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Dessie, my favorite aunt . . .

I remember all my maternal aunts—my mother’s sisters—except for the one named Vera, a young woman that died in childbirth or shortly afterward, unmarried and outlawed by family and friends. Pregnancy without benefit of clergy was socially unacceptable and frowned on in the early years of the twentieth century.

My aunt Vera’s baby boy was taken in and brought up by Vera’s mother—my maternal grandmother, a short stout white-haired whirlwind of energy that seemed to take great delight in applying a peach tree switch to the derrieres and legs of recalcitrant grandchildren, girls and boys alike. I was one of the most recalcitrant of the bunch, and was dealt with accordingly.

My grandmother’s name was Viola, but her nickname was Odie and she was called Miss Odie by all, including me and the other grandchildren. I intend to devote and dedicate a separate posting to her at a later date, so stay tuned—it will be worth the watch and wait!

My favorite of my mother’s sisters, for various reasons was Aunt Dessie. Two of those reasons were her daughters, both a few years older than I—my first cousins and by far the prettiest of the entire gaggle of cousins. I’m speaking of the female cousins, of course. There may have been male cousins that were more beautiful, or at least as beautiful, but I was not then, nor am I now, into recognizing and interpreting beauty in males, cousins or otherwise, not even if some had sported the marbleized features of a Michelangelo.

For several years in my early boyhood, the years between my age of six to the age of nine, Aunt Dessie lived, with her two beautiful daughters and her city police officer husband, next door to me and my family. Aunt Dessie was always, in my memories of the earlier years, a lady of ample proportions and a lady afflicted, or perhaps gifted, depending on one’s point of view, with a pronounced proclivity to accumulate and produce intestinal gases. She and my mother and my two elder sisters would frequently get together in her living room to sit on a sofa, form a quartet and sing gospel songs.

I didn’t hang around to listen to their singing because the vocals were sometimes punctuated with the release of said intestinal gases, but never was a note dropped nor any mention made of the activity by the other singers. Not all the punctuations were audible but the lean to the right was unmistakable—politically speaking she always leaned to the left, but for that purpose she usually leaned to the right because she was usually seated to the right of the others.

My aunt would sort of hitch up one cheek and tilt slightly to the opposite side to accommodate the action. Evidently the other two women had grown inured to the effect but I had not, and therefore did not long linger in the living room, regardless of the quality of the singing. I always found something to do or watch outside, something more interesting and more rewarding, both on auditory and olfactory levels.

Well, that’s enough of the religious references. I liked my aunt’s husband. He worked with the city for many years as a uniformed patrolman and drove a black-and-white in the performance of his duties. On more than one occasion he pulled up beside me and suggested that I return home because I had no business in whatever particular part of town I had wandered into. I usually followed his advice and headed in the direction of home, but depending on the circumstances I sometimes reversed my direction when the cruiser was out of sight.

I don’t know how much a uniformed police officer made in those days, but it must have been considerable. My aunt’s home was nicely furnished, and she and her daughters were always dressed in the latest fashions and had all the evidences of an upper-class family, including new toys and bikes, birthday parties, beauty parlor visits and vacations.

I often heard the adults in my family and their friends speculating on the source of my aunt’s family income and the prodigious outgo of that income, but the only emotion I can remember is envy, whether mine or that of the others.

In her later years Aunt Dessie lived the life of an unmarried alcoholic widow, a frequent visitor to the seamy side of life in Columbus, Mississippi in an area across the river where several unsavory hangouts existed at the time. As a young GI, just returned from a two-year assignment in the Far East that included a 15-month combat tour in Korea, I had occasion to visit those hangouts several times while on leave en route to my next duty assignment in South Georgia. I remember the name of only one bar, that of the Dew Drop Inn. I Googled Columbus’ night clubs of today and found lots of names: He Ain’t Here, Elbow Room, Hitching Post, First And Last Chance, Gravel Pitt, etc., but no Dew Drop Inn—bummer!

I encountered my aunt several times at different locations, always with a different person and always sodden with strong drink, as they say in the Bible. On one memorable occasion she asked me to give her a ride home at closing time, and during the ride she made several improper overtures to me, all of which were politely rejected.

I drove her straight home, and when I told my brother about her proposals he confirmed my suspicions—apparently my aunt was available to any bidder or buyer of drinks. I never saw or spoke to her again—not that I purposely avoided her—it’s just that I was never again in the circles in which she moved—she lasted several more years before leaving the bar scene and life for an unknown location—I trust that it is on a higher elevation than the plane on which  she lived in the latter years of her life.

My favorite aunt has long ago departed the scene, as have all my maternal aunts and uncles, and I would suppose also all my aunts and uncles on the paternal side of my family. If any paternal aunts or uncles survive, they are nearing or have already passed the century mark in longevity—I seriously doubt that any are still among us.

There is much more to talk about, especially about my aunt’s daughters. I was delighted to see both women several times in later years. The younger daughter was active in the music scene in Memphis, Tennessee for many years. My brother said that she was a high class you know what, a hundred dollar an hour lady—in those days and in that area one hundred dollars an  hour was indeed high-class, considering that the hourly minimum wage was only seventy-five cents per hour. You can click here to confirm that if you like.

I don’t believe the younger daughter ever married, but I know that she had one son in a relationship without, as they used to say in those days, benefit of clergy. She died at an early age, relative to the average life span at the time. The elder daughter, her sister, may or may not still be alive. That daughter lived an exemplary life—she married and had what the old folks in that era referred to as a passel of kids. I don’t know her married name, nor do I know of any way to determine whether she is here or gone to join the others.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 

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On the question of gay marriage rights . . .

Let’s see if I correctly understand the problem:

Same-sex male couples and same-sex women couples want—no, they demand—the legal right to marry so they will have the same rights enjoyed by opposite-sex couples who are married, and opposite-sex couples do not want them to have those rights. Many are willing to allow them civil unions (which confer the same privileges), but few are willing to allow them rights conferred by legal marriage—that is, marriage between a man and a woman. And there are many unmarried non-gay (straight) persons who, although they may support civil unions, are opposed to rights being gained through legal marriages.

That’s a truncated analysis of one of the most divisive situations in our country, but really, isn’t that all there is to it?

Millions of opposite-sex couples live together (cohabit) without benefit of clergy—they choose to do so, and they have the legal right to do so. They also, if they choose, have the legal right to marry in every state, and their marriage is recognized in every state. Millions of same-sex couples also cohabit without benefit of clergy, some willingly but many, perhaps most, do so because they have no other choice. Simply stated the problem is that, in all states, opposite-sex couples who cohabit can marry if they choose. Same-sex couples who cohabit do not, in most states, have the same choice.

This I say to those who oppose legal marriages for same-sex couples:

Why not give them the right to marry? Let them have it. Make it legal throughout the nation. Make it legal in every state, in every county and city to include couples (of any sex or lack thereof) living in apartments and tenement housing (high rise or other wise), condos and communes, hotels and homeless shelters, in flophouses and under bridges, and in every house on every block in every subdivision, from Jim Walter homes to million-dollar mansions—give them the same rights which opposite-sex couples enjoy and have always enjoyed.

The most prevalent argument against same-sex marriages appears to be anticipation that such unions will promote homosexuality. I say, “Stuff and nonsense!” Just as mothers and fathers endeavor to raise their children according to each child’s demonstrated ability and proclivity (or at least this should be the guide for raising them), so will two-mother families and two-father families raise theirs (or at least this should be their guide for raising them). Much of my childhood (what there was of it) was spent exclusively in the company of women, one mother and three sisters. There was no father figure or older brother present, just one mother and three sisters. I managed to survive in that element, and more mothers and/or sisters would not have made any substantial difference.

Would anyone like to take a guess at my sexual preferences? Here’s a hint: For more than 56 years I’ve been married to a beautiful woman who has, however reluctantly, borne us three beautiful daughters, and I’m willing to submit to DNA testing on all three. I know—that doesn’t rule out homosexuality, but it is a good start in another direction.

So here it is—this is my proposal for future marriage ceremonies which are conducted to legally unite couples in a legally-sanctioned marriage, whether the couples are same-sex or opposite-sex:

I propose that, in every marriage ceremony, the customary question of “Do you take this . . .?” be modified as described below. This modification must be mandatory both for same-sex and opposite-sex marriage ceremonies—there must not be the slightest hint of discrimination in the ceremony. Require each party to respond to the modified question with a one-word answer (yes or no). Answers such as maybe, I guess so, I reckon, why not, whatever, etc., will not be accepted. If either party (or both parties) responds in the negative, regardless in the manner the negative is voiced, the ceremony must be terminated.

This is the modified ceremony:

Do you, John/Joan, take Tommy/Tammy, to be your lawful wedded husband/wife with the full realization and understanding that after you are married, should either of you or both of you decide to dissolve the marriage through divorce, you will each be subjected to all the provisions, frustrations, condemnations and woes which are inevitable in the divorce process. As a married couple you will inevitably be involved in financial, psychological and sometimes physical dogfights, and a lot of verbal and possibly physical abuse may occur—and also some bad things could happen—I mean, like, you know, some really bad things could happen!

Should either of you decide to dissolve this union and the other agrees to its dissolution, you will have to agree on the division of property, including land, buildings, automobiles, homes and home furnishings. You will have to agree on child custody and visitation rights for any minor child acquired while married, whether acquired through adoption or through childbirth. Property brought to the marriage by either of you, tangible or intangible, may be retained by the spouse who brought the property to the marriage. This provision will also apply to any minor child or minor children brought to the marriage by either spouse (unless adopted after the marriage).

You will have to decide who gets the children, the dog, the goldfish and the bird—in one way or another you both will get the bird. The divorce settlement will be final—it will be permanent—it cannot be changed unless you both agree to the change and that, statistically speaking, ain’t gonna happen.

Do you at this time acknowledge and proclaim full understanding of these provisions?

Please answer truthfully either yes, or no, with the knowledge that a truthful answer is required. An untruthful answer (to be determined by a polygraph test conducted under oath) will cause this ceremony to be declared invalid and it will be terminated. Appropriate monetary penalties will be applied and the ceremony will be rescheduled for a later date (if desired by both parties). Any subsequent marriage ceremony requested by either of you, with the same person or with a different person, will be conducted in the same manner.

In order to verify the truthfulness of their answers, the couple should be comfortably seated and connected to a polygraph machine, and the truthfulness test will be administered by a qualified operator. Their answers should be given under oath, with an appropriate monetary penalty applied in case lies are detected. This will, of course, add additional costs to the wedding, but should prove a boon to retired federal, state and local polygraph experts (the monetary penalty should be sufficient to cover the expert’s expenses plus adequate additional remuneration).

If both the bride and groom, or the bride and bride, or the groom and groom answer truthfully in the affirmative, let the marriage proceed to a successful union, with all the rights appurtenant thereto granted. If the answer is negative, put the ceremony on hold, to be resumed when each participant can, following diligent study of all applicable materials, truthfully affirm full understanding and acceptance of the ramifications involved in a marriage and the possibility—nay, in these times the probability—nay, the statistical actuality—of its subsequent dissolution.

And that’s it. That’s where I stand on the subject of gay marriage, and when the measure arrives in the state legislature in Austin, I will cast my kingly vote for it, and I will urge my subjects to do the same (my vote won’t count, of course, because my wife’s vote will effectively cancel mine).

In the interest of full disclosure I must reveal, for the edification of all my subjects and for viewers from other kingdoms, that my wife and I together constitute an opposite-sex couple and we have never been divorced—not even once. We took our marriage vows on December 13, 1952. On December 12, 2008 we completed our 56th continuous year of marriage. We are now underway to our 57th year, and we look forward to many more.

Also in the interests of full disclosure I must admit that, had we been administered the proposed question under oath, we would have answered with a resounding “Yes!” Our answers would have been judged truthful although neither of us had the slightest knowledge of the ramifications involved in divorce. Simply stated, we would have rejected the possibility that we would ever dissolve the marriage—on that day, in that age and in our thoughts, we would have believed that divorce could never be an option.

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2009 in Humor

 

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