The best thing about getting older is that, of course, it’s better than the alternative.
But as I continue to rack up the years, I see others who don’t get to enjoy that good fortune. We’re all blessed with a certain amount of time on this planet, we just don’t know how much. The only consistent thing is that it’s never enough.
Last weekend, we lost my Aunt Doris. She was the fourth of the six Brandner kids raised on the family farm just outside of Roscoe, South Dakota and in her lifetime, she didn’t get very far away. After getting married, she and her husband worked another nearby farm until he died at a young age and their oldest son, my cousin Clay, took over. Doris moved “into town” which is where she called home up until she passed at the age of 88 last weekend.
The day before passing, my mom was able to have a nice chat over the phone with her. Doris was so excited about being driven over to Ipswich, a nearby town with an actual grocery store. When you’re confined to an apartment in a small town of 269 people, something like a trip to a real-live grocery store can be a big deal.
The next day, following all the excitement of Friday, Doris had a ticket for a performance of the Edmunds Central High School’s production of “Trouble in Tumbleweed,” featuring her granddaughter, Ember.
By the way, Edmunds Central serves 32 students, grades 9-12.
Aunt Doris enjoyed the play, but as it concluded, she went to applaud and couldn’t raise one of her arms. It was the beginning of a stroke and, of course, for an ambulance to get her to a hospital, it had to be summoned from another city. By the time it arrived and Doris made the 45-minute trek to the big city of Aberdeen where the hospital was, things did not look good. In the wee hours of the next morning, she went to her eternal reward.
The last time I got to see Aunt Doris was at a Brandner sisters reunion back in 2019, which seems like yesterday. Doris and her sister Virginia left the Dakotas to travel all the way to Portland, Oregon, where youngest sister Judy lived. My mom and sister Debbie headed north from L.A. and my wife Victoria and I headed south to the Rose City for a couple of days.
I’m sure I have video of that group, as pretty much, when one or more are gathered, it turns into a laugh-fest.
Even though I would only see Aunt Doris and the rest of the South Dakota clan every couple of 5 years or so, when we were together, we just picked up where we left off before. I had kept up on her life thanks to my mom’s updates on the phone, but one of the most endearing things about Aunt Doris: for most of my life, she would always take the time to send me a birthday card every September. And not just a “Happy birthday, Doris” signature, but a hand-written, detailed update on everything that had been going on in Roscoe and her life that sometimes would often spill over to the back side of the card.
I’m pretty sure I saved every one of those cards. I’m going to have to dig them out and read ’em again.
What a sweetheart. Enjoy your rest. You will be missed.
Say what you want about Facebook, and I know you will, but it does allow us to keep up with people from our long ago past. This morning, I saw a post announcing to the world that my high school drama teacher, Mr. Slater had passed away at the age of 90.
I call him Mr. Slater because that’s what you called teachers back in my high school days. His full name was Charles Slater, he was the head of the drama department at Torrance High, and while I wasn’t into the drama thing, there was a time when a friend had written a play and asked if I would try out for one of the parts in his production of, “Nuts!” (hold the wisecracks at least for a moment) I got the role, Mr. Slater oversaw the production and made me as good as I could have possibly been. Acting was not my forte, but being goofy was, and somehow, we pulled it off.
That was my only real connection with Mr. S, but of the drama students I knew, they loved the heck out of him. Picture a Gene Wilder type appearance, with the big eyes and the curly 70s perm, and you have Mr. Slater.
Man, the power teachers have to make a difference in their student’s lives. It’s been 50 years since I roamed the halls of Torrance High School and I still find myself relying on some of the lessons learned there.
To all the teachers at THS, thank you.
Now, wait a minute–Dwight’s still with us! In fact, they held a retirement party for him last Sunday as he hangs up whatever you hang up after you’ve been a sportswriter in the Seattle area for an eternity. Dwight not only turned the big 7-0 last weekend, but his kids organized a retirement gathering for him (on a Seahawks bye week, I must point out) so friends and colleagues could gather in Kent to celebrate his contributions to multiple print media outlets in the area, including the Seattle PI and the Seattle Times. His weekly column, Sideline Chatter, in the Seattle Times was responsible for countless people saying, “Hey, Tim, I saw you in the newspaper.”
Years ago, I decided to add Dwight to my weekly Wacky Week joke list and once a month or so, one of my lines would tickle his funny bone and he would stick it into his column. I will be forever grateful. In fact, there were times that some of my jokes that Dwight included in his Seattle column would show up in other newspapers around the country, so he was apparently being watched. To that end, when his daughter sent me an invite to attend his retirement bash, I had to at least make an appearance to say thanks. While the gathering was heavy on newspaper types, I had a great chance to meet and chat with Dwight’s son Matt, and meet one of his colleagues, Justice Hill. Mr. Hill still writes a weekly column for Cleveland.com but you’ll want to check his main website and follow his travels. Getting around the globe is what he’s doing these days and posting about his adventures right here.
I had forgotten that Dwight suffered a series of strokes last year that set him back for a while, but he got back up on his Sideline Chatter horse and returned to putting out those fun, positive stories for sports fans. I’m sure hoping that someone takes over that column, but if and when that happens, Dwight Perry is going to be a tough act to follow.
Enjoy your downtime, Dwight! You can just see how thrilled he was to finally meet me in person.
And we all move on….