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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Friday, May 29, 2009

Guest Post from My Brother Dave

You have heard me write of my brother Dave. You've heard me say that he was the best "dream teller" and storyteller of all us kids. I have tried to encourage him to start a blog because when we visit about posts here at Patterns of Ink, his "take" on the same events is always interesting to me. He has sent me another "guest post" which I'll share in the weeks ahead. Four years ago, I posted his take on a story I'd written, "Dream Pony." That one was funny. This one shows another side of my brother that I also respect, and honesty and candor that I think you'll enjoy. He sent this several weeks ago when he knew what these more recent chapters were leading up to. I've chosen to post it now as a prelude to the chapter I said would be here Wednesday. It's the last week of school. Commencement is tonight. Busy busy days. I hope to have time to write next week. In the meantime, enjoy...

Dave's Take on the Fall of 1970

The summer of 1970 had ended, and a new chapter in our lives was about to begin.

Our family had never been far apart at any one time before. It seems that moment by moment we were all within an arms reach or shouting distance of someone in our home. Except for the year that dad was in Detroit and we lived in [Port Huron] township. [During that year he transitioned to a new job, Tom was four that year.] We only saw Dad on weekends where he mostly worked on the house but also took us on long walks in the woods along Black River.

But in our home in Roseville [the family home in the woods was not yet built] we were always close. Never cold or colorless but very close. Our house had always been crowded so we didn’t really know anything different. Throughout my years in high school I took a great deal of family life for granted. I believed that most families lived in homes with well worn carpets, had lawns with weeds, and that most everybody wore old under wear that at some time or other had belong to their dad or an older brother. It seemed that most of the people that had really nice grass were old and didn’t have kids running around or an old dog that had his trails worn to the nubbins in the dirt.

It had been a good summer, the summer that ended my tenth grade year. It may have been the year of the “well” or the year we tore down the “old school” to get lumber for the house or the year we pulled stumps with table spoons or finished the barn. They're all a blur to me, and I leave the details to Tom, who recently pointed out the date in the cement around the mouth of the well. Sure enough, that was 1970. I do know that it was a year that dad packed full of hard work that kept the boys busy. So it is not surprising that I didn’t have time to notice what was unfolding in our family.

It was nothing that most families don’t go through at some point in their journey through life. For me, it was an event that began a change that I knew would come sooner or later but I always thought it would be later. I only wish I had seen it coming. I would have paid more attention, maybe been a bit kinder, noticed what Kathy wore to the Senior Banquet or even asked her if she had fun. I was a young kid so consumed with stuff around me and so naïve about time and speed that I hadn’t noticed it coming. Kathy, our protector, our Mother Theresa, trail blazer, older sister, had reached a mile stone in her life. She finished High School.

At the time it still hadn’t hit me. I recall laying in bed at night listening to the voices in the living room. The screen door would slam as she came in from a date. Mom, Dad and Kathy would talk and I would fall asleep not knowing or caring what was taking place. I now know that Mom and Dad were catching up, racing against time, trying to soak in as much of my sister as they could. Their only daughter would be leaving and they were asking those questions that I had not taken the time to care about. They were soaking it in the moments. Looking at her eyes, her laughter, her movement about the room. All of the little things that would be huge when she was gone. All the things that I had taken for granted. I don’t know because I don’t have daughters. I do know that my wife was once a daughter and as precious as she is to me, her parents must have experienced those same late evenings hoping to capture the moments that summer before she went off to college.

Summer came and went like most others in our past. Working hard with Dad on Saturdays, family reunions, vacations to our favorite places, and those rare late Sunday evenings on the beach in Port Huron with the family. All seemed the same.

There were a couple of exceptions that made it different. Mom seemed a bit melancholy and dad would give a long sigh at the end of most family adventures and say something like “It goes fast boys, and the older you get the faster it goes.”

I heard it but I didn’t catch his meaning. I couldn’t see his eyes so I didn’t catch his heart.

As I recall, the week before Kathy left for college seemed somewhat normal. Kathy was more excited than usual. Mom was unsuccessfully trying to avoid the reality of the whole thing. She dreaded good byes. Worse, she hated sending her kids off to stay anywhere for longer than a few days. This would be the beginning of a new chapter for dad and her.

Mom had arranged that Tom and Jim would stay with my aunt and uncle in Croswell, a small farming community in the thumb area. [Because Michigan is shaped like a mitten, residents here use terms like “the thumb” and everyone knows what part of the state we mean.] My brother Paul and I stayed at my grandparents who still lived in the house in Port Huron that Mom was born in and lived in until the night before her wedding.

I looked forward to this last week of summer in Port Huron, just three blocks from the beach. There were selfish reasons that I kept hidden inside. When I stayed with grandma, I was my own boss and as long as I stayed anywhere that she was familiar with I was safe. My grandmother knew every one and every thing in town. That meant I was safe to do anything. For me, this was going to be a week of no rules and freedom.

Kathy was with Mom and Dad as they dropped us off at Grandma's. Needless, to say when the moment came for Kathy to leave, I missed the significance of what was actually happening. She was gone and I missed it. I mean, I saw her leave; I gave her a hug; I watched the car disappear down Forest Street and turn the corner. That moment would change our family as I knew it, and I missed it all. I was clueless. I bounded up the gray wooden steps on my grandma’s front porch two at time, bolted across the porch and flung open her old, black, wooden screen door. The very door that my sister and brothers and I had used so many times before as a gang of kids at Christmas or some other holiday or the Sunday's we enjoyed there...not even pausing to think about Kathy waving from the back window of dad’s old station wagon. I was free. I was clueless.

The first day of classes was fast approaching. I was going into the eleventh grade. It was to be my second year of varsity wrestling. As a freshman I had earned a Varsity letter, and had earned a few pins here and there. I believed that this was going to be a great year.

The first day of school was a difficult one. I hadn’t expected that. Something happened that changed me. My English teacher happened. Mr. Jones. He began taking the role. He called my name and paused for a moment. He looked up at me and quietly shook his head with a grin. He asked a simple question. It was something like, “Are you related to Kathy?” I nodded quietly. He said something like, “She was probably one of the nicest kids I ever had the privilege of teaching. Did she get accepted at that college she was hoping to attend? I wrote a recommendation for her and couldn’t say enough good things about her.”

I sat quietly for a moment as he went on with the rollcall. I turned my head to the window and watched the yellow leaves on a maple. [I thought it strange the leaves were turning so fast...so early in September. It was then I first] realized what had happened. Things were never going to be the same. I would hear Kathy's voice only through a phone or in letters that mom would read at the dinner table. Dad and mom saw it. I guess Jim and Tom felt it. [He'll post about that soon.]

Paul was a senior somewhere in the same building. His time was quickly approaching. I saw that now but had somehow missed it with my sister. Looking out the window of Mr. Jone's English class, a tear trickled down my cheek. I was a varsity wrestler. To this day I'm not one to cry. I tried to hide it by putting my head down but started crying uncontrollably at my desk with my face buried in my arms. I was not embarrassed, [but hoped no one heard my halting deep breaths].

I don’t know if anyone noticed or what they thought if they did, because it never came up, and I've never spoken or written about it until now. But it was in that moment that I realized this is how life goes. I would know this feeling again many times in the years ahead. It would be reinforced with each marriage of a sibling, with each passing of a parent, and as I watched my own boys become men.

Thanks, Dave. Folks, his next guest post is even better. Look for that in late June. I will post the next Unsettled chapter within a week (I hope).


Anonymous quilly said...

Sometimes big life changing events don't announce themselves until after they've hit you like a wildly flung baseball bat.

30/5/09 2:14 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I need to call Dave and let him know I've posted this. I had his permission but that was over a month ago.

He will appreciate the word picture from the days when Paul and Dave and I played softball together.

30/5/09 5:03 AM  
Blogger the walking man said...

Life changes daily, it is the nature of time in its linear state. The amazing thing is that your closeness was evidenced by your reaction to that change. Believe me it was not the same, even in the other weedy, rutted worn carpet houses on the block.

30/5/09 5:34 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

There was a year or so that the carpet in the front room was worn down to the jute in the heavy trafic areas. When we pulled it up, we found hardwood floors underneath which we lived on for a few years. Mom hated the "dust bunnies" so Dad got some cheap carpet that was glued down to the hardwood. I wince at the thought now, but at the time it didn't strike me as a terrible thing to do.

You are right about the linear nature of time...at least as we know it now. It is in such terms that I can almost grasp the concept of eternity being not millions of linear years but some other way of conceptualizing time from God's perspective.

Maybe Dave and I will meet you someday on a long bike ride. He now lives in Mt. Clemens.

30/5/09 4:03 PM  
Blogger Jody said...

I enjoyed Dave's story very much. You both have a gift for story telling. I feel like I know many of your family members almost more than my own at times!
I also understand how you can be living something so amazing and ordinary and yet totally miss the gift of those moments. I've wished time back more than I can count- but continue to trust that I loved and lived as best I knew how given what I knew then.
I'm also waiting for your tale about being caught in your underwear when Mom forgets to tell you the neighbor girl is over. =)
I hope you have a wonderful, relaxing summer. I plan to soak it up and hope it goes by slowly. I'm quite sure it will fly by though- more quickly than all the other summers I've lived through so far. It's so true...each year seems to move faster than the one before it!

30/5/09 9:42 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Dave is even better at telling stories "in real life." He is the uncle that all the neices and nephews gather around (or did when they were younger kids) on a blanket at the family picnics to hear him tell stories. Very animated, great "voices" etc.

Thanks for the reminder about the upcoming chapter. I forget when I write here that "people I know" may be learning way too much about my childhood, but this is an innocent story and I look forward to telling it.

13/6/09 2:49 AM  
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