January 4, 2011

My brother left his home in Georgia the day after Christmas, planning to make the 600-plus-mile trip to our aunt’s house in western Pennsylvania for a belated family Christmas.

It was our first family gathering since our mother’s funeral in September.

There are not a lot of us left. Me, David, our Aunt Shirley, a few cousins scattered around. It used to be that a holiday dinner would fill Shirley’s downstairs with people.

This year, all of us who could show up fit around a regular dining room table.

Sue and I left Baltimore, figuring we would get to Shirley’s roughly the same time David did.

We got there at 9:30 p.m., ate, drank some coffee, and waited for David.

And waited.

I sat for a couple of hours in a chair where I could see the street. Finally, at 1 a.m., we all turned in. Which is not to say any of us slept well. Shirley slept hardly at all. Sue and I awoke, I think, at every passing car, or sudden noise.

We were not especially close as children, David and I. We were not estranged. That word implies a rending. For whatever reason, we never got particularly close.

Until our mother’s final illness, that is.

First, I have to say that he was always sort of a hero to me. He always did things his way, even if doing so made his life harder.

He took care of Mom for years, though sometimes you would think they hated one another, as much as they fought. As she sank into dementia and physical disabilities, he had a lot to deal with. It was hard on all of us, but him most of all. Dealt with it, god knows how.

We talked more during that time, I think, than we had in the previous several decades.

Back at Shirley’s the phone rang at 6 a.m. on Monday.

In a stupor, I tried to get the call on my cell, though it was coming in on Shirley’s land-line. By the time I figured that out, the message had gone to the machine.

“I’ve had some trouble. I should be there in a couple of hours,” David said. That was it.

More than “a couple of hours” later, close to lunchtime, I got on the phone. I looked up the phone number David had called from – he refuses to carry a cell phone – and discovered it to be in a little town in the middle of nowhere in the Pennsylvania mountains, far from any major roads.

Did some quick estimating. He really should have arrived some hours before.

I did some quick checking on the computer and called the several state police barracks between Shirley’s home and David’s last position. No wrecks reported involving any cars of the kind David drives.

That was a relief, but 25 years working as a newspaper reporter gave me plenty of mental images to fuel my worry. Out of gas on some back road, or some other car trouble. Off in a ditch or ravine in some remote area. And on and on.

I laid on the floor for awhile and tried to think about anything else but what might be wrong. Sue had been looking out of the window as often I had been.

I could hear Shirley praying quietly as she busied herself in the kitchen.

I fell asleep, but my dreams were dark.

In the early afternoon, I awoke to find my oldest cousin and his wife walking into the house. I’m afraid my welcome was a little distracted.

Maybe half an hour later, David pulled up in the driveway. He walked into the kitchen, looking a little chagrined. Just in time for our post-Christmas feast.

I didn’t know whether to hug him or hit him.

I went for the hug. Life is too short, and we’re both on the shady side of it.

But I confess that I’m a little frustrated that he won’t say what happened. On the other hand, maybe that’s a good thing. I can imagine all SORTS of adventures for him.


© 2011 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.

Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.

Check out the two “Burger to Go” blogsites:







Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: