As many adults my age, I have seen the passing of my parents, 2 siblings, a brother-in-law, grandparents, and other relatives. It is a loss one never "gets over," though one must realize that life goes on and one must keep living. Writing in this blog is one way that helps me heal from the losses I've experienced. I've had a wish that I could write some of the stories of those that have passed. My fear is that somehow I won't get it quite right when I write about them. But my hope is that I may capture their essence and somehow give my loved ones a life beyond what has been lost.
Please indulge me when I write about my loved ones. And I would do the same for you, if by any chance, you needed a listening ear.
Neal was the heart of my immediate family. A piece of advice he gave me when we were both adults was about the workplace. His advice was that if a co-worker got promoted or received recognition, pat them on the back and buy them a drink. No room for resentment and jealousy in this advice, was and still is my thought. I'm not sure I could always live up to that admonition, but I know Neal would and did.
Not to say he was an angel or always did the right thing. He could listen to an obscene Eddie Murphy monologue with the nieces and nephews at Christmas time, like any good uncle. He was a cigarette smoker and enjoyed a good drink.
He graduated from high school in 1967 and entered the Navy soon after. He did two tours of duty on aircraft carriers in the Tonkin Gulf during the Viet Nam Conflict. He saw a man get blown away on their ship once due to an accident. He visited Japan and developed a love for Japanese culture. He was in an airport rest room once and standing next to him at another urinal was a man in drag. Quite an experience for the small town country boy. Another experience he told me about was getting back to the states and knowing "something was wrong" because of all the military clothes in the restroom trash...discarded due to the hostile reception military folks received back in the states. I asked him once why he enlisted. He told me, "I was patriotic."
Jobs were hard to come by after he left the Navy. He had some tough years. He attended college and received his B.A. in English through the G.I. Bill. He still struggled to find employment. He worked at the bowling alley for a while as a manager. He then worked at the local newspaper and printing business, doing color separation when that was part of the printing process and printing presses were actually still in use. I see it as an accomplishment that he headed and succeeded in making it a union shop for the printing workers. A lot of the time he had some very thankless, under appreciated years, but he was well-loved by his family. Always.
My father told a story once of Neal as a teenager accompanying him on a veterinarian call to doctor a horse. Neal was in the stall trying to steady a highly excitable stallion. The stallion backed Neal into the stall. Dad said to him, "Don't you open your peep or move, Neal," and somehow Dad quieted the horse and Neal got out of the stall.
Neal, don't you move. I want you to stay right where you are in my memory. Don't move.