This is your story that became ours.

I carried the thoughts around all day that today, on Dad’s favorite day, that he carried around all year playing pranks on so many, he is with us so much in spirit. I wonder what he would think of such a thing as what is happening now – and I can’t help but thinking, thanks to that stubborn streak of his, he would find the ten closest neighbors that did not have a ride, did not have food, and did not have cash, they would have all they needed if it was left up to him – There’s not a day that goes by that I wonder if I am doing things that remember him well – and not a day that he is sorely missed, especially on his birthday- April 1st. Love ya Dad.  This is your story that became ours.



The Rings Around Us

You always hear people say “Deja Vous”, or, “It was fate!”  A certain amount of events have occurred in my life where I realize that fate certainly did play a huge role, God certainly intervened, or that I just stumbled across the correct amount of lucky, though I was never known to have much of THAT.  However, one particular event has yet failed to cause others to be speechless, bring tears to my eyes, and remains a constant reminder that life is a chance for everyone to give it their all, and you will be rewarded.

It was the beginning of Spring 2002, I will always remember the sun peaking out behind the clouds on a mad rush towards home, then known as Butler, PA.  Yet, I am getting ahead of myself.  Sitting in the office of my job, chatting with friends amid piles of mindless work, my manager walks over to my desk.  Everyone has had a similar situation, flashbacks of “What did I do?!  Wrong or right?!”  I was asked to accompany her to her office.  “Uh-oh.  I really did it this time.”  With every step anchored with weight, I sat down in Bonnie’s office.  She looked at my very serious, I sucked in my breath anticipating the worst.  “Harry, your sister called.”  “What?” I thought.  My sister didn’t even have my phone number here!  “My sister?” I blurted.  A nod.  “Yes, your father seems to had to go to the hospital, and wanted you to know.”  Wow.  Now you have to know…

My father, aside from typical stereotypes about men, came from an era that buried money in coffee cans, worked until the following sunrise, and certainly did not visit doctors.  I had no recollection of my father EVER being in a doctor’s office unless it was on my own account.  My worry of job security shifted to a deep panic.

The flurry of gathering my things together, blurry images of my friends alarmed at the panic on my face, not seeing or remembering much except that sun on hitting the crystal snow on my race into Butler, PA that afternoon.  Thought sped through my head, and yet I knew.  There was only one way my father, father of 16 children, a rite of life in it’s own right, was going to be at a hospital.  “Quit being morbid and pessimistic!” I blared at myself.

The day of my father’s funeral was an extension of the emptiness that was felt throughout my whole family.  A punch in the stomach, the wind being knocked out of you, the delay in reaction that lasted for weeks, even months, call it what you will, that was me to a “T”.  Standing in the middle of the funeral floor, surrounded by hundreds of individuals’ lives my father had touched, friends of mine that were in complete silence, I felt my sense of organization and life plans gone in an instant.   My sister, Pam approached holding gently a lift-top box.  As she gently opened the box, I saw rows of silver rings with his initials HBB in top.  “Dad created these rings and left one for each son, and you need to choose the one that fits your finger Harry Jr.”  I was in utter disbelief.  In the morning of my father’s death, rows of hundred dollar bills had been aligned on the breakfast table, papers of bills, payments, and obligations neatly arranged.  That in itself was too much of a premonition to take in, but this?

A few days later, I noticed that the ring I had chosen did indeed seem big even with choosing the smallest ring possible.  I went into the closest Main Street jeweler, briefly explaining the value and problem to the owner.  Within minutes, a spacer had been put on the ring, with the last words I remember the owner stating, “It’s on the house, your father would have wanted it that way.”  Another moment to keep me in awe of the way things develop in life.

Two months later again driving on a summer and wonderfully summer day, hand waving in the half open window, I arrive at my father’s house to help at around the garage with my brothers.  Not being used to wearing a ring, I sometimes would forget I even had one on.  Looking down for no particular reason, my whole body began to shake realizing the ring was gone.  I panicked.  I tried to backtrack my day, “Yes, on before I got into the car”….realizing that somewhere along the drive, my last remaining physical tie to my father was lying somewhere on the ground.

Have you ever been so anxious or restless about a problem, dilemma, or seemingly unsolvable problem?   You’ll begin to realize the feeling I had as I spent the next two weeks conducting the world’s most extensive search.  I felt I had let my father down within a matter of months.  Irresponsible.  Inattentive.  The last words of my mother lingering in my mind, “Your father will get that ring back to you” amid my search.  I respected the optimism of my mother, however somewhere I knew this was an unrealistic conclusion to a very devastating incident.

The phone rings early on, and I can tell my Mother is excited.  Laughing, I begin, “Okay, so what’s -”   “Harry Jr.”, listen!  Sit down, seriously sit down.  Listen, now, I am serious, really listen.  A lady came by looking for a car…

That was right, a lady had come by looking for a car seeing my Dad’s lot full of cars, parts, and every other piece of machinery on the property.  What didn’t quite sink in yet was the fact that she had been by earlier that day, her son in the car.  Her son feeling suddenly sick, she pulled off to the side of the road.  Before anything did occur, (You know where I’m going with this, don’t you?!) he sees something shiny in the weeds.  He reaches out and low and behold, a ring!  I silver ring!  He pockets it.

“So you see Ma’am, when we came by the first time, no one was here, we decided to stop back.  It wasn’t until on the way back that my son told me about finding this ring.”

“May I see that ring, please?”  “Oh for heaven’s sake!”

I don’t know the expression that my mother received on her face, and I can’t even imagine or remember what I looked like in hearing this story.  I remember the sobs we both had over the phone, the jags that hit me in waves, unbelieving, wanting to so much, but receiving answers that were beyond my comprehension.   “What would have made this unknown, never been to my father’s place individual bring up this story at all?  What were the chances her car pulled off on the side of 11 plus miles of road in the exact spot where lay probably the most valuable item on earth?  What were the chances this individual arrived at my father’s place once, and would return again, with this ring, with the honesty of her son?”

To this day, I can say no more about this story, I literally find my mind stopping at this point.  However, I see things in such a more of an optimistic light.  Greater than luck, fate, or coincidence, I have realized that there are so many things about life that are precious.  The people that surround us are often taken for granted, as well as situations.  Most individuals contribute half their ability towards achieving things, or going after things they deem valuable, be it personal goals, hurdles at work or home, relationships, taking the time to reflect.  However, things will never slow my appetite to achieve what is most important to me in life, friends, family, a healthy relationship, a sense of stopping enough to enjoy the achievements around me.

To me, life is symbolic of this circular ring.  All things will come full circle if we just let it.  Quoting complete coincidence, the famous chronicles “The Lord of the Rings” peaked during this particular time in my life.  Easily drawn in to the comparisons of the ring, I was able to still value and hold true to the above mentioned values I seemed to inherit.


Thank you Dad.

Harry Brake


About Harry Brake

Employee of Woodbridge High School, Library Media Specialist, Media crazy! :)
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2 Responses to This is your story that became ours.

  1. Pam McNeal says:

    What a great story Harry.
    I know dad is up there 👆 smiling away.
    I can see him right now.
    I also know that he is very proud of you, as we all are.
    I am proud to say that you are one of my brothers.
    I love you bunches Harry.
    God bless and be safe.

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