This is how I remember it

Entry 7

And now for a short musical interlude:

When Patton’s army did all they could, they started sending GI’s home.  My Dad hitched a ride on the QE ll along with hundreds of other returning vets.  While somewhere between Europe and the US, he received a telegram.  Decades later when he began messing around with short wave radio stuff, even he was amazed that he could remember dots and dashes from world war II.  But, the radio operator sending that message in 1945 was not very good at his job.  The message that Dad got was:  “Congratulations…birth went well…mom and both babies fine…”  Dad was in shock.  He was getting used to the idea being a father, but now he had to take care of a wife and two kids.

Van Ross (short for Rossbach –  being German was not a popular thing in 1945, so it was shortened to Ross) Flanders was born late December, 1945. The heir had arrived.  Grandma still didn’t approve of the paterfamilias but here was a grandson to cuddle and spoil.  Grandpa Carl fell deeply in love with Van.  Van spent much of his early life with grandma and grandpa.  Mom Betty was still doing some USO traveling before Dad got home, so Van was at 816 Brookwood many days and nights.

The debate about nature or nurture will never end.  Van’s life was deeply influenced by the love of his grandparents.  Mom Betty was deeply involved in music.  Dad Bill had never been in a nuclear family.  Uncle George did the best he could and did a marvelous job, but my Dad had never lived in a house with parents or siblings.  Once I was talking with my Uncle Rodney.  I said, “It just seemed like my Dad was not quite ready to be a Dad, he didn’t know how.”  Rodney was kind and corrected me gently by saying, “Gary, nobody is ever ready…nobody knows how to be a Dad.”  Well put Rod.  My Dad did  the best he could with what he had.

You don’t know what you are going to get when the child arrives.  You count the fingers and toes and go from there.  Van’s life story was his.  We intersected for many years, and it is not surprising that we were two extremely different people.  We were enough years apart that the generational concept played a huge role.  It was difficult to relate to each other.  He was who he was and…I was not.


Van was a passionate, deep person.  He was quiet and said what he thought, when he wanted to, never before.  Of all of the Flanders in our immediate family, he was by far, the best manager of money.  He wanted a cool car, the same make as his grandpa, and he had a plan to work hard and get it.  He worked diligently his whole life.  He was my first boss – giving me one half of his paper route and then the entire business when he went to work for Kroger’s.  I waited 36 years before he gave me a compliment.  I waited 40 before I told him how much I admired his money skills.  That is just how it was.

A favorite story was when I was 11 and he was 16.  It is silly kid story, but one that sticks in my mind and gives me a smile every time I think of it.  We had moved to the west side of Ann Arbor.  One fall day I was playing Michigan vs Ohio State football with a bunch of kids in someone’s front yard.  I had a morning and evening paper route so I supplied the good football.  Some neighborhood high school kids came along and just to be mean grabbed my football and would not let us continue with our version of that college rivalry.   I finally made the threat: “You better give me my ball or I will tell my brother!”  The belligerent response was:  “Fine, got tell your stupid brother.”

I ran the 3 blocks home and Van was getting ready to go to work.  I begged him to stop by before he left.  He was reluctant but said he would.  I ran back and announced:  “Ok, I told you I would tell my brother.”  That statement was followed by them giving me…the universal sign of displeasure.  I stood there with my arms folded.

In five minutes,

Van's car

up pulled Van.  Up to this point in my life I didn’t understand how a white person could turn even whiter.  As soon as he stepped out of his car these kids started shaking.  In true Clint Eastwood style and enunciation, Van said, “Give him the damn ball.”  These neighborhood bullies started genuflecting…I swear they were genuflecting and stammered, “Yes sir, we are really sorry sir.”  Van didn’t say a word, he did an about face and got in his car to go to Kroger’s to stock shelves.

Once he had left these antagonists of the incident said, “Geez, that is your brother?  There is no one at Ann Arbor High who hasn’t seen him fight.”  I did my best Barney Fife, sniffed and said, “Ya, and you better not ever mess with me again.”  I walked taller going home that day.  Michigan vanquished the dreaded school to the south and the toughest kid in Ann Arbor was my brother.  I would ponder these things for many years.

Van was of a different generation.  His life soon changed dramatically. He would go to dances in the next town over and meet girls who thought he was THE thing.  He would also grow older and experienced  the “thrill’ of getting a letter from a committee from the community stating, “Congratulations you have been selected to serve in the United States Armed Forces”  Yes, that was my brother.

2 responses to “This is how I remember it”

  1. Very cool. I wish my big brother had stuck up for me even ONCE!


  2. Michelle Flanders Avatar
    Michelle Flanders

    Thank you for the story. I really loved it. Made my day a little brighter.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: