha! Now he gauges bonds based on how easy and natural they feel and by the absence of drama or competition, as he enjoyed with these guys.
Mrs. Boren was a next door neighbor all throughout Brandy’s life, a woman just slightly older than his parents who nestled herself into his young heart in myriad ways. Family legend includes a particular time in Brandy’s grade school years when she assured him that, “Sometimes a boy’s gotta do what a boy’s gotta do,” referring to the rare but righteous necessity of a fistfight when standing up to a bully. She offered this wisdom quite against what his Mom had already said, but she never backed down from it. As often as this sweet story has been told over the years, Brandy insists it represents the tip of the iceberg of Mrs. Boren’s influence. He said she was always available on her front porch when he got home from school, even in his high school and college years, ready to listen. She would offer him a cup of coffee and gently press stories and good values into his willing ears. She provided a safe and unchanging place for him, his whole life. She grew apples and roses. He describes her as being, “Soft with her flowers but hardcore in fighting for what was right.” My goodness this became a pillar of his character.
Anyone who knows Brandy also either knew his Mom, Judy, or has heard enough stories about her to feel like they were friends. Deeply influential to her youngest child, she was the person who bestowed on him his “tilting at windmills” tendency. She was often up in arms, impassioned for one cause or another, always ardently defending the defenseless, throwing all of her worldly resources (as well as what spiritual resources she could access by prayer) at whatever crisis had presented itself that day, for friends and family and even strangers. Like Brandy, Judy never knew when to say, “That’s not my problem.” It was both a blessing and a curse for her, as it is now for her baby boy. Judy was a joyful welcomer to everyone at holidays, as Brandy strives to be. She was also a music lover, a sometime street racer, and a fearless conservative happy to mobilize for any local candidate she deemed worthy. Brandy continues living with so much of her influence. He also has her laugh, which since her passing in 2013 has often caught me quite off guard.
Brandy described his Dad, Harvey, as a willing worker, a man who would be out there in the trenches with his guys, wearing an owner-manager’s shirt and tie, shunning the comfortable office chair to instead help mount a bumper or spray a car with paint. He said his dad worked so hard that he was constantly in trouble for ruining his clothes. Harvey taught his son by example to never ask your employees to do anything you aren’t willing to do. As a result, Harvey’s employees always cared about him.
Brandy meandered around these memories a bit, laughing to recall how often he had witnessed his Dad arguing with dishonest customers to defend his employees. Hindsight gives Brandy this appreciation: “Dad ran every business he was in the same way, whether it was owning the body shop, running the police department, the Sherriff’s Department, dealerships, he made sure the employees knew he was working with them.”
I would say the same about Harvey’s son. He proves year after year, crisis after crisis, and in every imaginable kind of work environment that he is more than willing to be right there in the thick of it all, never assigning anyone to do what he is unwilling to do. As with Harvey and his shop, Brandy’s team cares about him greatly. Both men have always been protective of their people, maybe to a fault, unafraid of conflicts with the public or with outside forces. I think their industries are much better for these passed down traits, even if the appearance sometimes makes them unpopular.
Brandy’s upbringing had an especially vivid religious coloration (matched only by his spiritual evolution as an adult, which we address in part 3). I asked him about the formation of this part of his personality. He thought for a moment and said, “I was born into it, more than anything. It was the central theme, with only a close second of politics in my life. It was probably formed as much with Grandma’s (influence) as it was Mom’s.” He reflected and explored some memories aloud for a few minutes then shared something beautiful about his Grandma Goldie, who was the Pastor and preacher of his childhood church congregation: “Just everything Grandma did was spiritually motivated, and she wasn’t preachy about it. She just lived that way. She exuded spirituality, it was beautiful.”
Goldie Goddard was a formative role model for him in many ways, including but certainly not limited to the church house. I only knew her for a few years, but she made a deep and beautiful impression on me, too. Her legacy is vibrant. Which of Grandma Goldie’s qualities do you think you inherited? He thought quietly for several moments, offering a few warm hums while he thought about her. “Boy that’s hard to say,” he finally broke the silence, “To think that you’ve picked anything up from someone like her is hard to imagine, because she was just so cool.” Another long pause, then, “The way she loved to have fun, she really did, she was someone who loved to have a good time and loved to be silly. She loved dress up. She loved making costumes, I think I got that from her.” He remembers sitting and playing in his Grandma’s sewing room, “just making something out of nothing, you know she loved that.” Goldie also loved video games, which Brandy certainly still does. She taught him to play, to play with kids, to enjoy and embrace the fun luxuries of modern life, despite what people might assume about her being a conservative female preacher. “She enjoyed TV more than she let on. Driving! You know, she loved cars.”
Goldie was a stellar home cook who established many of Brandy’s present day food obsessions. “Yeah, the food. The sugar. God she loved sugar. I got my sugar tooth from her probably!” Dear reader, to this day, if I make his Mom’s famous lemon ice box pie recipe, I hand the empty but still thickly coated cans of sweetened condensed milk to my husband, and he almost always tells a story about Grandma Goldie. I love it. Eagle Brand Time Machine.
He had still more to say about this woman, specifically about her marriage to his Grandpa Eddie: “I noticed their relationship before I noticed Mom and Dad. You know, as a kid you don’t really appreciate your parents’ love relationship, but I noticed Grandma and Grandpa were different. They were just always so loving, and so lovey-dovey, you know smooching and holding hands, all the time. It was okay to be good to each other. They were one of the few couples like that, who really loved to do for each other, not just one doing for the other… They did for each other constantly. And loved to, you can tell.”
What qualities do you admire in other people? BW was hesitant to answer this at first. He claims to often have trouble seeing the good in people out in society, but taking the question less abstractly helped. As he explored his heart for the people in his own life, the words and affection flowed.
Brandy gushed about our friend Meredith’s passionate love, the way she “lives the gospel of support and love, beyond just words.” He included Mer’s parents, Tom and Raylene, citing how much they love each and how they demonstrate their church’s motto, “Love All the People.” BW described this couple as “passionate in their spirituality,” and I could not agree more.
He talked about his friend and employee Geoff’s innocent, well meaning drive to help, not for any gain but just truly to be a help. Another colleague, Mark, possesses calm and reserve which Brandy admires. Those traits are a great cooling balm to Brandy’s constantly hot spirit at work. Maribeth taught him that you can be the smartest person in the room but not act like it. She showed him how to “help people in ways that doesn’t make them feel stupid.”
More friends filled his mind, David and Keri. This is a couple with longevity and endurance. They have been through hell and are still grieving so much. “They are open about their pain. They show their pain, they are still strong and strong together and love each other and love their community. They set very high standards from other people and are not ashamed of that.” He admires how David and Keri have managed to set up a force field of well being around their home. He thinks it’s admirable to value your peace and center so much that you can speak up for your needs and stand up for your values.
Now he was unstoppable. He sat up a little straighter as he listed people in his life and their good qualities.
He talked about Brandon and his “undying desire to be the first to passionately give.” Also Dennis, who has seen and done so much in his life yet is passive about his knowledge and experience. “Sometimes we forget what he is capable of, because Dennis doesn’t have to be at the center of anyone’s attention. He’s happy to let others take the reins yet always stay nearby to catch his friends. Dennis is a fount of knowledge, but he doesn’t have to pour it on everyone.”
My husband got misty when he named Jessica (our youngest daughter) and her way of, “clinging to the possible, especially because it takes a lot of effort from her, plus her desire to care for others. Jess shares that caretaking urge with Alex (her husband).” We guess that their mutual love for helping others might have been part of how the Universe drew them together.
Brandy admires selflessness in his wife and her ability to “care about strangers in a nanosecond.” He admires that drive to care for others’ physical spiritual, mental, emotional health. He said, “I think it’s a pretty cool ability to take on or absorb others’ pain, but I don’t want it as a trait for myself because it looks exhausting,” ha!
Maybe you would see someone as accomplished and widely talented as he is and assume he mostly values similar achievements and capacities. But those rarely catch his attention. In general, he just loves people who are genuinely kind. Our neighbors Rex and Cathy, also our new neighbor Tucker, are all truly kind and happy people, “just enjoying life and the people they love.” He affirmed, “It’s not cliché to say that’s where the riches are.”
What would you say to Jocelyn, if you could reach her? “It’s okay. We understand. We love you. We just want you home.” He elaborated gently that he would not tell her we expect her to live here, just that we want her back in our life. She is greatly missed.
Which of your ancestors would you like to sit down and interview? “Probably knowing what I know now… Victor.” Victor Goddard was Brandy’s maternal great-grandfather, a small town Oklahoma entrepreneur during the civil rights movement who famously passed away on Halloween. Victor was known for never showing leniency to children learning to play checkers, a tradition his great-grandson keeps to this day. “Well, he just had such a colorful although not good history that as a kid who didn’t understand, I’d love to ask him why on some things and see if you can separate fiction from fact or family story. From that I just mean he was at some pretty pivotal historic moments of mankind. He wasn’t just the old man playing checkers I knew.”
Friends, I cannot wait to get part three ready. It’s my favorite. He’s my favorite. Thank you for reading!
“Sometimes a boy’s gotta do
What a boy’s gotta do,”