There is a message on my voice mail that no matter how miserable, sad, lonely, or angry I am, upon hearing it, brings a smile to my face and melts my heart. The message consists of two words: "Hi Mommy" spoken like Donald Duck. I will never, ever erase that message!
Brandon totally manipulates by utilizing the duck voice. He knows it is irresistible and can say things he would never get away with otherwise. But as I think about him growing up, that is exactly how he has always operated. I guess "manipulation" might be a little strong, let's just say he was "charming". When Brandon was little, I would put him and Derrick to bed. Brandon would patiently wait until Derrick was asleep and then would climb out of his bed and crawl up in bed with me and Jared. We called him the weasel because he weaseled into our bed night after night. He was so smart and knew that Derrick would tell on him if he got out of bed, so he waited until the time was right to make his move. I can still see in my minds eye Brandon snuggled under the covers with this cute little smirk on his face.
As I have contemplated my #2 child for the past few weeks, I have been flooded with so many specific memories of his childhood. I am convinced that these experiences have had a major impact on the person he has become. So that is what I have chosen to focus on in my tribute to Brandon...........the unspoken lessons learned through a few of his life experiences that has shaped who he is today.
Brandon learned early on that intelligence meant survival!
Brandon was so animated as a little boy. It was fun to live life through his eyes. He totally idolized his older brother and was bound and determined to keep up with him. Derrick and Brandon were such good friends. When Derrick was in first grade, his teacher Mrs. Schweppe, sent him home with homework every night. While Derrick was writing his spelling words each night, Brandon would do the same thing. The next day at school, Derrick would turn in both his and Brandon's homework. Mrs. Schweppe would grade it and send it back for Brandon to review. Derrick was a task master at making sure Brandon was doing it every night and doing it right.
One of my favorite memories of Brandon was seeing him sitting on top of our dining room table with his legs crossed (usually in his Power-Ranger Underoo's) playing Monopoly with Derrick. He was only four when he and Derrick started doing this and Derrick totally expected Brandon to keep up with him and play the game right. And he did! He learned very fast that Derrick had little patience and if he was going to have a buddy, he was going to have to learn to read and play the game the way it should be played.
Brandon learned to be self-assured and find joy in his journey.
Another memory that stands out to me is Brandon's voice. It is the type of voice that just carries and can be easily heard miles around. In fact, every one of his elementary teachers would make it a point to ask me early on in the school year if I had had his hearing checked. I had.......and his hearing was just fine. He just had a booming voice for a little guy.
I loved hearing that voice sing. When he was in 3rd grade he was asked to sing a solo for an assembly to honor Martin Luther King. It was such a sweet tender voice.......still loud, but so endearing. He also sang a solo in the Children's Primary Sacrament Mtg. when he was in 4th grade. He volunteered for that one, singing " I Wonder When He Comes Again." I love that Brandon was fearless and confident in himself.
I remember when he was a scout and his troop went on a biking adventure to Brianhead, Utah. Most of the boys had fancy, new mountain bikes; Brandon's bike was less than desirable and it seemed like the chain kept breaking causing him to repeatedly crash. He came home a mess. His scout leader call me on the phone to tell me that he had never seen a boy who was so determined to make the best of what had to be a miserable experience. He said how Brandon would crash going down the steep inclines, wipe off the blood, fix the chain and then hop back on his bike trying to catch up with the rest of the boys. I am sure that trip taught Brandon a lot about himself, but it also taught me a lot about him. He was not proud in the least. He did not feel sorry for himself or make himself out to be a victim. Brandon was determined, self-assured, humble and I knew that he would accomplish hard things in his lifetime. He does not take the easy way out....ever. He presses on doing his best and finding joy in his journey.
Brandon learned to find a way to be successful no matter what!
Brandon is a very determined individual. He doesn't take no for an answer! I love that attribute in him. He is an achiever who will make things right regardless of how long it takes or hard it is. When he was 16 years old we made a move to Lake Tahoe, Calif. One winter day, he received word that his friend Nicole May had passed away. He was devastated at the hearing of her death. Here he was, ten hours away from all his friends who were all in Moapa Valley mourning together. He expressed to Jared and I how desperately he wanted and needed to go to her funeral. We just did not see a possible way for that to happen. But Brandon did! I will never forget waking up the next morning and Brandon announcing that he was going to drive back to Overton that day so he could attend Nicole's funeral. I told him the car would never make it.....he responded by telling me that he would stop at dad's work and ask dad to give the car a priesthood blessing. He told me that he had been up all night figuring out the best route to go according to the weather. I could tell that I was not going to deter him, and I didn't want to. He was suffering a huge loss and needed to be with others who felt the way he did. I wanted him to go. So,we sent 14 year-old Daniel with him; they stopped and got a blessing on the car and off they went. A few years later, the mother of Nicole related to me how touching it was to have Brandon come through the viewing line stating that he was there to represent all of the Rust family. I was so proud of him and grateful that he had represented us in such an honorable way.
Brandon has a mind and heart fixed upon the teachings of the gospel.
Brandon has a very sound mind and weighs his words and responses carefully. He thinks things through and never is hasty in important matters. His words and opinions carry a lot of weight with me. I totally respect Brandon's counsel. He does not "flatter" or lead astray. He understands the doctrines of the gospel and is a master teacher. I love that the gospel has found place in his heart and now really defines who he is. I love how I can go to his Facebook and under favorite books, he has listed: Jesus the Christ, The Book of Mormon, Alma 32. This is not for show...............he does nothing for show. It is because he reads and studies and believes the principles and teachings.
I believe that Brandon's greatest achievements will come when he is a dad. He has developed traits of patience, sensitivity and compassion. He is gentle and kind. I loved seeing him with Molly. He was never flustered at her crying. He didn't pass her off for someone else to hold. He patiently won her over and loved every minute of it. He is tender with tender hearts, whether they be babies, children or the underdog. He has always been that way. He patiently teaches rather then tells. He takes into account the feelings of others being careful not to offend or embarrass.
My heart is full today as I honor this amazing man. I love you son. I am proud of who you were as a little boy and who you have become today. I am overcome with gratitude that the Lord entrusted me with one of his most valiant spirits. How I love you, MOMMY