Brothers share a special bond

by | April 12, 2018 6:19 am

Clay Rice and Kelly Rice are brothers who share the same birthday, April 4, but they have also shared many other moments in life, which include the same type of colon cancer, which has taken its toll on their health. (Photo by RIMA AUSTIN)

Willie Rice, the mother of Clay Rice and Kelly Rice, holds a vase of flowers delivered to her sons.

By Rima Austin – contributor

Brothers share a special bond, one that only a man who had shared his life experiences with his own brother would understand.

In the case of Kelly Rice, 63, and Clay Rice, 60, this is especially true for them. Not only have they shared toys and secrets growing up, in Ohio, and working together as adults, they also share the same birthday, April 4 – and they also have the same type of colon cancer as older adults.

It was an outdoor birthday barbecue, and the two brothers were surrounded by friends and family. The carport provided shade from the sun, but it was the soft breeze that made the gathering comfortable. Clay, with his silver hair flowing out from below his skullcap and dressed all in black, sits stoically while his mother and sister attend to him. As a final gesture before she steps aside to let others talk to him, she strokes the side of his face as if to let him know she is not far away. While Kelly, who is in remission, is in high spirits and addressing everyone he knows, Clay, on the other hand, is still within the grip of his colon cancer that is affecting his hearing. He must try hard to understand what is being said to him.

“He can read lips,” explains Willie Rice, the mother of the two men. “He doesn’t hear very well.”

Clay sits next to Eddie Koster, a longtime friend of his who has finally found Clay after being out of touch with him for over two decades. The two sit in silence, but it is obvious that conversation is not needed; just the fact that the two old friends have found each other again is enough.

“We worked together in Florida for 20 years as glass glaziers,” says Koster. “Then we lost touch with each other for another 20 years, but through Facebook, I was able to find him again.”

It was Clay who introduced his brother Kelly into glass glaziering as well. According to Kelly, it was fun but extremely dangerous. While in their 20s, the two brothers worked side by side as glaziers, in Florida. Kelly remembers how they would be standing in the open air where a window should be, with nothing but the clouds between them and the sidewalk, which was 100 feet below.

“I was in the commercial end of it like he was, and we’re talking about high-rises,” exclaims Kelly. “We didn’t get the luxury of harnesses; we had to stand on the inside and set the glass from the inside in a hole in the side of the building.”

As the brothers got older, life intervened. Both of them went on to marry and have children and were separated with hundreds of miles between them. The bond between them never wavered, though. The two always stayed in touch on their birthday, even if it was just a phone call. In their 50s, however, things changed. It was Clay who received the news first.

“We came down and found out that he had cancer,” says Kelly. “We got back that Monday after and she (Kelly’s wife, Cheryl) made an appointment. He told me the treatments were terrible – he was right.”

It wasn’t long before the talk of cancer was exchanged for how beautiful and sunny the day was and how these two brothers, who have been close their entire lives, were once again spending another birthday together. When asked if he was sorry he had to share his birthday with Clay, Kelly responded that he was not.

“Oh heck no, heck no,” says Kelly. “Me and that boy there have been through a lot.”

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