Yesterday my brother youngest brother Phillip and I drove from Wichita to Indianapolis for the annual Wwetts show where we come to see our customers and friends. It is the one time per year when Phillip and I can spend time alone and I have come to cherish it. Phillip doesn’t talk very much and likes to drive. I like to work on my computer without distractions and have become an avid fan of Uber and public transportation.
As most know, we come from a large family. I enjoyed my childhood and was the oldest of eight children. Three of my sisters were between me and my three brothers, so I didn’t get a chance to really know my brothers because of the age difference. Our littlest sister, Rita was the cute baby of the family that everyone cherished as a special gift. Even though I bunked with Tom, I didn’t realize how smart he really was. Phillip was the one we teased. Mark was the one who made everyone laugh. Now Mark is gone. I’m three years older than my dad when he died. I stayed at Phillip’s home after his wife was killed in a farm accident right before our daughter Paula died suddenly from a kidney infection that went septic. That was when we became real to each other.
When dad died, our family dynamics changed, but we were impacted with the way he lived. The more I think about it, the software we developed over the years came from his desire to help his fellow franchisee owners and it wasn’t just Jane that developed it. She wrote the code, but the vision behind it was his. It became ours. Over the 25 years since dad’s death, we’ve developed the software as a gift to mom and then to all of the families we work with. Our extended family’s shared life experiences have drawn us closer and I’ve come to realize how important people are. Not for the value they bring, but that they are valuable in themselves. In this intense scene from It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey reminds the Board of the bank his father founded, of the mission and dream his father valued.
Our customers have become foremost our friends. The software just gave us a reason to help them with their day to day business problems. But more than that, we’ve been able to help and comfort them when they have “real” problems. The problems that make us real. One of dad’s favorite stories was the Velveteen Rabbit. “When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become Real.” In this 5 minute segment, Margery Williams understood that. You can’t be real if you don’t become vulnerable. I’m not as old and wise as the skin horse, but I’m starting to learn that when you are real, you don’t mind being hurt. Once you become real, you can’t become unreal again.
It is the little things that are the big things to me. Phillip and I talked like brothers who are comfortable with each other do. A sentence and then an hour of silence, and later another sentence. It takes us a while to chew on things. He told me of the time Terry Kelloway from Parksville came to spend time with him shortly after Connie died. Terry came in person because he cared and was willing to be real. I am thankful for so many things, but mostly for the quiet times when I can chew on things.