Remembering a Big Brother

Young TinkFor those regular readers of the blog, you will find that today’s writings are a bit different. I was not going in this direction, but something kept pulling me back, so here goes.

I can’t remember when my oldest brother, Roland (Tink) was not looking out for my younger brother, Curt and me.  With both parents working, he was the man of the family, the overseer of the dirty ears and necks each morning and making sure we were neat, clean and warmly dressed in the winter. As I have mentioned in earlier blogs, Curt did a dance every morning as Tink scrubbed behind his ears and then made me circle to make sure that all was in place. Most mornings, out came the comb and he did a few licks to my hair, which was blonde and fine and wanted to fly in every direction. Many mornings, he anchored the flyaways with a barrette and told me not to lose it!

Tink was always quiet growing up; he was not one to make waves or have any confrontation. I remember his going his own way much of the time. He was contented in his early years to read his Hardy Boy books, which he promptly loaned to me when he was through. His Gene Autry guitar hung from a nail on the wall half way up the stairs to the attic, and one could hear him strumming on that in any of his leisure time.

He never pointed out that I was his “little sister” but as the years went by, he showed he was aware of the position he held as the big brother. He noted with interest any boys who might take me to the movies.

He started high school at Gould Academy but left when he became 16. I was never sure why, but heard my mother mention that he was ashamed because someone made fun of his clothes. That could or could not have been the reason. I like to believe he wanted to work so that he could make life easier for our mother. He went to work at Arthur Vallee’s store in Locke Mills as a clerk at a very young age and as soon as electricity was strung through our little hamlet, the first thing he bought was a second hand refrigerator for her. He looked at my father and told him he could still keep his beer cold in the brook. My father grinned, but I cannot remember beer ever being in her refrigerator! 

Not long after, he bought Ma a washing machine..a Maytag wringer which was a joy after years of Fels Naptha soap and a scrub board. Finally he bought something for himself. I came home from high school one day and sitting in the corner of the kitchen was a Zenith record player. It was a tall brown console and probably the most beautiful thing to ever be in the house. I remember his saying, Sandra, do you want to hear something fantastic? He was so excited, so unlike him, I hurried and he put on a 45 record of Les Paul and Mary Ford singing “How High the Moon”. I could not believe the sound. He went into great detail of how it was recorded track upon track.

When I wanted to ice skate, he bought me some white ladies used skates so I could join the fun. When I wanted to be a cheerleader in high school, he bought me the white blouse I needed to go with the uniform. One winter he asked me what all the girls were wearing in high school and I said, red corduroy skirts and black cinch belts. On Christmas morning, I opened a package from him and you can guess what was inside.

When Curt had an ulcerated tooth, he took him to the dentist. He took our dog to the veterinarian when she was sick. That was just the way he was.

He gave me away when I married the first time at age seventeen. I moved away; my brother Rex was in the Army, Curt still at home, and Tink joined the Air Force for four years. He spent a great deal of time in Morocco and wrote me about life there.

As years passed, he learned to appreciate Chet Atkins and in time could listen to his albums and play them exactly the way that Mr. Atkins played. It was a shame more people did not hear him, but playing in public, he said, made him nervous, his hands sweat and he was afraid he would make mistakes.

Tink came home, married and for years continued to care for our mother and the home she lived in until she passed in 2007.

Tink was my second father and I continued to tell him that when we were both adults. In the role of older brother, he was that and more.

Tink passed away in November, 2010 and I miss him. Today would have been his 80th birthday.

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