I grew up in a rural community, the town were I went to school was, at the time, under 3,000 population. I always think of the town as being primarily German, although there were large (for the town) African American and Mexican neighborhoods. That's probably some kind of white privilege right there. Most of the non-white folk lived in town. I can think of only a handful of black people who lived on farms.
One such family lived near us and the children rode the same school bus as my brother, Gary, and I. It was two girls and one boy, all fairly close in age, between the ages of my brother and me. I remember getting along with them fairly well, and the older girl, in particular, seemed to find me amusing.
One summer, the brother, Marvin, a high schooler at that time, was killed in town. As I recall, he was struck by a car as he crossed a street. I don't remember much anything else about that, except that we found out about it when we got the next week's edition of the The Giddings Times and News in our mailbox.
When school started up again, what else I do remember is the older sister's hurt as she confronted me about not being at the funeral. I felt badly and tried to explain that we hadn't heard about it until after the funeral, but that didn't seem to soften the hurt. In retrospect, her hurt was warranted. We shared many laughs on bus rides. We should have been able to share tears, too.
Looking back now, I realize a lot of things that I was too naive to pick up on. Certainly too naive to pick up on all the subtleties of race relations in our small community, where everyone, more or less, went along to get along. I have to wonder if the news was kept from me, so I wouldn't want to go to the funeral. It was long before the internet age, when we know of someone dying within minutes of it happening, but surely there were opportunities to have heard about this at our common feed store. What forces were at play that kept me unaware of such a sad and tragic death in our community?
There was an old, dilapidated church on our bus route, out near where this family lived. It had been a black church, so at one time, there were more black families in our part of the county. It had a small cemetery by it and Marvin is buried there. I remember Marvin's grave could be seen from the gravel road that went by it. It seemed like for a very long time, there were always flowers on it. Perhaps some were artificial. It's been decades since I've been down that road.
Oftentimes, death can bring us together. In the case of Marvin's death, it highlighted the divisions in our community, divisions that I'm still discovering today.