May 20, 2007

My Family - by Bennie Harris

I've been spending lots of time with my brother and sister and their families recently. Well, relatively speaking, lot's of time. We've been getting together more than once a month lately, and for us, that's lots of time together.

My immediate family has never been a group who hang out together much. That doesn't mean we're not close. I've always looked up to my brothers as examples of what real men are and I've always looked to my sisters for support and love. None of the five ever let me down.

The sisters have always been around, but the brothers were always off in some mystical world called "the Air Force." Except for a brief experience guarding "the Air Force" at Bien Hoa, Vietnam, I haven't trod in that world much. I really wasn't that impressed with any of the boys in blue. They lived in brick barracks, wore clean clothes, and ate hot chow in a mess hall while I lived on the ground, washed my clothes whenever we forded a stream, and ate C-rations warmed with CompB explosive while the rain ran down the back of my pants. They went to bed with clean sheets at night while me and my buddies crawled around in the woods keeping gooks off the air planes. Sometimes I'd see one or two "airmen" walking dogs on the flight line at night, but there was always a tall fence between them and me. They looked like a bunch of pussies to me. But I digress (and poke a little fun).

My brother Seth and I used to share a bed when we were growing up. At our house there were lots more people than beds. Seth joined the Air Force right out of high school. To get his own bed, I guess. My brother Bill left for the Air Force when I was about 6. To get away. I know I have just a few real strong memories of him. Like the time he told mom he smoked. Now wonder why that sticks in my mind? Or the time he came home for Christmas and brought me an electric train. Or the punch boards he won while working at the Starlight Grill. The little cedar boxes full of delicious chocolate candies. He'd always give them to mom and she would always share them with me.

Later, when I was serving in Germany (in the Cavalry – the folks who do the real fighting!), Bill was TDY in Turkey. Somehow, he made it to Germany and we spent a couple of days together. Those were great times. He introduced me to cordon bleu…and cognac!

I never get with Seth or Rita that we don't talk about Bill. He may have taken up roots in California, but he lives right here with us under these Blue Ridge Mountains.

My brother Seth moved back to our hometown about a year and a half ago. Now he only lives about 12 miles from me. My sister Rita has always lived in Elkin, so she's about 12 miles away also. Sometimes we get together for dinner. Lots of those times, Seth cooks. The Air Force made a pretty good cook out of him.

Our spouses all get along, too. Of course, Risë is really easy to get along with. Most of the time. And Bente, Seth's wife, is a doll. She is so friendly and one of the finest southern Danish belles I know. And, I don't know what she cooked in Denmark, but she can lay out a Southern spread with the best of them. And, then there is Robert, Rita's husband. He's a peach. And like a peach he's mellowed over the years. Robert has been in our family about as long as I have, so I never think of him as an in-law, just a brother.

Why this stroll down such a mushy memory lane? I don't know. I just wanted to. And like my three brothers, I do pretty much whatever I want. (If it's o.k. with Risë.)


Seth said...

Thanks for the kind words. Miss Bente is a great cook!

Bill said...

Well. Let’s see now. I can elect to sleep in a muddy ditch filled with leeches while a gang of gooks try to stick a bamboo stob up my butt or....I can choose to sleep in a guarded, air-conditioned barrack on crisp sheets until the houseboy brings my coffee and then spit–shines my boots and presses my uniform for the day. Hmmmm, decisions, decisions.

Bennie said...

Well, when you put it that way...

Seth said...

Momma only raised one slow son!