Saturday, September 23, 2006


This is for me, this is for anyone else still who remembers him or someone else special, and this is for the Scheherazade Project even if it only very barely fits the theme if you look at it sideways. Also, sorry I've been a delinquent blogger but I've written several in my HEAD I just haven't had time to post.

Sometimes I have a need to remember everything, to pull it up, turn it around, examine it from all angles. Sometimes I have no choice and it comes, unbidden, full force, visceral and I don’t just remember, I live it again. Sometimes it is like a shadow, or seeing through a glass darkly, when I don’t quite have it all and it teases me with what I don’t remember.

It had to be a Monday in late summer. Summer because I was out of school, Monday because otherwise I would have been at the pool. Unless I was young enough that the municipal pool hadn’t yet been built. Warren was still in high school but I don’t know for sure how much older than Kevin he is, but that means it was before 1976. I’m reasonably sure I was at least 12 so that would put it 1973.

This is what trying to figure out what it is you actually remember is like.

The phone rang. Mother answered. And when she hung up she said out of the blue, “Do you want to go to your Uncle Tam’s for a week?” I didn’t have to think about it at all. “Yes!” There was some quick clothes gathering which she took charge of. And we went to the airport. Not a big one, the local one, on top of the mountain, Lonesome Pine. And me and my suitcase got in a little single engine something or the other, Cessna or Piper. My brothers would likely know but I was never good at that.

So I got in the plane with him and we flew about an hour, maybe two, to the DC area. Maryland Airport. This is all true you see, and you can look all these places up. I can’t figure out how to change the names of the innocent here, or what to protect them from.

I got in the plane and we flew up there and after we got there, everything I remember or don’t remember is fuzzy. I think it was a week before my mother showed up, she may have had a brother or two with her, but I don’t really remember. I do remember that it seemed a lot longer than a week. I don’t believe I’ve ever been so bored in all my life, hours and hours of time without the only reason you are there, him. Mostly he was at the airport. I remember fragments of those days -- going to her antique store, Anna’s ‘Tiques and sitting there all day; getting cigarette butts out of ashtrays and going to the windowless side of the house where I’d hidden matches to smoke them -- knowing now how I must have reeked but she never said a word; playing pool by myself in the too small to play pool garage; the exact lay of the creek at the back of their yard, and the enticing but never explored path that went beyond it; the 8 track tapes of America, “this is for all the lonely people, don’t give up until you try.”

I remember scenes with him in them a little more intensely: the night the Pentagon buddies came over and smoked cigars in the dining room and I just listened to the timbre of their voices rising and falling all night, and wondered that they called him Bill; going upstairs quietly and catching him sleeping in his cubby hole home office, and him waking up and saying, “Ah, you caught me working;” the way he’d go upstairs and put pants on over his boxers in the mornings after I got up, seemingly slightly embarrassed that he’d only had boxers on again. Mostly there I remember being taken out to dinner one night, just the three of us, and having this great Maryland seafood meal, and him being a little sloshed and flirting shamelessly with the waitress and his wife being mortified, and me just loving the whole thing somehow. I love to dine, I loved him. Of course, the whole world would flirt with this man, it couldn’t have been more natural.
I do not remember at all going home.

But the ride up there, in that plane, that I do remember.

We got in that plane and took off and I probably didn’t even look back. He flew me over my house and other landmarks, then we took off to make time. I remember flying over some bowl in the mountains, probably Burke’s Garden. I remember that he would point out different things about the instruments, like the level one, and how if you couldn’t see the horizon you couldn’t tell, if it weren’t for that, if you were level or not. I remember looking at cotton candy clouds. And at some point he said, “We’ve got a thunderstorm. We’ll have to see if we can get there before it does.” He tightened my seatbelt for me.

I was clueless. I know that now. I’m aware of wind shear in storms, and just how small of a plane that was, and just how easily they can fall out of the sky, how few people survive when they do.

The plane started what I can only describe as bucking. I’m a horseman and it was bucking. Now, a bucking horse when I was young and not afraid of broken bones didn’t bother me a bit, and neither did that bucking plane. I was strapped in and Tam was at the controls. We’d hit something hard and I’d grin. He’d look over at me. We’d hit something worse, and I’d laugh. He’d look over at me and grin. We used to do this together in the car around the mountain roads too -- the faster he’d go the bigger I’d grin until I laughed out loud. I was never scared with him. Ever. It seemed to go on for a fairly long time, maybe 15 minutes, and got worse. I of course had no idea where we were in relation to anything. I’d stare at the controls but could not decipher them. He mostly concentrated hard, except when we hit those spots and he’d check to see if I was ok or not and I’d be laughing.

Then suddenly we were there, landing. I don’t remember clearly anymore after that but I think his little crippled mechanic came out and helped tie down and get me inside. And probably wonder that he’d fly in in that kind of weather.

That mechanic held Tam the time he didn’t make it in, the time he crashed and died.

I don’t know what it all means, or why it never ceases to bring tears. Like I’m missing something. Looking right at it and missing it. Should I hold on to it? Try to remember more, more clearly? Or let it go?

I had a piece of his furniture. It was the only thing I had of him. And it got lost in storage. And when that happened, I was able to let it go, realizing that the furniture was not him, that he’d not even had much to do with that piece and even if he had, it wasn’t him. And I still had my memories of him, just not a piece of furniture. My mantra, things are not important, came to me then.

But are my memories like that Murphy bed too? Are they something that isn’t him, a graven image instead of the real thing?

He died 28 years ago today. It was a perfect September Saturday then too. I don’t believe I miss him a bit less. I do believe he loved me

without punctuation


MizMell said...

I find most memories to be just like that... bits and pieces that need sorting and sometimes require rehashing to make sense.

Walker said...

That's beautiful!