GARRY’S BROTHERS – Garry Armstrong


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.

Categories: #gallery, #Photography, Family, Garry Armstrong

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26 replies

  1. How wonderful that you’ve been able to stay close even with the distance. Family is so important. I love this post. Thanks for joining the challenge!


  2. Good for you! You’re so fortunate to live in the era of internet and phones and to be close with your brothers. Too bad travel is hard–it tends to be for me these days too.

    A choral Director is so fun to be! I took a week-long seminar in chorale conducting with Dr James Jordan a few years back at Westminster Choir College in Princeton. My skills were rather poor, but the experience and teachers were excellent.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Donna, my “Baby” Brother, Anton is highly regarded (pounding my chest proudly) on the international stage for his long stint as director of the St. Olaf’s Choir. He’s brought the venerable choir into the 21st century with diversity in music and talent. Anton also is prominent in the community, sharing his talent and experience to inspire a new generation of music talent. He’s a gifted teacher, patient and compassionate with those who show a willingness to learn.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’d give almost anything for my brother to walk through my front door (sober), for him to sit down and look at me and say, “Hi Martha Ann.” I loved my brother more than he even loved himself. I am happy that you appreciate so deeply your connection with your bros. ❤

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  4. Speaking as a mother, I know your mother would be glad to know that her sons are making the effort to stay connected. Family is so important Garry.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Leslie, thank you. We are making the “effort”. It’s not easy. In the end, family is all we have.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Leslie; I agree – as a mother….. THEN it’s up to ‘them’ to act – my son started just now, at 40 (and with the woman of his life beside/behind him) to remember that indeed, he has a mother too….. My siblings are all very good people but none of them is inclined to phone me ever. A mail from time to time; if I want to know how they’re doing, it’s up to me to make the calls. And you’re right, family IS important.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Kiki it is very important, even if your siblings may not realize it at this time. I nearly lost my brother earlier this spring and I’m so glad that we were there to support him and help him through this. So it may be up to you but you will be glad that you did and so will they.

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  5. I envy you Garry. You’d think brothers would be ‘tight’ right? Not us.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Another thought: Could you PLEASE tell me how you managed to look so youthful (not useful – that too….) – you’re the oldest (or is it eldest, that was another query I had, but I won’t go into it because 1) E is not my mother tongue and 2) I really need to do other stuff now) and look so young and dapper… Just asking!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kiki, glad I scrolled down to see your second comment before responding.

      Thank you. Thank you.

      The youthful look? Family genes. Guess it may be payback because I literally drew the “short” straw. Both of my Brothers are taller than me. I never was happy with this. Once, I asked Mom, “How come I am your only short son. How come? What did I do wrong?” Mom smiled her patient smile. A VERY patient smile which usually indicated I’d asked a stupid question. “Honey, you are your MOTHER’S son. You have all my good qualities. You should feel blessed. God has chosen you to have special abilities”. I never knew how to respond to that answer. It felt like a con. But you don’t say that to your Mom. Turned out I did have Mom’s flair for writing and her appreciation of the Arts.

      Dad set the bar for”GQ” dressing. He was a very handsome fella who always looked his best — casual, business or formal. Dad is the reason I’ve always had creases in my pants, including my jeans.

      Adversity; a FREQUENT visitor. My parents’ advice: “Just DEAL with it. It’s part of life. ” I’ve given it my best shot.

      Thanks, Kiki.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You see, she DID give you all her qualities! My dad jokingly used to say: My daughters have all ‘my’ qualities and that’s why I haven’t got them, and all the faults of their mother, which is making her perfect’…. we all do what we can 🙂

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  7. This post made me tear up. Every word you wrote I agree with. Similar situation here although it’s me who has gone away, several times, sometimes very far, now a bit closer (it’s still a 7-8hrs drive to visit family)….
    About 2 years ago I said to my mum on the phone: You know you can’t leave us (jokingly!). Because if YOU are no longer the ‘turning point’ in our lives, we won’t ever know any longer what goes on with the others…. And she said: No, it’s no problem, you can take over now. You have the wisdom to do it, you have the intuition to know when to phone the others, I can now die in peace.
    Apart from the heart-wrenching ‘calm message’ she gave me – it made me thinking of whether this was true (she is not one to hand out empty compliments – she is my mother!) and I found myself lacking on several levels. But hey ho, I’m working on it and mum is still alive….

    I can relate especially to this all also, as I’m – same as you – the oldest of four, 3 sis & 1 latecomer-brother. I also seem to be the one in best bodily health which is strange as I’m not an over-healthy person. But maybe I’ve the gift of not taking me too seriously – I have laughed so often into the face of adversity that I believe this has kept me on the ‘good’ side of life’s experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. We can be grateful to technology for enabling us to keep in touch with family and friends when it becomes too hard to travel. Not many people write letters now, not even me although my emails are as long as my letters used to be sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tas, it IS great to have the technology. For all my complaints, I’m happy I can stay in contact with my Brothers, my friends via the internet. The telephone is not my first choice…for MANY reasons.

      Travel, I think, is more and more in the past tense.

      Liked by 1 person

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