Wednesday, July 23, 2014

For Love Of

Not Bubba, not Tom, not Carroll Junior

It’s difficult to take anything seriously in life, myself especially; how could I read the news and still take myself seriously. A long-retired Episcopal priest with a Lutheran education, I have no idea WTH I’m talking about, nor does anybody else have any idea what I’m talking about, including sometimes I climb into the pulpit figuring nobody will get it, self included. My idea of a good time anymore is not to paint the town red but a glass and a box of red wine facetiously marked “shiraz” and “Australia” and a package of delicioso cheddar cheese that my Belovedy brought me from Trader Joe’s. Oh, and a clock that says it’s five o’clock somewhere, anywhere. Speak, clock, ve haf vays to make you tock, say "five," say it. Night out on the town? Couldn’t care less about it. Why? When you live in paradise, why --- what I've got in mind ...

One glass, one only. Preferable to a box of it would be an unopened bottle of Australian shiraz, aged, maybe Wolf Blass, or a Durif, darker than dark, bring out the ladder, climb up, it's that one in the corner, pick it from the top shelf of the open-air pub in Adelaide, whoof the dust off because it’s been up there for years, and where’s the corkscrew -- but I’m good. Sniff: so's the cork. Darker than any plum. Forty years ago, BTDT, a Biblical long time, but I’m good. 

MLP, My Laughing Place, what about it? My haven against the warps of life. Has been and is. Of the women in my early life, before age fifteen let’s say, deeply beloved was Mom, my paternal grandmother Mom. Does anyone but me know how much little boys love their grandmother! At last the story can be told. She had my heart, and I always felt I was the most special to her. Mom with her dress and apron, always the apron. One of her movements was drying her hands on the apron. Did that house have running water, or wasn't there a hand pump in the kitchen and always there beside it a pitcher of water to prime it --

From what has been going on this past week or so, with the developing Story of Alfred, I think I had Mom’s heart too. I wonder this morning how she might feel had she known that ninety-six years on, the Story of Alfred would still bring heartache to a boy who loved her? She told me the story over and over again, at my insistence as a small boy. I was loving the stories, how was Mom feeling, constantly reminded, "Mom! tell me about Alfred!" and she would. I never thought about how she was feeling, small boys are like that. It was less than twenty years after, how was she feeling? As if it was ever far from her mind. I hope she loved telling about as much as I loved hearing about. 

Reading the story again now, and remembering, and writing about, has sent me to MLP many times in the past few days, mentally and physically, because it's not possible to tell a story and stay out of it, to tell a story you have to go there, be there. Be inside, you can't remember and tell a story from the outside. Like those cars in the garage of my mind, peering in the window isn't enough, now and then, from time to time I have to go sit in one, start it up, take a ride across the heavens. MLP, what’s that? My Laughing Place, as Brer Rabbit said, everybody's got one. It’s not really for laughing though, although like Brer Rabbit I suppose one could laugh there, maybe so someday. But I haven’t, not yet. An open-air cave beside the sea, in shock, I spent hours there the excruciating evening Norman died until God showed up. Or until I realized who/what had been standing beside all along. July 12, 2012 the evening Bill died, I was so enraged at God that it yet abides like a rumbling volcano, fury barely beneath the surface. My refuge, MLP. Who knows what anger lurks in the heart of a priest? De Shadow do.  

For storms, in life and at sea, and the incompetence of human bravado, I leave the anger to my grandfather, Pop, A. D. Weller, the boy’s father. No one deserves to see their son’s casket carried to the train for transport to the grave beside a sister he never knew. Pop can be angry at Captain Caton for incompetence: only a fool tries to bluff an angry sea. My feelings are not anger but other, sadness a century on. Caton also died that night, and MLP is the place again. If Mom had known that in 2014 minus 1918 = 96 years the grandson who loved her so dearly would be reading and rehearsing again the Story of Alfred and seeking refuge at MLP would she have been comforted? I remember Mom. She might have looked at me and thought I should have been given another name in honor. I think so too.

Here’s what I remember. I am maybe three years old, maybe four no older than four, but I could be two years old, I reckon. It’s 1938, maybe 1939, eh? 1937, maybe, I don’t know. Regardless, it’s wee hours. My father has brought me, only me, with him from Pensacola where we left my mother and maybe my sister with my Gentry grandparents, my mother’s parents. If Gina was there, it was 1938 or early 1939. We drive through the night from 1317 E. Strong Street, East Hill to St. Andrews, Florida. Along the coast. There is no burning glow over the horizon from German U-boats torpedoing ships, because the war is still two or three years away and those dead people are still alive. My name is Bubba, I doze in the car, a 1935 Chevrolet coach. I knew the car would show up in the memory, there's always a car.  Yep, that's it

except ours had WSW tires and yellow spoke wheels. We do not go to our house but to Mom’s house, to Mom and Pop’s house on Baker Court because my father has to go to work in the morning. It’s not 2308, not this house that was Alfred’s house, but the house where Mom and Pop lived ten years later when they moved back to St. Andrews after all. Why did they move back, and why after all? Because you cannot run away from your heart, or walk away. 

My father opens the front door and we go inside. Even at this age I notice that the door isn’t locked, why, why isn’t the front door locked? Because they didn’t do that, this is not now, this is then, before. My mother, and in her family, they lock the door, but not here in old time St. Andrews, just as Donald and Sybil Totman never locked the door in old Apalachicola which held on another half century. 

We go inside, my father puts me in the large double bed in the front bedroom and off I go. Morning comes, I wake and my father is gone, to work. Perfectly at home, in a place where little boys are deeply loved, I get up and toddle into the kitchen. Mom is making -- what? I don’t remember, but there she is at the kerosene stove. Simultaneously she sees me and I hug her tight around the legs. She says, “I thought I heard someone come in the front door last night.”

Pop has gone to work too. His 1937 Chevrolet in the garage out back, as usual, because that's his "Sunday car," he's gone in his work car, the Plymouth. With the huge circular speedometer in the center of the dashboard --

Boys remember strangely. I am a boy, with a boyhood ahead of me, yet to be lived: how did I get here, older than Pop?


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