I just can’t help but feel that this new technology isn’t all it’s cracked up to be… yeah, it’s great to be able to connect with people you haven’t seen in forever and to make new friends… to have news at your fingertips… to be able to diagnose your latest ailment once you figure out how to spell it. To be able to work, nonstop, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But I can’t help but feel that something has been lost. As we run along at a neck-break pace to get to wherever it is we are going, things just don’t feel quite right some how.
As you may have read here, I have spent the last couple of years basically dismantling my past. My dad past away 6 years ago and my mom’s health has been in a steady state of decline since then. My sister and I have gone through the house of our youth, sorting things into piles of things to throw away, things to give away, things to sell and things we just can’t let go of yet.
In all of the stuff we were sorting out, there was this box… an old Heiress Hosiery box. My guess is the box itself may have come from my grandmothers house. It is all stained and yellowed. Hidden in the back of a closet, forgotten for decades…. But once I opened it up, memories came pouring out… there were letters, cards and hand written notes… from my past. Cards in celebration of birthdays and a high school graduation… notes of teenage angst, dreams revealed and broken hearts. I smiled and I laughed a little and I cried. The richness of these simple handwritten notes are a true treasure to me. And I can’t help but wonder… why did it all stop?
Today, we have a million pictures of every event that happens in our lives. Simple dinners with friends… endless sunrises and sunsets. And yet, we seem to be a little more distant from those in our lives even when we are more connected than ever. I really need to get out my note cards and write to my friends… there are things they need to read… in my own hand writing.
Sundays were always pretty predictable when I was a kid. My mom would get us up so we could get ready to go to Sunday school and Church. Once we were up, we would get breakfast and then she would prepare a large roast with just salt and pepper, wrap it up in Reynolds Wrap and put it in the oven at about 250 degrees. We would leave for Sunday school and let that roast just slow roast from about 9 a.m. until somebody could get back to the house after church to pick it up.
I can’t really tell you much about Sunday school back then… it really didn’t seem to hold my attention much. There was a ping pong table at the church and I did play a lot of ping pong but I don’t know that I really developed a real strong faith in anything. Church was a bit different… I was an acolyte when I was really young… lighting the candles what seemed like every Sunday. It was kinda fun getting to play with fire in the church though. Once I got too old to do that, I would be the usher in the balcony… collected the money during the offertory. It was a bit weird. I would sit there during the service prior to the collection activity and think about what pattern I would use to work my way around the balcony collecting the money. Once that was completed I would just get lost in thoughts about what the rest of the day would hold for me…
So the service was over, we would head back to the house and get the roast to take it over to my grandmother’s house for lunch. By the time we got there quite often my aunts, uncles and cousins would be there so there would be a crowd for sure. The kids would get to get our food first. The reason for that was so we could get out of the kitchen so that the adults could sit at the table and we all could head to the kids table set up in the other room.
Once we had finished eating we would quickly clean up, run back to the house and change into our bathing suits and grab towels and chairs and head down to a small beach on the Albemarle Sound called Sandy Point. I don’t remember exactly how much you had to pay but I think it was like a buck or two per person to get in. They also had a small camp ground where people would come and stay over night or maybe even for a week I guess. We never stayed there over night but I always thought that would have been so cool. There was a snack bar and a game room with a pool table and a jukebox. Every time I hear “In the Summertime” by Mungo Jerry, I think about that place. So many of my family and friends would show up down there and we would hang out and play in the surf. Some times my uncle would bring his boat and we would go for short boat rides too. We would hang out there until the sun would start to set and then we would pile back into the car and make the trek back to Elizabeth City. I don’t remember the trips back because I would be asleep before we even got out of the parking lot. Oh don’t I wish I could sleep like that again!
We just never know whose life we will touch as we go through our day to day activities.
I guess to tell this next part I need to talk a bit about that “sabbatical” I referred to yesterday. Back in ’79 I had left college and returned home. I partly went home because of the cost of college but also because I was struggling.. struggling trying to figure out life…. Maybe that’s just how life works for some of us or maybe I was just one of the confused ones… but life was a real struggle back then. Living at home with my parents and now I was working at Coastal Office Equipment with Mr. Bill well…. as luck would have it, I would end up with the tires on my car all going bad at once.
I was struggling with what to do. I had just started working and didn’t have much if any money at all. It just felt like one more thing to pile on top of all the issues I was already dealing with. I knew my mom and dad couldn’t really afford to help me either but I thought I should ask my dad what I should do. My dad suggesting I go visit Mr. Willis Owens to see if he could help me out. Mr. Owens owned the local Goodyear dealership. I had gone to high school with his daughter. He sang in the choir at church with my mom but we really weren’t close. I was afraid to go talk with him. I had no money and since I was just barely out of high school I had no credit either. But once I explained my situation and he looked at my tires without hesitation he offered to extend me credit so that I could get my car back on the road and could get to work. I was shocked. He didn’t have to do it.. as a matter of fact, I now know that it wasn’t necessarily a wise business decision to extend credit to a 19 yr old that couldn’t figure out what he should be doing. But it’s like he didn’t care.. he could tell I was in need… and he helped me out.. without hesitating… and I will never forget his kindness toward me.
Mr. Owens will always hold a special place in my heart too…. we never know how we touch a life.
So there you have it… 3 men that weren’t my father but yet profoundly touched my life… one showing me the importance of love for yourself and having confidence and believing in yourself… another one that taught me that love for your children is more important than making money and running a business… and another that taught me to love others… to help people when and how you can… guess it’s true what the Beatles said… All you need is love.
And finally…to all my “dad” friends out there… never underestimate the affect you are having on those that you encounter every single day… be sure the example that we are setting is the one the world needs.
I started writing a blog about Father’s Day and it got completely out of control. Actually I was writing about three men in my life… each of them were fathers to someone other than me. But yet each of them had a very profound affect on my life.
As I continued writing I realized that this was turning more into an epic instead of what I intended my blog to be. As a result, I am breaking this one up into 3 parts… or maybe 4… there’s just no telling with me. But in any case… here is the first fathers installment.
As we approach Father’s Day I imagine there will be much writing done about fathers. I have previously written about my dad and the struggles that we had throughout my life. I have spent a lot of time thinking about other men in my life that have influenced me. I want to share a few words about them with you. These three men gave me different things that I feel have been invaluable to me… and for which I will forever be grateful.
I did not know what a prominent figure Herbert Small was in our community. I knew he was a Superior Court Judge and that this family had been around the area as long or even longer than mine, but that’s all I knew about the public man. The one I knew the best was the father of the girl I dated though a large part of my youth. He was the man that sat at the head of the dinner table every night and led discussions on every topic from politics to religion to education to the law. Dinner with him could be an intimidating thing for those of us that weren’t that well read. I remember more than one occasion where dinner ended up with encyclopedias spread out on the table with various members of the family very passionately defending their positions.
He also was an ex-Navy man I believe and as a result he enjoyed sailing. I had never been out on the water much even though I grew up in what would have to be considered a boater’s paradise. He invited me to go out sailing with the family one Saturday and of course I jumped at the chance. I was so excited about the chance to get out on the water… to get to try something new. Well, we hadn’t been out on the water long when he said to me; “Okay, Walter, you take the helm. You are the captain now.” I was petrified. Surely he wasn’t turning navigating and steering his boat over to me… someone who had trouble spelling the word sail, much less how to actually handle a boat. So I graciously declined, thinking that he was only partially kidding with me anyway. Little did I know that he was serious. He would not accept my no for an answer. So with great trepidation I took the helm. He sat close by and provide a little support but mostly left me to my own devices to figure out what to do. Over time I became a little more confident. He was always encouraging to me. He even encouraged his daughter and I to take the boat out alone, which we did. It was a wonderful experience in freedom and responsibility all rolled into one.
I can’t thank Mr. Small enough for his encouragement and confidence in my ability. No one had ever placed that level of trust in me before. I know to this day that this small act has made a difference in how I face challenges in my life… and also, was no doubt the seeds of the confidence that I have in myself today.
I haven’t been sleeping much lately. I am being forced to live too much life in too short a time frame at the moment. This causes me to feel exhausted. But as soon as I lay down and try to get some sleep, my brain seems to find some strange, perverse hyper gear that just sends my head spinning nonstop…. health issues… relation issues…. work issues…. parental issues…. financial issues…. children issues… It sometimes feel like I add a new issues category every day.
So, what do you do about this? Here is where I find myself. You’ve read this blog before, right? You know the kind of stuff I write about…. old stuff. Well that’s what this one is about too. I find myself laying there… thinking about old times, places and things. A montage of things will start passing through my mind’s eye, like my life is a motion picture… a few of my favorite things, as it were. Here are a few of the scenes (sights, sounds and maybe even a smell or two)…
- The warmth of the sun as I walk along behind a lawn mower
- The hissing sound of a sprinkler as you cut it on
- The feel of mud as is squishes between your toes
- The smell of fresh cut grass or freshly turned dirt
- The sound of the waves continuously pounding the shore
- The gentle splash of water against the hull of a boat
- The ringing of the halyard as it constantly slaps again the mast.
- The smell of collards cooking
- The sight of a frost so heavy you’d swear it was snow
- The back seat of bus 10… and then bus 32
- The smell of popcorn popping at Grants or Roses or Eagles or well you get my drift
- Watching movies at the Carolina Theater… and knowing every single person that is there too… and wondering what the heck is “she” doing there with “him”?
- Tossing a Frisbee at Waterfront Park
- Endless hours driving… nowhere
- Jensen Tri-axial speakers
- The sound of the band practicing in the distance
- The glow of lights from a distant football field on a Friday night as you approached as the visiting team
- The musty smell of dying leaves in the fall
- The sound of a tennis ball firmly hit
- The feel of unbelievable heat coming right through the bottoms of your shoes on the tennis court
- The smell of sunscreen
- The feel of sand beneath your feet and the taste of salt on your lips
- The vinegary / salty / peppery taste of barbecue mixing with the sweet taste of cole slaw
- The gentle lapping of the river against the bulkhead
- The burning in your thighs after peddling your bike all the way across town
- Sitting on the hood or trunk of a car in the Circle parking lot…. drinking beer and thinking you were doing such a great job of hiding it when the cops came by
I may have to come back to this list again some day… but right now, I’m feeling a bit sleepy… yawn!