Opinion: Oh, brother!

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Have you ever read something I’ve written that changed your life?

I didn’t think so.

Well, I am pleased to say that finally, after almost 20 years of writing, I submitted something that just maybe did make a small difference for someone.

My column a few weeks ago was about a longtime friend, Keith Bratton. Now 92, Keith lives in a retirement community in Fishers. I recounted some of his unique inventions over the years, like a urinal splash guard with Osama Bin Laden’s photo, Kosher confetti for Bar Mitzvahs and circumcisions, and a golf ball with GPS. Current in Fishers ran the article as a front-page feature. That was not the end of the story; a much better one followed.

The write-up found its way onto a Facebook page viewed by Sarah Erdman, the daughter of Ron Bratton of Fort Wayne. Sarah forwarded the article to her dad, wondering if Keith might be a relative. When Ron read the Facebook post, he was pretty sure this was his long-lost half-sibling. And that’s when Sarah learned for the first time that her dad had a half-brother. She also realized that the description of Keith’s quirky personality and creative bent mirrored her dad’s.

It had been 68 years since they last saw each other, if they had ever met at all. It was hard to know for sure. Keith’s mother passed away when Keith was about 24 and his father remarried. Ron was the offspring from that relationship. The more than two-decade gap in age, accompanied by Keith’s entry into the Army and subsequent establishment of his own business, resulted in a failure to connect. It was a situation they both now lament.

Ron was planning a trip to Indy for his granddaughter’s gymnastic event and decided to include a stop at Keith’s senior community. Ron approached the front desk and asked if there was a Keith Bratton living there. The receptionist was appropriately cautious.

“Are you a relative?” she asked.

“I think I may be his half-brother,” said Ron, which sounded a little suspicious.

However, Ron was allowed entrance. Keith was told he had a visitor, but no other clues were given about the mystery guest. When this stranger entered the room, there was a classic Keith quip. “Don’t arrest me. I didn’t do it.”

Ron introduced himself, revealing their relationship. Keith responded with another zinger:  “What took you so long?”

As they reminisced about nieces, nephews and cousins, names new to each of them, the phone rang. It was Keith’s daughter, Kim, who lives in Florida.

“So, what are you doing?” she asked.

“Visiting with my half-brother.”

That’s when Kim learned her dad had a half-brother (sound familiar?).

Kim might have had a moment of brief concern about Keith’ faculties. Especially when he jokingly said, “Now, the family fortune has to be split.”

As I interviewed Keith for this story, I asked how sure he was this whole thing wasn’t a scam. Then, I got a befitting final wisecrack from him: “Why would anyone admit to being my brother…if it weren’t true?”

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