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Hymn to a Brother

Hymn to a brother

Hello, everyone.

This is going to be a personal diary, so bear with me. According to Facebook, today (4/10/16) is “Sibling Day.” I had two siblings. One is still with us, but one has passed on. And it is that brother whom I want to honor today.

His name was Robert Thomas Chambers, but everybody called him “Tommy.” I know of only one person who ever hated him. That was my maternal grandmother, and she hated everything and everyone who had the name “Chambers.” But that is another story.

Tommy was born a little over 4 years after I was, and we were very close. My grandmother hated his being in the house, but he used to love coming to her house and being with me. When Grandma got sick and I moved down home, he was happy that we were together under one roof. Dad turned the attic into a bedroom and he and I slept up there. We would lay in bed and giggle and talk until Dad came to the foot of the stairs and yelled for us to go to sleep. He always yelled at Tommy, but it was meant for both of us. Not that it did any good, but it did make us quiet down to a degree.

Tommy and I did everything together. Sometimes we borrowed the family car and just drove around and talked. Other times we went to the bowling alley and bowled several lines each. If mother decided she was in the mood for a pizza burger or some pop or something else, we would “fly and buy.” Tommy drove and I bought the goodies.

Tommy went into the Navy about a month after I went to Aplington, Iowa, to start my first teaching job. After basic, he would get a pass and come home over the weekend, and a couple of times, Mother came to Aplington and got me and I had the weekend with him. Even then, things were like they were before, especially with Dad telling us to shut up and go to sleep. When he would call when I was home, we would always have a nice long talk.

One of the happiest times I’ve had in my life was the day after Christmas in 1965 when Tommy and I made a trip to Kansas City to visit an aunt and uncle and cousins who lived there. On Monday night, Tommy and our cousin Ronnie went to a movie while I went to lodge with Uncle Bill. The following night, we went to the movie and saw “The Sound of Music.” On Wednesday night we boys went to a drive-in and watched a movie titled “Boeing Boeing.” The plot was so convoluted that I won’t attempt to describe it. And during the day, we boys rode all over Kansas City North. We went home the next day.

Tommy was transferred to the air station in Rota, Spain the following April. He had 2 weeks’ furlough before he left, and he spent that at home. I was teaching in a town 10 miles away, so I stayed at home and he drove me to school each morning and picked me up in the afternoon.

He and I stood up for each other when we married. I was his best man and he was mine in my second wedding. The Assembly of God church in Waukegan, Illinois refused to let us get married in their church, so we got married at the United Methodist Church in Diamond Lake and then had a mock wedding in Waukegan. Tommy functioned as my best man for that.

Seven months after our wedding, I had eye surgery, and he was there for that. I was out of it due to the anesthesia, but I remember him asking me how I was feeling. One of my sweetest memories is that of his little daughter Michelle putting her little hand between the rails of my bed and patting my arm and saying, “Bye-bye, Uncle Bill.”

I lost my Ginny 5 ½ years after we married and I could not have gotten through that time without Tommy. He thought of details that I would never have thought of. He and Mae and the kids were close to me and both of my wives.

Tommy bought a house in Davenport, Iowa, and moved his family there. He still worked out of his office in Arlington Heights,and talked about renting a room around there. I told him no way; he was welcome to share my house if he wanted. I worked 3rd shift and he worked 1st, so it worked out beautifully. On my nights off, I slept on my couch. That was such a great time, almost like when we slept upstairs at home.

Mother moved out of our house and into a care facility in our home town. I used to call her every Sunday night to talk with her. On one of those calls, Mother said, “I don’t think that we are going to have Tommy with us much longer.” I asked her, “How’s that?” She said that he and his daughter Michelle had been down to see her the day before and that he spent the whole time lying on her bed, sicker than a dog. She said that she asked him why didn’t he stay home if he was so sick. He told her that he wanted to come. I feel that he made that trip to say good-bye to her.

A few weeks after that, I got the phone call that he was gone. I had lost Carol the previous Christmas, so I didn’t grieve for him. But one day, I was playing music videos on my computer, and I played Johann Strauss’s waltz “Roses From the South,” Something about that music took me back when we were boys, and I sat at my computer and cried like a baby for him. That pretty much gave me the closure that I needed.

Proverbs 18:24 tells us that there is a friend who sticks with us closer than a brother. Tommy was my brother, but he was also my friend. I miss him deeply, but he and I had some wonderful years and wonderful times together, and those memories are worth far more to me than all of the gold in Fort Knox.

I thank you all for indulging me and putting up with me on this special day. I just wanted to honor the greatest brother a guy could have, my brother Tommy.

You all have a great day tomorrow.

Bill

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April 11, 2016 - Posted by | Life, Miscellaneous | , ,

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