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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sleeping at Poppy and Granny's

I have  a lot of memories from times spent at my grandparent's house when I was a young child.  Several of them center on bedtime.  In the summer my grandparents slept in separate beds and I always slept with Granny.  She'd always tell me to make my mind completely empty and I would go to sleep.  That generally worked then.  It does not work these days though.

I remember she always smelled of lineament.  I think Poppy made it himself as he was an "herb doctor".  I remember it was white and was kept in a large bottle.  I don't know if it was any good but they both used it liberally.

When I would awaken of a morning I'd have "matter" in my eyes.  I don't know exactly what that is but during the night my eyelashes would become glued together and I'd have to rub them vigorously to be able to open my eyes.

In the winter we all slept in the "living room" where the pot bellied stove was located.  Not only did we all sleep in that room but all in the same bed.  Poppy on one side and Granny on the other with me in the middle with my head down at the foot of the bed.

Being winter, Poppy and I wore "long johns".  I can't remember for sure but I think the ones I wore had footies on them which was welcome as it got pretty cold at night.  At bedtime Poppy would let the fire burn down in the pot bellied stove then put fresh kindling wood in it to be ready for next morning's fire.  When morning came it was me who had to jump out of bed and rush over to the pot bellied stove and open the door, splash some coal oil (kerosene) on the kindling wood and throw a lit kitchen match in to get the fire going.  Once the kindling was burning well I'd put in a few small lumps of coal then slam that door closed and rush back to bed until it warmed up in there.

There is nothing as welcome as a warm bed on a cold morning.  Especially in the old houses where I grew up.  They had zero insulation so it was generally just as cold inside as it was outside (if not colder).  When we'd finally get out of bed (don't get the wrong idea, this was generally along about 6 AM) Granny would fire up the wood/coal burning cook stove in the kitchen and break the ice in the water bucket.  Between the kitchen stove and the pot bellied stove in the living room it kept that small house reasonably warm.  Relatively speaking I guess.

Goodness knows I would not want to have to do that now but those things one grew up with seemed perfectly normal at the time.  Nobody else around there had any better heating arrangement.  When I was older my parents and I always had electric blankets and those were absolute heaven in the winter as we had very little heat in the house otherwise.

Funny how such hardships seem like the "good old days" when looking back from decades in between then and now.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Obvious Truths

I was sitting here a few minutes ago waiting for the PC to finish booting up and looking at the desktop background I have of my youngest grandson when he was a little under one month old and one of those epiphanies (which should be an obvious truth) struck me.

I've always said all a parent can reasonably hope for his or her children is for them to be happy.  I had all those common hopes for my two girls:  graduate from college, marry a fine man, have healthy and happy children.   Now, neither of them graduated from college but the rest of it has all been fulfilled.  They both have married good men who have yet to do a single thing to make me believe they could have done better.  Both are good husbands and good fathers and both my girls seem to be happy with them

I have four grandchildren now, three boys and a girl (who will without fail be very spoiled).  While two of the grandsons have some issues health wise there is nothing horrible going on.  My grandchildren have been born into loving, two parent homes and whether they appreciate it now I'm sure the time will come when they realize how fortunate they have been.

My first obvious truth of the day is I dearly love my family and I'm content with how their lives are going.  Does not seem to be something one would have to think about does it?  I guess that is what and obvious truth is though it might be obscured by everyday events in life.

The second obvious truth is (and this one I've realized for quite some time) I'm not a particularly good father or grandfather.  I love my kids and my grandchildren but I do not see much of them.  My daughter lives in Mississippi and I have never gone to see them there.  I did go to see them when each of the boys were born but now I only see them for a brief while when they come to South Carolina.  My other daughter only lives across town and I do not see her and her family much more often.  I wish I could say my life is so busy I don't find the time to make a forty minute drive.  But, I cannot do that and remain even remotely honest.  The fact is though I have been on depression medication for the past fifteen plus years I still have most day when I find it difficult to even get out of the house.

My depression and introverted persona have been something my kids have had to deal with though they may not have understood it.  I look at the photo of my youngest grandson and realize how much of my children's lives I missed and how much of my grand children's lives I am missing.  And, even as I realize this I know I will still, mostly, be unable (or unwilling) to get out of the house.

I have many physical problems but I think, over all, my mental ones have been more harmful to myself and those I love than any physical problem I have had.  And, I know for me depression is not something one ever gets over completely no matter what those silly, happy television commercials show.  One takes one's medication to stay at least minimally functional but...   Depression is always there bringing it's darkness and building a cage around me that I cannot escape.

I guess that might not be an obvious truth though it probably should be.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


I'm not sure what the reason is but being in or around water has always made me feel better.  From my earliest days wading the creek in front of my grandparent's house, through those winter days of skating on the ice of that same creek frozen over, to the later days of being by a lake or a river fishing to being on a beach watching the ocean, feeling the ocean breezes and smells, lulled into a sense of peacefulness by the sounds of the waves rolling up on the beach I've always loved being in or near water.

Even rain makes me feel better.  I don't mind being out in the rain.  In fact, while growing up. I rather enjoyed being caught in storms while out wandering the woods.  To this day I love storms and like to sit on my (very small) porch when there is a storm and watch the rain, listen to the thunder and feel the wonderful, freshness of the air around me.

Some years ago, my brother owned  a house on the river bank up in Kentucky.  When I had something on my mind I'd drive up there (a good 425 miles) and just take a fishing pole and go sit on a sandbar and watch the water and think.  What the fish did or did not do was purely secondary.  Several important decisions in my life were made on that sandbar watching the water of the Big Sandy River roll past.

We've  not been able to go for the past several years but my wife and I used to go to Myrtle Beach or another beach every September.  We'd walk to our favorite place for breakfast then walk that breakfast off down to the end of the boardwalk area and back to the hotel up Ocean Boulevard.  We'd sit in the hotel and watch TV (we always got the rooms with two TVs) and read and drink wine until the shadows came over the beach.  Then we'd go for long walks on the beach.

I'd get out in the edge of the ocean and my wife would stay farther up the beach and run from the encroaching waves as the tide came in.  We both loved to watch the little birds following the receding waves looking for food then running, helter skelter, in front of the new waves coming in to avoid being covered up in water.

I always felt a sense of longing when we'd pass a fisherman or two sitting on a bucket with two or more fishing rods with lines way out in the surf, relaxing and waiting for a fish to come along and feel like making itself available for supper.  I guess those days are over for me now though.  I can't visualize my left leg ever getting well enough for long walks on the beach any time.

When I lived in Florida, my brother had a 23 1/2 foot inboard/outboard boat that we used to take out into the Atlantic most every weekend.  Let me tell you there is something different about being way out in the gulf stream and looking around and there is no sign of land in any direction.  And, if you have not seen  a sunrise and/or sunset over the ocean with no land around you have really missed something.  I can really understand why men fall in love with the sea.  And if you've never had really fresh saltwater fish you've missed out on the best fish there is to eat.  We'd go out and catch all the fish a restaurant patron pays though the nose for and feast on a large fish fry on Sundays.  We'd use three hooks on each line and most times catch at least two fish at a time and lots of times have a fish on each hook.  I'd get so tired from reeling in the fish at times I'd just leave my pole in the holder and crack open a beer and sit back and just enjoy being out on the water.

My wife and I took a cruise for our wedding/honeymoon and I would highly recommend a cruise to anyone thinking of taking one.  Not so much for the stops as those were so orchestrated and limited one too much to the places, shops, tours that had deals with the cruise lines they were not that great.  But, the sea days were wonderful.  Grab breakfast early then grab a book and go to one of the areas in one of the lounges and just lie on the ledge by a window overlooking the ocean and read.  Or, go out on deck where the wind was fierce (top deck was hard to even stand upon) and soak in the wind and ocean smell and the view. 

I have two really morbid fears of ways to die.  One is by hanging and the other is by drowning.  I can't say where hanging came from but the love for the ocean I have and the fear of drowning that goes with it makes me believe I may have been a sailor who ended up drowning in one of my past lives.  That and women.  With all my problems with woman in this life I must have treated an awful lot of women really badly in my past lives to warrant it. 

That is one reason, when I am beyond drowning, I'd like the remains of my cremated body dumped (no there is no need for a kinder way of saying it) into Nat's Cree, Ky near where I was born.  The symmetry appeals to me for some reason.  The completion of the circle.  Ending up in those waters where I spent so many happy days of my  youth.  I know it is really meaningless as I won't know anything about it at the time but while I'm still here to think about it, it does appeal to me.

In my next life I want to live on an island somewhere with lots of mountains and rushing streams of pellucidly clear, clean, running water.  Miles of beaches to relax on with loads of fresh seafood to dine on each day.  Maybe throw in not being insane as well.