Our life is nothing but memory, as I have often said. Sometimes my mind is so closed, I cannot remember what I want to remember.
Last night I had one of the weirdest dreams ever…I was awake during part of it. Or at least I was semi awake. Every time I opened my eyes, I saw geometric patterns. Patterns from where I lay…almost out to eternity. There were wave patterns, there were geometric patterns of all kinds. It was so strange. I thought I was going blind, or something bad was wrong with my eyes. I finally got totally awake and put some eye drops into my eye. The patterns stopped. Was it the drops, or was it because I was totally awake. I really do not know. I told my wife today that I hope these strange dreams don’t herald some change in me. It’s a secret fear of mine…really not so secret.
In any case, while I can remember, I want to share some important memories. Before they fade away… For my family in particular…but for anyone who wishes to read them. It’s a pretty long post. You have been warned….
I drive our little Green Ford ‘Pinto’ station wagon down the old dirt “Snake Nation” Road towards my Grandma and Grandpa Stewart’s house. It’s an old two story clapboard house with wooden shingles on the roof. There are still a few bee hives sitting around the house. Grandpa has been a beekeeper and honey gatherer all his life. He is in his early 80’s, but still fairly fit. Grandma is in her 70’s, and can still walk further up and down the mountain roads than I can. She probably could walk 20 miles if she needed to. I am bringing my first child, their Great granddaughter, to spend the night. I see Grandma waiting out on the front porch. She always hears the cars coming, always.
We sit out on the front porch that evening in the roughhewn swing and rock out and back. The chains make sort of a musical “Squeak” in rhythm with the “Katy-dids” as they rub their legs together calling out to each other in the night. Grandma had fixed us dinner the first thing as soon as we got there. There is no turning her down when it comes to that. If you come to her house, you get a meal. I still smell the fried chicken sizzling on the stove and the fresh hand rolled biscuits cooking in the oven. Grandma made everything perfectly, and never, ever owned a measuring cup or spoon. She just would pour out whatever she was adding into her hand and put in in the pot. All of this takes place in the first hour after we get there. As I turn to Grandma to give her a hug….she fades away.
St. Mary’s Hospital, Athens Georgia. September 2, 1970. My first daughter is born. My wife has had a very difficult pregnancy, and this is the culmination. At 7:14 p.m., the Dr. comes out and tells me “It’s a Girl” I excitedly run to the pay phones down stairs and call my parents. My Mother in law is there with us. My father in law is in California, and she gives him a call. The pediatrician, a stoic looking Chinese born Dr., comes out and tells us that the baby is in perfect condition and will be brought out to the nursery in a few minutes. I pace nervously and have a cigarette. “I really need to quit this,” I think. It will be hard on the baby. About fifteen minutes later they bring her out to the nursery. What a beauty she is, with mounds and loads of dark black hair and eyes so dark, they are like the night sky when there are no stars. I put my face up next to the nursery window and puff on it. She is right under me, and I stand there and watch her blink, and stuff her tiny fist in her mouth. I think of all the things that we are going to do, she is the first granddaughter on both sides, and will be spoiled to death….I turn to talk to my Mother in law and she starts to fade away…. On September 4th, in the wee hours of the morning, my baby Karrie Lynn Bowers dies. They could never figure out what went wrong. I only wish that they had been as liberal back the about nursery policies as they are today….I never got to hold her, or touch her…and my heart still breaks.
I had waited until my last year of eligibility to play little league ball. I was big for my age, and all the other kid’s teased me about my size. “Man, you gotta be at least 16” they would say. The opposing team parents would “naa-naa” too, but I had my birth certificate! I had started off hot in practices, losing all the coaches baseballs by knocking them over the fence into the river. I had some power during practices. But,. I had a case of nerves when it came to real games. I was in a slump, a really bad slump through the first three games I didn’t have a hit.
It was the ninth inning against the “Yankees” Old Russel Fox was pitching and we were behind 7-4. The bases were loaded, and I was up. I felt that tightening in my stomach that I always got…almost sick to the point of throwing up. I came up to bat and the ump called the first one: “Strike one” right down the middle. Russell grinned at me, and everyone jeered. The next pitch was too far in, and hit my HARD on the elbow. I wasn’t then and never have been one to show emotion, so I didn’t let anyone know how bad it hurt. But I was seeing RED. I was so pissed I could have killed him, because I knew he did it on purpose. He wound up for the next pitch, and threw his fast ball straight down the middle. I put it so far over the right field fence that it is still floating down the Chattooga River! As I trot around the bases with the world’s biggest and silliest grin on my face…the baseline fades away… I hit 4 more home runs that year after the ice was broken.
It’s Christmas day 1958. I had never seen a White Christmas. After all this IS Georgia and Mr. Heat Miser has sway down here! I went to bed that night with all the visions of a new baseball bat, and glove in my mind. Maybe some new comic books. It’s seven o’clock the next morning and Mom says: “Larry, wake up and come and look outside” I go look out our big old picture window at the black cherry tree in the front yard. It has snowed! It snowed on Christmas morning!! I can’t go out in it until we open our presents though, so I start to tear into them.
There’s some new “Scrooge McDuck” comics. Darn stingy old Scrooge is my favorite. There’s a box of tinker toys, and a wooden puzzle of the United States. But…that’s all. I am a little disappointed, and then from the dining room I hear a “hoot, HOOT” I go running in there, and there sit’s my Dad with a TRAIN going around the tracks. A real Lionel with smoke belching out the top! He already has the track together and is sitting there laughing as hard as I am, because he is enjoying it just as much as me! I sit down on the floor and play with the train for a while. Then I remember the snow. I want to make a snowman, and NOW! Mom wraps me up in my coat, puts on gloves, and as I start out the door…..the snow starts to fade away. There was a snowman built that day, but I didn’t name him Frosty….