Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

July 21, 2002


The fun of swapping stories about our dad with my brother


            One of my fun projects in retirement is to get to know much better my only brother. Seth is 11 years younger.

He and his wife Pearl live 200 yards from our home. Both of us live within a half mile of our old home place, which my youngest son Steve is presently renovating as a home for his family.

 There were three sisters between us. Our youngest sister, Laurida, died of cancer several years ago. Neva is the oldest of the girls.  Margie is two years younger than Neva.

Both Neva and Margie live even closer to our childhood home. Laurida did also, until she died.

We think it a bit strange, yet a blessing, that all five of us live close together, in what some of our friends call “the Albritton compound.” That thought was enhanced when the county named the road to the home place “Albritton Lane.”

 It is a short road that dead ends at the home which our parents built in 1930. I am glad my parents both lived long enough to enjoy the road being named in their honor.

            I came along in the latter days of the Great Depression. Times were hard. Seth was born in the middle years of World War II. Life was not as difficult then.

            My sisters and I have always complained that our parents were harder on us than they were on Seth. We enjoyed teasing him about the ways mom and dad pampered him.

Naturally he denied it.

            But at supper the other night, after all these years, he admitted it! He said to me, “You and my sisters had a much harder time than I did growing up.” It was fun to hear him own up to it.

            Now we will have to tone down our teasing. But I still like to remind him that when I was a boy I had to milk three cows every morning. But when he was a boy, our parents sold the milk cows and started buying milk at the grocery store.

            Seth has countered our attack by insisting that he cut a hundred tons of firewood more than we cut because daddy preferred a wood-burning heater to propane gas heaters. We have had a lot of fun comparing our hard times with each other.

            My brother and I look like brothers and people who knew our dad have always said that we were “chips off the old block.” Dad was a big man all his life. Seth and I are both heavyweights.

            At supper we talked about some of dad’s physical problems, and wondered whether or not each of us will have those same problems.

            Dad had a heart attack in his seventies. Neither of us has had one yet. Maybe that problem is in our future.

            Dad had trouble with kidney stones. Seth has also. I have not. Seth smiled and said, “When you have your kidney stone attack, remember that I told you that it will be the worst pain you have ever endured. I thought I was going to die.”

            It scares me to imagine what that will feel like, and I can’t help but wonder if my genes are programmed for kidney stones. Earl Ballard told me once that one kidney stone attack made him beg for morphine and the pain caused him to wish he could die.

            Dad had back trouble. Both of us have also. Dad had problems with his feet, especially after he retired. Seth and I are walking in his footsteps in that regard also.

            A man who went to school with Seth asked me recently if Seth was my son or my brother. As we chatted the man said, “You are not as tall as Seth, are you?”

            “No, not now,” I told him. “When I was a young man I was six and a half feet tall, but hard work and aging have worn me down to 5’ 11, and Seth is over six feet tall.”

            With a wry grin on his face the man looked at my waistline and said, “Well, you may be getting shorter, but you don’t seem to be shrinking in the middle.” I realized he had won so I changed the subject.

            Seth will celebrate number 60 next July. I looked at him the other night after we had shared stories for hours and thought to myself, I am going to enjoy getting to know this man.

            He is fun to be around. He is not abrasive. He listens when others speak. He is not absorbed with himself. He enjoys laughing. He has a wonderful memory and I realize there is much for me to learn as he shares his memories with me.

He has interesting opinions, positive ideas, about many subjects. He seemed to enjoy talking to me as much as I delighted in talking to him. He is a hard working man, the kind of man our dad would be proud to call his son.

            We have a few differences of course. He likes dogs. He keeps one around the house. He told me he changed his mind about dogs when a house dog’s barking woke his son Hank and saved his life after the house caught on fire.

            I prefer dog stories or dogs that sit by the fireplace and never eat. I like dogs that sit on the shelf and never bark.

            Despite our few differences, I am truly excited at the prospect of getting to know this strong but gentle man who is my brother. For nearly 60 years we have gone our separate ways without really bothering to know each other.

            I am glad that is changing. For me it is one more of the surprising blessings that come with retirement.