Within the last week, there have been three times that I left the house with extra hankies in my pocket.

Recently, I’ve started carrying hankies. I wear cargo pants a lot, so I put the hankie in one of the side pockets. That means I can have the bigger colorful hankies. They’re not really for my nose. Sometimes I use them for that, but really they’re for my head. I’m balding. It’s been a huge blow to my ego, but it’s a fact. I’ve started wearing hats. I shop for hats at thrift stores and flea markets. I like interesting hats like fedoras and westerns. The hats make my head sweat, so I carry a hankie.

I’m the second of 5 brothers. One other is balding like me. The other 3 have great hair. I’m jealous. I used to have great hair.

We grew up mostly in the country. There were a few years of town-living, but it didn’t last long. Dad got tired of the neighbors calling & complaining about us.

When I was in the second grade Dad bought the farm. No, not like that. He actually bought a five acre farm in the Illinois River valley. Much of the land surrounding us was flood plain and unoccupied. There was a lake made by a dam on the river. The backwaters of that lake came up in our back yard and actually orphaned some of our land. We didn’t let that stop us. We would hike through neighbors’ fields, paddle in a canoe, or even on occasion build our own raft to float across to our own personal island.

We were rough on each other at times. We would have fist fights. We would have BB gun fights. It could get bad. I think each of us older brothers has a story of “when the worm turned,” meaning when we realized we could no longer get away with picking on a particular younger sibling.

Rick was smart. He knew exactly how to push my buttons. He had carefully studied what made me the maddest. Even when I was bigger, he was quick & could use my momentum against me. That would anger me even more! Some days I hated him!

At the same time, he was my brother. I watched one time as an argument between Rick and another older boy escalated. It was clear to me that he was going to get his butt whipped. Just as the older boy was about to take a devastating swing, I blind-sided him. I was off to the side and just ran into him with the full force of my body. I knocked him down. it must have made him realize that it was 2 against 1 and he’d better reconsider. The fight ended.

You may wonder why I would stand up to a threat like that for someone who tormented me so much. Well, I did too. It makes no sense, except that he’s my brother.

We play poker together. Every now and then all five of us get together and play poker. No money involved. We have poker chips that we divide up. We play stupid poker games like High Chicago/Low Chicago, Dirty Gert, and Mexican Sweat. The games don’t matter. The chips don’t matter. Poker is an excuse for the five us to sit in one room together and laugh. Many times we all go home with our sides aching from the laughter. I love my brothers. As a matter of fact, as I write this, we have a poker game planned for tomorrow night.

Rick isn’t doing well. His wife took him to the hospital several days ago. I could throw out some letters & medical terminology, but the bottom line is that he’s having trouble keeping enough oxygen in his blood & enough carbon dioxide out of his blood. He has been up and down since he was admitted. This morning, for the third time, I put extra hankies in my pocket just in case. Just in case of what? I can’t even admit it. I won’t admit it. It’s just in case.

For now, the poker game has been moved to Rick’s hospital room.


2 thoughts on “Extra Hankies

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