Today for a short time, for a mega-moment, for a whisper in space, my thoughts are sad and contemplative. I would define my mental state as angrily melancholy. As I gaze out my living room window, my thoughts become frozen on five short sentences that have permeated my thoughts for the past four years:
"When I was one - Dale was none.
When I was three - Dale was one.
When I was sixty-three - Dale was Sixty-one.
When I was sixty-four - Dale was none.
Dale had died at sixty-one."
I repeat these words over and over.
On July 21, 2002, my brother Dale died following a courageous fight with cancer. To tell you Dale was my brother would be tantamount to my saying, "I knew Dale." It not only is insufficient to tell you of our closeness, but it over simplifies a period in our history that served to shape the future of both our lives.
Dale was my friend and my partner. Dale was my teacher, my student, the guy I grew up with, my biggest fan, my shadow, my confidant; and my little brother. He was my youngest brother. Don is my oldest brother. Don was always the "big guy" we didn't get to know very well as kids. Don was for us to look up to. He was the brother we used to threaten bullies with. He was the brother we always wanted to be like. When Don graduated from high school, he joined the Navy and left home. But, more, when Don left, he left dale and me to grow up together. I was fourteen years old and Dale was twelve. We became inseparable. We defended each other against the "bad guys" at school while Don defended us against the world. Dale and I were life. Don had become bigger than life.
Two little boys: David and Dale. Dale and David. The world was ours to own and at twelve and fourteen years old, we set out to challenge the future. As I sit here today sipping my coffee and watching the playful birds in the front yard, I remember the events in our lives that honed us into the adults we were ultimately to become.
In 1949, we moved from Ohio with our family to Manteca, California, and specifically Turner's Station. Turner's Station was a small place on the map located north of Manteca and south of Stockton. More importantly, our house had been built on the south side of a fence surrounding a large packing shed that stood alongside of a set of Southern Pacific railroad tracks.
I can recall many things that influenced our pursuit of the occupations we would work at as adults, Dale in business and I in ministry, but our experiences related to that old packing shed served to mold a personal desire to spend our lives serving other people. In Dale's case I believe he learned some important rules regarding management that ultimately taught him to be an outstanding businessman and owner of a large ACE hardware store. In my case, the experiences were the teachers that showed me that many people need other people to help them survive in this life. I became a minister with The Volunteers of America, a major Christian social service agency operating in most of the large cities in the United States.
The packing shed was used to prepare various crops for market as they came in from the fields. Trucks would bring onions- -for instance- -to the packing shed directly from the fields where they would be sorted by size and quality. The onions would then be repackaged, loaded on a boxcar, and sent by rail to be distributed to stores, restaurants, canneries, etc.. The packing shed was always staffed by Mexican laborers who lived in local labor camps during picking or harvest season. This one particular morning, Dale and I decided we would go to the packing shed, talk to the gang boss, and see if we could get jobs. "You're too young, Kid!", we heard clearly and often.
"The work's too hard, Boy!", the boss man said. He looked like a barrel with two stubby bucket legs; two stumpy arms and no neck.
"Come on with me, Boys," the boss man commanded. "Follow