Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Remembering “Buddy”

The two pictures were always in my grandmother’s home, properly framed. One, I clearly recall, contained a small locket of hair. They were of a young boy.

I was about the same age as the child in the photos when I first asked my grandmother who he was. And though she was gentle in the way that she told me and offered few details, she explained that he was her son and that he had died long ago.

“He came home from school on Friday not feeling well,” she said. “And by Sunday, he and four of his classmates were gone.”

This was in 1933. His name was Edward Roberts, but everyone, including my grandmother, called him “Buddy.” I would later learn, when I was much older, that Buddy died from diphtheria. It was, unfortunately, common at the time. And obviously when it went through a school, it was devastating.

My grandmother, with her second marriage, went on to have two daughters who she loved dearly. Buddy, however, remained somewhat of an enigma. Neither my aunt Joan nor my mother knew him. He had passed away before they were born. And since my grandmother’s first husband had also passed on, it seemed he only lived on in her memory and her mother’s memory. Buddy, we were told, loved his grandma and she adored him. They are in some ways still together, as they are buried side by side.

Buddy was a blonde-haired little boy, and when I was his age, so was I. My grandmother and I were very close, and as I think back on all of the time I spent with her, she never seemed to mind having a house full of my friends. Sometimes I now wonder if, on some of those days, when her home was filled with the laughter of little boys at play, her mind didn’t drift back to 45 years earlier and to the son she had lost.

A few years ago, I began to do some ancestry research and was able to learn quite a bit about how and when my family came to America. I even learned a little bit about some of our family history in Europe. But Buddy’s story, which was only about 80 years ago, was the one that got to me the most. And perhaps that’s because there were also some odd coincidences that paralleled his short life and the life of my family today. He originally lived in Pringle, but moved to the Lynwood section of Hanover Township. My mom originally grew up in Hanover Township, but now lives near Pringle. I also now live near Pringle, but because of some recent changes in our family life, I have found myself spending quite a bit of time in Lynwood. There is a long Pringle/Lynwood connection to my family which goes back more than 100 years, and I find it ironic that I now find myself driving down Buddy’s old street a few times a week. And then there is my son, who is now five years old and who is also a blonde-haired little boy. Though it was not at all by design, I often call him “Buddy.” 

There is no one alive in our family today that actually knew little Edward Roberts. He passed away on this date - September 24 - 81 years ago. But my sister and I have decided to be the keeper of his flame. We do this to honor his memory and we do it out of respect to our grandmother. And so today, if even just a few of my friends took a few minutes to read this little blog, his memory has been passed on.

Rest in peace, sweet boy.

You have not been forgotten.