Grandpa Died Broke

When I was a kid, I used to sit out on my grandpa’s front porch with him a lot. It was a great view. He lived at the end of a dirt road, called “snake nation road”. There were a lotta snakes out there. I remember Grandpa killing a bunch of them. He had a long handled hoe that he kept the blade sharpened on, especially for that purpose. If he spotted a copperhead or a rattler, he’d corner it and down that hoe would come “whack”. Off with his head, like the Queen of Hearts would have said. But, all snakes aside, the view off the front porch of his old house was grand.

There was a fast creek just across the dirt road, where I’d often go spend hours catching crawfish and spring lizards. Just stand on the edge, or in the middle of the “crik” and turn over big rocks, and see what was underneath them hiding. You wouldn’t believe the size of some of those critters. But, back to the front porch sitting.

Grandpa would sit there in one of the rocking chairs, looking out at old “Johnny” mountain rising up in front of him, right behind Uncle Lark Davenport’s house. It was a beautiful little mountain back then. Grandpa had killed a lot of deer up there over the years. The antlers hung up on the upper rail of the front porch, along with some rattlesnake rattlers, and various other hunting souvenirs.

Every day at least once a day, Grandpa would get his wallet out of the upper pocket of his overalls, and proceed to count his money. Sometimes he’d have a good bit in there. He wasn’t planning on going anywhere and buying anything, he just liked to count his money. I always thought it was the Scots in him, as he was a pretty tight old man with a dollar. He once told me he “Didn’t want to die broke”.

As he got older, his memory went. I don’t know what type of dementia it was, but he couldn’t remember who he was, where he was, who anybody else was, and couldn’t put together a lucid sentence. Most of the time when we went to see him in the nursing home they put him in, he seemed happy to see us, but nothing he said made sense. It coulda been all the moonshine he’d drank over the years, or poor circulation. I don’t know. He didn’t have his wallet anymore in his overalls, didn’t have any money after a while either. Guess the nursing home got it. He ended up with nothing in the end. He lived to be 98 years old, and the last time I saw him he was in kidney failure, and dying. He died broke, but worse yet died without knowing that I still loved him. I told him, but he didn’t know what I was saying. Money was no longer an issue.

Occasionally, I think about that habit of his when I get my wallet out to see if there’s any cash there. Sometimes there is, sometimes not. I can assure you at this point, there’s never going to be much. But, I do have love. As I sat in the little swing out on our patio this afternoon with Evie and Ellie, and looked out at Lookout mountain, I realized I’m so rich I could never count how rich I really am. I’ve got a wonderful family….children, grandchildren…and even if I someday lose my memories, at least I will have had them. My grandfather never told me he loved me. Far as I can remember, I never heard him tell anyone that. That’s not the case with me.

The Early Years with Mom

My memories of my Mother start very early. I remember when we lived on 6th Street in Trion. It had to be before 1956, because we moved to a new house on Simmons street that year.

I remember in the hot summers, Mom would get the hose pipe and put the sprayer on the end of it, and turn it on “spray”….that fine setting where the water is almost a mist. She would spray that water for what seemed liked hours while I ran laughing out and back through it, imagining I was running through a giant waterfall, or a wall of water. She would let me help her put the sheets in the old washing machine, and then make me move back when she put the bleach into the clothes. I remember that smell as being something pleasant even til this day. We’d hang them out on the clothes line to dry. I never realized how young Mom was.

She was only 20 years old when I was born so she was really never much “older” than me. She would always get me a jar with a lid during the late summer evenings, and watch me as I ran around catching and filling that jar with lightning bugs. Mom didn’t work back then so she would sit around with me during the day and watch “Howdy Doody” and “Captain Kangaroo” on the tiny little TV we had….the one I remember had a screen about the size of today’s computer screen. You had to get up close to see the picture, but boy was the volume loud! I had oatmeal for breakfast most days…with raisins in it. A sandwich for lunch….usually peanut butter or bologna…sometimes fried. Then Mom would fix a big supper in the evenings for when Dad came home from work. A lot of potatoes and beans, cornbread or biscuits, and some meatloaf or fried chicken.

She was a good cook. She learned from my Grandma Stewart, who was the best cook ever. Mom wasn’t sick back then…not yet. She still smiled a lot, and laughed….things she didn’t do as much after the mental illness started creeping in on her and making her thoughts turn dark and turning the bright lights down to dim in her eyes. I’m surprised by those long ago things I can remember, because some days I can’t remember what I had for breakfast. I guess it’s just because Mom was happy…and I am fortunate to remember the days of her happiness.

What we need to do.

Hoping for change without doing something about it is useless. Our country is at a crossroads now and it’s hard to believe sometimes the way things have changed. I saw a discussion about how this country has become “hypersensitive” to many things. Take something as inane as the Ashton Kucher commercial with him playing a Ballywood producer. It was comedy, but quickly got pulled for the way he did the portrayal. Groundbreaking shows of years past, like “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons” would NEVER make it on TV nowadays. Their are all kinds of “police” groups out there now. Word police, race police, sex police, gender police, etc., etc. It’s hard to say anything publicly without worrying about it being “politically correct” We talk about how great things are in this country, but there are still very dark corners. We are so divisively split down the middle on so many issues, it almost seems like we are living in two different countries sometimes.

We want to publicly meddle in way too many private issues and tell people what to do about them. And I’m not talking about just the government, but other institutions and individuals also wanting to do the meddling and the telling, and the condemning. We need to find where the middle ground is, and RACE for it. We need to quit telling people how they MUST live their lives.

We need to stop being so stupidly sensitive about things which do not matter. We need to embrace our family relationships, and our friendships and give when help is needed, not matter if a person is of a different race, or sexual persuasion, or political party, or religious affiliation. Most of all we need to love each other regardless of these aforementioned differences in ourselves. I’m not sure if we can do it, but at least we can try.

The Currents of War

Every evening when I see the nightly news, I am deeply saddened and even shocked over the war which is being conducted in Ukraine by Russia under the leadership of Putin. I am incredulous at the loss of human life, comprised by Ukrainians who are mostly civilian. Watching rows of body bags being thrown into ditches and covered by dirt is infuriating as well as incredibly sad. Those bags contain someone’s Father, Mother, Grandparent, child, brother or sister, aunt or uncle. It may seem quite sanitized to see it in videos, or in photos, but to me it invokes the black and white images from a generation ago of the Nazi’s treatment of the Jews at the concentration camps all across Europe. During that war the entire world stepped up to combat those horrors…. although the United States was dragged into the war only because of the aggression of the Japanese at Pearl Harbor.

Now, we…. the United States of America, has the chance to defend another country in a situation which is as righteous as any I have seen in my lifetime. I cannot understand how politicians who voted to give President W. Bush the authority to wage an unrighteous war against Iraq, based on lies and innuendos, cannot now take the chance to defend another country which is being butchered by the Russians. Our current president was at the forefront of the authorization of then President Bush to go to war against Iraq. Thousands of civilians in Iraq were slaughtered by our military forces during that totally unnecessary and unrighteous war. Many hundreds were tortured and falsely imprisoned. Many lives of our soldiers were sacrificed in the sands of Iraq for the greed of a few politicians. We can never set that conflict right, but if we try, we can perhaps find some atonement for what we did then.

I realize we are pouring a lot of money into military aid for Ukraine. There have been billions authorized so far and the weapons are being sent there as fast as possible. I believe this has helped keep Russia from crushing Ukraine immediately. However, I don’t believe it will be enough in the long run. We will eventually be forced to directly confront Russia and Putin. I think we should do it sooner rather than later.

If I were a stone

If I were a stone of some type, I guess I would be a gravel. The kind they use in road paving, and to fill in mud holes. Utilitarian.

I could never be a gold nugget.

They are scarce and valuable. They are malleable and shapeable. They are extremely useful in so many things. Crowns of gold. Rings of gold that are used to bind promises of love.

Not a piece of silver.

A silver coin can lay in the ground for hundreds of years and then with a little polishing, can be as shiny as the day it was made. Silver is valuable. Circulateable.

Certainly never a diamond.

Shiny, hard and bright. A rare treasure. A stone to be cut and set in the most precious of objects. Jeweled scepters, and engagement rings for the stars.

No… Just gravel, with a coating of dust. Doing the job and getting it done. Filling the holes, paving the roads. Year after year.

I wouldn’t….I couldn’t, have it any other way.

My Requiem

To the night…sleep tight, all my loved ones and friends. Tomorrow we will find us a better day and maybe a better world. If not, let’s make the best of what we’ve got. Be kind to someone. Give if you can to those who have less than you. Hug and kiss your family. Love if you want to be loved.

And in your dreams tonight, may you find solace…and occasionally perhaps a glimpse of wisdom. You may find true love, conflict and maybe betrayal. You may dream the idea that changes the world, a new paradigm for a new age….but then awake, and forget it all. Dream well this night…

Most of all remember it is all temporary, it is time….our time. Use it wisely. As for me, perhaps I’ll take my own advice.

The way it was back then.

I thought about a lot of things today, I thought about how we are…our memories. Each of us a unique being with many shared experiences “remembered” differently.

Many days I’m flooded by those memories that belong to me, and I’m out of control and over emotional with the feel of them. Some days, they trickle in, and I am in better control of myself. Is anybody else like that? There are times I begin to write about times gone by, and I cannot finish. My train runs off of the track because tears….either of sorrow or of joy, blind me.

It becomes a bit messy and embarrassing sometimes.

As I rummaged through some old things today, and found some old writings of mine from school, I marveled at how far we have come since those days in the sixties.

I think about our old High School, and the fact that me and the people in my class were able to go to school in what was essentially a museum. We sat in old hardwood desks which still had the holes in the top where inkwells used to sit, so that the students could fill their pens from them. I’ve had some of those old ink jars over the years.

The old wooden floors in that school would creak and groan, as the bulk of students went out and back during classes. The old, huge windows had mechanisms inside them which assisted letting them up and down. Even the tile floors in the “new” wings of the school was the thick rubber vinyl stuff, which had to be coated in wax periodically, and buffed out in order to maintain them. I used to love that smell. I used to love the smell of the sanforized cloth that drifted across the Chattooga river from the mill and in through those big old windows. I used to love the clanking and banging of those old radiators during the cold winter months, as the steam poured into them.

In the first typing class I took, we all had the old “manual” typewriters, mainly Royals and Underwoods. Many, many times we would cross up, and hang up the keys during our exercises, and have to stop and untangle our mess. In my second year typing class we actually had a few new electric typewriters that plugged into the wall. Only the best students got to use those. I’m really thankful that Gary “Chocks” Clark talked me into taking that second year. It has been a gift through my entire life to have learned that skill. Many times I know I would not have “written” anything without that ability to “fly” over the keyboard. I’m sure a lot of people might wish I had taken shop instead.

We had the most unique and unusual gym in the state of Georgia in our town. It had an inside heated pool, a snack bar where you could get cooked little burgers and fries, and the best cokes. There was an upstairs basketball stadium…albeit quite small by today’s standards. We had a pool room, weight room, locker rooms, and various other sundry alcoves and inclusions. It had a movie theatre, and a staged theatre on one end also, although they closed those down very early along. I remember having our fifth year class reunion in that old gym in 1973, not long before they demolished it. What a wonderful place it was.

The most important and beautiful thing about those years, 1964 through 1968, were the people. Of course, I’m not going to sit here and say I loved everybody. That’d be a lie. However, for the most part, the people…my classmates and the “upper and underclass” students, were the lifeblood of the school in our little mill town. I wish I had time to go through and name each and every person with whom I remember going to school. I could do it if I had the time, or took the time, and could tell you a lot about some, but at least a little about most. Most of it would be good. Most of it would be joyful, some filled with a little regret….but, that’s the way of life itself, isn’t it?

I remember the ringing bells, the scurry of changing classes, the daily whispers….who’s dating who, who wants to go steady, who broke up today.

I remember the good teachers, the great teachers, and the ones….the very, very few…who didn’t like what they did, or who weren’t meant to be trying to do what they were doing. Those folks didn’t stay long, because our little school mainly attracted teachers who knew a good thing when they found it, and made a career in our school. I won’t try to name them all. Get out your annuals, and you’ll see their pictures. Mrs. Wingfield, Miss Bankey, Mrs. Myers, Mr. Jug Hayes, Mr. McCain, J.W. Greenwood, so many more. You’ll see yours too, my Facebook friends, because many of you were there. Many of you lived it with me. Many of you share these memories and those times. Most of us are still here, but some are gone.

It was pretty good, wasn’t it? Almost everything since then has also been good. As a whole, life’s been good to me.

Love you all.

The Pandemic

That’s What you get for Thinking. A Treatise on the Pandemic.

Back when I was a kid, I often had grand schemes that I would think up. Sometimes good ideas, sometimes a little “hair brained” Just when I thought things were going well, something would happen and the “grand” idea would fall through. When that happened, and I told my Daddy about it he’d just look at me and shake his head and say: “Well, that’s what you get for thinking” Honestly, he wasn’t getting on to me for thinking. It was more about counting my eggs before they hatched, or about being too arrogant or overconfident. I have that irritating trait in my nature and it occasionally overcomes my logical approach to things.

I thought I had a logical approach to the golden years of retirement.

I honestly thought my “golden years” were going to be filled with good times with my family, taking care of the grand kids, going to ballgames, dances, and school functions with the little grand-kids and their parents. I think being around the family and doing things with them was my ultimate goal. It was because of them that I came through four bypasses in 2010. At one point in the first couple of days, the pain was so bad I thought I just wanted to let go. But my wife and my kids….they gave me a reason to go on. I went through a long recovery and only started to really exercise, walk, and watch my weight in late 2004. I decided I wanted to live a few more years. Was that being selfish? I didn’t think so at the time. I was on Ancestry a lot during those years and I saw where a lot of my ancestors died young. Got to be about 60 years old and “BOOM” Gone. It was only through the work of the medical and scientific communities that they had a method by the time I needed it to “patch me up” enough to keep on living. I appreciate it so very much. I appreciate what those doctors and nurses did for me. I appreciate my family helping me hold on. I’m thankful to them all.

But…back to the “golden” years. I “thought” that things would go on as they always have. Work most of the year, maybe take a couple of weeks off….go on a vacation with the family. Be around the kids and help with them. Do my “trade day” thing every couple of weeks or so. Go out to eat at Logan’s or one of our other favorite spots on Saturdays. Cracker Barrel on Sunday. All that stuff. Ordinary stuff. To me it was just “every day” life. Taking that “every day” life for granted was a big mistake. Look at where we all are now. Not just us, me and the wife….but all of the Grandma and Grandpa’s out there who love their families and want to be with them, to see them and be around them. To love, and sometimes fuss over them. To live our lives “normally”. Normally….all of you my friends wanted that also, I know.

But now, there is no “normal” like that anymore. Only the new normal. The quarantine normal. The self-isolation normal. (and thank God for my wife who keeps me sane)

“Thought you were going to glide on through those golden years, huh?” I can hear Tarp Bowers’ voice in my head. “Well that’s what you get for thinking”. And….honestly, he’s right.

How did I dare assume that there would be an in place continued normal for humanity? What gall on my part! I’ve been warning people about stuff like this for years, and it turns out that I didn’t pay attention to my own warnings. “Mother Earth will get us back, “ I said. I never expected the nasty, evil stealth of this disease that has hit us though. I never expected anything which could separate human beings so totally from the natural tendency to be the social animals we have evolved into. A sickness that has never, ever been inside a human body before in the entire history of all humanity! An alien invasion not from outer space, but from within our own world.

Now, I look up at the window and talk to my granddaughters Evie and Ellie…and their Daddy, through a screen 10 ft away. I talk to my youngest son while he’s up on the deck and I’m way down below. I await “drive by’s” from my daughter and her family….my oldest son and his family. I haven’t seen my first granddaughter since Christmas. Watched my second granddaughter who’s graduating from college this year, get married via phone video. The new normal.

Yet, I am lucky. I am so, so very lucky. I can still do these things. I still have hope that our family unit will all get through these hard times all in one piece, so that we may come together….all together again.

Daddy used to look at me at times like these and say: “Alright, quit feeling sorry for yourself”. I’m not really….. Well maybe I am. Maybe we all are a little, and if so it’s really OK to feel that way. It’s just that this new normal is so damn abnormal for me. I’m hunkered down now and resigned to staying put for a long spell. I’m learning new things, and relearning old ones. I’m storing up hugs, tears, and love for the day I’ll be able to use them again. I hope and pray that it will be soon for all of us. God bless, stay home and stay safe.

Worth a Thought

Worth a thought?

…suppose the souls of all the women who were ever burned at the stake as witches, or for heresy, were to rise in anger from their graves and seek revenge on the descendants of those who murdered them or caused them to be killed?

…or if all of the ghosts of the Shamans and Elders, and the Chiefs of all the first people who lived in the Americas were to magically become zombies, like the ones in “the Walking Dead” and seek retribution for the diseases which decimated them, or the soldiers who cut down their woman and children left alone in their villages.

…imagine the fear which would fill the wind if the spirits of all the lynched slaves, all of the abused and tortured Africans and their children, could haunt the dreams of the offspring of those who caused that terrible and awful abuse.

..what if the Earth itself is silently plotting our demise because of all that we have done to harm her? The scars we have permanently left upon the land, and the species which no longer exist…many simply because they got in our way, or because we could easily exploit and manipulate them. Many died due to our greed.

why are we like this? At what point in human history did we decide that treating other humans as animals was ok, and that treating animals like dirt was our “right”, and that treating our home like it is disposable is even remotely wise? Why do those of us who do not want these things to be so, give power to those who have no remorse or conscience?

I believe that people who care about not letting the terrible things which have plagued our history happen again, should exercise our right to treat those who would do them as criminals and outcasts…. not as leaders. We don’t need destroyers as leaders, we don’t need the self-righteous as our teachers, we need builders of consensus and cooperation. We need people of compassion and love. We need healers.

Can we find them soon enough?

I look to the future generations and hope. I look to the babies who are crawling and toddling for wisdom. I dream of technology which is yet to come for assistance. My time remaining here is short, and my answer is that I am sorry that I have not done enough.

Many people say we should not worry about the deeds of our forefathers, what’s past is past, but every time I look out of my window into the deep woods behind my house, I hear the whispers in the wind, the soft crying in the breeze, the deep anger in the thunder and lightning, and I wonder if those people who want to forget about history are right or wrong.

Don’t Blink

When I refer to “don’t blink or you’ll miss it” the thing I am thinking about most is life itself. Living our lives.

When I was eight years old, I remember thinking for some reason about the turn of the century. The year 2000. I thought to myself “that’s a lifetime away”. I doubted I would ever live that long. Yet, I blinked…..and there it was. It had arrived in practically no time flat.

I remember thinking in the early 1980’s as I was cleaning up the huge pile of toys laying in the floor back in my three kid’s rooms “I’m gonna be doing this for a long time, because it’ll be forever before these three grow up”. But then I blinked…and they were all grown and moved out on their own, with wives and kids of their own (my grandchildren, who I must admit I love and enjoy more than anything”)

One blink ago I was four…that’s about as far back as I can remember, but at one time I WAS four and then I blinked…..and I’m 71. That’s all it took. Just turned my head and turned back around, and all that time was gone.

My life has been pretty darn good though. If I have regrets, which I do…they would be that I didn’t hug more people and tell them I loved them. What a huge mistake that was. My parents, my brother, my wife and kids and grandchildren. Aunts, Uncles, grandparents and cousins. In not doing enough of that one thing, I’ve probably been deficient. So many things could have been solved, or at least made better by saying “I love you” and giving someone a hug. But….life’s full of things we just “gotta” get done. In the end though, none of those things will have any importance at all.

Not many people will remember how great a worker we were, or how prompt we were getting somewhere, or how good a housekeeper we were. Oh, we will think about those things, but they won’t matter nearly as much as knowing we were loved by those who we loved.

Be careful to have all the really important things done, and don’t worry about what you have to do tomorrow, because you may blink and find your life has gone. That’s how fast life passes you by.