Many of you have read about my Uncle David, Dad's younger brother, who had schizophrenia. I have shared parts of my grandmother's journals detailing his suffering.
David died on Saturday in Pennsylvania from heart failure. He was 72. For the past decade he had refused to see anyone from the family, including his mother and older brothers Doug, 78, and Phil, 75 (my dad). It was hard on everyone, but there was little we could do. He was cared for by the staff at the long-term psychiatric facilty.
One of the great tragedies of David's life is that he wasn't able to enjoy the companionship of his two brothers. For Dad's 75th birthday this month, Doug wrote him a letter that I share here. It demonstates what siblings can mean to each other.
Happy 75th Birthday my dear brother,
50 years ago if you had asked me what I would be doing in 2013 I would have had no clue. If I had asked you the same question you would have been able to tell me, “On the farm.” My hearty congratulations on your perseverance. You have been the rock of our family and the preserver of our family heritage on both the Ross and Johnson sides. Granddad Ross is saying, “Well done, my grandson on the farm.” Your father is saying, “Atta-Boy. I knew you would do it.”
You will recall Pop talking of how hard Nelson Neyman [a neighbor dairy farmer] worked. Surely you have run a neck to neck race with him in your lifetime. As you have demonstrated, some things just need to get done. Pick those tomatoes, load those hogs.
Moore’s Chapel would not be what it is today were it not for your skill, fortitude and perseverance. Anyone can make a monetary contribution, but few can see the task completed.
There are those that may think of you as that “gruff old man.” How quickly that image dissipates as one talks with you. My children and their children love Uncle Phil. I have watched with envy how young people seek your tutelage. You have been able to discipline and guide without resentment. You dished out some pretty tough love, and it brought results. I have seen the love you showed my girls though the years. Many thanks. Your 4-H livestock club taught many the appreciation of animals. Those young people are all the better because you took the time to be interested in them.
Phil, thank you for your brotherly love toward me. I know many of my radical ideas needed taming. You were the source of the scraper that leveled the playing field. You must have asked, where did I come up with those ideas? We could always work together without injuring one another.
One last thought about you is your skill in picking a life mate. I remember very well the pride you had when you first told me of Ruth Ann. You can mark that decision as the very best life-altering move you ever made.
May your next years be as fulfilling as those in the past!
Aunt Jane, Uncle Doug, Mom and Dad