(Written to Honor Lincoln L. Libby on What Would Have Been His 92nd Birthday)
When I arrived on the scene, I had three “big brother protectors”, one 15, one 13, and one 3-and-1/2 years older . Curly-haired, green-eyed, completely oblivious to how special I was, all the trouble I caused in the whole family due to my mother’s life being threatened by the pregnancy and my middle brother Linc’s fear and resentment, it’s a wonder it ever occurred, but given time and understanding, Linc and I became, not only siblings, but also friends – really good friends.
Having been born in September of 1939 meant WW2 came along about the same time as I, although, given the earlier comments, I must have you understand, I was NOT the cause. All too soon, the comfortable world I had as a toddler turned topsy-turvy as my brother next in age started school, and the other two of my big brothers joined Uncle Sam’s Navy Blue, while my daddy started sleeping days due to working nights making airplane parts. Gone were the many laps in which I’d sought comfort when I fell and bumped or when I dropped and broke a favored dolly so more Sunday movies at a nearby theater that the boys could take me to see even if it meant traveling through a snowy Sunday afternoon in winter, or a fun ride high in the air on upright shoulders telling my personal horsey to “Gitty-up!” until he’d say, “No more, your horsey is tired,” as he’d slow to a walk. So many “no mores”.
I well know my brothers were not the only ones who left home with big plans to take care of the world. Here’s a list from our small Central Maine village, many of whom, even as a young child I knew personally, because they were friends of my brothers. As apparently had been the case for months, after getting my brother, Kent, and me off to bed, my mother would listen to the radio news. Thinking she had the radio low enough that we’d not hear it in our second-floor bedrooms, she was startled to hear the barefoot-steps as Kent stomped down the stairs into the living room, and, hitching up his pajama pants, declared, “I wish I was old enough! I go over there and we’d get this war over!” I am quite sure that earned a few lines in one of the many letters to “our boys.”
Thankfully, “The War” finally did end and “our boys” did come home. We are well aware of those of their/our friends who did nor and/or those whose lives were forever changed. It is my belief that any who go into such are forever changed; how can they not be, but that’s another thinking for another time.
Life didn’t ever return to what it had been. Our boys had grown up! Linc, who had left school prior to the end of his junior year, came back to finish his high school years, go to college, get married, and start a family, all within a few short years. His college education didn’t give him the satisfaction he desired so after a short time, he, Fran, his wife, and son, Linc, Jr., took the advice to “Go West, Young Man” with California and the area where Fran’s family had settled. Crossing the country in the early 1950s was a different trip then than now but they were young, determined, and having survived the crib death of a 6-week-old son less than 2 years prior, they were still learning how to handle challenges, sudden and expected. When we look at pictures of the faces now, we can see how very young they were, and perhaps see them in a different light for all they had already seen of life, but they were made of sterner stuff than to let the past win. They chose to not look back; they weren’t going that way! (Wise, don’t you think?)
When he had finished telling that story of his life, I was really surprised. I said, “You had a butterfly collection?!” (I didn’t really have to ask, now, did I? He’d just told me so! J) So, I just HAD to tell him that at our maternal grandmother’s request, our mother spent hours reading, “A Girl of the Limberlost” by Gene Stratton Porter while Grammie Glidden tended household chores. It was one of our grandmother’s favorite stories and since I had the video, I was eager to share it with Linc, but try as I might, with the equipment and time that I had, there was no way I could! With his upcoming birthday scheduled for February 12th, I determined I would either get a copy of the book so he could read it or a form of the video that he could see and either enjoy it by himself, or preferably share with Elisabeth and Lance because I was so sure they, too, would enjoy it. (Pictured is the version I’ve seen, have, and have shared, and I heartily recommend it.)
Oh, the things we still had to learn about each other had time allowed!
He told me stories of his everyday life in California and Arizona that I’d never have known had we not had these last few months to visit. He told how he treasured the time he got to spend with lunches with his son, Dan Libby, once Dan had left school and just the two of them had time to sit and talk. (He was good in one-on-one, wasn’t he, Dan?) I was able to answer some lifelong questions he’d had regarding our family as well as he did for me. We grew a bond we’d not previously owned, not from preconceived ideas planted by forebears of other generations, but one that comes from being able to see for ourselves the individuals we are.
I am thankful that, even though the years in between my teens and taking Mom into our home were separated by Linc’s and my living basically across the country from one another, at long last we were able to reunite with more than a few letters, pictures, and phone calls, although to this day, I treasure the phone calls that most often ended with, “I love ya, kid.”
“I love you, too, Big Brother,”