Saturday, August 25, 2012
Life Going By
Some days I miss my nephew greatly. He’s doing a five-year stint without parole. To those that really know me, I’m much more of a sensitive person than most would think. Right or wrong the absence of a friend or family member to jail or whatever circumstance keeps them from seeing you is something very hard on me. It is the worst type of misery for I know firsthand how short life can be… So, if you are with someone you love, appreciate them and the moments you have together… Don’t be afraid to tell them either… In life we sometimes don’t get second chances, and sometimes we don’t realize the first ones are standing right in front of us…
When I was in my early twenties, I worked in a small town hardware store doing the best I could to stay afloat on what little that job paid. It was not far from where I lived so spending little on gas was a plus. I also had to air up my tires each morning because most were flat by the following day… 25 cents a day was much better than four new tires…
Although I wasn’t paid much in money, I was paid tenfold in wisdom by two old men that had nothing better to do but drink the free coffee and hide from their wives, kids, and grandkids that they claimed would drive any man crazy. Truth of the matter, their families were probably happy to see them disappear each morning. Both were a handful.
Old Man Slim came in each morning to hover around the coffee pot but not before he walked past it headed straight for the restroom with a slight sucking in posture to his butt and a tiptoe stride to his walk. He would step out 20 minutes or so later complaining that the paper wasn’t fit for a man his age. Then he would make his way to the coffee pot and sit down and talk about life and what it meant to him at his age. He was 94 years old and could account for every minute and some days he did just that.
Slim was the only WWI Vet I ever knew. He said once to me, “You would have not wanted to be where I was when I was your age. The company’s commander would give the signal and the sergeant would blow his whistle. We would climb out of our trench and run straight into the German machineguns. The ones who lived found themselves in the German’s trench fighting, stabbing, and clubbing their way to what was considered a victory. Really we were just trying to stay alive. It’s been 75 years now and I still wake to that damn whistle sometimes in the night. Yeah you wouldn’t have wanted to be where I was when I was your age.”
I understood what Slim was trying to convey to me but still it was a heavy trip to hear his confessions of the things he did in war while the whole time watching what he had seen so many years before play over in his dark eyes. But Slim made it out, had kids, grandkids and made the most of those 75 years after the war.
Uncle Buck ( No relation as far as I know) was another one of the hardware hangout gang of old men. He was the son of a riverboat captain. His father was a violent man when he drank. One such night he tried to kill Uncle Buck with a kitchen knife after drinking half a bottle of whisky. Buck was 14 years old when he wrestled away from his father and jumped from the boat into the waters of the muddy Mississippi never to see him again.
Uncle Buck was not quite as old as Slim but he was old enough. Buck for some reason took a liking to me instantly calling me The Two Tone Hippie. My hair was long and was bleached months before. My roots needed a little work.
Uncle Buck reminisced about his 35 years on the railroad or his first love who had died 20 years earlier. He said he didn’t know how he made it through the loss of her. That it ate away at him for what seemed like a lifetime. Making his stomach turn in anguish of not being able to hold her ever again. There was no doubt in my mind if he could go back to those days, no matter what the difficulties they were going through at the time, he would have without hesitation. He claimed he had finally gotten over losing her and he’d moved on and married another. But the strain on his face as it pulled tight just talking about her told me different. Uncle Buck was one of the most foul mouth big hearted men I ever knew. Most couldn’t see through his rough demeanor, but I could and I learned a lot about life and picking yourself up when you’ve been knocked down by the world from him.
My great-grandfather was another man that lived into his nineties. He had a time in life separating his heart from what was really good for him. He made and ran moonshine for years without getting caught but once his two sons got involved, things began to change. His sons, my grandmother’s brothers, were eventually caught and the judge gave them the option of going to prison or going to WWII. They chose the war and their first day of combat was Normandy Beach D-Day. They survived and came back after the war only to get caught again running shine. This is where my great-grandfather thought with his heart and not with his mind. He struck a deal with the authorities since he was the one they really were after, to take both of his son’s sentences. My great-grandfather went into prison when he was 71 years old and was released when he was 81. He lived on seven more years smoking rolled cigarettes and mountain tap-dancing on his porch when the mood struck him.
So now as I type these words out and remember Slim, Uncle Buck, and Great-Grandfather, I would say to my nephew, “Hang in there. Your time will pass. Do what you can do; what you have control over in your life. Be aware that thinking too much with your heart and not thinking with your mind can sometimes get you in trouble. But don’t be afraid to follow your heart. It might lead you to the right person in this life. Most of all, life goes on. I’ve said it a million times and lived by the philosophy, “A Moment In Time.” Good or bad it is that moment in time we live through that becomes a memory etched in our brains and can’t be taken away. It was lived and will forever be. And there are many more moments to come. Many, many, more.