My brother and I had a rare opportunity to spend time with one another in Ohio last Friday when we attended the funeral of a dear friend who died last week.
One of our childhood friends arranged the funeral service for her aunt and then kindly asked to take a picture of the two of us together at the reception afterwards. I really like the photo, don’t you?
In addition the mutual joy of being together again Roger and I became wonder-filled as we drove around the farmlands and little villages where we were raised. Our day was filled with sorrow, but also many uncommon moments of joyful surprise.
For example, we chanced to meet a woman who has worked in the office for the machine tool company where my father, uncle and uncle’s father worked together for several decades. It happened that she took a cell phone break just as we stopped in the parking lot to take some quick photos. She proudly told us that they now manufacture hydraulic by-pass relief valves and celebrated their 100th year in business in 2012.
My dad was the “coffee guy” when he worked there and set up a stand next to his lathe for a little side coffee business in the shop. His coffee was very popular among the workers and went for only 5 cents a cup, less if you were a regular user. Just think, he was a precursor to the local Starbucks.
We especially enjoyed our unexpected conversation with a lady who had gone to eighth grade with our mother: shortly after mom’s family had moved to Ohio from the Oklahoma dust bowl and depression. She also remembered our father even though he already would have graduated high school and began to recount his local renown for a fine singing voice. She would likely be about ninety now but continues to oversee the care of the township cemetery.
We also chatted with a nearby farm neighbor who told us that her mother, along with our grandmother, had prepared dinners for the farmhands at planting and harvest time during the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s.
Other old neighbors told us fresh and funny stories we had never heard before about themselves and our grandparents. We shared a few too. Conversation after conversation began with a friendly introduction or inquiry just to see if a familiar last name would “ring a bell” and lead us to a shared history. We were not disappointed.
My brother suffers from a neurological impairment that affects his gait and balance and causes him to become easily fatigued. Nevertheless, he was my gentlemanly companion: he opened doors, he brought me a drink to the table at the beginning of the meal, and then, despite my protestation, he cleared the table for us both at the end.
Roger and I grew up through many hard times together, but we always have had a gentle and warm relationship. I do remember teasing him when he was a very young brother, but quickly became so ashamed that I gave it up in horror at my mean and hurtful spirit. He did not hold a grudge. And I am very blessed.