"We thought we had lost our childhood," my sister, Flo, said, "but we haven't. Here it is."
Flo said, "It was Easter, and we were so proud of our dresses and Easter bonnets. I remember that you felt so grown up because you got to wear a crinoline like me. We both look HAPPY here, and very sophisticated don't you think!! Great aura around us."
Sometimes we have gifts lying in old file cabinets or storage boxes in the attic that we have forgotten are ours to claim. Years ago, my younger brother, Steve, gave me "the old green picture album" that our mother had dragged from pillar to post. It was a touchstone for her, I imagine, as her memory was stolen by Alzheimer's brain spiders.
After Steve was diagnosed with bladder cancer around Thanksgiving last year, I remembered that old album and went searching for it. Over the past two weeks, as he was preparing for yesterday's surgery at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Orlando and Buck and I were struggling with a once-a-decade upper respiratory virus, I began scanning photos from that album into an online album that our whole family could share.
These old pictures combined with our reaching toward one another in this health crisis of Steve's to produce a mysterious, lovely alchemy. We are seeing each other again through the eyes of loving sisters and brothers. Lifting the photos from the ragged black album pages up into the ether of interstellar space and time has freed us from the old bonds of untimely death, mental illness, hyper-religiosity and suffocating repression to a lighter-than-air feeling of loving discovery. "It's you! It's really you! And you are just as special as I once thought you were, before the shadows came into our young lives. We are free. We are free!"
No clouds on our horizon here. We did have a happy childhood. The middle part got a little tough, no doubt. But that doesn't change the reality of the happy times: sandlot baseball, homemade ice cream, scratching off in the gravel at the end of the road on our bicycles, climbing trees, exploring in the woods down by the lakes nearby and keeping an eye out for alligators, building forts, picking strawberries, playing Monopoly, fishing.
Steve and I on our skate-key roller skates at our home at 207 S. Bryan Circle, Brandon, Florida. Our daddy built the subdivision. It was called Oak Grove Estates. The big oaks had Tarzan vines we swung on.
a postscript: Steve had successful surgery yesterday performed by a crackerjack surgical team led by Dr. Charles J. Rosser at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Orlando, Florida, to remove his cancer-making bladder and replace it with a new one crafted from a segment of his own lower intestine. I spoke to him a little while ago. He is gradually getting freed from the various tubes and lines going in and out. He sat up in a chair for 3 hours today. His voice is strong and resonant. Best of all, pathology says the cancer cells are gone. It's a recovery path that will take a hero's heart. Shouldn't be a problem.