Sometimes a smile can change your life; not even disease can take it

I said goodbye to my father when I was 9. Not permanently, though it felt like it as my mother and brother and I pushed back from the jetway on a Boeing 707 in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1976.  

We were headed to Nashville, Tennessee, by way of New Jersey and a quick stop in Camp Springs, Maryland. My dad headed back to his apartment at Hahn Air Base.  

He waved at us through the terminal windows. I craned my neck to keep him in view for as long as I could.  

A few days later, we rolled down Hillsboro Pike on the southwest side of Nashville, before taking a left up Overhill Drive and a right on Farrar Avenue, finally easing onto a driveway near the end of the street. 

There, my cousin waited. He was 6. 

Brady Gardner

I’d met Brady Gardner before — his mother and my mother were sisters a year apart and kept in touch like twins. But that was the moment he became my brother; it just took me a minute to realize it. 

He could’ve balked at the arrangement, of course. A couple of long-lost cousins arrive from overseas and suddenly he’s sharing a bedroom, and the dinner table, and his parents. Yet he never did. 

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