There came a recent day, where I handed the keys of the building to the agent. We shook, we parted, we glanced at the time. It was before noon, and Eighty-one, this business, this answered prayer, this wonderful experience, was now officially done.
What to do?
99 other men, no telling what they’d do: golf, fish, drink, nap. I went to a cemetery.
The whole point of closing Eighty-one is to free myself up for higher doing, which for me, is this-here, writing (really the output of thinking). It feels “gift of God”. At 62 it’s late in the game, but I’m ripe. I don’t want to face old age, and death, wondering what this alternative life might’ve been…don’t want to face God like some come-to-life Parable of the Talents, tell Him, “I was afraid…”
With my family VIPs in concrete pews, with trees for walls, the big sky open above me, this cemetery is more church than graveyard to me.
All these horizontal beds, these name-date-dash-date verticals, over it all reigns this powerful short word – Was.
I am still in Is mode, but my Was is yonder, and what can I do, but feel humble…
I’m here for think-right. I was never owed my life; I’ve never earned my life. Born between two siblings who did not survive their birth, I can count five could’ve/should’ve died moments – four of them split second – where I not only didn’t die, I didn’t even need a band-aid. Here-for-a-reason is a conscious thing for me. Humility is my best reaction.
There are so many stages in life. The older you get, the more you want to get one right… Praying doesn’t come easy here. It’s more squeak ‘n whisper. It’s always the fine line, between show-me-the-way and getting-out-of-His-way. If I prayed, it was only four words, You lead, I follow.
The Home Road
Memory: morning, Peach Street, Eunice, the church parsonage, age 6, my father puts me on his lap to tie my shoes. Instead of telling, he’s about to ask. “We’re thinking of building a little house down the road from Maw Maw and Paw Paw, Uncle Daniel and Aunt Rose. Would that be okay with you?”
Every morning we’d drive there. My father wearing a nail apron while I whacked weeds in the ditch with a sugar cane knife, waiting for the school bus, and at day end, walls were up…
Three people were there, that first night, in what I call The Little Red House, the first home my parents ever owned. I’m the only one left alive.
After the cemetery this is where I came, to what I consider the Home Road. I’ve had many homes, but this one, this is The One.
Rice field to the left, cows to the right, the occasional tree on the fence line, a blackbird on a power line, that’s my childhood scenery on this little country road.
There were three houses here when I was a kid. Ours, my aunt and uncle, and in the middle, my grandparents, staggered over a mile, maybe another half. Family here ‘n near, people have lived like this since before sliced bread.
I didn’t know how good I had it. All that nature. All that solitude. My best companion was between my ears. The farm life is a college of common sense. It was a just-for-me from God.
I just didn’t know it.
Ten important years, then we moved away. Change changed me. I kept moving, I kept changing. I’d come back, but less and less, because it was always so bittersweet. In between visits, they’d cut a tree down, they’d clean a fence line, they’d “improve” it, and all I wanted was for one thing in the world, to stay the same…
And then people died.
You Can’t Go Home Again
Our old house, it’s long gone. The oak trees I played under, they’re all gone. The land got sold, the new people didn’t see it as Home. Now it’s just something beneath the crop they’re growing…
My grandmother’s house is still there. Just a bike ride away from our house. I spent so much time in her kitchen, in her life, in her gentle presence…
In some alternate life I’d have never left, and I’d be a different me, whatever that would be. But I did leave, and now I’m this-me. It’s one of the costs, and it measures above money, in both the loss and the gain.
Some stranger takes this road, might barely notice a tree, clueless of the life and lives that happened here. The road feels righteous. It was such an innocent America, and I was, grace o’ God, placed in the comfort and care of clean hearted, high standard, do right people.
When I measure, I measure against It. What I saw, I know, what it was, I was witness, what I am, could only be with that kind of start.
Most of the elders of that time are buried at the cemetery I just left. And here I stand, on this road, all symbolic, with all its straightness, all its simplicity, and safety…
The very least I can do is thank God, for that fine start. I was too young to pray, for what I needed, for what would do me good, but there I was answered, even in the not-asking, this nursery of farm and family, part of the why ‘n wherefore of who I was, who I am, who I will become…
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This edition of Uncle P’s Bedtime Stories is brought to you by… a writer, who appreciates the attendance of your attention to his words.
For copies of Uncle P’s Bedtime Stories in book form, email eightyoneantiques@gmail with contact and phone number, and we’ll mail books to you.