Two years have passed, and I yet have shed a tear over the death of my wife Janet. The other night I watched the Oscars and looked over to her side of the sofa and said aloud what I know what she would have commented on each and every dress. I wrote a play as a benefit for the local free clinic because as a probation officer Janet told her people to go there for help. I still wear my wedding ring. But not a single tear.
Thinking back over my life I realize that I have cried very few times out of grief. In fact, the only time I remember was after the funeral of my mother when I was fourteen years old. My crazy brother (no, he really was—in and out of mental hospitals all his adult life) had been very kind and comforting that day, no hysterical fits, no outlandish behavior intended to embarrass me in front of people). I said to him, “I love you,” and broke into tears. Maybe that wasn’t in grief as much as relief that he had stayed sane for an entire day.
Most of the times I cried were out of frustration and anger. People watching this thought I cried because I had my feelings hurt. That wasn’t it. I was mad and wanted to attack the bastard but I knew he was bigger than me. All he had to do is push me down and laugh at me because I wasn’t able to fight back. I could have hit him from behind but then people would think I was as crazy as my brother.
Certain movies had a way of making me tear up, mostly those with happy endings. The worst time was when my teen-aged son and I went to “Field of Dreams.” When the lead character’s father walked through the corn and they started playing catch, I broke down. I never played catch with my father. Of course I embarrassed my son. We had to sit there until the audience cleared out and I had composed myself.
I hated my job at a certain newspaper in the 1970s so much that I cried in the boss’s office. Once again I think it was frustration. Another time I cried when a prominent city’s community theater said it was seriously considering one of my plays. So that was out of happiness. I didn’t cry when they eventually returned it. I was used to rejection by that point.
Most of the time I have been able to choke back the tears. The trick is to keep my damn mouth shut. The less I talk the less likely I am to cry. As the years go by I have been more successful in controlling it, but mostly I’ve convinced myself I’ve experienced everything so emotions have become somewhat of a bore.
One time I choked up still confuses me. It was at the end of my college senior year. I went to the movies alone and ran into one of my former roommates. He was a loud flag-waving bigot. He was very specific about how every other race was inferior to white people, especially to white people of the United States. By the time I met up with him that last week in the movie theater, he seemed to have mellowed out on his political views or at least learned to keep them to himself. When we stood outside the theater after the movie we shook hands.
I was about to say, “Well, see you later,” when it struck me there wasn’t going to be a later. I hadn’t even given a second thought to all the people I had said good-bye to for the last time, but this choked me up. What the hell. I didn’t even like him.
I almost cried over this jerk, but I can’t even work up some tears for my wife of forty-four years. Maybe it’s because I know she’s still inside me and will never leave, so why cry over that?
Every time I hear an ambulance go by I think, “There goes another person who saw “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
This odd mental phenomenon goes back to 1971 when I was the area editor for the Kingsport, Tn., Times-News. A bunch of part-time reporters and I were responsible for filling up a page about news from the surrounding counties everyday. Some days that could be quite a chore.
Back then the politicians had a habit of deciding to hold a meeting an hour earlier than announced so that when the reporter showed up they said, “Sorry, you missed it.”
One time I had a school superintendent on the phone asking him why a certain mountain school was being closed. He stammered a moment and then the phone went dead. The guy just didn’t want to talk to me about why the school was being closed. It was tough reporting the news back then.
However, I did get a call from a proud parent in a nearby town that her son had the lead in a touring company of “Jesus Christ, Superstar” which was going to perform at the Kingsport high school gymnasium. This was right after the record album had come out but before the Broadway production. Basically it was a concert version with performers on risers and stools. I told the editor and he immediately assigned the story to the entertainment editor. I never got to write about anything interesting.
Somehow, however, I became the person in charge of getting free tickets for everyone in the newsroom. Since the story ran front page, that was easy enough to do.
Even though it was bare bones, the production was great. A good time was had by all. The gymnasium was packed. When the movie came out, I felt it was a pale comparison to what I saw in Kingsport.
A few weeks later the religion editor—for a small town newspaper, this operation had a lot of editors—wrote a story about one of the local ministers who took the town to task for taking “Jesus Christ Superstar” to heart. For one thing, one of the young male leads had his picture taken in a close hug with June Lockhart and it was in the National Inquirer. Older woman takes young lover. That sort of thing.
Of course, that was nothing compared to the vitriol against the musical itself. Rock music and the gospel? Never! The idea that Mary Magdalene was Jesus’ girlfriend. Outrageous! Who knows what he would have thought about the “DaVinci Code” and its assertion that Jesus and Mary were married. Herod portrayed as a homosexual? The list of infamies went on and on.
He concluded with the statement, “Every time I hear an ambulance, I think there goes another person who saw ‘Jesus Christ, Superstar.’”
Over the years my wife and I had a good laugh over it, repeating that assertion whenever we heard an ambulance siren. In the last few years, we saw the road show production starring Ted Neely, who had the title role in the movie back in 1976. For an old man he looked pretty good in a loin cloth, except it went all the way up to his rib cage. If he kept doing this show much longer, his loin cloth would be up to his arm pits.
Nevertheless, I might even go back to see him in it again. The music is the music of my youth and brings back fun memories. And when I’m walking into the theater, I know I will see other old, paunchy gray haired people, some of them pushing walkers, with big smiles on their faces.
Maybe that guy was right. Considering the popularity of the musical and the age of the generation that made it popular, the person in the ambulance passing by probably has seen “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
Half a century ago when I was a little boy in a rural Texas town, I heard that people who danced were going to hell.
Decent people didn’t dance, smoke, drink or vote Republican.
And if they did, they had the good manners not to let anyone know.
Once I mentioned to a church lady on a Sunday morning that I had bought a cupcake from the high school student council. I didn’t really want it but the two girls selling the tray of cupcakes were really cute and kinda flirted with me so I gave up a couple of quarters and enjoyed the cupcake.
“That was supporting dancing!” the woman declared. “Which is the same as supporting the devil!”
When I asked why she said the only thing high school student councils do was organize dances so when I bought that cupcake for fifty cents I was supporting dancing.
Well, that took the sweet memory off that cupcake.
Once I had the audacity to ask the preacher why dancing was sinful since it wasn’t one of the Ten Commandments nor one of the abominations listed in Chronicles Chapter 12. The next Sunday night he preached an entire sermon about how the Bible didn’t specifically say dancing was a sin, it did record that every time some one danced, something bad happened to people.
When the Israelites got bored waiting for Moses to come down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments they danced around and they got smote down and good. When David danced naked in front of the Ark of the Covenant as it came into Jerusalem, he was denied the privilege of building the Temple. When Salome danced in front of King Herod, John the Baptist lost his head.
Well, I think all the fornicating before, during and after the dancing was what got the Israelites in trouble with God and not specifically the dancing. Also, David put Bathsheba’s husband on the front lines of battle to kill him off so he could marry her. That probably kept David from building the Temple more than the dancing. Finally, King Herod was just plain crazy. He didn’t need a dancing girl to give him an excuse to kill anyone.
Anyway, I kept all those thoughts to myself while I was growing up. Besides, I had this terrible suspicion that if I did try to dance I wouldn’t be very good at it. I had two left feet.
Fortunately, I married Janet who two right feet. We just had fun on the dance floor and didn’t care if anyone noticed. The nice thing about people who like to dance is that they’re having too much fun to judge anyone else’s abilities. I kept telling Janet that we needed to get a video from the public library about easy ball room dancing steps but we never got around to it.
As old people we occasionally went to events that feature orchestras that played the Big Band sound. All around us were people who had rhythm in their feet and smiles on their faces as they danced to jazz, doo wop, Latin and especially Frank Sinatra. For three hours the world went away and everyone went happy. I don’t go dancing anymore because Janet died of cancer and I lost my two right feet. I don’t know if that is a sin but it is a crying shame.
As for that church lady, I have a sneaking suspicion that she didn’t know what she was talking about.
When we moved to Florida about 20 years ago, my family and I exposed ourselves to family dinner conversation dominated by my wife’s Uncle Sydney.
My mother-in-law retired to Florida a couple of years earlier to be near her relatives and suffered a heart attack, which is why we transplanted our children and ourselves here to be closer for the next medical emergency. This meant when we all gathered to sup together, for whatever reason, we had to brace for Uncle Sydney’s “Actually…”
This happened when one of us made a statement, any innocuous statement, and Uncle Sydney would correct us with “Actually, that isn’t so.” And off he went uninterrupted because my mother-in-law thought it was impolite to interrupt her brother’s exercises of enlightenment. At one meal, someone mentioned how much they enjoyed a certain current song.
“Actually,” Uncle Sydney began, “no good music has been written since the 1940s.”
I believed Uncle Sydney was full of gas, but had the good sense not to say so in front of the family. Both my mother-in-law and Uncle Sydney have long since passed on, but recently I learned something from the internet that might actually explain why there hasn’t been any good music since he was a young man.
Several websites have been discussing recently the theory that all musical instruments, as dictated by the British Standards Institute, changed the official tuning pitch of music from 432Hz to 440Hz at the request of the corporate entity of the American Rockefeller family and—grab your hats, folks—Adolph Hitler.
The great classical composers wrote in 432, and Stradivarius developed his violin to resonate at 432. Tones of 432 are beautiful, warm and relaxing. Tones of 440 create anxiety, anger and aggression. One supposes a capitalist institution could more easily convince a disgruntled buying public into adopting new spending patterns. One could also see how Hitler’s inflammatory oratory could incite an already dissatisfied public to support a war against its own citizenry as well as the world in general.
After the war, the British Standards Institute continued its support for 440Hz by voting to keep it, the last vote coming as late as the 1970s. This could explain why the generation which grew up listening to music to the 432Hz frequency found the new rock ‘n’ roll sound attuned to 440Hz to be awful noise. Come to think of it, hasn’t the general public been generally ticked off the last 60 years? Don’t political movements begin because, as the man said in the 1976 movie “Network”, “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore?”
Granted, all this can sound a bit paranoid, and there are no conclusive scientific studies to confirm the connection between the dissonance of music’s 440Hz and the general malaise that hangs over the world. Dr. Leonard Horowitz wrote in his investigation of this phenomenon that the effect of 440Hz goes beyond mere mood but to harming physical and mental health to the point of subduing spirituality and creativity.
To be fair, the British Standards Institute cannot legally dictate what frequency is used to tune musical instruments. If you own a violin or piano, you can tune it to anything you want. You can calibrate your tuning fork anyway you want. But in general the music establishment around the world uses 440Hz.
A good measure of how the general public has reacted to this bit of information can be found in the comments section following the internet article. One person wrote, “These articles are too superficial to be taken seriously.” Another writer wrote than from his own experimentation with 432Hz, he found it to be more soothing and harmonious, urging people to contact radio stations to go back to the original frequency.
Am I personally ready to jump on a 432Hz bandwagon? Do I want to believe there’s an international conspiracy to manipulate our emotions? Am I willing to accept the fact that Uncle Sydney wasn’t just full of gas?
Here’s to the people who smile.
To those who are genetically predisposed to cancer, whose mindless, ravenous cells might already be multiplying through the people’s bodies causing discomfort and feelings that there is something not quite right but they don’t know what it is. Instead of complaining of not feeling good, they put on a smile and make someone else’s day brighter.
To those with clinical depression for whom each day is a battle against negative thoughts and bad memories from years ago which pop up for no particularly reason except to ruin a day. Instead of dwelling on the heavy malaise in their minds, they put on a smile and make everyone else’s day lighter.
To those who find themselves in an economic hole they didn’t dig them but nevertheless must climb out of by themselves. Instead of bemoaning their lack of money, they put on a smile because they have plenty of the joys of life that money cannot buy.
I have a Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep disorder which means I never go into the deepest levels of restorative sleep. Yes, I take pills for that, but even they cannot handle an overload of fatigue. In the last few months I was blessed with lots of activities which made me happy but also depleted my reserve of energy to the point my nightmares became more frightening and more exhausting.
Last night I was locked in a mortal confrontation with a nameless, faceless intruder who, I assumed, wanted to kill me. I caught hold of his hairy forearm and believed that as long as I held on to it he could not harm me. Luckily I awoke and found no assailant. I had my hands around my five-pound, 15-year-old Chihuahua who suffers from advanced arthritis.
At first I was afraid I had hurt her in some way. She went to the edge of the bed and wanted down to do her business on a doggy pad. When she was finished she came back, I picked her up and she snuggled next to me and went back to sleep. I had not hurt her. I had not scared her. I had not done myself any good with the nightmare, but when morning came I dragged myself out of bed.
I was still alive and had things to do. I had not killed my dog for which I am grateful. And when I run my errands later today I shall smile. Tonight I will probably have to endure another bad dream. If I am careful to rest properly the dreams will abate and I will have the energy to do happy things again soon.
So when you see someone smiling for no apparent reason, don’t think them a simpleton who doesn’t know what a cockeyed world we live. They know. Don’t judge them insincere and dismiss the smile as fake. A fake smile is worth a thousand sincere scowls.
You don’t know what they struggle with every day to survive and still manage a smile because they know that’s what the world needs to see.
So here’s to the people who smile. We need more of them right now.
This New Year’s I’m making more of a revelation that a resolution.
For Christmas I played Scrooge in a production of my play What in the Dickens Happened to Scrooge? At the end of Act One I pass out center stage. During dress rehearsal, at the beginning of Act Two, I entered in darkness to take my place of collapse. Unfortunately, I forgot there were some stairs right in front of me so I took a tumble over them and crawled to my spot just as the lights went up. The only person who saw me fall was an actress right behind me waiting for her entrance. The rest of the play went on without a hitch. Even the director didn’t know I had fallen.
I was so proud of myself for being a trouper, afterwards I pulled up my trousers to show blood dripping down a swollen scrape on my shin to anyone who would look. The actress told how she saw me fall, roll and crawl but she didn’t realize how bad it was. One actor offered to bandage it and take me to the emergency room.
“No, no,” I said. “It hardly even hurts now. I’m glad I was able to make it through the show.”
I got so many “oohs” and “Are you sure you’re all rights” that I was on an endorphin rush all the way home. Then in the privacy of home I realized that if I had really been that much of a “the show must go on” type of guy, at the end of the rehearsal I would have gone straight to the dressing room, taken off my makeup, changed clothes and gone out front to give my fellow cast members a hearty “good job!” then limped to the car without saying a word about my leg.
It was at that moment the revelation came to me that I was nothing but an attention hog. (There’s another word that sounds like hog that might be more accurate but, this is Facebook and one must be polite at all times, mustn’t one?)
On one hand I could tell myself, “Of course, I’m an attention hog. I’m an actor. I’m a storyteller. I’ll sit under my tent all day in hopes of telling a story to a handful of passersby who might stop for a moment. I post stories on my blog in anticipation of getting a thumbs up or even a little heart.”
On the other hand, this teaches me to control my impulse to interrupt when people tell me about their lives. I want them to know how a similar incident happened to me, thereby turning the spotlight on myself. (By the way, I really do love staring straight into a spotlight.) And, believe me, every time I’m in a group when someone talks, I want to talk too. I think it’s genetic. Davy Crockett was my great-great-great grandfather, and he was known for telling tall tales.
Anyway, the best conversationalist is the person who can look into the eyes of a person telling their story, smile, nod and not say a damn thing.
I don’t know if I could keep a resolution to shut up, but at least I realize I should shut up. That ought to count for something.
“Why are you late?
My mother said that almost every time I walked in the door. Sometimes I was down the street at a friend’s house. His family had the first television on the block. Mickey Mouse Club came on at 4 p.m., and was an hour long. The first half was singing, dancing and acting silly. It was all right. I was too young to appreciate fully Annette Funicello at that time. When I was older she became Annette Full of Jello and much more fascinating. The second half was a serial. My favorite was Spin and Marty, two boys at a summer camp. Spin was a city street kid, and Marty was a naïve rich kid. At first they didn’t like each other, but by the third season they were buddies. As soon as the final song–“MIC, see you real soon, KEY, Why? Because we love you”—finished I was supposed to be out the door and headed home. In the winter the sky was getting dark at that time of time. Everyone knew if you were caught outside after dark, something terrible was going to happen.
The only situation worse was to be out of the house in the dark and dark clouds rumbled with thunder and lightning. My brother was bringing me home from the movies. He always resented having to pick me up places. It cut into his cruising time up and down the main drag of down. On the average I’d have to wait about thirty minutes on the street outside the theater. When I decided to start walking home, he became even madder I wasn’t where I was supposed to be.
“Why are you late? Didn’t you see the clouds in the sky? Didn’t you realize it was about to rain?” my mother said with a particularly angry exasperation.
Yes, I knew it was about to rain. I knew she was going to be hysterical, but there wasn’t much I could do about it since my brother continued to scour Main Street for a girl desperate enough to go out with him. Of course, I would never get away with saying that so I instead went into my sniveling little coward role and whined, “I’m sorry.” I suspected she gave up her tirade because she didn’t want to listen to me whimper. On the other hand, my brother jutted his chin up and out as he walked right past Mother without acknowledging her.
As a child I seriously debated myself whether I wished to bother to try to date when I was a teen-ager. The appeal of the young ladies hardly seemed worth the inquisition. If my brother came in after ten o’clock, she would greet him at the front door with her hands on her hips. She knew the movie downtown never let out after nine o’clock. You could drive a young lady home anywhere in town and still be home by ten.
“Why are you late?”
He tried to ignore as was his custom, but she blocked his path. Squinting she pushed her nose into his face.
“Let me smell your breath.”
“Aww, Mom.” He took a quick step to the left and escaped into the next room.
“Are you having sex with that girl? You better not get her pregnant!”
That imperative statement contained two major ironies. One, my brother did start coming in staggering from a few too many beers, and when he did Mother just stood there giggling, finding the way he lost his balance and fell on the sofa to be quaintly enchanting.
However, Father was not amused at all. “What the hell do you think you’re doing? You’re scaring the hell out of your little brother!”
The other irony was that by the time he finally got a woman pregnant I was married and had impregnated my wife, and I was six years younger than he was.
The fear of being on the receiving end of the withering question “Why are you late?” tended to make any situation worse. One year for Halloween my mother took me downtown to a five and dime so I could buy a mask for the school festival. She sat out in the car while I was supposed to rush in to pick out the mask. I stood in front of the table and froze. Not only did it infuriate Mother for me to be late, she also blew up if I spent too much money on foolish things such as Halloween masks. I saw ones I liked but they were too expensive. Dithering for too long a moment, I finally decided on the cheapest thing I could find. By the time I paid for it and ran out to the car, it was too late—Mother’s face was crimson.
“Why are you late? How hard was it to pick out a simple mask? Now I have a splitting headache!”
Well, that took the thrill out of Halloween, and it was the last one before entering junior high school. Once you’re in junior high you’re too big to wear silly Halloween masks.
I soon found out the reason Mother had such a short fuse. She had cancer and died before I entered high school. All dread of the scoldings went out the window. After a while I kind of missed them. It wasn’t any fun staying out after midnight on a date because Father went to bed at 9 o’clock every night and didn’t know when I came in or even that I had gone out in the first place. In fact, I was usually home by ten o’clock anyway. After all, the movie was over by 9:30. We could make the drag a couple of times to see who else was out that night, drop by the local drive-in for a quick soda and still be home in time to make Mother happy, if Mother had been there.
I am now older than my mother was when she died. I’m still home by ten o’clock. I never had to stand by the front door demanding why my children were late coming home. My son hardly ever went to movies unless it was Star Wars, and my daughter always dated guys who had earlier curfews than she did.
With luck I have a few more years. Boring people like me usually live a long time. It’s too strenuous to do anything exciting. But I do know that when my life is up and I finally am reunited with my loved ones in heaven, my mother will be standing at the Pearly Gates with her hands on her hips and a scowl on her lips.
“Why are you late?”
Anyone who has been to one of my storytelling sessions knows I like to say, “Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.”
Imagine my mortification recently when I discovered I didn’t make that up at all. Mark Twain did.
This is not the only instance when I think I’m clever enough to create a snappy turn of phrase. For example, I also tell people, “Don’t let facts get in the way of the truth.” Not mine. Maya Angelou said it first.
I’m not the only person to make this mistake. Of all people Helen Keller got caught writing a poem that had already been written. It’s not like she was eavesdropping and decided to take the words as her own. Her conclusion was that someone recited the poem to her when she was a child. As an adult when she thought she was composing it, she was just remembering it. Needless to say, she was as humiliated as I am now with my mistake.
When you think about it, all the good axioms were created by Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin or William Shakespeare. Just who did these people think they were, hogging all the best stuff for themselves? It’s hard to get credit for anything these days.
In addition to claiming ownership of bits of wisdom, I have also embarrassed myself by misquoting these smart guys.
For example, I gave Alexander Pope credit for writing, “The mind is its own place and in itself can make a hell of heaven or a heaven of hell.” It seems Pope didn’t say that. John Milton wrote that chestnut for “Paradise Lost.” Even more embarrassing was the fact that Milton had those words coming out of the mouth of the devil himself. So this sentence is not meant as words to live by, but as words of encouragement to the folks already living in hell.
Speaking of Alexander Pope, I also recently discovered that I had been misquoting one of his actual sayings most of my life. I thought the expression was “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” He actually said, “A little learning is a dangerous thing.” It seems most words coming out of my mouth are dangerous things.
I shouldn’t be let out of the house without of a copy of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations under my arm. I can take solace in the fact that all those guys are dead so if I take credit and/or misquote them it’s not a big deal. What they can’t know won’t hurt them.
Another way to look at my misappropriation of quotations is to acknowledge that it is really good for me. After all, who can be impressed with something an old guy in Central Florida says? Who’s he to think he’s so smart? But if they know I am quoting the best writers who ever lived, then they can think, “Wow, he’s spent a lot of time studying literature. He must know a lot.”
At least that’s my defense right now. Maybe I’ll think of a better excuse later. After all, tomorrow is another day.
Darn it, I did it again.
A leisurely drive through Cades Cove
A trip to the Great Smoky Mountains is not complete without a visit to Cades Cove. It has a sad history. Cades Cove, noticeably flat in the middle of the mountains, was a viable farm community since who knows when. Then we decided to create a new national park during the Depression, and these folks were told to go live somewhere else. Anyone born there could still be buried in one of the three cemeteries. They could be dead there but not live there.
You can take the one-lane road around the perimeter, visit three old churches, hike five miles to Abrams Falls, inspect a museum of how life used to be and maybe even spot a family of deer or bears. For your own safety you shouldn’t try to get out of your car to take close up photos of the animals or try to feed them. The speed limit is only 10 or so miles an hour. If you’re in a hurry stay on the Interstate highways and out of the park.
My son and I found ourselves behind a van with a retractable roof and four little girls. No one minded the stop and go traffic moving like molasses because, after all, this was Cades Cove. It was our first visit since my wife Janet died. But if she had been there she would have had a conniption fit.
Three of the little girls in front of us stood up through the sunroof, danced around and waved their arms like they were in a photo shoot for deodorant. What would have upset Janet was the thought that if the car had to stop abruptly or if it had hit a major pothole those little girls would have gone flying out of the sunroof like Peter Pan without the pixie dust. They could have busted their pretty little skulls or fractured their fragile spines. Then their happy memories would have been pre-empted by a dash to the closest hospital about thirty miles away.
When we thought it couldn’t get any worse, a slightly older girl slid her butt onto the open window and joined the joyous ballet of waving hands. If the door wasn’t locked she could have made a thrilling plunge into the majestic pastureland. And to top off the circus of fools, one of the smaller girls climbed out of the car window too.
This reminded me of the idiotic meme on Facebook about if you survived riding in the back of an open pickup truck in the fifties type in “It was fun!” and share. No one stops to think about the kids who fell out of pickups and died. They’re not here to share the meme on Facebook. I know the reply would be that they never heard of a child actually dying in the back of a pickup. That may well be true but we were children back then. We didn’t read newspapers and we didn’t listen to our parents whisper to each other about how terrible it was that the little Smith boy died. Just because our parents shielded us from bad things didn’t mean they didn’t happen.
And I could hear Janet complaining and cussing about this very topic as we watched the girls’ carelessly defying death as their parents giggled about how cute they looked. Thankfully by the time the van reached the regular two-lane road leading back to Gatlinburg, McDonald’s and Hillbilly Golf, the children returned to their seats and hopefully buckled up. Their adventure had come to a safe conclusion.
But Janet would have been cussing out the parents for another thirty minutes. Ah, the memories.
A couple of weeks ago my son and I went to the Smoky Mountains National Park for a week of hiking, eating, sleeping and no cell phones.
This location had been our favorite vacation destination since my wife Janet and I went there on our honeymoon forty-six years ago. I remember a funny story about the first time we took our son with us. He was about a year and a few months. We went with my in-laws. He was pretty much a daddy’s boy. He liked it when I carried him. Sometimes he would put his fingers in my hair and pat the back of my head. He also knew that I was the one who put him in his stroller and pushed him.
If you have been to Gatlinburg you know one of the favorite activities each night is to eat out and walk up and down the street until you are ready to collapse. One candy kitchen gave out free mini candy canes at some point so you had to stay up long up long enough to get your candy cane.
One evening my mother-in-law decided that my father-in-law should be the one to push the carriage so, of course, he did. I began walking next to the stroller where my son could see me. He casually glanced over and then did a double take. He stood up in the stroller, looked around to see who was pushing him and then settled back down.
My son and I decided to go on this trip and at this particular time because the end of July coincided with the forty-sixth anniversary. Cancer took Janet a year and a half ago, and we both still miss her.
We missed the way she liked the arts and crafts shops best. The T-shirt stores could make her giggle. She didn’t like candle and incense shops because the smells gave her a headache. She liked the candy kitchens. We liked to listen to her complain about stepping on the tree roots and rocks on the hiking trails.
By the time our daughter came along everything had become a ritual of what we did first, not at all and must do before we went home. Our daughter is now married with a child of her own, a husband and a job, so she was too busy to join us on our adventure into the past.
My son and I amused ourselves by trying to remember which rock Janet sat on to rest on the trails. I sat on all of them just to make sure I was sitting where she sat.
Of course, we would have preferred to have had her with us. But we can’t have everything we want in life, can we?
Excuse the quality of the photo of my son Josh. I used an old instamatic I found in a drawer.