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Friday, 01 May 2009


By Brenton "Sandy" Dickson

Thanksgiving Day 1987
A dining room in Weston, Massachusetts was filled except for one chair. Four generations sitting elbow to elbow.

Trembling slightly and bending over the freshly roasted turkey at the head of the table was my father. He no longer could control his watercolor brushes, but he could still manage a carving knife. He was 84 and he had a weak heart. In fact, he’d had his first heart attack when he was sixteen.

Nervously fidgeting with the apparatus connected to her recently rented large oxygen tank, his sister Anna was not her usual boisterous self. She had just learned that her breast cancer, thought to have been arrested ten years earlier, had returned and spread into one of her lungs. Her doctor said she had six months.

The slamming back door and a loud, “Save some mince pie for me,” signaled the customary late arrival of their brother Ed, just in time for the first course. The former long-time town selectman and member of the Massachusetts legislature also had cancer and his diabetes was causing his eyesight to fail.

Bragging about making the season’s final brisk sail across Pleasant Bay the week before, their youngest brother Bill was adjusting his trademark frayed plaid bow tie. The retired pediatrician had won his battle with prostate cancer at 74.

The rest of us were reasonably healthy, laughing and joking with four of our favorite people. None of us could imagine a family gathering without them.

March 14, 2009
At midday on a Saturday, 21 years later, a church hall in Bolton, Massachusetts was filled with family and friends. The youngest generation had expanded. The rest of us had aged. Some had changed jobs, others had retired. From time to time we had been reunited at funerals, but this was a happy occasion, a birthday celebration.

Less than a mile away was the farm where the birthday girl bred and raised champion Morgan horses. She could handle machines too. On a hot summer day a couple of years before, her farmhand couldn’t get the 1950s hay bailer running. He wanted her to buy a new one. Striding purposefully down to the stables, she got into it, tweaked it, started it and bailed hay for the rest of the morning.

Reminiscing about the past and those no longer with us, I toasted her at the head table. I did not mention the time when she had nearly run me over with her 2006 four-wheel-drive SUV. Looking down at her mischievous smiling face, which was waiting to interject a verbal jab at the earliest opportunity, I barely noticed her small portable breathing aid. I ended with, “Anna, you have entertained us and enlivened this earth for 100 years. May you continue to do so for 100 more!”

“Oh go fly a kite, Sandy.” She snapped back. “Just shut up and sit down!”

“Hear, hear”, echoed Bill impatiently, changing position to relieve his cramped 95-year-old legs. The warm Sunday forecast was ideal for scraping the bottom of his boat and he was eager to get going on his 80-mile drive back to Cape Cod so he could be home before dark.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post



What a wonderful family you have. I enjoyed reading about them and know why you are so proud to be a Dickson.

Strange, but my son's wonderful wife was a Dickson before she married our Steve and her family is also filled with people you are proud to know.

Please tell Anna that we congratulate her on her 100th Birthday and tell Bill we'll see him in 5 years for his centennial celebration..

There my be cancer in your family, but your family certainly seem to surmount physical problems well. They obviously have a great attitude and genes.

I hope Bill is a good driver. To still be driving at 95 is remarkable.

They say the best recipe for a long life is to have long lived ancestors. Aren't you the lucky one, though?

Not sure that this is true:), but thanks for a post.

Jinny - I have a good imagination, but even I couldn't this one up! BUT Anna agrees with you. She says she didn't come close to running me over with her SUV.

Nancy - Thanks. I will see Anna again on Memorial Day and I will pass on your good wishes.

Darlene - Bill is a good driver - except that he goes way too fast!


Please tell Anna happy birthday this was wonderful because it made me think that now 62 having beaten cancer twice I could live to be 100 and I want too..there is so much left to do and what a great sounding family you have.

Dorothy from grammology

God bless you and your family.

Your story, so wonderfully told, made the life force of your family just jump right off the page.

Hello Sandy,

I've never met you, but I've heard plenty about you, as I'm a relative. Nice to finally "talk" to you!

Since I woke up this morning I've been reading about our family. My dad's Teddy Dickson, your first cousin, and I laughed when I read about my grandpa always being late. I think that trait has carried down to me. My mom laughed when she read about Uncle Bill's bow tie, saying: "Wow! He does wear that a lot!"
Thank you for writing Random Recollections. I read a lot of that today. Mostly the parts about Dicksons, so I read the chapters about us, Ivy Abbey, and The Dump.
I'm a writer too, and my sister commented on me using some Dickson childhood memories in my stories, since my most current one is about an extended family riding horses in New England. I think that might be fun.
Well, please comment back (or something). I'd love to talk to you more about our family. I'm always the one in our house asking about other Dicksons and Bennetts and the houses in Cape Cod and Weston.

~Emily Dickson~

Ugh sorry I meant to say thank you for your father writing Random Recollections, as I can't thank him. Worded that wrong the first time. Oops!

~Emily Dickson~

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