It’s not very often that I get to take time off from the busy duties of life to visit with a friend or relative.
About five years ago, I dropped by my older cousin’s house in Brushton. Her name is Ruth Stark Larkin. Her father, David Elder Stark, and my great-grandmother, Lillian Stark McGibbon, were brother and sister.
Ruth and I had seen each other off and on through the years at family events, and we worked together at Bombay Slipper in the 1960s. She was personal secretary to the owners. Even though she was 93 and I was 61 the day I visited, there was no generation gap when we laughed, enjoyed a cup of tea and took time to catch up on our lives.
It’s funny how you think you know somebody but discover you really don’t know them after all. Our visits always came around to the “old days,” her memories of my grandparents, my father and other family members.
We’d share photo albums and envelopes full of old family pictures. She’d identify them for me, I’d write on the backs, then I’d borrow them to makes copies. One day, after viewing familiar family photographs, she pulled out an unfamiliar one, a man named Cecil Bates.
I had never heard of him and was surprised when she told me he wasn’t related. A tear began to run down her wrinkled cheek. I knew Cecil was somebody special to Ruth, but I also knew she was happily married to Lester Larkin for 35 years before he died. This was a mystery.
The picture was of a very handsome man in uniform and, through watery eyes, she began to tell me about Cecil Bates, a story I am sure many can relate to.