My brother is visiting from New York. I call him Doctor Zhivago for no particular reason, other than it has a certain zest like Seinfeld when he can’t stop saying, “Salsa!”
Doc Toby has given our family thousands of dollars worth of free medical advice through the years. Sometimes his pro bono advice fits his payscale, like when Dad once complained to him that it’s getting harder to bend over and tie his shoes. Dr. Toby told him, “It will get worse.”
My other brother, Greg, is more apt to say, “It will get better.” Greg is a preacher but will soon become a doctor. His doctoral research is entitled How White Supremacy Impacts Communities, and includes a survey that asks this question: “What is the first time you can remember when you learned race exists?”
When I was 7 years old, my family attended a gospel meeting on the west side of Bartlesville, in what I’d like to call a circus tent, so I will. In this circus tent an African-American preacher was making his salvation pitch with panache. Brother A.C. Christman was different from the white preachers. He talked to us…which was cool. I don’t mean that he talked to us in the lilting platitudes of cliched preachers. No, he singled folks out. Like my Dad.
He said to my Dad, “Terrel! Are you resting your eyes!”
(Dad was a chronic narcoleptic even as a young man. He once fell asleep while mowing the lawn.)
To my Dad’s credit he replied with poise and without opening his eyes, “No…I’m sleeping.”
I just talked to a good friend of mine who lost his Dad very suddenly a few years ago. He asked about my Dad and I thought about Doctor Toby’s comment that it will get worse and Greg’s comment that it will get better. Both are true of my Dad. I told my friend that my Dad has been getting worse for 20 years…but he is getting closer to getting better.
So many people have asked about Dad. I thought it might be better to share something Greg texted to the siblings earlier today.
Last night Dad did a classic Terrel. He said, “I know you all are gathered here because you thought I was going to die, so I wanted to apologize for not dying.” Another reason I love Dad, for showing how not to take yourself too seriously. Dad’s not a mystic really but he’s a practical giver of love in concrete ways, a thinker and smarter than he looks. He said he knows he sits and rubs his head and looks like he’s not listening but he’s enjoying the laughter and banter.Greg Taylor