Jay C. Brandriet
There has been three points where Rusty’s death felt most painful to me.
The one-and five-year anniversaries of him passing slapped me around pretty good.
The next worse stage was this last month.
Is it because it’s exactly eight years ago today since he flew away?
A little I suppose.
I think the root of it is something else.
The summer of 1992 kicked off 30 years ago.
Grief is a tricky monster.
To appreciate this, you have to understand Russ.
He was super sentimental.
He was very specific when speaking about his attachments, loves, and nostalgia.
Riggs organized and rated his memories.
He adored his family, friends, and sports.
If you took an x ray of his soul, you’d find it filled with his children, and the sounds of 1990’s R&B music.
He believed the summer of 1992, became the standard for all seasons.
That summer we were between our junior and senior years at American Fork High School. It all began with me getting an earlier than usual call from Rusty (he became “Russ” in late 1994).
“Wake up stench. Boyz 2 Men is on Good Morning America, and Wayne’s World goes on sale in two hours.”
Here’s how he links music to events, and how he describes May of 1992, in 1995.
“Please Don’t Go” by Boyz 2 Men, or “Just Another Day” by Jon Secada. It’s my red truck. It’s the Pie Pizzeria. It’s the unique smell of Bull River. It’s my BYU hat on backwards and my flannel shirts. It’s you starting at Sports Warehouse. It’s us meeting Katie at Lagoon for the first time. It’s the starting point to the greatest summer of all time.”
I told you Rusty was specific right?
Cory Hansen spent a lot of time at Bear Lake during this stretch.
Chris Llewellyn, Jared Adams, and Jason Devilliers made some cameos.
My brother Justin, and Rusty’s sister’s (Kim, Brooke, and Jen) were key figures.
Craig Christiansen, Joe Both, Heath Bell, and Jason Paisola?
These legends enter our story in the FALL of 1992.
Karin Monson and Leslie Barron were major factors.
Katie Terry knew this time in our lives would last forever. Her reverence of it all meant a lot to Rusty.
Riggs got a kick out of Nate Smith’s unique personality. “You are, SOOO dumb.”
Clinton Monson was our fearless leader when it came to our more daring ideas. He struggled with the boredom and often created spontaneity.
Danny Smith was like a force of logic and reliability. Rusty “trusting him” was why he wanted him on his Roundball Ruckus team. He thought Danny played like Tyrone Corbin.
Matt Hicken was a splash of fun and fit in perfect. Rusty liked that Matt called him his actual name. Rustin.
Matt’s brother Andy was a stud. He was quiet. His words were respected, and the group yearned to hear them.
Garrett Davis was the youngest of the gang. He was cool, so we knew it was good for everyone.
THE DAY TO DAY
Rusty liked to pile us in the back of his truck. He wanted to drive, then would complain he was always the one driving.
We were obsessed with playing basketball.
If we weren’t in two different LDS churches playing until 12:30 am, we were at Danny’s court.
Training school park.
Smith’s grocery store.
Maxi Mart for a grease burger.
End of the Road, by Boyz 2 Men.
The Dream Team.
Magic Johnson vs Karl Malone debates.
WHAT WE WERE DOING
As the years go by, I can see Rusty’s dramatic impact with clarity. I’m telling you, dude was special. He was so damn funny. He just wanted to see YOU laugh. There are many people who talk and joke like him to this day.
Imitating others was one of his underrated qualities.
Over those months, I watched Riggs create a competitive culture of ripping. It was a daily contest of hilarious teasing. It was exciting, addicting and exhausting.
Sometimes we were just standing around. Arguing about what to do and where to go. Gossiping.
It’s like just existing around each other, was good enough.
We were enjoying the thrill of independence, flirting with curfew, and creating a community among friends.
There was magic happening. Rusty knew this in real time.
It didn’t matter how tired I was, I couldn’t wait to get off work and do it again.
30 YEARS LATER
Russ was into a group named 4 P.M.
This chorus brought everything full circle.
“Years from here, we’ll look back and treasure, this moment forever, inside our hearts,
and from here to there, we’ll make a million memories, that we can share, years from here.”
Well, it’s years from here.
The summer of 1992 held up exactly like I knew it would.
Our conductor wasn’t going to have it any other way.
Jay C. Brandriet