Hanging On

Holding on to one another is essential along the Hillbilly Highway

Note: Though originally published as a stand-alone essay, I am re-posting it as the third installment from “The Hillbilly Highway, Volume 2: Seeds, Songs and Streams.”  Learn more here.

By Michael M. Barrick

Holding on

Hanging on with my sister, Mickey, as we celebrate her birthday.

LENOIR, N.C. – On June 20, 1952, Minetta Flint married William Barrick in Morgantown, W.Va. A year later, on June 12, their first child, Michelle, was born to the newlyweds, who were known among their friends by their nicknames – “Mike” and “Sparky.”

Michelle, who eventually earned the nickname “Mickey,” was followed by yours truly just under three years later, on April 22, 1956. Nearly six years later, our family was completed, as our little sister, April, was born on January 10, 1962. All three of us were born in St. Mary’s Hospital across from our garage apartment in Clarksburg, W.Va.

As Catholics, we were a relatively small family. Yet, with our grandmothers, aunts, uncles and great aunts and uncles, we had plenty of family close by and others scattered across West Virginia.

Then, the three of us grew up, moved away and started our own families. Every year we would take our two children to West Virginia and enjoy a freeloading vacation of great food, great company and never enough time to visit all the family and friends we wanted to see. And each Christmas was the family reunion.

But alas, a visit to West Virginia now is nothing more than a visit to four cemeteries in three counties to place flowers at the graves of all those people we used to share meals and laughs with.

Hanging on 2

Pondering something important, like what to drink next.

There’s nothing unusual about that. However, that doesn’t change the tinges of emotions I feel as I consider those souls who have slipped away – including our little sister April, who died of cancer last August. The Barrick family that started out at 483½ Washington Ave. in Clarksburg 66 years ago is now reduced to Mickey, who turned 65 this week (she doesn’t look it, but life isn’t fair) and me.

She and her husband David were in town visiting this week. She and I are both cancer survivors, against the odds. Why we live, and April does not, we do not know. Nor shall we drive ourselves crazy pondering it. It is what it is. How that huge family we were born into is now down to just the two of us is also something not healthy to spend a whole lot of time pondering. Again, it just is.

Yet, through the loss and sadness, our love for one another has grown beyond description, largely due to Mickey’s unconditional love for her quite curmudgeonly brother. We understand that we are indeed an endangered species. So, we do what Sparky, Mike and April taught us – We hold on to each other for dear life and laugh at life’s challenges and absurdities.

© Michael M. Barrick, 2018. Photography by Rick Carter.