With all of the fevered talk about whether Aaron Rodgers will stay with the Packers and whether the Packers have treated him shabbily or not, I thought about what my late brother Paul (a Packers fan just barely on the legal side of being imbued with too much green and gold, as well as nearly all things Milwaukee and our hometown of Oak Creek), might think of this frenzy.
The 25th anniversary of Paul’s unexpected death was on April 23. I remember talking with him a few months before he died about whether the Packers might finally win the Super Bowl again. He said they would win in 1997, barring any assault from asteroids. After his memorial service, my other brother somehow (somehow) lost control of the Packers balloon that had been in place at the ceremony with some green and gold flowers. The balloon lifted higher in the sky than one might think possible for a simple florist’s balloon and I said, well, I guess Paul really wants that balloon.
Two weeks before the Packers won the 1997 Super Bowl, I wrote an opinion for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel asking Paul for assistance in making such a victory possible. After the game, I was flooded with calls from friends near and far, friends spooked but good at the idea that my very own brother might have had a tiny hand in making the win a reality. In the piece, I wrote about how I had asked in my eulogy of Paul that he perhaps not bother God or Vince Lombardi but instead approach a senior angel who might appreciate the team from Green Bay. Maybe he took my advice. I like to think he did so.
Of course, the fracas with the Packers is just one thing I consider when I think about my brother after all these years. I’m sure he’d be saddened at the present state of the world, a world more troubled in so many ways than the one he left a quarter century ago. I think with a small measure of fashionable horror that I’m realistically old enough to be Paul’s mother. I sometimes swear I can hear him laughing as I purchase yet another costly anti-aging skin care regimen. I’m still thankful he was willing to drive my mother from Milwaukee to my then Minneapolis home two weeks before he died to have a last Easter with me. That dyed-in-the-green-and-gold-wool Green Bay Packers disdain of the Minnesota Vikings and most other things Minnesota notwithstanding.
There are other somewhat non-Packers things I ponder when I remember Paul at this anniversary. Like how upset he must be that I brought our mother to live with me near our remaining brother in the scorch of Tucson, Arizona and its many Arizona Cardinals fans. And whether he sees her declining health or hears her pleas to join him and our dad and other brother Nick (another super Packers fan, though not quite as devout as Paul). Recently, I’ve been thinking about heeding my mother’s wish to return home and that maybe I really should haul both of us back to Milwaukee to stay. I’m absolutely certain Paul would want as much. Because we could watch or listen to all of the Packers games free of regional network considerations if we were to do so.
Shortly after the first flash of the Rodgers storm hit, a friend (a Chicago Bears fan, the likes of which would rile Paul more than any mere Viking might) asked why I think my brother might have some influence in brokering peace between Packerland and Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood. I told him I’ve long thought of someone like my brother (the holder of a master’s degree in geography education who was working in mutual funds when he died but was soon set to return to high school teaching) as a sort of “It’s a Wonderful Life” type of angel. Someone like the still worldly Joseph who helped wingless and maybe awkward angels achieve rank. Though I confess I can’t see a nouveau hippie such as Paul coveting any wings, unless they are tie-dyed green and gold and provide backstage passage to Neil Young concerts and Lambeau box seats.
As to whether Rodgers will remain Aaron from the Lambeau Block and help bring about any future Packers Super Bowl appearances, I’ll say here and now it would be useful if Paul could contribute any of his earthly award-winning defusing skills to help the disputing parties do something he often spoke of among fighting students. That would be to “figure out what one or two things you dislike about the other that we can together help you find a way to tolerate and then negotiate.”
Or maybe I just need to send another Packers balloon to the skies.
Mary Stanik is an Oak Creek native who did part of her undergraduate work at Marquette University. She is a regular contributor to MinnPost and other publications, including the Globe and Mail and the Los Angeles Times.
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