By Jim Williams
Not too many years ago one of my brothers came to me with a wonderful idea, one that he wanted to share with all his brothers. He suggested that we should all gather for dinner on our respective birthdays.
We all agreed. What a great way to bond with your siblings, and besides, who could say no to a free meal and terriffic company?
It should be noted that the other brothers pick up the check for the birthday celebrant. Thus began a tradition that has been a part of our lives for more than a decade.
Sadly, a few years ago our oldest brother, Bobby, suddenly passed away. But last year I suggested that even though Bobby was not with us, we should continue to celebrate his birthday. We all heartily agreed. The only question was how.
Without a bit of hesitation I said, “Let’s take his birthday dinner to his final resting place at Holy Cross in Lackawanna.” Well, instead of dinner we decided to bring a sampling of his favorite foods, or should I say snacks.
I bought a six pack of “Genny.” One brother came with a large bag of potato chips and my youngest brother brought a pound of jumbo shrimp and a chocolate birthday cake. On Bobby’s birthday we drove to our family’s cemetery and celebrated a special occasion.
Bobby is resting in a tree-lined shaded area. We sat on a bench and after saying a prayer we had “dinner.”
The conversation naturally drifted to Bobby and we began to tell stories about when he was with us. Like all first-born siblings, he had all the rights, privileges and, reluctantly, the responsibilities of being number one.
Bobby had a heart as big as the whole outdoors, but I know he would agree that he also had a temper with the shortest fuse.
Every one of us had a favorite story to tell that afternoon. One of my favorites was when all four of us brothers shared the same bedroom.
Growing up in the 1950s, we didn’t have the luxury of an air-conditioned home.
The bedroom windows on the second floor of our home faced west and whatever breeze we had on those warm summer evenings would come in through those windows.
Needless to say, Bobby would be the closest to the window. Alas, on those cold winter nights, who would be furthest from the window? You guessed it!
I also remember my dad setting up a boxing ring in our basement complete with a heavy bag, a speed bag and 16-ounce boxing gloves.
Bobby and I used to spar. Even though we were close in age, weight and size, he had a longer reach. Need I say more?
Bobby was also our protector. More than once he would “take care” of any problems we had with the neighborhood bullies.
But he also had a softer side. I remember so well that after he finished delivering the morning newspapers he would bring home those delicious, oversized glazed doughnuts from the German bakery on the corner, or Hershey candy bars from the local deli.
There are many more stories to be told and memories to share but I will save those for next year when we meet once again to celebrate Bobby’s birthday.