Monday, July 31, 2006

A Remembrance

The boys had names like Woody, Zeke, Ron and Mark, in the fifties. Their moms stayed home with so many brothers and sisters, or they worked child-friendly schedules as crossing guards or cafeteria ladies. Dads came home late. The boys wore tee shirts and dungarees.

There were four seasons, one after another and then all over again. But somehow it was always hot or cold. The houses and apartments they lived in were small; the boys stayed outside. Some days they would hop the truck that took them to fields where they picked shade grown tobacco all day long. On another day they might float down the Connecticut River in barrels, or sit on a front stoop playing the knife game as they splayed out their hands on a table, stabbing the space between each finger with increasing speed and, hopefully, sustained accuracy.

In the sixties, life was Marlboro Reds, by the carton, by the day. It was police academies and rifle tournaments in faraway places, like Alabama during the Wallace era. It was women. It was bottles of whiskey on the nightstand and alarm clocks that rang and rang and rang. It was still the boys.

They played house in the seventies. Wives and babies. Me and my best friend, Kel.

In the eighties, you couldn't tell them they were no longer the boys. You could try--many did--but chances are you would've been too small, or too weak, or too oblivious to get your point across. There are some truths a boy can't hear until he's ready, and the only thing screaming will do is ensure that the neighbors figure it all out long before he does.

By the nineties, most of them got it. Then they sat back with the knowledge and watched TV. Separated by time and place and space, they'd gather every so often on a neatly manicured 1/4 acre at Zeke's place to talk about picking tobacco, or the knife game, or things I could never know. Because what I know is about six paragraphs, and this:

My best friend's dad died this weekend. Mark was a boyish 63. He taught his middle daughter how to be the funniest person I ever met. He taught her to keep things inside. He taught her sister to be a peacemaker and her brother, a protector. He taught me to ride a bike.

No legacy is pure. His is bound up in a haze of Hartford summers, in cigarette smoke and misted recall, emerging as three bright eyed children and one soul he's probably meeting again, just now.

There's little more than a half a century between the front stoop and now. The river and now. The tobacco fields and now. They were a group of boys who couldn't see beyond the low New England skyline. But there were lives there, waiting.

And now it's our turn.

9 comments:

toyfoto said...

This is so beautiful.

Lauren said...

This post reminded me of Ben Fold's song "the Luckiest":

"What if I'd been born 50 years before you in a house on a street where you live. Maybe I'd be outside as you passed on your bike
Would I know? And in a white sea of eyes I see one pair that I recognize."

My warmest wishes to your best friend. 63 is way too young.

lynsalyns said...

So moving. Hits me in my weak spot. Please tell your friend, a stranger, that this girl knows a piece of her grief.

I know yours, too. People touch our hearts in ways we can't understand until they are gone. I got letters like this after my own father died.

Wishing you peace.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD said...

That was beautiful. What a gorgeous post. I'm sorry for your friend and her father.

Whirlwind said...

I'm so sorry to hear that! What a weekend this must have been for you with all that was going on.

If you need anything, call me!

Michele said...

Once again you have taken me right there to the place you right about.

I am mourning the one year anniversary of the death my uncle, who I adored. I feel like the torch was passed and we still havent figured out what to do with it yet.

Michele said...

"right" - I meant "write".

(sigh, I used to know how to write and edit)

Jenifer said...

Wow, sometimes irony hits you in the face. Let me share what I did this weekend.....

I spent the weekend helping my Mom clean out the house my Grandmother has lived in for the past 67 years. She now resides in a nursing home on hospice where in the past 2 weeks she has gone from living at home to a practically comatose state where I am relatively sure she no longer recognizes any of her family members.

We have made the funeral arrangements and now we wait..... I spent yesterday cleaning our her bedroom, sifting through bank statements and IRA paperwork, and trying to find something in her closet suitable to wear for the rest of eternity. I also tackled the draws full of photographs in the basement where I found everything from her first communion picture, my grandfather's class of '39 autograph book with a note from my grandmother to him before they were even dating, to a picture of her with her great-great grandson and all other members of the 5 living generations.

I cried.... I laughed.... and even though I know she's not coming home, in her closet placed nicely remains her sneakers and bedroom slippers. I can't bear to throw them away.... just yet.

She will be leaving 3 children, 8 grandchildren, 5 great-grandchildren, and 1 great great grandson. She will be joining her husband who died 21 years ago and a predeceased great-grandson who died this year at 19 in a car accident. "A Rememberance" of my own.

Thank you.

Kate said...

My condolences to your friend. 63 is way too young, and it's hard to lose a parent. Hope your friend reads this. My best friend gave me the thoughts she wrote at my mom's passing on Mother's Day this year and they were priceless. To hear that someone else knew and loved her even in some small way as much as I did meant a lot. Peace.