My cousin Kimber and I, along with our dads (Pat and Don) and our Uncle David, my husband Jay and my impressionable young son, Jacob, took a road trip on Easter Sunday to the Neal’s birth place in Braggs Oklahoma. Picture this: 3 brothers in their 70’s, 2 forty-something women and a 7 year old piled into one van. Jay was driving. The van is today’s equivalent of yesterday’s station wagon. My cousin and I were in the very backseat with my son. You know…where the KIDS sit. Some things never change. Our mission that day was to retrieve a rock from the old Neal homestead. Not just any rock, but a rock with the names of the three brothers, Pat, David and Don, carved by my Grandfather Neal back in 1941. There were 8 kids in the Neal family and they were all born in that house in Braggs. There were really bad jokes cracked during the drive about bail money , police chases, and Jacob’s impending criminal record.
And we laughed. A lot.
The lot is abandoned and the house long burned down, and we don’t even own the land it sat on anymore. But those 3 brothers knew exactly where that rock was. I couldn’t believe it was still there! So I took my post as look out in the street and while my dad was busy distracting a neighbor, David, Pat, Kimber and Jay dug up that 72 pound rock. In our family, fortunes have been made and lost, loved ones have passed on, marriages have fallen apart, and illness has left its mark on us. But at that moment, nothing, and I mean NOTHING meant more to all of us than that rock. A piece of our family history. Solid. Whole. Timeless. Just like the Neals. We loaded that rock with my grandfather’s handwriting on it into the back of the van, laughing the entire time. I believe with all my heart that Aunt Wanda was watching from Heaven. And she was laughing right along with us.
Melinda Neal Keeton