Do you ever have something that reminds you of something that well, reminds you of something? Yeah, I know that’s a mouth full, but it’s the best way I know to describe the feelings I had the other day. Well, I guess I better start at the beginning.
My oldest daughter works at Waccamaw Community Hospital as a physical therapist. The other day as a new patient was checking in, when she heard the last name she said “do you know Stanley and Geneva,” and with a smile they said, ‘That’s us.” “Well I’m Jessie Bruce, D.C, and Archie’s granddaughter, Robbin’s daughter.” After a few minutes they told her to tell me he was over there, and if I got a chance to come see him.
That evening when she got home and told me, it was the beginning of a flood of memories. You see the names Stanley and Geneva go back to the furthest edges of my memories.
We were stationed in Savannah back then at the old Hunter Air Force Base. Dad and Stanley worked together in the Strategic Air Command on B-47 bombers. But it was more than that; they became friends, a friendship that lasted for over 40 years.
As I began to think back, I remembered the last time I had seen them. He was a pallbearer at Dad’s funeral. Just as he laid the boutonniere on Dad’s casket, as well as his time worn body would let him, he snapped to attention and saluted his old friend. Not one ex-serviceman to another, but one old comrade in arms to another.
So the following Saturday morning Mel and I rode over to see him, and as I walked in his room, I remembered how Daddy always greeted him with a ‘Hey Boatwright.” And when I did, from around the corner, I heard a voice that time will never take from me. As I turned the corner and he saw who it was, I saw tears in his eyes, and I guess there were a few in mine as well. ‘That’s what your Daddy always called me and I called him Bruce.”
As I sat down on the side of the bed as we talked, I guess what you could say was a little deja vu came over me. We talked of old times like they happened last week. He and his wife were from Conway, Mom was from Andrews, Dad’s folks were gone by then, and so Andrews was home to Dad by then. So every time they got a weekend off, we would all pile in a car and head for South Carolina. They would drop us off in Andrews and go on to Conway, and pick us up on the way back.
We talked of the times him and Dad would be stuck out on the Flight line for days at a time; how sometimes they would work all night, then rush home and grab their rods and reels and go fishing, when I guess they should have been sleeping.
I asked him about something I never got to ask Dad about — what it like was during the Cuban Missile Crisis, back when we almost went to war in the 60s. He told me they had flown the planes out of Hunter and scattered them all over the U.S., but he wound up in Charleston. They sent them for a week, and then were supposed to send them a relief crew. Which they did, for every body but him. Once they hollered at him to jump in the back of a truck to go and help land a plane, just as he got that one parked, in came another one. It was Air Force One, and as he looked over his shoulder President John Kennedy was stepping off. What a site that must have been for a young man from Conway.
Before long we talked of family, you know how it is, how this one doing, and that one is. Because of time and circumstances I haven’t seen his kids since we were teenagers. Back then we were the best of friends, just like our folks, but time changes things. Before long we had to run, and as I shook his hand something shook me that I couldn’t explain.
But as Mel and I were walking down the hall, I turned to her and said, “I just got a blessing. Because in his face, I got to see my father one more time.”
You can reach Robbin Bruce by e-mail at email@example.com.
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