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A letter to the living . . .

A letter to the living . . .

When I look over my shoulder into the past, it’s as though I’m seeing things through a kaleidoscope, a tube of mirrors containing loose, colored objects such as beads or pebbles or bits of colored plastic or glass, some with regular shapes and others irregular. The user looks into a small hole at one end and light enters the other end, and as the tube is twirled the particles move and create incredibly beautiful patterns. Kaleidoscopes can be found in craft stores, dollar stores, five-and-dime stores, estate sales and yard sales.

When my thoughts travel to the past, people and places and things and words and events emerge to the forefront, remain for a time depending on the reason for my travel and then fade away as other patterns appear—as I twirl the tube, so to speak. The images are not always happy—some are dark and brooding, others are happy and cheerful, and the rest are somewhere in between. Sometimes that which I seek in my memories remains hidden, but will appear later in an unbidden moment, and I cheerfully admit that those times seem to be more plentiful as time passes.

I have always heard that as we grow older we tend to dwell more in the past and less in the future. Not true in my case—my thoughts seem to be equally divided among the past, the present and the future, often uncontrolled until I get them under rein and concentrate on a particular scene, or pattern, in those kaleidoscopic realms of time. In the words of one of my favorite people, the late Brother Dave Gardner:

Ain’t that weird?

Brother Dave was everywhere in the fifties and sixties—that’s the nineteen fifties and sixties—on radio airways, on television, on albums and in concerts and other personal appearances. His followers ranged from those in overalls—farmer folks in Alabama call them overhalls—to those dressed in tie-and-tails. I was in the former group, and at heart I remain in overhalls.

Google Brother Dave if you like, and get ready for a wild ride. His humor is contagious, filled with profound sayings, many, perhaps most of them politically incorrect, especially for that era, and that political incorrectness is among the factors that dimmed his light and essentially collapsed his career—of course his use of marijuana and certain errors on his income tax returns didn’t help his career. Bummer!

You can find him here on Wikipedia. The titles of his comedy albums, shown below, give us insight into his special brand of humor:

* Rejoice, Dear Hearts! (RCA Victor, 1959)

* Kick Thy Own Self (RCA Victor, 1960)

* Ain’t That Weird? (RCA Victor, 1961)

* Did You Ever? (RCA Victor, 1962)

* All Seriousness Aside (RCA Victor, 1963)

* It’s Bigger Than Both Of Us (RCA Victor, 1963)

* It Don’t Make No Difference (Capitol, 1964)

* It’s All In How You Look At “It” (Capitol, 1965?)

* Hip-Ocrasy (Tower/Capitol, 1968)

As I am wont to do, I have digressed from the reason for this posting. I have written several letters addressed to members of my family that are no longer among us, those that have reentered Plato’s world of souls and perhaps may have already returned as someone else, and I intend to write several more similar letters. In the great scheme of things we are not privileged to know whether any of those souls that left us have returned, or even to know whether Plato’s world of souls exists. As all my viewers know, Plato’s world of souls supports the theory of reincarnation.

The title above says that this is a letter to the living, to those that know me and know, or knew, one or more or all of those in my immediate family, the families of my mother and my father and related friends and associates. I have stated before in relating stories of the past to others, that every pickle has its warts— I and my family are no exception to that truism. And it is true—altruism does not exist—even Mother Teresa expected a reward in the afterlife for her magnificent work among the poor in Calcutta’s slums—granted, Mother Teresa comes as close to altruism as one can get—that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it!

I will conclude this dissertation with just three words. If anything I dredge up from the past conflicts with a reader’s idea of the specific people, events, dates and locations I have extracted from the past, whether the conflict stems from the reader’s memory or from being handed down to the reader from others, and the posting offends that viewer, my memories must take precedence, primarily because I was there and they were not. Whatever I say that is in conflict will remain as stated unless that which is in opposition can be documented. What follows is my conclusion to this posting as promised above—here are the three words pertinent to possible future conflicts:

Get over it!

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

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2010 in Family, friends, Humor

 

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Parched peanuts and skin crawling . . .

In the fall of my sixteenth year I lived with a farm family in the rural western central area of Alabama. Their farm was one of the Reconstruction era land parcels that were passed out after the end of the Civil War. It originally consisted of 40 acres and a mule, and in 1948, having passed down through some four generations (not of the same family, of course), still boasted the same 40 acres and a mule—not the same mule but one that, without a doubt, remarkably resembled the original, with the same long ears and same surly disposition, but with the same desirable work traits.

The family was comprised of four souls—the wife (my first cousin), the husband (not related to me or to his wife, other than by marriage) and two sons, both under the age of five years. My mother had decided that it would be beneficial for me to live with them and help out around the house and the 40 acres, and in return for that help the family would house me, feed me, clothe me and educate me.

Such a deal!

I arrived on the farm with a small metal trunk, a pitifully small amount of clothing and a pedigreed  pit bulldog named Buster, a fine and faithful companion, registered with the American Kennel Club as Mars but my brother, the original owner, had named him Buster. I inherited Buster when my brother returned to active duty with the U. S. Army after an absence of several years. My trunk, my dog and I joined the family on the farm in September after the school term had begun.

No mention was made of my being enrolled in the eleventh grade, and I happily maintained my silence. The helping out, however, began immediately. A trip to the nearest town some five miles distant to a dry goods store outfitted me with two pairs of overalls—one pair to wear and one pair to spare, and a pair of sturdy work shoes known as brogans. Some folks referred to them as clodhoppers, and some applied the same term to the wearers of such shoes. Perhaps some of my readers are unfortunate enough to have never worn overalls and therefore may be unfamiliar with such garments. If that be the case, those readers can click here for a detailed description. That posting also tells a story featuring a blue-eyed snake.

And now to my original reason for this posting, namely the parching of peanuts and situations related thereto. The term parched in regard to peanuts may be unfamiliar to some—perhaps roasted would be a more familiar term. On many cool fall evenings and cold winter evenings, the family gathered around an open fireplace and ate parched peanuts. The peanuts, having dried since harvested, were placed on a shallow metal roasting pan and roasted in the shell in the kitchen stove oven, and afterward the pan was placed on the fireplace hearth to keep the peanuts warm and accessible. One needed only to scoop up a handful of peanuts, then sit back, shell and enjoy.

The lady of the house, my first cousin, had a habit of rustling among the peanuts searching for those with scorched shells, saying that they had more flavor. Her moving the peanuts around on metal, with her fingernails sometimes coming in contact with the metal, produced a really irritating sound, one that, as the saying goes, made one’s flesh crawl, a phenomenon that I communicated to my cousin.

I told her that I wished she wouldn’t do that, and she said, “Why not?’ And I took the bait she offered—nay, I took the bait and hook and line and sinker. I said, “Because it makes my flesh crawl.” Her immediate response was, “How did your butt smell when it passed your face?”

Bummer!

Pretty funny, huh? I plotted and schemed for the next several weeks, doing anything and everything I could to produce a sound that would make her flesh crawl, and I finally hit on one. I was cleaning a mirror—voluntarily, and by briskly rubbing the clean glass I made a loud screeching sound and she reacted as I hoped she would. She told me to stop doing that, and I asked her the same question she had asked me. I said “Why?” and she predictably said that it made her flesh crawl.

Oh, boy, oh boy! I said, “How did your butt smell when it passed your face?” She snapped back, “It smelled like it had been licked—how did it taste?”

Bummer again!

I left the family and the farm in late December and traveled some 35 miles by bus to visit my mother and sister in Mississippi. I returned early in January, and en route on my two-mile walk on the graveled road from the paved highway to the farm, I stopped to visit an aunt that lived in the house of my birth. She told me that my cousin’s husband had killed my dog soon after I left for Mississippi.

None of the family was home when I arrived. I packed my belongings and started dragging the trunk  back to the paved highway to wait for the next interstate bus. Luckily a neighboring farmer came along in his Model T Ford and gave me and my trunk a ride to the highway—had he not come by I would probably still be walking—that trunk was pretty heavy, what with the brogans and overalls.

There was a reason my cousin’s husband killed my dog—not a reasonable reason—but I’ll save it for a later posting of some of my exploits—and my exploitation—while playing the part of a farm boy. I have never been back to the house since that day, and I never saw the husband or the two boys again. I trust that they fared well and are still faring well—unless they grew up to be like their father.

I know he died many years ago, but I never knew how the boys may have fared in their lives. Many years later I saw my cousin briefly, just long enough to learn that she had divorced her husband  shortly after I left, and a few years later met and bonded closely—I mean, like really closely—with another woman and eventually became a suicide, taking her own life with a firearm. I don’t know how the other woman fared, nor am I curious about it.

There are many more titillating, interesting, educational, emotional, humorous and fascinating tales I will tell concerning my brief sojourn as an indentured servant on an Alabama farm, but I’ll save them for later postings.

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

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2010 in Childhood, Family, Humor, Writing

 

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The wooden bowl . . .

I received this story, author unknown, from a friend several years ago. I found it recently in my saved e-mail and decided to share it with anyone whose path might cross my blog.

The Wooden Bowl

A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law and four-yearold grandson. The old man’s hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred and his step faltered. The family ate together at the table, but the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Food  fell off his fork onto the floor, and sometimes when he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth.

The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. ‘We must do something about father,’ said the son. ‘I’ve had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.’

So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. Since he had broken dishes in the past, his food was served in a wooden bowl.

When the family glanced in Grandfather’s direction, sometimes he had tears in his eyes as he sat alone. Still the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.

The four-year-old watched it all in silence. One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, ‘What are you making?’

Just as sweetly, the boy responded, ‘Oh, I’m making some little bowls for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up.’ He smiled and went back to work.

His words so impressed the parents that they were speechless. Tears streamed down their cheeks, and although no word was spoken, both knew what must be done.

That evening the husband took Grandfather’s hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with his family.  And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, or milk was spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.

On a positive note, I’ve learned that no matter what happens—no matter how bad it seems today—life goes on and tomorrow will be better.

I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about people by the way they handle four things—lost luggage, a rainy day, tangled Christmas tree lights and the elderly.

I’ve learned that, regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from this life.

I’ve learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life, and I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands—you need to be able to throw something back.

I’ve learned that if you pursue happiness, it will elude you. But if you focus on your family, your friends, the needs of others, your work and doing the very best you can, you won’t need to look for happiness—it will find you.

I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.

I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one.

I’ve learned that every day, you should reach out and touch someone. People love that touch—holding hands, a warm hug or just a friendly pat on the back.

I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn, and I’ve learned that you should pass this on to everyone you care about.

I just did.

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2009 in Family

 

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