Sunday, June 18, 2017

The View from Prodigal Point

Which Brother am I?

(Writer's Note: The final -6th- in a Series)

"But he was angry and he  would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him."
Luke 15:28 (NKJV)

This writer is compelled to complete this series of personal family reflections in a bow to Father's Day. It all begins with our Father. It all ends with our Father.  Our recent journey of two brothers which included visiting the graves of fathers, mothers and aunts who would be sisters, also involved stories of  "Dads" who stood in for and in place of fallen and passed fathers. And a brother who filled in as father from time to time.

I believe we all have afflictions in one form or another. We are all in recovery from a tendency to turn in on ourselves. The reader might recognize the response, "No thanks, I got this."  We are either the prodigal son or his brother; either Mary or sister Martha (Luke 10:38-42). We all need release. I pray daily, "Release me Father".

On this trip we visited the home of a close relative.  We were not sure that she would receive us. For she had spent her life trying to put distance between herself and her birth father. It had been around fifty years since I had seen her last as an infant. Perhaps the depth and  pervasiveness of a pain born of abandonment would dissipate.  Thankfully this accomplished business woman opened up and we got to visit with her! She showed us two distinct keepsakes which spoke of her life. giving me a special insight: my view from the Prodigal Point:

My new friend then proceeded to describe the first item, "This is my baby chair. I sat in this chair waiting for my father to come home! For years I sat in this chair and looked out the window for my father. He never came home."

Hal and I had been in conversation with her mother the evening before our visit. We learned that a step father, the man who would marry her mother, was a prince of a man. This step father would become "Dad" and a rich, deep and everlasting love would blossom between "Dad" and daughter.  And then the wounded lady told us about her "Dad" in a glowing dissertation of adoration. This man who would be "Dad" passed in 2015. He also left behind for family a vast and panoramic legacy. And then the lady took us to see the second item, explaining that "Dad" was an artist. We stood in awe gazing at the mural hanging above the stairway landing.
A gift from our Father

My brothers' and my father Harold died in 1964. As baby of the family, I was twelve and did not really get to know him well. Through others' eyes I know he was revered and respected.  Our mom Jeanne, over a decade later, would marry a man named Alfred. (See: Requiem Letters: 11/18/16)  We knew him as  "Papa Al" and he was, as well, a prince of a man!
Jeanne and Harold meet Leonard Bernstein
Jeanne and Papa Al
Here is what I believe:  We are all in recovery from our afflictions and need release from them. Our Creator- Father God- places people in our path of life. They are our angels along the Way. Some fallen or falling serve to bring us pain. Some risen or rising serve to lift us up.  Some are the prodigal son, some the brother; some Martha, some Mary.  All serve to bring us to the Father's purpose.  As well, so are we here to serve our Father's purpose!

"for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you."
Matthew 10:20

Amen Dad and Papa Al

Bradford Bosworth
June, 2017

Friday, June 16, 2017

Reflections on the Portage Path

A Vast and Panoramic Legacy

(Writer's note: fifth in a series)

"Nothing is hidden that won't be exposed. Nor is anything concealed that won't be made known and brought to the light." 
 Luke 8:17 (CEB)

Etna was a small turn of the century Steel Mill Town across the river from Pittsburgh. It contained a sizable and proud German population in which Grand Pa Martin Metzger was a town elder, an alderman type leader in the community.  When he and his wife Catherine learned that unwed daughter Henrietta had become pregnant, the pressures of their standing in the community led them to conceal the fact.  You see, they found themselves in a off-kilter culture that would despicably label a child of an unwed mother "illegitimate".  So Martin and Catherine did what they had to and created a story line that it was Catherine who was in a bedridden pregnancy and Henrietta who would stay at home to attend to her. The child who would be born behind this veil of secrecy was our Mom Jeanne.
Small Street of Secrets

The first time  I remember my mother breaking down in sobs was the day she told me of how she learned the truth.  She had spent her first ten or so years viewing Martin and Catherine as her parents and her mom Henrietta, aunts Betty and Tirzah as her sisters. The one lesson my mother preached and taught to me was: "Tell the truth!"  She first heard the truth from some mean spirited kids on the play ground.
Precious Jeanne

Here is the truth I have discerned as a result of this past week's travels with my brother. The cruel depression era vestiges of the small blue collar town that is Etna, Pa. remain today like in a time warp,  The miracle is that Jeanne strove to escape the confines of that little town and put herself into position to meet a man: Harold B Bosworth. A man who would love her away from the past that society would shame her and the family for.  Oh how far her odyssey took her away from her beginnings.  The distance between that small town Pennsylvania playground and the places where her grand children and great grandchildren play is a vast an panoramic legacy!
The Metzger/Bosworth Clan

Post Script: My first introduction to the Broadway musical genre was as a pre-teen. West Side Story blew me away, still does. The following pictures: the first (album soundtrack autographed to me by Mr. Bernstein) of which hangs in my home and second (hangs in Hal's home) with Leonard Bernstein himself, show glimpses of the distance Mom put in her life from where it all began.

"Every Good Wish to Brad Bosworth"
Leonard Bernstein
Jeanne, Harold, Leonard Bernstein

Amen Mom and Dad

Bradford Bosworth
June, 2017

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Looking Up To Big Brother

Our Father's Namesake
(Writer's note: Fourth in a series.)

When your father is gone the boys in a family most often will figuratively circle the wagons around mom and the other women of the house.  This duty is most certainly an instinct, a primal call for the male of our species.  I know it happened with me at twelve years of age. I felt it so suddenly I don't think I had time to process nor truly grieve for my father's sudden death. And so it was subsequently pointed out in numerous counseling and psychotherapy sessions during my early adulthood.  Another thing that happens is we younger children begin looking for father figure substitutes. For me, the baby of the family, the first person I set my sights on was the most logical- though not consciously logical- immediate and convenient source, my older brother Hal.  The next oldest brother by eight years was Marty. Being that I was already twelve, he was off to college.

I also noticed that my next oldest brother happen to have the same name as my recently departed father, Harold B. Bosworth, except with a following Jr. attached. What this did for Hal, in a somewhat unfair way, was heap on him some added pressure from our mom. She would not let him forget that he was walking in tall shoes. Hal had a lot to live up to for Mom and a lot to live down to for baby brother Brad.  Have you ever heard about unrealistic expectations?

Best Man

These unrealistic expectations projected on my big brother have led to arguments, scuffles and periods of outright estrangement; all of which, of course, did not serve to bolster our mother's serenity. One of the biggest by-products of my getting sober eight years ago was making amends to Harold Jr. The program started a reconciliation process that reached a pinnacle this past week when he and I took a journey through our past to our very roots (See: Back to Beginings, 6/3/17).  I have reflected on one of the biggest events of my life, a Mid-South Wrestling semifinal match with Kurt Robinson that- by a Miracle- I won. If you look at the picture in our senior yearbook there is Hal in the background at the edge of the mat cheering me on. He drove from Athens, Ga. to Chattanooga to see it. What more could a baby brother ask for?

The phone call came around two o’clock in the afternoon on August 12, 1993. I remember the time because as a route salesman for a Atlanta beverage distributor I was up against a deadline for getting customer orders in for next day delivery. I was paged to go to my boss Jeff Evert’s office.  Jeff asked me to sit down, handed me the phone and promptly left me alone closing the office door behind him.

When I answered the phone, it was my brother Hal on the other end of the line.  It was not until this week that I ever stopped to consider a different context of the devastating news he would deliver to me. For the past twenty four years I have been processing his words, “Hey Bro. Mom and Al have had a bad  car accident. Al is in the Hospital ICU and Mom didn’t make it. They are telling us she was killed instantly. She didn’t suffer.”  I have always viewed this traumatic life event through a self-centered lens that framed the distress and pain that I experienced.  I never tried to understand or wondered what it must have taken for him to place that call and deliver that news to his little brother.  It was this past week, miles and hours in a car visiting historic family monuments and landmarks including the graves of the two people in the mangled car.  I don’t know if the tables were turned if I could have placed that call.

In the flow of a baby brother’s natural instinct to place unrealistic expectations on his big brother or to judge his brother’s judgmental nature, I now have an alternative view that shifts my thinking and once again I am grateful for the big brother I can look up to.

The home where mom was born and raised.

Amen Big Brother

Bradford Bosworth
June, 2016

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Binds that Tie

A Graceful Kibitzing

(Writers note: third in a series)

When embarking on this journey (See: "Back to the  Beginnings" 6/3/17), I was thinking that the grave-site resting places I would stand over would all be blood relative family. My brother Hal apparently had other ideas. He was determined to pay homage to someone we literally owe our lives to- Dr. Alvin Weil- a well respected OB/GYN that delivered Hal and I into this world three years apart; and me, for God's sake, at 3:39 in the morning at the City Hospital of Akron! To this end Hal had located contact information for the late Doctor's son Harvey also an OB/GYN now retired. A Saturday stop at the Jewish Section of Rose Hill Cemetery became part of our itinerary.

Hal had placed a cold call to Dr. Weil, the son, earlier in the day and had a remarkable conversation. When my brother had mentioned visiting his father's grave site, Harvey was deeply moved. Consider that Hal had just explained how important Harvey's father was to our mother Jeanne. You see, she had gone through somewhere in the neighborhood of five miscarriages- all boys- when Dr. Weil Sr. took over. Hal had heard the story over and over how much Mom revered this man. And then there came Harold Jr (Hal) and yours truly three years later. So two boys, now senior citizens, in some respects owe our lives to this fine Jewish Doctor.

Harvey was so impressed that we would take time to contact him and visit his father's resting place, he came to see us at our hotel the next morning. He brought pictures and stories as we all kibitzed. The most amazing small world occurrence (see: "If by Chance" 6/9/17) was when he pulled out a picture of his father, mother Jeannette and Eleanor Roosevelt at a Bonds for Israel fund raiser.  Guess what? There is a picture that I have seen many years and hangs in Hal's home; a picture of our father with Eleanor Roosevelt at a Greater Miami Jewish Federation Bonds for Israel fundraiser!
Dr. Alvin Weil, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jeannette Weil
Harold Bosworth Sr., Elanor Roosevelt

Our father being a well known fashion merchant, a senior executive for Allied Department Stores in Miami, Florida, had deep and lasting friendships in the Jewish community. That same community named an annual award: The Harold B. Bosworth Memorial Mercantile Award, after he died in 1964.
I am grateful to have the foundation of this upbringing.  Our family is Christian. A fine Jewish Doctor delivered two boys of Christian heritage into this world against tough odds. The Hebrew custom is to place stones on the graves family and friends as a gesture of permanent remembrance. My brother and I had the privilege of that gesture at Dr. Alvin Weil's place of rest. Being Christian I believe I am forever bound to the people and land of Israel, just as my brother and I are forever bound to The Alvin Weil family. The Hebrew word for pebble is tz'ror which translates to bond. Often at the grave site, the Jewish people will pray and ask that the deceased be "tz'ror haHayyim"- bound up in the bond of life.
Brad, Harvey, Hal

Shalom Brother Weil.

Bradford Bosworth
June 2017

Friday, June 9, 2017

If By Chance

Take Nothing for Granted

(Writer's note: Second in a series.)

My brother Hal and I have embarked on our "Back to the Beginnings" odyssey. We had originally planned to swing through Delhi, New York first and visit our mother's grave-site.  But Hal and his wife Patti got a surprise visit from their daughter Kate and we adjusted our plans so Hal could spend more time with her on the back end of the trip. We moved Pittsburgh (Etna) to the front end of our journey.

Our first day was all driving: 9 hours, 568 miles.  Hal started out driving and never relinquished the wheel in spite of my protestations. Some dynamics never change in a big brother- little brother relationship. All is good though as we had a first day that was full of what I used to view as coincidences but now believe are graceful messages from the Creator and the relative angels serving as our lives' constant guides. The message this day seemed to be, "You both are on the right healing path that aligns with God's will."

Events have aligned for me this past year that have put in my path a person who has become immensely dear to me. She is special in ways that defy description. Her name is Patti and we have become and continue to grow close in each moment we are together. And we are together when we are apart. Well my brother Hal's bride of 37 years, also a special woman, is also named Patti, spelled in that same unique way.

Someone needs to teach these folks in
Connecticut how to spell.

A couple hours into the trip the two seniors had an urgent need to make a pit stop!  We also happened to be getting hungry. By impulse or inspiration we decided, "Lets pull off here at this exit." Just as we turn from the exit there is this quaint looking place appearing as a home offering all our needs. Where I use to say by chance the store was named "Patty's Pantry"; now I know these coincidences are small miracles.  As if it was not enough, while we were enjoying our grinders at a picnic table outside, a guy on a 2017 Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic road up and parked right in front of us.  Maybe not such a big deal but his license was from Chatham County, Georgia! He was on his way to the northern tip of the Blue Ridge Parkway so he could ride it back to the southern tip.

We hopped back on the Penn Turnpike and headed west. As the sun was setting, I was lobbying for us to make it all the  way to steel town and suggested I could drive the last 2 hour leg. Hal was having nothing of it. He wanted to stop for the night.  I  finally surrendered and spotted a Hampton Inn on a distant hill and we pulled off at the next exit. After checking in we asked the gal at the front desk where we might find a good place to eat.
When we realized the town we were in
 was Somerset!

We lost our mom Jeanne in a car accident (more about that in another post) 24 years ago in the town of Somerset, Kentucky, where she lived with our step father Alfred Hamilton.  Alfred passed away there just a few short months ago.  We will be visiting their resting place in just a few short days. Take nothing for granted.

Amen Momma Jeanne and Papa Al.

Bradford Bosworth
June 2017

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Back to the Beginnings

Pursuing Portage Path

(Writer's note: First in a series.)

In a few days I will ring in retirement with a headlong dive.  Like the first time going off the high diving board head first. Well here goes nothing, "GERONIMOOooooooo!"  Less than a week after my last day at work,  -or at least the work to which I have grown accustomed-, I will hop on a plane to Boston where I will meet my brother Hal.  Promptly we will travel by car to places that will put us face to face with our origins.  More importantly this trip will place two brothers -the last two remaining Bosworth siblings- together in close quarters for a complete week.  It just might be more time together than we have spent in our entire adult lives.  Certainly potentially the most quality time if we are up to the task. (Prayers needed here please.)
First Mementos

It just so happens that a fellowship to which I belong is holding an annual celebration in conference called "Founder's Day" in the city of it's origins. The city, Akron, Ohio, also happens to be where I and my brother were born.  As a family we moved from Akron in 1955.  Hal has been back. I have not.  I am seeking to find where the origins of this worldwide congregation and my own beginnings intersect. Certainly the paths must have crossed long before I joined the program in November 2008. For I believe there are no coincidences; only the large and small miracles placed in front of us by our Creator.
Bosworth Family Akron (circa 1952)

But first, two brothers have an appointment in Delhi, NY.  We will visit our mother Jeanne's grave site.  It will be my first  trip back  since we buried her 24 years ago.  I hope someone reminds us to pack a box of Kleenex for the trip.

Oh how rich is this life we live if we just let it be.  In spite of myself, I am still here to witness and accept the Love that is offered up and available in all moments, especially the most painful and heart wrenching.  I  will go back to Mom's resting place and share with my brother memories which are woven into the fabric of our souls. The Love of a mother, a most lasting, eternal thread forever part of who we are.

Amen Nana Jeanne


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Young Boy Boogie

Can Am Jammin

It was spring circa 1978 and I was employed by Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, NC. My job was as assistant PR Director working for legendary promoter H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler. I will always view him as a modern day P.T. Barnum.

This particular spring we were hosting an SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) racing weekend with the feature race a stop on the Canadian American Challenge Cup. These exotic race cares were reverently referred to as Can Am's.  At best this event was considered minor league for a facility that would in a few short weeks be hosting the World 600- a part of NASCAR's figurative triple crown- where 125 thousand folks would show up to take part.

Being the "assistant" I was in charge of promoting the minor league events. We promote to attract the paying spectator and in this part of the south where love of stock car racing flows in the veins, exotic sports cars were a tough sell, so to speak. With "Humpy's" nudge we decided to couple a headline music act with the race and bill the spectacle as "Can Am Jam!"  It just so happened that an aging music legend was touring through the area and we were able to book the legendary Chuck Berry at a bargain. 

As I look back from the perspective of forty years, I remember Mr. Berry a humble gracious man who in his early fifties and past his prime was having the time of his life.  Parents had brought their children. There were lots of dads with their boys. When Mr. Berry performed his classic "Johnny B. Goode", he invited the boys to come on stage and boogie with him.  It was a grace filled scene.  One of our Speedway photographers captured the image in black and white.  It has been hanging in my home(s) forever since.  Every time I look at the smiles on those boys faces I know our Creator smiles just as wide and those boys- probably now fathers- have told their children the day they boogied on stage with the great Chuck Berry!

A few years later I went to see "Back to the  Future", a movie that ranks in my all time top 10. There is a great scene in which Chuck Berry makes an implied appearance in conjunction with Marty McFly's performance of "Johnny B. Goode."  For more on that: Back to the Future

Amen Brother Chuck RIP

Bradford Bosworth
March, 2017