August 27, 2017
The impact of a nephew’s unexpected memory
The reunion of our Walter and Caroline Albritton Family was successful despite the sweltering heat of an August Saturday. One hundred out of 163 descendants of my parents showed up with smiles and lots of good food. A rented tent helped us handle the oppressive sunshine.
For the occasion I had edited and published a 50-page book titled Memories of Papa. My siblings shared the cost with me and we provided free copies to all family members. To my great surprise copies of an additional memory were made available on a page that could be inserted in the book. It was a memory of an incident in my own life, composed by my nephew Richard K. Berkstresser, Jr.
I remember well the occasion Richard describes in what he titled “Remembering Uncle Walter.” Richard’s words touched me deeply as I recalled the shocking sight of seeing my aging daddy fall on his face. As Richard points out, Daddy was a man’s man, tough and strong; I had never seen him stumble, much less fall helplessly to the ground.
Here is what Richard remembered:
“Throughout my childhood Uncle Walter was somewhat of a mystery. He was gone almost always and his trips home were often short and sweet. I understood this in later years as I became more involved with the church and realized the burden and responsibility of a pastor mentoring and shepherding hundreds of people like me in one flock.
“The first really intimate human connection I had with Uncle Walter occurred one summer when we worked together repairing one of Papa's many fences. I was in my later teen years and Papa was just starting to show his mortality, even though he could still out-work any of us there that day.
“As I recall, the people working together that day were Papa, Uncle Walter, his son Matt, my cousin John Flomer Jr. and myself. We were walking through heavy brush toward a fence corner covered with vines when Papa stumbled and fell hard, face first into the dirt and grass. I was stunned beyond words. I am not exaggerating to say I had never imagined this giant of a man stumbling, much less falling on his face. I cannot speak for the others, but I believe they were all as stunned as I was.
“Papa cut no one any slack, and I guess Uncle Walter understood that better than anyone, which is why I so vividly remember how he forced himself through that undergrowth, got on both knees and so gently reached out his hands beside his father to make sure he was safe. We all watched in silence as Uncle Walter got his Papa balanced and back on his feet.
“Papa mumbled something about just stumbling and the incident was over, but I have never forgotten that stunning moment when the son reached out and lifted up the father – and I never will forget it.”
That was indeed an unusual experience for me, one that had not occurred in more than fifty years. In all the years previous to that day, it had been my daddy who was lifting me. It was, however, an omen of days to come, for in his last years, as his body weakened, I did have the honor of “lifting” my daddy many other times.
I shall soon forget the delicious food at the reunion – the tasty hotdogs and the luscious strawberry cake, but I will long remember the tears that filled my eyes as I read my nephew’s surprising memory of a moment in the life of his uncle. It made the family reunion very special for me. + + +