The last time in the dock

By Mark Carpenter – 

It’s actually a shame that most families only see each other at funeral services. That was the case for me last weekend as I attended a family memorial service and was greeted by family members who I don’t think I have seen in over 25 years. That should never happen, but I must say it was good to see that side of the family again, just wish it was under better circumstances.
My brother did the memorial service, and his theme was that of a river man taking his boat into the dock for the final time. The man who was being memorialized was one of the nicest men I had ever met, though as I said, it had been a long time since I really talked to him. Donald Brookbank, or “Brookie” as most people called him, was a man of the river, as were many of the men on my mother’s side. As was mentioned numerous times in the service, “Brookie” was a family man, having five children and a dozen grandchildren, “Pappy” to all of them. and a second cousin to me.
I have a particular fondness for sternwheeler boats and “Brookie” was the proud owner of a boat called appropriately “The Donald B” and way back when, I had the opportunity with my grandmother to ride that boat in what were called “sternwheeler races.” Man, that was so cool! I am not a man of the river by any means, heck I can’t even swim, but I certainly enjoyed that time on the water.
I used to go to Brookie’s house in Higginsport often, because his wife cut my hair. I am pretty particular about my hair cuts, so you know she was pretty darn good at what she did. Donald would always be in and out during that time, always joking and laughing, likely making fun of the fact I was there getting a hair cut.
He was a sports man too, and if you caught on with the last name, you may know that he produced a family of pretty good athletes themselves in the Brookbanks of Ripley High School. In his younger day, he was a fine baseball player, after serving as the batboy on the well-known locally 1947 Higginsport semi-pro squad, managed by former Red Slim Sallee, and with a roster that included my uncle and grandfather. As he grew older, “Brookie” again became a baseball fan, but this time for a little different reason. Either in person at a major league park or from the comfort of his recliner, he followed the career of his grandson who plays left field for the Boston Red Sox, Andrew Benintendi. a young man I met for the first time at the service and was quite impressed. How proud “Brookie” must have been every time he turned on his set and saw his grandson step into the batter’s box in the major leagues, but I am absolutely certain that he was jut as proud of all of his other grandchildren in whatever successes they have and will continue to have.
Growing older has its ups and downs, and one of the downs is that you start to find yourself attending funerals and memorials and your extended family grows smaller and smaller. Let me give you some advice- don’t wait 25 years to make contact with them. Family is the most important thing that we have, don’t let years go by without communicating. In this age of social media, we tend to follow people’s lives by a device we carry in our pockets, but it’s not the same.
As my brother so eloquently put it at the service, “Brookie” has docked his boat for the final time, but somewhere he and the Brookbank men who came before him are swapping old tales about adventures on the mighty Ohio. Wouldn’t those be great stories to hear? At the service, the family had a slide show of photos running and one slide caught my eye. it wasn’t a photo but a quote, and it fit absolutely perfect.
“Time passes like a river. You cannot touch the same water twice because the flow that has passed will never pass again. Enjoy every moment of life.” Dock the boat Brookie, you’ve earned it.