Thoughts from deep within – a number on a page

I believe when I first became conscious of being an individual human being, and of having a responsibility to become “something” to the world….something of consequence, I was very afraid. I was not even a teenager when I first had these thoughts. “What will I be?” “What will I do?”

I wasn’t obsessive about it, just concerned.

I dabbled around with music. I have played guitar and sang. I sang at schools and churches. I sang and played at functions, at skating rinks and at dances. But, I never became a “singer” for a living, or a writer. I tried, but I couldn’t quite get it done. I couldn’t drive the nail into the center of the board. I couldn’t quite close the deal. I wasn’t in the right place at the right time. Lord, I wish there had been a “Voice” or an “American Idol” show around in the seventies, or even the early eighties. I’d have sure tried to get on. I’m not sure if I would have gotten in, but I’d have tried.

I thought about sports too. Baseball mostly. I had some talent there, and just didn’t pursue it past my teenage years. I became enamored of golf, and although I never was nearly as “good” at that game as I had been at baseball, it suited my goofball nature better than baseball.

I thought about these things this morning while I was sitting on the couch, drinking a cup of coffee and looking over my “” account. If you have ever dabbled with that site, I don’t have to explain what it’s all about. It’s a place where you can plug your name and some dates into a spreadsheet of sorts and from there you plunge headlong into your ancestral past. I’ve been playing with it for a long time now. I’ve traced ancestors from my Dad and Mom all the way back to nearly the Middle Ages. It’s amazing how the information has evolved over the years since I first started meddling with it. I have found everything from Civil war soldiers to ancestors who were on the Mayflower, to Kings of England. Most of my ancestors are more mundane, however. Farmers, mill workers, lumberjacks and jacks of all trades. I was working on some clues for one of my ancestors who was born in 1840 and died in 1907, when it hit me. That’s the same exact number of years I have been on this earth. Then the rush of time hit me hard in the face, like a tractor trailer going seventy five. The lifetime of that particular ancestor of mine is my lifetime. My years. My current number.

I wondered what their dreams were when they were 12, or 15 or 18. I wondered what their goals for their life had been. I wondered if they had achieved them. I cried in my coffee because all this time I have been looking at these ancestors, it has been from a cold, impersonal and technical way. It’s been purely from an informational standpoint, and never from a human relations one. They were not, and are not just a name and some numbers on a page. They were people. People who lived and died, loved and cried, built and tore down, sang and danced, worked and played. People who did everything I have done, and will do. Just in a different setting and a different format.

I wonder if someday there will be a man or a woman sitting around and looking at the research which I have done on this site and thinking: “What the hell was he thinking?”

I hope perhaps instead, that the memories I have tried to instill in those loved ones around me will be remembered, as my Grandma used to say, “until I pass out of memory” Once that happens, I’ll be just like my dear relative who lived 67 years, during the Civil War and much strife and pain in this country…..I’ll be just a name and a number on a page somewhere, or on a stone perhaps.

Random Memories

Warning…long post…

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….

Circa 1972….

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.

Circa 1970….

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.

Circa 1962

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.

Circa 1958….

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….

Somewhere Over my Rainbow

“Someday I’ll wish upon a star, and wake up where the clouds are far behind me”. Yip Harburg

Judy Garland sang “Over the Rainbow” in the movie “Wizard of Oz”. She was the first person I ever saw sing the song on TV. I was probably nine years old. That would have made it 1959. I believe it was broadcast every year, once a year for many years after that.

I’d heard my Dad sing the song….probably had heard it on the radio before 1959, but I wasn’t prepared for the movie, or for Judy Garland’s version. I fell in love with the movie, and the song on that Fall night in 1959, and I’ve never stopped loving it. But it’s that one line I quoted above that is my favorite.

I’ve wished upon a star many times, for many things. I can’t remember ever getting anything I wished for. All my wishes were the pie in the sky, far flung dreams of a kid.

I should have wished for a great family when I grew up. I’d have gotten that. I should have wished to grow up in the greatest era in American history. I’d have gotten that also.

This year when I watch Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life” I’ll have to agree with him that the most important things in life are the things we often take for granted. It’s not the one great and wonderful, momentous day that counts, but the thousands of “ordinary” days that really truly count. All of those days with their wonderful and sometimes bittersweet script. Laughter and tears. Joy and sorrows. Napping with the babies in your arms, all the school activities,the birthday parties, the holiday celebrations…and yet also the days you just sat around and read a book, or watched movies all day. Life, and living life. It differs a little from person to person, but it’s mostly always the same formula.

All so that when that day comes when we get our fondest wish, and wake up where the clouds are far, far behind us, we won’t have any regrets that we didn’t live life to the “fullest”. As long as we’ve lived it to the best of our abilities, with mostly love and kindest, then we surely won’t have any regrets.

Being Thankful in Chaotic Times

Do you think we have things to be thankful for during our current times? The Pandemic is decimating our country. Political divisions have made enemies of lifelong friends, and have torn families asunder. The affects on all of us are real, and have left many of us anxiety filled, angry, misunderstood, and searching for answers. My answer for myself tonight, at this time, and in this place, is to search my heart to see what is still there. Am I capable of love, compassion, forgiveness and contrition? I have been thankful….I am still.

I’m very thankful for my family…my wife, children, grandchildren. My Mom and Dad, my brother. (And all of my other loved ones who are connected to the ones I have just named. I could name them all, but they know who they are! ) I believe my one major goal in life, starting way back when I was a teenager, was to have a family and to do the very best I could to be a good Father. I could have chosen baseball, or golf, or music, or a career of some other sort to be my main life goal…but I had a different scenario in mind.

I am thankful for being able to experience so many fulfilling things through my wonderful, supportive family. I give thanks, or course, for all of the other things most everyone else does. Life and a chance to live it. Thankful for modern medicine, it saved my life. Hopeful that this same scientific community can save us from our current critical medical crisis. Thankful for the advances in technology, which allows me to communicate with you! Thankful for so, so many little things: running water, books, refrigeration, friends, classmates, prescriptions, underwear, automobiles, you name it, and I’m probably thankful for it.

I am thankful for music and the influence it has had on my life. I haven’t been a “commercial” success like I thought I wanted to be, but I have enjoyed the love of music just for the sake of its beauty and the satisfaction it gives me to “make” it and to listen to it. Thankful for guitars too! I am thankful for growing up in the small town of Trion, Georgia. I am so thankful that I went to school with the people who were my classmates. That small group are like brothers and sisters to me. All of us went through so many things together. Butt whooping’s, schoolyard fights, proms, dances, football season, band, term papers, tests, Ms. Roberts, Mr. West, playing basketball in the old gym, eating at the “Y”, having plays in the old theatre, fishing in the river, sneaking out of class, loving each other, and hating each other (sometimes, but not for long) Although we have diverged in many cases on our personal philosophies, I hope that we can still love each other.

Living in a small town meant being able to walk from one side of it to the other without having to take food and water to survive. It meant spending the night at your best friend’s house so much that their parents threatened to claim you on their tax returns. It meant playing “pick up” baseball every day during the summer, and “choose up” football every day during the winter. It meant watching the river flood our beloved school to the point of uselessness. It meant the Skating rink, and the one theatre in the Country were all the places you had to go for “proper” entertainment. It meant knowing which guys had the most “bad ass” cars in town. I’m thankful I got to play baseball and then golf. I had two or three of the best coaches a boy could have in Dugan Peace, Jesse Emory, and J.W. Greenwood. J.W. taught me that it’s better to be lucky than good any day. Ha! It was good, and I am thankful for all of it.

I am thankful I got to go to college for five years, and although I didn’t finish, the knowledge I received has served me well. I went to both West Georgia College and the University of Georgia. I am thankful I met my future wife there, and very thankful she decided she wanted to spend time with me. (And still is, up to 51 years now!) I am not proud that I didn’t graduate. It’s been a thorn which I and nobody else, put in my side and has stayed there for almost 46 years now. But, I am thankful it still pricks me at times when I start something and I am tempted not to finish it. It has helped me finish a lot of things I would have not have, otherwise. It helped me to encourage all of my children to finish…which they all did pretty much on their own without much help from me at all!

I’m thankful I took Typing II in High School instead of Shop. I made a lot of money typing College papers for other people, and learned about as much from that as I did from my classes. It also helped tremendously my ability to edit for incorrect grammar and spelling. Makes it easy to write these epistles on Facebook too!I am also thankful for some of the things which I have experienced in life, for which others may think to be a little odd. I experienced the death of my first child, and though it was heart wrenching, I am thankful for her, and the fact that she lived and she was ours…mine and Paula’s. She paved the way for our other children and a deeper appreciation of them for me, than I might have otherwise had. I looked at them many times and thought of her and was extremely thankful that I had three other chances to be a Father. (For as I have previously said…I think it’s my purpose in life) Her death prepared me at a very young age for the realities of life, that bad things happen and you must overcome them lest they overcome you. I am thankful that even after 50 years I can still sit here and have tears fill my eyes when I think of her. It proves to me I’m still human.

I am thankful I had some hard, manual labor jobs at the beginning of my working career. They made me determined to look for better ways to make a living. They (along with my wife) shook me out of a rut I was in and might have stayed in, and gave me impetus to go on to better things. I am thankful that I eventually found some very good people for whom I enjoyed working. I am thankful for the people I worked with, both good and bad. The good ones confirmed my philosophy that there ARE more good people than bad in this world, and the bad ones helped build my character to withstand and persevere against things which are wrong, and to have some ethics in life. I am thankful for the very hard and nerve wracking battles I had against unethical peers, who only cared for themselves and not others…who only cared for the numbers and the money, and not the people, and that most of the time I won…though not always, and sometimes at a heavy personal and financial cost. Those battles steeled me, and cemented my philosophy for the rest of my life, that it is better to want to help people, be tolerant and acceptant of those who are different than me, to have an open mind towards ideas which were different than mine.

I am thankful that I have had enough financial resources to live life at a “good” level, though never at a “super-secure” level. (I am not anywhere near rich…and never will be) It has taught me that envy is never a good quality. It has taught me that some of the things I coveted turned out to be unnecessary, and that the wealthiest people are not always the happiest. It has taught me that I should have paid better attention in “Economics 101” at West Georgia. It has taught me to be innovative in order to survive, and to try and help others who have even less. (And there are many, many of those out there, believe me…I feel blessed for what I have in comparison to a lot of people in this country and in this world, especially in our current turmoil)Finally, I will end up by saying I am thankful that our Creator (and I do believe in one, although not in the same way as most of you) has allowed me to enjoy all these things and allows me to continue to be here and enjoy them.

My fervent wish and hope is that we all come through our current national turmoil and medical emergency with the attitude that we must…we must start communicating on a personal level again. Enough with the outlandish conspiracy theories. Enough with the unwarranted hatred of each other, which we are being baited by from politicians, pundits and false prophets! Enough. It’s time to once again be thankful for our lives and for one another and time to force the demagogues and dividers out for good. Start with an open mind, follow up with logic, and believe that it can be done. Be thankful we still have a chance….albeit a slim one, to save our world.