I am the eldest of three brother and the only one who married. My two younger brothers live in Minnesota. Dr. Anton Armstrong, conductor of the St. Olaf choir, is still working. Billy is retired. And of course we are here, in New England. Travel is difficult these days, so the telephone is especially important.
Geographical distance now minimizes the time I see my Brothers. Billy moved to Northfield after we closed down our old family home on Long Island last summer. I used to drive down to see Billy a couple or 3 times a year. It was always nice to see the old neighborhood and spend a couple of days with Billy. We shared family memories, watched baseball and old movies, and exchanged commiseration about the aches of our golden years. It was low-key and fulfilling. Something we never did when we were younger. I always felt closer to Billy after these visits.
The reunion of the three Armstrong “Boys” is difficult now. Anton has a crazy, busy work schedule. He is almost always on the road, usually overseas on tour, fulfilling his commitments as Director of the acclaimed St. Olaf’s Choir.
Our get-togethers are usually brief. I’m usually burned out from my New England commute. The 4 hour drive became more and more daunting in recent years. Anton is even more fried from jet lag and minimal sleep with more work piled up on his lap top. Still, we treasured the time we had together. Time and distance have not diminished our bond. We actually verbalize our feelings, something we never did as kids. We made a pact after Dad and Mom passed away — to stay connected, regardless of geography and different life paths.
That pact is more difficult now. Long Island is now history after almost 60 years. These days we stay in touch via e-mail and phone calls. Minnesota is a difficult visit for me financially and because I can’t leave Marilyn alone with our 3 dogs. Marilyn is game but she’s too fragile and vulnerable to fend for herself alone.
The loss of family and friends is a constant reminder of life’s fragility. It’s comforting to know my two brothers are close to each other and I’m just a phone call or email away.
The Brothers Armstrong — a formidable trio.