My brother and sister-in-law came today to pick up the things we found that he should have from all the things we sorted out last weekend. It was another moment of family bonding. My brother is six-and-a-half years older than me, and we share the same mother but his father died when he was two. Still we grew up together. My memory of him when I was young was that he was always my protector. Woe to any kid who tried to pick on me. John went away to military school in high school, then to college and a career in the Navy. We really didn’t reconnect until he went to osteopathic medical school in Kirksville MO and declared that I, living at home and recovering from a broken heart, needed to get out of our childhood home. I went to live with him and his then-wife in Kirksville. In retrospect that says to me that he was still looking after me.
Flash forward maybe fifteen years and we were both in Fort Worth TX, both married, and both heavily involved in the osteopathic community. Then he divorced, followed by me, and our lives took different paths, and we had what I would call a testy relationship for a few years—close but with undercurrents. Now, in our “golden” years (he says we’re fragile), we are close. We don’t see each other often but we talk. Today was a special occasion—they came to visit in my house, drink wine, and prowl through our memories.
We had put aside Blue Willow china for him—he ended up taking it for my niece and for himself the heavy Appalachian pottery my kids didn’t want. He took, at my suggestion, a painting that hung over the fireplace in our childhood home, a couple of cookbooks Cindy wanted, and a framed quote from Owen Wister: “The West is dead, my friend. . . .” I think the things he most treasured were battered small photos of our maternal grandparents—he remembers them and I don’t, a small journal our mother kept when he was a toddler and his father died. He kept saying, “I’m very pleased” and “Thank you.” If I’d known how happy these things would make him, I would have given them earlier—then again I didn’t even know that Mom’s journal was in the attic.
Two articles remain in limbo—the tea table given to my folks when they married and a wonderful small wooden footstool. My kids love the sit on the low stool in front of the fire, and the tea table is an occasional table in my living room. Mom used to roll it into the living room, in front of the fire, for casual Sunday suppers.
We had a lovely visit. Jacob is in awe of Uncle John and even let him treat his injured wrist—must have worked because Jacob left the brace behind when he went home.
I am glad to share these things with family who will treasure them, but I am going to live with gaping holes on my walls where art work has disappeared. If I entertain, it will be with my everyday china, because other sets of china are gone. I am ready to move into my new quarters and let the Burton branch of the family move into the main house. We are making progress-got the architect’s elevations two days ago. It’s exciting to be moving ahead, bit by tiny bit.
But still, it’s all an emotional time.