Oh, how i would like to be in Vermont today.
My brother today is edging toward old…in years only. Seventy-one in fact. But like our father, Joe doesn’t look seventy-one; he looks much younger.
Growing up, we would tease him about being born on this day, April First. But to be honest, all three of the Jewell children at 127 Castle Heights Avenue were paying more attention to their annual April Fool’s prank on their uncle, Alvin (Snooks) Hall. When Aunt Bettye Kate and Snooks would come over for supper each year, we would set the table for Mother. The adults had coffee with the repast. My father drank his black. The other three added cream, aka whole (man, i don’t think they even had any kind of milk except from the milk churn, pasteurized, skimmed, and Pet’s or Carnation condensed milk back then) and sugar to their coffee. But at this supper every year, we made sure the sugar bowl was next to Uncle Snooks’ place setting and the special spoon was neatly stuck inside the sugar in the sugar bowl. The special spoon had a rim but a hole was in the middle.
And each April the First evening, Uncle Snooks would sit down, put the cream in his coffee, grab the spoon in the sugar bowl and start to put the sugar in his coffee. And when there was no sugar because of the hole, he would act totally surprised as if we had never pulled this on him before, and i’m guessing we did this for near ten years running. And, of course, the three children would scream “April’s Fool” and double over in fits of laughter. The adults, including Uncle Snooks would enjoy our little joke.
But Joe…Oh, i’ve praised him here before. But never enough. He was a preacher’s preacher until he retired several years ago, preaching to his people, reaching out, helping, trying to live in the word of the Lord, not necessarily paying homage to the bureaucracy that is inevitable in any large organization but being a good man for good people.
And smart. Man, is he smart. Well read? The boy had read the entire World Book Encyclopedia by the time he went to junior high. He introduced me to JRR Tolkein long before Lord of the Rings was a rite of passage for our youth. He gave me insight into William Faulkner and Robert Penn Warren. Even now, when i want to read something to help me understand something, perhaps me, he recommends authors who do exactly that when i read them.
He loves jokes. Sometimes he scares me when he sets his head a certain way, tells a funny story and laughs at his telling. It’s like listening to his father or Aunt Naomi (pronounced “Noni” by her nieces and nephews).
i’ve got a lot of friends, because of my wayfaring life as a sailor, i’ve picked up a lot in various places in my time. There are four that stick out as irreplaceable: my mother, my father, my sister, and Joe. Two of those irreplaceables are gone. Martha and Joe remain my closest friends. Joe and i have a male bonding thing. Our relationship is not better or worse than that with our sister, it’s just there’s just a bit of male stuff going on. Best friends, both.
So, i’m just glad i’ve been so fortunate to have known Joe for seventy-one years. i’m glad he has put up with me when i have been less than a good brother (i did like to taunt him, i’m afraid). i’m glad he had the opportunity to learn from watching my mistakes and following his own path. And man, am i glad he found the perfect match in Carla Neggers to marry.
i often joke Joe and i are so different. He became a preacher. i became a mariner. He ended up in the Northeast corner, and i ended up in the Southwest (hmm, his wife is from Massachusetts, and my wife is a San Diego native). But in truth, he is closer to me than anyone i have ever known.
Thanks, Joe…and Happy Birthday: