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Column

Not always in a jolly ho-ho mood

For the life of me, I can’t come up with any good “ho-ho” material to write about. A little more than a year ago, Oct. 22, 2016, my twin brother, Buck, died. And I have been pulled to write a tribute to him.

I don’t mind telling you it has been a hard year for me. His passing is like no other loss I have ever felt. I guess, since he had fought his way back so many times and wouldn’t give up after his initial stroke 15 years ago, I thought he would be with us forever.

Being the last of the older generation feels like I’ve been hung out to dry. Jerry does what he can, but nobody can fill this void.

I must say, Buck’s kids and Betty, my sister-in-law, planned the most meaningful celebration of life I have ever been to. With the family together around the dining room table, a large plastic box full of Buck’s ties was brought out. Ties are the only means a man has of making a true fashion statement, and Buck was very expressive.

“Take what you want.” The choices were colorful and varied. The men decided they were going to wear their selections for the celebration. “I will wear one,” I said. Kate, his granddaughter, followed with, “I’m going to wear one.” I asked, “Why can’t all the men and women wear one? How cool would that be?”

Every one of Buck’s family members and immediate friends walked into the sanctuary decorated with flowers, money, Tobacco Sauce, Coca-Cola, Santa Claus, and Buck’s favorite, Looney Tunes. As strange as it seems, it is like those neckties represent who he was and proclaim his best feature – his great sense of humor. His infectious laugh filled the sanctuary.

I was blessed to be able to celebrate 77 birthdays with Buck present. This year I dreaded the coming of July 27. I didn’t expect, or want, a party for just me. It would be an empty, sad occasion.

“Jerry, you are getting me the heck out of town on the 27th,” I said. “Where do you want to go?” Jerry asked with a blah tone. “I don’t care, but I can’t stay here. I’ll just sit around having a pity-party.”

I love Lake Geneva, and it was the only place I really wanted to go. So I got on the computer. Oh wow, I knew those prices would never fly! As the day drew near, I came up blank for a place that wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. Besides, what fun would it be to spend two days alone with a ‘tude?

Betty, Buck’s wife, and I were talking about the birthday. She said, “The girls (Buck’s) are going out to the cemetery and having Buck’s favorite – root beer floats.” Immediately I said, “I want to go out with them!” It sounded crazy, but felt right!

Our eternal lots are together at the back of the old part of Oakland Cemetery with plenty of room behind us for setting up a serving table, etc. The root beer float get-together with the girls turned into a tailgate pizza and root beer float party with a majority of the Sutliffs there. And, most who came wore Buck’s ties. Ultimately, July 27th turned into a proper birthday celebration, full of laughs and family fun. As Kate said, “Our family puts the “fun” in dys-fun-ctional.” I know Buck was partying right along with us all.

Life does go on for those of us who are left, and I have a need to fill mine with productive projects.

Whether you feel my articles are productive or not, writing these little blurbs for the BCR puts spark into my otherwise “blah” existence, and I’m loving every minute of it. After today, I guess you know, “I’m not always in a ‘Jolly Ho-Ho’ mood,” but usually something comes along to tickle my funny bone, and sharing it with you gives full joy.

Our book “Buck ‘n’ Me” was entirely written before he passed, but didn’t make the press until after. Getting it out there has been my salvation, as that, too, is my tribute to Buck. Rest in peace, Bro.

Thanks for listening – and don’t forget to FROG.

Earlene Campbell lives by the FROG motto — Fully Rely On God. She lives in Princeton and can be reached at earlenecampbell@rocketmail.com.

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