January 13, 1911

January 13, 2018 at 9:06 AM Leave a comment

The birth date of David Meffan Rau, born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to a lovely Scottish lass named Lottie Meffan and her husband, Floyd Rau. Lottie and Floyd already had a three year old girl named Agnes, and then healthy little David, so there was no reason to suspect that when David was two Lottie would die in childbirth, as would the little brother who never came home.

When David was five Floyd married a woman named Mary Montfort Melchoir and moved his two children to the countryside, just outside the small town of Durham, Pennsylvania. Mary was the stepmother of fairy tales and neither Agnes, nor the one daughter Mary and Floyd had, Katharyn, could stand her. David got along fine with her, but spent most of his time across the street at the home of her parents, Reverend Melchoir and his wife, Anna, who was reputed by all who knew her to be a saint, so kind and patient and loving was she. It was David, at age sixteen, who was sitting with her at her deathbed when she drew her last breath.

At eighteen, right after he graduated from high school, fifth in his class, as he would always say — it was a class of five –he fell from an apple tree while trying to please the unpleasable Mary with the apples for which she had asked. He fell, tragically, into a cement culvert and broke his back. He spent the next six months flat, being turned every twelve hours. His nurse was named, he swears, Olive Pickle. She gave him back rubs which saved his sanity and were better than any pain pills.

He recovered and went on to Perkiomen Business School which led to a job in a bank. He was the teller in the bank the day the James Gang came to rob it, and they pistol whipped him, probably just because they could. When they were caught, he stood in court and testified against every one of them, identifying them and telling what happened. He did quit his job at the bank. No sense in re-traumatizing yourself every day. He started working for Bethlehem Steel in the accounting department, a job he held for 41 years.

Meanwhile, back on the outskirts of Durham, a mile in the other direction, was a young woman named Miriam Leidich Hindenach. Now Dave and Miriam had been smiling at each other all their lives. Dave’s grandfather and Miriam’s father were the minister and the organist in the small church on the hill over looking Durham. That’s where they married in 1938 and where they are both buried.

They were amazing parents. I can attest to that. They were both SJ’s on the Myers/Briggs, which means they were rule-followers, meticulously organized and planful. Our home was clean, welcoming, full of a healthy balance of duty ,service, music and laughter. My dad was a very funny man.

He was also a civil servant beyond compare. I’ll just tell you one story. So, our house was in Durham, itself, overlooking the feedmill, which housed the post office, and the general store, run by Tony Melchoir, the grandson by blood, of Rev and Mrs. Melchoir, as my father was the grandson through his stepmother. Tony was also, however, my mother’s second cousin, by blood, Tony’s mother and my mother’s mother being sisters. But I want to tell you about the post office, run by Floyd Riegel, who also ran the feedmill, which I had to walk through to get the mail every day. I can still smell the intoxicating scent of the freshly ground grain.

Durham was a very old town. General George Washington crossed the Delaware to win the Revolutionary War (much simplified version of history) in a Durham Boat. Durham had been Durham for a very long time, but not quite 200 years. Once Durham hit and passed the 200 year mark, Durham would be Durham forever. In order to remain “Durham,” Durham needed to have a self-sustaining post office. This was a little tricky in a town of 75 people. Not too much mail going in and out. I think at the time my dad realized the post office was about to be closed, we were a dozen or so years shy of the 200 mark. So, my dad, who worked in a huge room with about forty other guys — it was all men in the accounting department at that time –went to the post office and bought a hundred dollars worth of stamps. Selling stamps increased the revenue of the post office. He took them to work and sold them at cost, of course. This was a man who was a public servant, not an entrepreneur. He did that for years, I don’t know how many. But Durham is eternally Durham.

He also paid the electric bill for all the street lights in Durham. One. It was the middle of the three switches on the front wall of our dining room. We turned it on every night and my dad turned it off every morning when he arose at 5:30, as did my mom, he to put on the shirt and tie he wore every day for forty-one years. Not the same one. But not as many different ones as you would imagine. He was a fastidious man. Interesting, because he was a man who came home from mowing the grass at school, one of his many part time jobs, and would stand at the back door, take off his white tee shirt, and wring it out before he came in the house. But, back to the suit and tie. I can still hear my mother sending him back upstairs because he didn’t match. He’d go cheerfully, grateful to her for having caught his gaff, and when he came back downstairs he’d say, “How’s this?”

My father had a very simple faith. It was a faith he practiced all his life. He simply loved his God and his fellow man. He never talked about it. He did it. His legacy is both our moral compass, our spiritual clarity, and our humor. He was a wonderful raconteur. My mother was a wonderful cook. So, we’d eat her good food and then push back slightly from the table, sometimes before the cherry pie and sometimes after, and he’d start telling stories. I remember looking at his empty pie plate on which, always, sat a pit. One single cherry pit. He always got it. Oh, one last story for now. When Nick, my youngest, was about five he was learning to shuffle and deal cards. He struggled through it and got the cards dealt, and he and his two brothers looked over at their grandfather because he wasn’t picking up his cards. He had fallen asleep. That man could sleep. You could hear him snore. My mother never complained.

Richard Rohr wrote this week, “”The most courageous thing we will ever do is to bear humbly the mystery of our own reality, to trust our divine image and grow in God’s likeness.” You nailed it, Daddy!! Happy Birthday.

Love, Susan




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