Thursday, September 22, 2005

27 Years Ago Tomorrow

27 years ago tomorrow was a perfect September Saturday, sunny & crisp. Standing on our back porch, my brother would announce his engagement and my only reaction to it was, “Uncle T will be here!” Except Uncle T was already dead and we didn’t know it. His wife was trying to get from Arlington to Baltimore, knowing his plane had crashed but hoping, because he was always so strong, that he would survive once again. But a battery from the back of the Piper slammed into his brain and even he couldn’t survive that. He came so damn close though. He almost got that plane back landed.

I was the only kid still living at home. Mother, Daddy and I went out to dinner: The Tap Room. We ate steaks. Daddy always had bleu cheese dressing. Most often we shared a bottle of Blue Nun wine, sometime Mateus. We were late getting home and went straight to bed. The phone rang, the lights went on. I got out of bed to go to the bathroom to see if I could tell what was going on because something was, I could feel it. I saw my mom sitting on the bed, her face frozen in a sort of horror mask, and Daddy saw me and I mouthed, “What?” and he said, “T died.” Not believing I said, “What?” and I think Daddy explained, plane crash. I called Sam. I tried to cry but the tears weren’t there yet. I wondered if he knew I loved him so. I packed a bag.

We left the next day. His wife hugged my mother first, both of them dissolving in tears. I stood quietly back but when she opened her eyes, she saw me, let my mother go, grabbed me and said, “He loved you so. Oh, he loved you so.” I thought I would never be able to stop crying then.

And I don’t ever remember that moment, and others, without crying; not ever.

And I never doubted he did love me. He had always. My third birthday spent with him, the birthday candle he bought to go with my chocolate cake with red icing and pink writing that the baker grimaced at having to make. The times he’d come in without me knowing and pick me up at school, my face would light up to see him driving Mother’s car. That time he cheered for me, telling me that I was #1 with him and I always would be. I’ve doubted everything else in my whole life but I’ve never doubted that.

I wish I’d really known him as a person better but I was only 17. Sometimes I can still smell him. He comes to me sometimes in my dreams but never talks, and I just hug him and ask him where in the heck he’s been.

Some of the things that really get me about it: how time hasn’t diminished it at all, how it is all like it was yesterday to me, and yet I feel a million years older. And how much I still miss him: How often I think of him: What a blank rune he is to me in the reading of my life.

He was a preacher’s son, did I mention that? Stereotypical preacher’s sons, he and his two brothers, working at the Chevy garage, learning to fly, racing cars (which, you might know, grew out of running shine), raising hell. Once when he was in we went driving and he got to telling what all had happened on each curve of the road. And there are lots of curves in the roads of those mountains.

On one curve had been a favorite bar, run by Mabel, described as a “big, tough old broad”. I guess you’d have to have been to run a bar in those mountains. A huge task for any barkeep is to keep the peace. One night two men from Kentucky got to arguing. Perhaps amazingly, my uncles weren’t involved in this one. Old Mabel was trying to keep them apart and get them outside where they could go after each other without hurting anything or anyone else. The bar also had a small kitchen of course, and that’s where Mabel had been working and she had a butcher knife in her hand. She’d layed it down on the bar absentmindedly in trying to contain the fight. Mistake. One of the boys grabbed it but before he could even brandish it, he got hit by the other one. Being hit caused him to fling his arm and when he did that, the blade of that butcher knife hit old Mabel “right here” (raising hand to that part of the nose just below where the bone and cartiledge come together) “and her nose just flopped down” (hand making flop down over lips motion). Of course, everyone grimaces there, groans, makes exclamations. Not to worry, the doc sewed her nose back on and she was good as new ‘cept with a scar. And it happened right there in that curve of the road, just a little over the mountain from Kentucky sometime in the 1930s.


Joe Tornatore said...

i have a brother T.

madcapmum said...

What a story!

Sarah Elaine said...

Special people live on forever in our hearts and memories. This fella sounds like a special guy in your life who's definitely worth remembering.