My nephew Erick was a handsome lad; but it is not his natural good looks that I will most remember him by, but rather for his beautiful mind. By the very early age of around 3 years (if I can remember right), Erick had learned and permanently burned into his memory bank all of his extended families’ birthdays; but his remarkable memory took him far beyond just knowing his Parents, Grandparents, Uncles, Aunts and Cousins’ Birthdays.
Around the time he was 4 years old; he could recite all of the Presidents of the United States and knew all of the States’ Capitols. I would ask him, “Who was the 16th President?” because even I knew the answer to that question is ‘Abraham Lincoln’. But when I jumped around the list, and went out of sequence, not myself altogether certain of the correct answers, whether it would be the 9th, 33rd 15th or 21st President, sure enough, Erick would know the answer. When I was satisfied that he knew every President and his corresponding order of service, I’d send him a “change-up” by asking him “Erick, what is the capitol of the State of Washington?” “Olympia!” was his reply, without hesitation. Nevada? “Carson City”. Missouri? “Jefferson City.” “Wait a minute now!” I’d ask, “Isn’t the Capitol of Missouri in fact Columbia…or is it Springfield?” “No, it’s Jefferson City”, Erick would reply, sticking to his answer. Final answer? Final answer. No life line required. All of this before he turned 5!
Erick was also observant and noticed things that I, for one, did not. When he was about 5 years old, his parents brought him over to Grandpa and Grandma Browns’ home for a Thanksgiving Day feast. The kiddies table that was adjacent to the main dining room table had quickly filled up, leaving no place at that table for Erick. So, he sat at a table filled with us grown-ups and observed as he looked around, “There are all adults seated at this table”. That prompted me to ask him, “How you can tell that we’re all adults, Erick?” “Because everyone at this table has the same-sized head.” he explained. I’d never thought of that differentiator as a way to tell children from adults, but to Erick it was the Common denominator.
Speaking of denominators, Erick was very good with numbers. Not only had he mastered his multiplication tables by the time he finished the 1st grade, but Erick had a knack for knowing every highway exit not only by name, but also by its exit number. It wasn’t just the Shady Grove Road exit; it was Exit 8 off of 270. It was as though he was aware of every exit number off of every highway ramp, whether it was on the way to Granny Pearl’s in West Virginia or on whatever Interstate he may have traveled. He studied the road map of each Maryland County and memorized the exit ramps and the nearby towns and villages. When he was about 6 or 7 years old, I told him that I had just returned from a camping trip to the Green Ridge State Forest. He asked me, “What town is that near?” I told him it was just a short distance past Hancock on Interstate 68 West and not far from the town of Little Orleans. “Little Orleans is off exit 68” he told me. Not to doubt him, but a quick check of the area map revealed that Exit 68 on Interstate 68 was indeed the correct exit.
About 5 or 6 years ago, Erick’s distant cousin Emily, who is about three years older than Erick, met him for the first time. She had come to town from the Midwest to visit the Nations’ Capital, and she told Erick that she had visited Mount Vernon and then proceeded to “inform” Erick that Mount Vernon was George Washington’s estate. Well, she wasn’t telling Erick anything that he did not know already, and he proceeded to spontaneously recite facts about our first President as though if he was reading from a book – “born in 1732, died in 1799, was President from 1789 until 1797” and so on. I will always recall the expression on Emily’s face that went from curious to amazement, fascinated by young Erick’s abundant knowledge of our first President that went well beyond that of what could be expected from a boy of his age, or of any age for that matter.
His capacity to remember names, numbers, events, times, dates and random facts was both dizzying and amazing. You could pick a future day, month, and year, and he could tell you on what day of the week that particular date would fall. You could say that Erick had a photographic memory, but along with that camera in his memory, Erick had a calendar, a calculator and a road atlas.
March 1st, is his birthday, and I’d say it was about four years ago on his 8th birthday, he told me that his birthday happened to fall on Labor Day that year. “How is that?” I asked, knowing full well that the Labor Day Holiday always falls on the first Monday in September. “Well”, he clarified, “Today it is Labor Day in Australia, and so my birthday is on Australian Labor Day.”
And now, for Erick, there will be no more birthdays to be celebrated with his loving family and friends. He has taken his final exit on this life’s highway. Erick, you left the road of life far too early, at exit number 12, which goes straight to Heaven. Erick – my forever young nephew – here is to all of us remembering you. I will never forget you and your wonderful memory, and the wonderful memories that you have left behind.