A New Year Comes

Some things will never change, yet change is inevitable.

A paradox?

Perhaps not.

Time will keep on passing. Tomorrow night is proof of that as we see another new year ushered in with celebrations, parties, and merriment. That change, the one which the passage of time causes, is inevitable.

Yet still human beings continue to hate other human beings for a myriad of reasons. Wars are continually being fought, and innocent people continue to die.

The self righteous continue to congratulate themselves on always being right, and bristle with anger if challenged on their opinions.

Those things never change, and never will as long as humanity inhabits the earth.

A new year comes. It will be here soon, and there will be many, many changes before we see the earth circle the sun again.

In the meantime, let us at least try and mitigate and minimize those bad things which are going to stay the same. Those things which hurt and dehumanize all of us.

Seeking the Light

There has been very little light lately. Short days with gray filtered sunshine. Since we humans are creatures of light just like every other living thing, it gets a little rough on the spirit. I can understand why some mammals choose to hibernate. I wish I could do the same sometimes. Winter has always affected me this way.

After Christmas and New Years are over and done, I’m ready for spring and longer days. I’m ready for green grass that smells as sweet as honey. I’m ready for some different birds than the little sparrows who camp out in the woods behind our house. I like them too, and the cardinals. But spring brings so many different species to the bird feeder.

I know I shouldn’t wish away time. There is precious little of it accorded to us as residents of the Earth. Mine grows short. We should use it all wisely, no matter the season.

As we go into New Year’s Eve tomorrow night, I know there will be a lot of “resolutions” being made. The only one I’m going to make is to resolve to seek the light, no matter where it may be, no matter if it be physical or spiritual.

Seek the light, and I believe that only good can result.

The Passing of Many Things

I told one of my friends tonight that a lot of things are passing away, and it’s not just people.

Common decency has become archaic. It almost seems like it was left behind somewhere in the late twentieth century. Honor too. How many people do you know that you’d trust to honor their word, based on a handshake. (Or an elbow bump)

Humility…it has almost perished from malnourishment, and sympathy has taken a big hit. People are becoming numb to death and sickness and their “prayers for you” and praying hand emogees ring hollow.

Every night in my mind, I walk across a long barren landscape towards an oasis of love and light. I have not reached it yet, because I fall to sleep still walking, with salvation off in the distance. Still trudging along with atonement on the horizon.

Maybe one night I’ll make it there.

Being Sinatra

I was just listening to Frank Sinatra the other night. That man could really sing.I never really listened to Sinatra a lot before September of 1968. Before that time, I was an Elvis fan first. I like some other rockers too. Jerry Lee Lewis was another. I liked a lot of the other crooners besides Sinatra earlier on in my life too. Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, Perry Como and Andy Williams. I sang “White Christmas” every year at school from 1964 through 1967. I could do “Everybody Loves Somebody” and sound just like Dean Martin, I’ll guarantee it. Paula and I went on our one and only cruise back in 2011, and I went to nightly Karaoke on the ship and sang that song. The rest of the cruise, I had people coming up to me in the dining room and saying….”There’s ol’ Dino” Yep, I do a pretty good imitation of him. But Sinatra? I could never imitate him very well. I didn’t do it in High School because I had never listened to one of his albums before. Oh, I had heard him on the radio of course. “Strangers in the Night” was a hit song during 1966. It hit number 1 on the pop charts that year. His daughter also had a hit with “These Boots Were Made for Walking” in 1966. It seems that that was a good year for the Sinatra family. But Sinatra’s album “Watertown” which came out in 1970, only sold 30,000 copies. He just sort of retired from recording new stuff after that. He got dissatisfied with the way his voice sounded and although he performed in Vegas, things were never the same.I only discovered how much I loved his earlier music in that early fall of 1968. That’s the month I started to college at West Georgia College in Carrollton. West Georgia still had a real “small college” feel back in 1968, and I’m glad I went there. Another reason I’m glad I went to was because that’s where I met my future wife. But…back to Sinatra. My “assigned” roommate in Strozier Hall at West Georgia College, whose name was also Larry, was a real record collector. He brought his record collection, and his record player to college with him. I didn’t have squat besides the clothes in my closet, so I asked Larry if I could listen to his record player while he was gone to class. He told me it was ok, but “You might not like my taste in music” At first, I had to agree. There were no rock and roll records in his collection. No Elvis, no Beatles, no Rolling Stones. There was Sinatra, Nancy Wilson and Deon Warwick. There were about 6 Sinatra records, and his record player held five albums at a time, so I took Sinatra. It was a good choice. The albums were all from the fifties and early sixties…up to that 1966 album from which “Strangers in the Night” came. There was Cole Porter songs like “I’ve Got You Under my Skin” and there were songs from movies like “Three Coins in the Fountain” There were the greats: “Come Fly with Me”, “The Days of Wine and Roses”, “Fly Me to the Moon”, “The Lady is a Tramp”, “That’s Life”, and my favorite of all of his songs “It Was a Very Good Year”. My next to favorite was the oft recorded Paul Anka song “My Way” I think he is best remembered for that song, but I liked “very good year” the best. It hit me the first time I heard it, and it still does the same to me after all of these years. He had a great hit song in the seventies with “New York, New York,” too. That was in 1979, and Sinatra is remembered best for that song, even though it came from a Liza Minelli movie. All of those records that my roommate brought with him to college changed my tastes in music. I went on to listen to just about every album he had brought. I got to like Patti Page and Doris Day. I listened to Rosemary Clooney and Eartha Kitt. I took the measure of Billy Vaughn and Burt Bacharach. If not for those albums, I’d have never loved music as completely as I do and would have missed a lot of good moments in the history of music. Larry and I were roommates for that entire year, and after that year I married my permanent roommate! I do still love Sinatra though, and I’m glad for YouTube so I can dial up the old hits from time to time. I grew to even like Nancy Wilson too. Larry said I would…..

Singing Christmas

I was thinking today about a Christmas Cantata we did quite a few years back entitled “Old Fashioned Christmas”. It was back when I was still a member in good standing at the TFBC in Trion. I can’t remember the year…maybe 1999 or so? I know someone would remember, but it’s not that important. The important thing was the people involved.

You see, I wasn’t always such a pariah. At some points in my past I was an acceptable member.

But ahh, the wonderful people.

We’d begin to rehearse musicals like these at some point in October most of the time. Wednesday nights after prayer service we’d gather and pass out the booklet of Music. This one musical always sticks in my mind. I think maybe it’s because we did it twice in the space of five or six years.

An “Old Fashioned Christmas” about a young lady disenchanted with the way a Christmas is conducted nowadays wants to go back to the good old days of the 1890’s, and the wonderful Christmases they had back then.

But, it was the people who were there at that time, in that place, who made the event special. They were all people I loved, and almost all are gone now.

Mr. Tip sang the deepest bass you ever heard and beside him was Eldred Barrett. Rev. Richardson filled out that low side. Then there was my brother Mike, me and…the first time we did it, I think Johnny Brimer was there, and by the second time my son Ted. It’s tough remembering everyone.

Mrs Yvonne Barrett, and Eldred’s two sisters. Ruth Locklear, and Ruth Collette. Marilyn, Carol, Myra, and some of us other “younger” ones. Myra was one I always had to keep in line (ha) It was always so much fun giving her a hard time because she gave me just as hard a time as I did her! All in good fun.

Norman’s wife Carolyn was on the organ, Ann McCollum as always was there to play piano….ever faithful, always willing to go over and over a part that we just couldn’t quite get. I winged it most of the time anyway, alternating between the tenor part, and harmonizing with the sopranos in some weird harmonies that sounded good, but definitely weren’t in the music. I couldn’t read a note, but you’d have never have known.

Jim Sprayberry ran the sound system. Ted helped him for a lot of years.

There were others I can’t remember right now. Wonderful people with good hearts. That’s what made it fun. It made it seasonal. It made it Christmas for me. The big night of the performance (or day sometimes) we would all sing our hearts out, and “leave it on the stage”

I loved that musical. I wish we’d had film back then as convenient as now to record those musicals. I miss them.

I miss Mom and Dad out in the audience, along with many others from their generation who would come by afterwards and pat you on the shoulder and say “nice job”. Few are left and they are passing on so quickly.

For many, many years that was the highlight of the Christmas season. From about 1975 until 2009.

The people. It’s always the people. Your family. Your friends. The times that you have that you think will go on and on. But they don’t and that’s just the rub, isn’t it.

In any case, all of you folks out there who are singing in a Christmas musical, or caroling, or just humming a song to yourself, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Old Christmas Memories

As I have said before, we spent a half of a school year in 1960 at my Grandparent’s house in Blue Ridge because Mom was sick. I was enrolled in school there for almost half the year, which including the Christmas vacation for that year.
My Grandparent’s residence was a desolate place back then. It was the very last occupied house on Snake nation road at that time. A rough, ragged, rocky, muddy when it rained, and creek crossed road which took about 30 minutes to traverse from the turn off at the cemetery, to their modest gray wooded little two story house. Grandpa’s eight to ten bee hives stood like the sentinels of Stonehenge out in front of their house on top of huge flat rocks Grandpa had dragged up there on a wood sledge. I can imagine that their construction probably resembled in miniature that wonder of the English countryside, because the hill leading from the road to Grandpa’s house was extremely steep. A lot of times when it was wet and muddy my Dad had to get a strong running start from Snake nation road before he turned into Grandpa’s driveway and then as soon as he turned left, he had to gun the gas as hard as possible to try and make the curve up the hill to the tiny parking space in front of the house. Sometimes we just didn’t make it. The tires might have been a little too worn, or the mud a little too thick. We would end up having to park down below the beehives out in the high grass and grab our suitcases and trek up the hill, trying our best not to slip and fall flat on our faces.
But, this year my Mom, my brother and I were already there, and it was for Daddy alone we waited on the day before Christmas Eve. I heard his car first and went and stood out front, next to the porch. He came around the curve which was just in eyesight across the road from “Uncle Lark’s driveway. Lark Davenport’s was my Grandpa’s Uncle…his Mother’s brother and his farm sat across Long Branch creek from Grandpa’s house. The only way to get over there in a hurry was to walk the narrow little half log bridges that the two men had laid down across the fast running little creek in order to access each other’s house if the need arose. It rarely ever arose, but the logs were there just in case.
Daddy drove up the driveway and into Grandpa’s little parking space without any problems that day since it was dry…cold, but dry. It seemed like it was always cold in Blue Ridge that time of the year not matter what was happening elsewhere. We were in the “mountains” of Georgia…..the foothills of the Smokey Mountains which lay not too many miles away across the border into North Carolina.
I hugged my Dad, and my brother ran up to him and Daddy picked him up. Mom didn’t have much to say…things still very unsettled between them.
Grandma and I had been the ones to get the little Christmas tree a few days earlier. We had gone out into the woods and hiked around for quite a while, and found just a little old pine tree that looked nice. Grandma cut it down with the hatchet she had brought with her, and we took it back and Mike and I helped her decorate it. It was about the size of Charlie Brown’s little tree and Grandma had put it up on a table so that the lights could be seen…that one string of lights that she owned. There were maybe a dozen ornaments on it. It looked wonderful to me…as beautiful as any Christmas tree before or since. Grandma also hung our stocking from their mantle, on the far ends away from where the vent from the stove was. There were candy canes hanging around also, giving the old house a festive and fabulous look.
We always slept upstairs in the old house. Since the only source of heat in the house was a potbellied wood stove in the “living room” downstairs. During the cold Christmas weather we slept under 5 or six quilts upstairs. It was one of those situations where when you got warm, you didn’t move out of your “spot” If you moved over a foot, you would have to warm up that spot all over again. Most of the time you could see the fog from your breath, if you had your head out from under the covers. This was how we bedded down on Christmas Eve that year.
I never slept well on Christmas Eve. I always listened for Santa, but never quite heard him. Grandpa would always go “ho, ho ho” a couple of times, but I always knew it was him. He wasn’t fooling me. I heard the trunk of a car slam shut after we had been in bed an hour or so….then drifted off into a light sleep.
I heard Grandpa stoking up the potbelly stove about 5 am, and I waited the required 30 minutes or so until I knew the downstairs would be warm before I woke my brother up and we went running downstairs. All the grownups were already up and having coffee. Grandma already had biscuits in the oven, and we know that a delicious breakfast would soon be coming. Under the tree there were presents! In our stockings there was a plethora of oranges, apples, nuts, peppermint and other great hard candies. We could have our stockings but had to wait until after breakfast to tear into our presents.
We had three presents a piece from Santa, and one from Grandma and Grandpa. Four presents. In this day and age that would seem skimpy, but back then it seemed like more than enough. We place so much emphasis now on the number of gifts given, instead of the number of gifts given in love. There’s a big difference. I despise the TV commercial they have on nowadays with a woman called the “Gifter” whose only goal is to out give everyone else. That tells you where our society has gone.
This was the year I got a telescope, and Mike and I both got a “friction” stagecoach which shot sparks out the back when you revved it up. I also got a plastic “pinball machine” where you shot the balls up into the machine and see whether you get them to land in the highest number “slots”. I think I played that thing pretty much all day long that day. Grandma and Grandpa gave us some clothes of some kind, and I got a couple of new comic books. It was good…no, it was great.
Later on that day, the Uncles and Aunts, and numerous cousins came for dinner. Grandma’s little house was crowded to the gills. A lot of us ate dinner sitting out in the living room or even on the front porch. My cousins and I would find something to play or do after dinner. The food was nothing grand. I don’t remember if we had Turkey or roast beef. It really didn’t matter because Grandma could make anything taste good. I think later on that winter, we got iced and snowed in for over a week or so out there at the end of that old road. Grandpa had to shoot Robins for us to eat. They were delicious. When you’re hungry, I guess anything tastes good!
The air seemed to be filled with good will, good feelings and love that year. Later on, early in the spring we moved back home to Trion. Mom had gotten better, and our lives went back to normal…as normal as it could be in our family anyway. We continued to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house pretty much every Christmas after that. Even after my wife and I married in 1969, we continued to make an annual Christmas trek to “the mountains” Certainly, even now when Christmas rolls around, I think of those days. The camaraderie, the food, the love that we all had for one another. Those were great Christmases, as are the ones we have now with all of our children and grandchildren. The common factor is family…and love, and remembering what Christmas is all about, not the presents, not the food or the games. It’s all about the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas everyone.

Caution and a Big old slice of good luck

I am a very cautious person. It’s one of the main reasons I’m still around. Caution, and a big old slice of good luck pie.

I learned to drive when I was 15. When I turned sixteen, my Dad told me to drive down to the triangle and get a loaf of bread from Hurley’s grocery store.

I drove at 35 mph down there, plunked down .59 cents for a loaf of sunbeam, got back in Dad’s little green Ford Fairlane, and promptly backed square center into one of those stinking huge light poles that they surrounded with two tons of cement.

I drove 25 mph on the way back home…

It was another 3 or 4 months before Dad let me take the car out again. I drove about 2.3 miles to the house of a girl I wanted to date. I was shy, and awkward as hell. I couldn’t think of things to say conversation wise, so I drug out my guitar and sang to her. It was kind of embarrassing and I’m sure a little strange.

Doubly so, because I flooded the car out when I started to leave, and then when I pulled out of the driveway I accidentally pushed the accelerator down too hard and “dug out” of the driveway. I did make it home safely. From that point on, my driving skills improved, and I can say without a doubt that since then I have logged hundreds of thousands of miles. Mostly cautious miles.

Since I got blackballed at the old local industrial complex, I ended up living in Trion and commuting out and back to work in various cities for about 38 years.

I worked for five years selling medical supplies all over North Georgia. My territory was huge. I put in 150 miles a day most days east….it was a great job the first three years, but not so great the last two. I had a lot of close calls those years, but lucked out and had no accidents. I did however, not latch one of the side panel doors one the supply truck one day before I took off to Calhoun. I don’t know when it flew straight out. I didn’t notice I was spilling bandaids and antibiotic ointment all over the roadway on 136. I only noticed when I turned right on River street and sheared the door off on a telephone pole. That was a hard one to explain to the boss. I was able to backtrack towards Trion, and I ended up finding most of the supplies.

I went to work for Big B Home Health care, and they gave me a new van with their logo on the side. I got to drive it out and back to Rome every day because I was on call 24-7 to deliver Oxygen and O2 supplies to people who needed them. I came home one day and parked it in my steep driveway on ninth street. I was in a hurry, and forgot to put on the parking brakes. I looked out a few minutes later, and the van had jumped out of gear and had rolled down the driveway, across ninth street and jumped the curb across the street and rolled 30 more feet into my across the street neighbors back yard, right next to the back alley. Nary a scratch did it have. Looked like I had just parked it there. I went over and drove it out the back alley and back into my driveway. This time I set the parking brakes.

Like I said, caution is the key….along with a big old slice of luck pie.

The Smell of Cedar

I would like to do as we used to do when I was young and unknowing. Go off into the woods and saw down an old cedar tree and bring it into the house and decorate it.

Most of the time we’d go to Mr. Kellet’s farm, where we bought milk, and he’d let us cut one. Back when I was very young, eight or nine. The smell of those trees haunts my memory now, just as the happiness and innocence also haunts me. I knew nothing then of the world beyond my doorstep. I didn’t realize the terrible things going on out of my little inner circle.

But, they were out there. Not as obtrusive and as evident as they are to me now in this 67th year. But there nonetheless.

I watched my three little ones in their innocence and happiness this morning, and I wondered how life will play out for them. I’ll only be here for a portion of that, but I’m concerned. I know the things I have seen since my time as a child in the fifties as compared to today. Such a vast change. Such a different world. A sandpaper world now compared to my smooth white paper one.

Of all the unknown quantities which lay ahead for them, I cannot even guess. All I can do is love them, hold them, and let them know they are cherished now. So loved. Perhaps if they are able to retain some of those memories in the future, it will give them strength.

Just as I went down in the woods today to a spot where a little cedar tree was growing and put my face close to it and breathed in deeply…and momentarily was comforted. All would be right, all would be alright. Just for a moment.

Blue Ridge Memories

The thunder is rolling outside. That’s the kind of thing I really don’t mind as long as the weather is not severe. I kind of appreciate the reminder from nature of how powerful she can be.

I used to sit out on my Grandparents front porch in Blue Ridge in their old chain link swing hung from the rafters of the porch and listen to the thunder and feel the rain coming in over the railings. I’d get Grandma to let me have an old quilt, and I’d pull it up over my head and block out the rain, and just keep on swinging. It was comforting. Their entire place was comforting and soothing to me. I wandered hundreds of miles over the years up there, back through the woods behind their house, and up the trails of the mountain across the creek from their house. I’d stay gone for hours. Looking back now, I’m surprised they weren’t concerned. Back when I was young my grandmother could holler loud enough so that the sound would echo out and back, and round and round that little valley. I could hear her, and I’d “halooo “ back. They knew I wasn’t laying around dead somewhere thataway.

Winter was my favorite time to get out and stay gone and explore. The winter after we moved from Simmons street to Eighth Street I was twelve, and while we were making our annual visit to the old folks house, I decided to go to the top of “Johnny” mountain. I told my folks I’d be back, and I took off.

I crossed over the little log bridge, which spanned the fast running little creek that never ran out of water that led to my Grandpa’s Uncles land. There was a wide trail behind his house that led up the mountain. The first half hour was pretty easy going, and pretty clear. The men who lived around there had been deer hunting there for years. After that, the going was harder. It was much steeper, and very rocky. I came to one little clearing that looked out across the way towards my grandparents house, and I was surprised how far away it was. Seemed like one of those houses off in the distance in one of those Swiss landscape pictures. All of that, and as I looked up all I could see were steeper climbs with more and bigger rocks. I sat on a tree covered ledge, breathing hard and tried to decide what to do.

I started down the mountain, and by the time I popped out behind my great Uncle’s house, I was worn out, and was crying. I don’t really know why…or at least I didn’t then. Thinking back I believe it was a combination of things. Moving from a familiar neighborhood to a new home, turning twelve that October and feeling the first stirrings of no longer being a boy, feeling unsure of what lay ahead for me. Already trying to puzzle out my relationship to the world and the Universe around me.

I had a kind of “flashback” today as I went to pick my granddaughter up from school. A kind of feeling of nostalgia for not just the “old days” but for that one day in particular 57 years ago almost to the day. I wished I had gone on to the top of Johnny mountain. I wished I’d had the resolve and bravery to do it. Instead I took the safe route. I took the way back home. I’ve been pretty much doing it my entire life now.

I wonder what was on the other side? I wonder now what’s on the other side of the mountain I’ve been climbing ever since then?

Remembering Mom

Tommorow is the eleventh anniversary of my Mom’s death. It was sort of “in the middle” of a year which vastly changed my life.

Remembering back over all the Christmases which I had with Mom and Dad, I always remember the times our family had on Christmas Eve over at “Tarp and Evie’s house” Great times of laughter and joy. Wondering who would get the “girly” underwear for the year. Dad’s unique laugh, and Mom’s tasty goodies. Gosh, I miss them.

Guess it’s a forgone conclusion to say in the most humble of warnings to all my friend and loved ones out there, enjoy your family, friends and loved ones while they are here.

This life is a one time on way trip and our ticket has already been punched and we are well on our way. No telling what stop we’ll get off of, and then the train moves on down the track without us. Just make sure and make wonderful memories.

I have a lot of those of Mom and Dad and even though they are getting a little fuzzy after over a decade, they are still enough for me to realize that they were here, they loved their family, and they were decent human beings.