I grew up in the country on a dirt road. It is now paved and straight. So much has changed. Next door to our little house, that my dad built without power tools, was one neighbor. We had big yards. I came to know every blade of grass, every dandelion as I mowed the yard a million times.
My brother is an incredible man. We have loved each other for more than half a century, and that has never changed for a moment, nor will it. The neighbors were more than neighbors. They were an extended family. They were truly fine people. We didn’t know that back then. Our little neighborhood was all that we knew. All of us were honorable and all of us were strong. I imagined that all men were thus, now, I know better.
I stopped at a little restaurant in my little development in my little town and I had a beer and met my wife as we finished our work day yesterday. In came Ron. Ron is one of my neighbors from my old neighborhood. He is still the fine honorable man that he was so long ago. He is a few years younger than me. That was once a big difference, now it is nothing. Time is an odd companion. It changes everything, yet it changes nothing.
Ron introduced me to one of his sons, I saw in his mannerisms, the character of Ron and his brothers, men of honor and strength and character. Perhaps, there is a chance for the world after all. It is always wonderful to see these men. They ground me. They remind me of who I am. I judge myself in many ways. My “self” is tested in the words of my father. Though he is gone, his words echo through my mind. I hear him as I speak the words that he patiently taught. It is so, too, with Ron and his brothers. They taught me how to play baseball, how to drive, how to be “cool”. They taught me, without my knowing, how to be a man.
Ron had siblings. They were Larry, the oldest, Judy, Linda, Bill, Jim, Bob and Ron. In our family there was my sister, Jerri, my brother, Eric, and myself. All of us were intelligent and resourceful. All of us worked hard. We took care of each other. Bill, the next older boy, kept me in line. We knew where we stood in the pecking order. Bill was fast, strong, and incredibly cool. He was my mentor and he was my protector. He saw my struggles, and he took me under his wing, and he made me cool, simply by acknowledging me.
When Ron and I parted last night the last words that I said to him were “I love you”. I suppose that it might have been odd for a strong, successful gentleman to be told that he is loved by another dude in a crowded restaurant. I watched my beloved sister die, as Ron and his brothers and sisters watched their incredible brother, Larry die. I promised, then, that I would never fail to tell those who I loved that I loved them. It is very important.
I do love Ron, and Jim, and Bob, Bill and Linda and Judy. I loved Larry, who taught me so much. I loved my sister and I love my brother. It is a deep and an everlasting love – a love for men and women who know what it is to be a man, to be a lady. Strong people, people who made me a better man by knowing me, and by loving me.