“Ah, how good it feels! The hand of an old friend” — Longfellow
A poignant story from my friend and fellow volunteer John Ratliff. Here he delves deep into his childhood and remembers old friends.
It was the summer between my sophomore and junior years in high school. My father had left my mother and me in Massachusetts earlier that year. He was doing what he loved, fighting the cold war with radars in the middle of the Pacific ocean, half a world away, while my mother finished nursing school. In one of the letters he wrote to my mother he laid down one of his many ultimatums, “When you finish, I don’t care where you go as long as it is somewhere outside the state of Taxachusetts.” My mother had never wanted to move away from her home and family in Philadelphia in the first place so her choice was an easy one. But I wanted to prolong the inevitable for as long as possible so I convinced her to let me stay with David’s family for the summer while she got everything settled in Pennsylvania. I got a job on Mr. Morrison’s farm and became part of the Glina family. Mr. Glina was a pharmacist; deep deep voice, gregarious sense of humor, a tall, curly-haired very handsome bear of a man who loved his beautiful wife Karen and their three children with all his heart. Karen was a petite, dark-haired spitfire who contrasted perfectly with her husband’s adolescent easygoing manner. My friend David was the oldest. Dan, his younger brother, David and I shared the same bedroom. I slept on the floor. At night Mr. Glina would open the windows downstairs just a crack and turn on the attic fan. The three of us boys would lay there in the darkness telling each other stories as the heat of the day slowly cleared.
In the mornings I would usually be up and gone before Dave woke up, but Rachel, his little sister with the cherub cheeks and beautiful dimples, would be in her pajamas in the kitchen with a bowl of cereal and the two dogs, Rusty and Pete, at her feet. Forty years later, David and I are still friends. After all sorts of changes, deep down inside, we’re both pretty much the same. Mr. Glina passed away today. I don’t know if he realized how much it meant to me to be a small part of his family that summer so very long ago. To Mr. Glina it was no big deal. He was always doing kind things for the people in his life, it’s just who he was. But for me, being able to bask in the glow of a family brimming with love was something very, very special that I will never, ever forget.
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