Tag Archives: Joe

Build Me a Son Like Joe

For 50 years, the world has been home to my brother Joe. For 48 years and 2 weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of being his little sister and sometimes making him cry.

Aunt Smarts, Aunt Fancy, Unca Joe, Aunt Sassy

Aunt Smarts, Aunt Fancy, Unca Joe, Aunt Sassy

When we were little, I’m sure I made him cry in frustration a time or two. Now that we are older (some of us more than others…), I like to make him cry happy tears by holding up a mirror to show him what a fine man he has become. I wrote that piece a few weeks ago called What Does Love Carry In Its Hands? My brother is the perfect example of how to be good at loving the world. His hands are never empty–he carries hammers and hams and small people who need strong men.

He’s made me cry a time or two. Like that time when Richard was in the hospital and I invited the family over on Labor Day. When I mentioned how much I hated the chain link fence around the pool, he and Daddy set to work and by the time I got back from Kroger with dinner, my family had that fence rolled up and gone. I stood in the bedroom window and watched them, crying. Joe is the kind of man who always has tools around, in case something (or someone) needs fixing. After all that sweaty work, Joe manned the grill when it was time to cook dinner. I handed him a pack of tofu dogs. He cried.

Mr. Fixit

Mr. Fixit

A few months later, everybody cried when Richard died, but Joe didn’t show up with empty hands. We had planned to greet family and friends after the service at the church, so there were sandwich trays for that crowd. I hadn’t planned on all the folks who gravitated back to the house afterwards. We didn’t have much lying around to feed them. Then Big Gay opened after a knock at the kitchen door and there stood Joe with a glistening glazed ham. “Did you just drive around with a ham in your car?” she asked. “Yep,” he said. “Someone died…you make ham.” I cried.

Baby Carlos and Unca Joe

Baby Carlos and Unca Joe

Now that I have a son of my own, I cry when I see my little boy run to his Unca Joe for a hug. Back when Carlos wasn’t very social, Unca Joe was the first relative that he identified with, that he sought out, who was allowed to love on him, whose name he remembered weeks later. Joe picks Carlos up and tosses him over his shoulder, toting him like a sack of giggling potatoes. That sight always makes me cry. Joe teaches Carlos that he is loved and he is safe. Last year, we were at Cowtail for Easter. Joe had a drill out, fixing an old chair. The loud noise made Carlos cry. Instead of telling Carlos to toughen up, or saving the task for later, Unca Joe called Carlos over and explained the drill to him. He helped Carlos hold the weight and aim the bit then let this little boy do the work. Carlos crowed with delight. I cried.

Sack of taters

Sack of taters

When Joe’s oldest son was christened, I didn’t know what kind of gift to give. Instead of a thing, I found this prayer and shared it with my brother. He cried.

A Father’s Prayer for His Son

By General Douglas MacArthur

Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.

Build me a son whose wishes will not take the place of deeds; a son who will know Thee—and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge.

Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here, let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those that fail.

Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high, a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men, one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously.

Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, and the meekness of true strength. Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, “I have not lived in vain.”

He read it, standing there in the colorful nursery of his own tiny boy. He cried. He handed it to Daddy, and Daddy cried too. The only person in that room who understood how much Joe loved Grant was Daddy, because he could look upon a son who had been built strong and funny and kind and gracious and brave and gentle.

A fine family: Joe, Jake, Beth, and Grant

A fine family: Joe, Jake, Beth, and Grant

Joe, I hope that you know you are loved and admired every day, not just early in November. I hope that you know that, judging by the men you are raising, you have not lived in vain. I hope you know that our father, who loved you so, could dare to whisper, “That’s my boy. I have not lived in vain.”

Happy Birthday. Now let’s eat some smoked pig. We can blame the smoke if there’s any crying.

Last Day of the Season

A few days of this beautiful weather and I’m already thinking about loading up the kids and Huck and heading for the woods this weekend! Our family has a hunting camp near the old home place–a spot where we can gather to holler and get dirty and shoot at stuff. (Remember last year when Huck got to be “a real dog, all day?”)

DSCN5636I steer clear of Cowtail when it’s hot, buggy, dry, or when people are shooting at stuff. Even though our 100 acre tract is posted, there ain’t enough orange in the world for me to take my babies into the woods during deer season. I’d even worry about Huck–someone might think they had drawn a bead on the fabled white buck that roams the forest.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with hunting anything we can eat. Shoot a rhino or a hawk or a mockingbird and we have a problem, but if we can grill it or roast it and it’s within the season and the limit, etcetera etcetera…have at it. I don’t shoot guns, but I take my bow and arrows to see if I can hit a balloon off a piece of plywood. I’ve never been one for the noisy kind of hunting.

At Thanksgiving, the nephews were talking about deer hunting and a friend of the family asked Daddy if he was ever much of a deer hunter. Daddy laughed and said, “I hit so many with my truck we didn’t have any space in the freezer for me to hunt.”

Then Daddy told a story that I really get now that I have kids of my own. He said that one year, Joe had finally gotten old enough to go deer hunting and he was beside himself with excitement. He kept asking Daddy to take him, but Daddy put him off time after time because he was too busy. If you don’t know much about deer hunting, it happens in the EARLY morning hours when it’s nice a cold and most people are asleep. It requires hours–to get out to the right spot, settle yourself, and wait. Our dad worked six days a week as a country veterinarian, so it was hard to find the time that hunting required.

Finally, on the last weekend of deer season, Daddy promised Joe that he would take him hunting. Joe could hardly sleep. Next morning, they woke up before dawn and as Daddy was getting his rifle ready, he realized that he was out of bullets. How was he supposed to tell Joe that they couldn’t go after all that waiting?

So they went anyway. He didn’t say a word to Joe about the bullets. They tromped through the woods and climbed up in the stand and waited and waited. Daddy let Joe hold the rifle the whole time. They didn’t spot a single deer, so Joe never had to take a shot.

As Daddy told the story, forty years later, Joe heard the truth for the first time. And judging by the way he laughed, he didn’t mind one bit that the gun was never loaded. He got to go hunting with his dad, just like he had been promised.


We only have so many mornings to fulfill our promises to our kids. Even when it’s cold and dark and way too early.