This is a story of my brother, John. He was a very complex figure in my life and for the rest of my family members, I suspect. As the youngest I was shielded from the more intriguing family matters. And as time goes on, and less and less references made regarding John, I cannot be certain of what or how others think of him.
His fine intellect was not always apparent as he held people’s attentions at a certain the level with his mysterious and sometimes frightening countenance. I admired and respected him though. He seemed to recognize that I wanted to see the other part of him behind that. Believing he was able to see me too, and that I could be trusted was gratifying as he talked to me the way that I wanted, and not looking down and making exceptions for the little sister. He always had my respect and admiration.
In regard to John’s nature, there was an incident that would provide some clarity. Though as powerful as it was, still I think allowed only a glimpse of the complexities of his mind. I can think of nothing more to have been afforded me; nothing to further unravel what he had carefully bound up from the world…nothing more as that one day in my life had done.
When I returned home that night, John was there and instantly realized something had gone wrong in my life. He demanded to know the trouble and when I told him about what transpired, his disposition changed. He made it clear that he was completely prepared for the situation that I presented to him, so much so that I feared for his safety. Thank heaven, my prayers were answered and no one was confronted, but not for lack of John bringing his considerable might to the situation. He never encountered the person he set out to find that night.
John was consumed by the incident so I left him alone to settle down so that we might, after a reasonable interval, enjoy something of our usual repartee on the ride home. I felt vindicated…almost, but his effort had left him raw and unapproachable. But we had a completely silent ride in our parents’ car, which as I recall, he had started without the benefit of a key. He was enraged. There was no asking permission for use of the car which would certainly not have been granted.
On an emotional level, his bravery saved me from the depths. Selflessly, he brought all that he had to my defense and healed me then, and now. I feel he shields me from the memory, which unless I make the decision to recall that day, remains isolated with other events that interfere with my joy. It is miraculous that when I choose to think of it, with each recollection there seems less of the trouble and more of my brother John. I remember the love, sparkling and everlasting, like diamond.
To my brother John, 1944 -1966.
With all of my heart .
So many years had gone by without a single thought of 1957 when I spent the Summer with my grandparents on their farm in Virginia. Then, in the midst of a prolonged illness, among all of the things I was sorting through, this forgotten experience drifted into my mind. Totally unprovoked and effortlessly revealing, I felt the need to write everything that I could remember, just as it presented itself to me.
And as I wrote, I became more and more immersed within the warmth and comfort of that time with my grandparents, so precious and dear to me now, as I realize after all, how much meaning it brought to my life.
This glimpse into their world was written with love and a deep and ever-growing appreciation for my family, for my heritage. It might well have been entitled , “The Gift”.
* An excerpt from my book:
Two Little Girls
As far as I was concerned, summer began with the day my father installed the screens in the windows. Early that morning, Mother would have taken the summer sheers from storage to the clothesline in our backyard. By the afternoon, she swooped up the freshened bundle and brought them back indoors to hang on the rods at the tops of the windows. When the transformation was complete, I’d run from room to room to see the curtains flying on the breeze that raced in through the windows of our big old house. Like a magical invitation to adventures possible only with summer, when one day melted into the next and no one asked about the time, I felt that I could fly too and that anything could happen.
There were 5 children in my family. My brother Lionel was the oldest; my sister Cecilia was next, followed by my sister Rose, then my brother Isaac, and me. We spent summertime totally absorbed in keeping pace with our friends as was our Mother in keeping up with us. She mended our scraped knees, our bruised egos, and the holes in my brothers’ dungarees. I remember lemonade and tuna sandwiches, cotton sun dresses and hair ribbons; the pennies I collected for the corner candy store, and my ankle socks that never stayed up. Summers seemed much longer then when hopscotch and jump rope, hide-and-seek and tag, dress-up and make-believe, with my bicycle, my dolls and friends filled the days until supper time. When August finally came around, among the five of us someone would be chosen to vacation with our grandparents in the country. It was in the year 1957 that I was to spend my first summer there.
I’d thought so often about my first trip to the farm. But like the landing of a cascading boulder, my mother’s cheerful delivery of this summer’s plan completely shattered my vision of it. Leaving little room for the way that reality alters things but similar to most events concerning “the children”, I was quite certain of my unvarying reverie. It was always the same. My brothers and sisters are running through a country field with me, very happily and as usual, following close behind. But everything had been arranged and I alone would spend two weeks on the farm that year.
My family had gathered in the living room when Mother made the announcement. But my frustrating lack of enthusiasm was like a call to dinner in emptying the room of everyone and I found myself alone, save for the dog. While I struggled with the concept of being on my own, Spiky jumped onto the couch next to me. Placing his head upon my foot he kept a concerned and watchful eye over my disposition until we both fell asleep.
Later that day, I listened to Dad’s recollections of farm life adventures while Mother prepared supper. As she filled in with the finer points and particulars she’d taken note of my mixed feelings with her knowing smile that always took the sharp edges off of things. “Don’t forget that your cousin Joanna is just about your age and lives close to Grandpa‘s”, she nearly whispered. Then I thought of the pocket inside the little green suitcase as the place where my Jacks would find a perfect fit.
~~~~~~~ Truth is Beauty is Love ~~~~~~
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