Wars have an obvious impact on people. World wars had a great effect on families.
My late mother, Rama Rogers Biggs, was married prior to World War II and she had two children, a son Ben Campbell, and a daughter, Peggy Flores. Her husband passed away and during the war, she met and married Harley Biggs, my father. During that marriage, she had five sons (I am the youngest).
To give you an idea of the age differences, my mother was born in 1911 and I, her youngest child, was born in 1953. Her father died in 1928 and her mother passed away in 1948 – five years before I was born.
My brother Ben was born on December 7, 1932, and my sister Peggy was born on January 31, 1936. My wife Susan and I have three kids, with Sarah, our youngest, being born in 1995 – 84 years after her grandmother, my mother.
Susan’s mother’s family has a similar situation in which her grandmother had a daughter (Susan’s mother) and later remarried and had a son (Susan’s uncle).
My brother Ben is 21 years older than I am and Peggy is 18 years older. They were grown and out of the house by the time I was born.
My mother passed away in 1959 and my dad moved back to Tulsa with his five sons. I was five years old at the time. As a consequence, I grew up with little contact with Ben (who lived in West Virginia, Virginia and now Florida) and Peggy (who lives in California).
Our paths just didn’t cross much.
In 1982, I called Ben to tell him that I was going to Concord, North Carolina, to meet the parents of the girl I was going to marry. He was in Virginia and he drove to meet us at Susan’s parent’s parsonage.
Since then, we have vacationed in North Carolina and now Florida (Susan’s folks live in Winter Park near Orlando) and I have been able to visit Ben ever so often.
We send the Tulsa Beacon to Ben and Peggy. When Ben sees something he likes, he calls me for a pithy comment. He says the jokes I attach to the end of my column are “corny” but I suspect he really enjoys them.
Ben, who is married to a wonderful lady named Helen, is a wheeler dealer and a master salesman. He could sell snow cones in Alaska.
A couple of years ago, I was in Florida and one of my sons and my daughter visited Ben and Helen. He has been buying and reselling men’s suits. Two of the rooms of his home had racks of men’s suits. He gave some suits – and a nifty tuxedo – to my son, who was greatly appreciative.
In December, we went to Florida to go to the Orange Bowl and on the way, my other son and I stopped to have lunch with Ben and Helen. He gave him two expensive suits and a tuxedo.
Years ago, Ben had a farm in Virginia near Roanoke. He talked me into spending my summer on his farm when I was 15. It was an eye-opening experience. On my first day there, he put me to work to whitewash his pig pen. The smell was unbearable. I thought he thought I wouldn’t do it but I would take a deep breath, paint a few strokes and them escape for a breath of air.
I don’t think I have ever eaten so well as I did that summer.
That summer, Ben took me to Florida for the first time.
Ben is a wonderful person. He quit drinking several years ago and now he is as sweet a soul as you will find. He won’t tell you this, but he has been doing good deeds behind the scenes for member of our extended family for decades.
I got a letter from Peggy in January. She has had some health concerns and didn’t get around to sending out Christmas cards (which she usually does). She gave an update on her children and grandchildren and it was full of good news. Even with limitations, she is very active in her church.
I got a call from my brother Ben on the last week of January. He had a pain in his side and he went to the doctor. He has cancer and probably just months to live.
I am amazed at his calmness in the face of his own mortality. He says he has had a good, long life. When we spoke, he told me of his funeral plans. That was hard to hear.
I pray for Ben and Helen every day
I love my family. I love my brother Ben. I will miss him tremendously but I will someday join him in Heaven along with Mom and Dad and a whole lot of family members. That will be even better than spending a summer on a farm in Virginia.