I like to remember him when he was little. He was my responsibility when the parents went to work each morning at the mill. I was to feed him, see that he came to no danger and be ready to report when Ma climbed out of the car at the end of the day. She always brought home a bottle of orange soda for him, as if to make up for the fact she had to leave him each day. He always handed me the bottle and told me to “take a sip.”
I remember standing by the chair where Ma sat, holding him, just home from the hospital. “Stand down here. Don’t make him look back at you or he’ll be cross-eyed.” I still remember and I was two months shy of five years old.
I like to remember the first and last part of his life. How many times we sat in the ditch on the “flat” and picked strawberries until our enameled cup was full enough to share for the noon lunch. Barefoot and dirty, we spent the summer days rolling tires up and down the tarred road, knowing it was rare there would be any traffic.
Ma sent us to Sunday School/church each Sunday at Grampa and Grammy Ring’s home on Rowe Hill. It was never suggested that the two older brothers go along. Perhaps Ma knew way back then that her two youngest were the kids who would need the most structuring in life. We went, learned our Bible verses, rejoiced at the Christmas feasts of popcorn and fudge in the home made draw string bags and said nothing.
We spent nights together with our “Aunt” Winnie and Ray Hanscom. We popped corn, made fudge and watched the world go by with her ViewMaster.
Life went on. School, high school, marriage for me. I did not see him as much any more until he started working for Miss Hobbs at Indian Pond. Then each morning, he stopped in to visit and have a snack before going down the hill. Before I knew it, he was in high school and graduated the year I was pregnant with my last child.
He had problems he brought to me. We talked. He got married and had a family. He still dropped in. Once he brought a kitten he found on the side of the road while working. His humor was the central part of my soul mate as he grew into a man. One day I was proud that I had polished my furniture with Pledge, new on the market and smelling like lemon. He came into the house, stopped, sniffed and said, “This house smells so good, I could lick the furniture.”
And the time he offered to give me a jack for my car, but the handle would cost me $10. I think about his loaning me a car so that I might get to my restaurant job in Bryant Pond. It was designed for a handicapped person and the gears, located on the wheel, were on the left side. He also told me to “gun it up the hills as the fuel pump was on its last legs” and so I did…and also through the stop light , if possible, in the middle of town.
I don’t dwell on the middle part of his life nor my own. We both hit bumps that he found insurmountable, while I kind of worked my way around mine. Diagnosed with lupus, his life rather went down the drain and he only blamed himself…at least to me.
I fast forward to the last few years. There was a soft side that few people saw. He lived in a trailer in the woods, but took in an old stray cat and sent pictures. Oh, the pictures! He loved taking photos, sending them to me and asking if I could paint them for him. I painted…poorly…but to him they were Rembrandts and my last visit to the trailer showed them all proudly hung where he could see them. I think they ended up at a dump somewhere..and probably rightfully so.
He loved tulips and flowers and managed to make a garden in the woods to grow. On opening day for fishing in April, he always tried to catch brook trout. Sometimes, wading in a snow bank to get to his favorite spot, he was determined to succeed. If he did, that night at precisely 7:30 he’d call and tell me they were in his freezer for my next visit. Oh, and the Lockhorn cartoons. How we laughed until we gasped for breath at Loretta and LeRoy.
Along with the crisply fried trout, he always made a trip to Tom House’s for some provolone cheese, because he knew I loved it. We sat in his living room munching on cheese and his telling me of his plans to improve the trailer and how he hoped it would all come together.
We laughed at some of the things that had happened to both of us because we always had. Our humor was identical in that we both saw the funny side of a situation that no one else seemed to grasp.
He called twice a week at exactly 7:30. I always bought him a bag of strawberry candies. Oh, how he loved those things.
He had his demons and some overtook him at times. I like to think that the last few years he was free of them. We all have demons; some worse than others.
God needed someone with a sense of humor to keep the angels happy and He called him April 16, 1998. For years after I expected the phone to ring at 7:30 and I started to pick up a bag of strawberry candies at the local store.
I like to remember the fun times; his goodness and the laughs that filled our lives. I will…on this day he would have been 73 years old.