Band of Fathers
by Jude Joseph Lovell
I am the second of four brothers. I have an identical twin who counts as the third because he was born after me. We also have older and younger brothers. And we have two sisters as well.
Our father, Richard, had two brothers. One died right after birth. The other was six years younger. All three of them are now gone. My father and his surviving brother were not particularly close.
On my mother’s side there were also four brothers (my mother is one of nine children!). Luckily for us, these uncles have all been positive influences, and as my own brothers and I grew into adulthood, we felt a kinship with our four uncles who had gone ahead of us.
Those men got along. Although they were all husbands and fathers and led busy lives in different places, it seemed that every once in a while they would make time to get together. When they did so they would refer to themselves as “the band of brothers”—a phrase originally coined, of course, by William Shakespeare in Henry V: “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.”
When my brothers and I were kids, we related very differently to one another. My older brother was aloof, too cool for us. My younger brother was kind of punkish. He knew how to needle my twin brother and me. Today, however, we are all great friends. All the kid stuff is forgotten.
Our dad was a great father. His own family relationships, however, were chilly, and we did not look to him for guidance on that front. Fortunately, we had my mom’s brothers. Their last name is Walsh, being descendants of Ireland. And they act like it. They are kindhearted, rambunctious, Catholic by tradition, emotional. You would want to have a drink and share some tales with these men, I promise. But you would have to be prepared to hear some terrible jokes.
One of them owned a lake house in Wisconsin, and from time to time they would use it to go off together and reconnect. My brothers and I always coveted something similar, but usually the best we could do as adults was link up for a few hours and maybe smoke a cigar or two when there was a family gathering. Yet the Walshes’ example remained in our hearts.
Between the late 1990s and 2007, all four of us became fathers. And, necessarily, our focus shifted from ourselves to our families. This is a father’s duty. We learned this from our own. My brothers and I understood that, when we accepted the gifts that are our children, as the French writer Honoré de Balzac put it, “a father is much happier in his children’s happiness than in his own.” We set out to realize that as best we could.
This doesn’t mean any of us are great fathers. But it meant that any chances we had had before to spend much time with our own band of brothers would be diminished tenfold in the years ahead.
But then came Memorial Day weekend last month. We floated the idea of getting together, and our families knew it was important. Somehow we pulled it off. We found ourselves in a beautiful Airbnb home in western Pennsylvania, well off the grid, in a region named Donegal—after the Irish countryside that it greatly resembles.
One of the Walshes, my Uncle Denis, learned that were going on our own band of brothers weekend. So he gave my older brother a DVD they had made of some of the moments from the last Walsh brothers gathering at the lake house in early 2016. I say last, because at the time the eldest, Joseph, was suffering from cancer. He passed away two months later.
While the four Lovells were together, we took time to watch some of the “original” band of brothers. At one point, the Walshes sat down on camera and discussed life and their ongoing relationship after Joe’s death—with Joe participating. Then another brother, Kevin, spoke poignantly about how he begins each day evoking some of what he called his “saints”—loved ones he has lost—to “be with me,” he said, during that day. He mentioned his own father, Joseph Sr., who died in 1995.
Then Kevin said, “Even Richard.” The fact that Kevin Walsh, who had no relation to Richard Lovell other than his marriage to our mother, thinks of him as one of his “saints” moved us in a way I’m not able to set down.
The strength of my reaction to that moment showed me something. As strong and fortunate as my bond with my brothers is—one of the richest gifts of my life—there is an even greater bond, and an even more plentiful gift. It’s called Fatherhood. We are all—every man who has a child—brothers in the Band of Fathers.
To all my brothers, then: Blessings be upon each of us. We strive to earn them.
Photo credits by: steemit.com
Jude Joseph Lovell writes on books and popular culture for Silver Sage and is the author of four novels, three short story collections, and four works of nonfiction. His newest book is Door In The Air: New and Selected Stories, 1999-2020. He lives with his wife and four growing children in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. For more information visit his website at judejosephlovell.com.