“I was raised by wolves.”
The wolves have many names and come in many forms. Most dominantly, it’s Louie and Gus, my big brothers. Lou’s 11 years older than me and Gus is 4 years older. Chad is my hilarious 30 year old brother in law, Nathan is Gus’s best friend and my first ally against him. Ian, Aaron, Ryan, Matt, Zach, Chris, Nate, Special K, Ben, and Andy are wolves too.
I looked up to those guys like no other baby sister, and while Louie always made time for me and Gus never missed any opportunity to put me down, they’re who shaped my personality most notably. Gus, while a considerable jerk for so many years, instilled competition and work ethic into my life; Lou gave me humor and authenticity, and the fearlessness to show it. So many of the other names are their best friends who contributed to that. They encouraged me to be me, to be annoying and threatening because that’s how they were, so get down in the dirt with them in baseball, football, hunting, camping, and fishing because there was no reason for me not to. Wolves who refused to talk to me any differently than they talked to each other, profanity and innuendos included, so I would be as cynical as they are. Indirectly, I learned to only pursue what I though was most important for my own person or what I was passionate about, because that’s what the wolves did.
Even now, I’m shaped by what they all do. A wolf who earned the honor graduate award in his marine class. A wolf who took a year off to work towards medical school. A wolf who’s pursuing a career in writing. A wolf who’s married happily.
I lost a wolf on Wednesday. His name was Danny Heller, and he was Louie’s best friend in high school and onward. Danny was the goofball among goofballs, the rebel among rebels, the most natural non-conformist among the pack. From what I remember, he was full of smiles, but was distinctly a lost soul. He bounced around jobs or where he lived, he struggled to be grounded, he struggled with money, but him and Louie were always good for a day of fishing followed by a round at the Mason Pub.
I can’t tell you when the last time I saw Danny was, but at anytime in the past seventeen years of my life I can recognize that name and his face, beard and all. But it doesn’t matter how often I saw him, or when our last conversation was, a wolf is a wolf because of how he affected me growing up and how I could see him in ten, twenty, or thirty years and know exactly who he is.
Lemme tell ya, I was raised by wolves, dammit.