August 30, 2021

THE MIDDLE SON

My sister’s three sons were like my little brothers!  That was especially true for the six years or so we lived next door to each other.  The older two brothers, Jerry and Joe, were only 11 months apart, and practically seemed the same age.  Bill was a few years younger.  

The brothers were close but very different in appearance and personality.  The middle son Joe certainly marched to his own drummer!  I especially love these two Olan Mills photos of him—the first an adorable babyish face that already shows his determination not to fit the mold.  The second is an All American boy for sure—with his hair neatly slicked down, the striped t-shirt and coveralls.  He looks confident and ready to take on the world.

We always teased Joe about his temper.  It seemed to be especially evident when he wore his little red shirt.  Whenever he came out to play with that on, we tread carefully.

Joe had an independent streak and wanted things a certain way.  He didn’t like to have different foods on his plate touching each other, and when asking for seconds, would point to the spot each food should go!  

When he began earning money for allowances and chores, he didn’t like to make loans—not even when his mom was short of cash.  He never wanted to be the center of attention.  An excellent student, he learned he was on track to be high school valedictorian.  Knowing he did not want to make a speech at graduation, he made sure that didn’t happen.

He left home for college and really never looked back.  After graduation, he got a good job at Enka near Asheville, North Carolina, and worked there until his retirement. He met his wife Joyce there and together they raised daughter Missy and son Kenny.  

After I was a single mom living just four hours away, we often stopped by to visit Joe and his family, sometimes going for a weekend, sometimes meeting them at a restaurant to share a meal. Joe loved being a husband and dad—and made them his top priority. Yet he had room for us also.

There have been tragic losses and heartaches in his life, but Joe remains quietly steadfast.  I talked with him today on the phone to wish him a happy 80th birthday!

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