Bud and others



Precious memories, unseen angels
Sent from somewhere to my soul.
How they linger ever near me
And the sacred past unfolds.

Precious Father, loving Mother
Fly across the lonely years,
And the home scenes of my childhood
In fond memory appear.
    

 —JBF Wright, 1925

In 1961, when I was twelve, a preacher took some of us kids to sing this hymn and others to a hundred-year-old lady named Stewart who lived in the country with her two “old maid” daughters and her bachelor son. Like my family and many others when I was growing up in rural Mississippi, their house was small and unpainted inside and out; their light came from kerosene lamps; their heat from a wood-burning cookstove and fireplace; and their refrigerator was cooled with ice that was delivered by the iceman. The boards on the outside of the house were weathered a soft gray, but the ones on the floors, walls, and ceilings, had been darkened by the smoke of wood and kerosene until they were a dark and depressing brown. The house smelled of wood smoke, and the only decorations were a Cardui calendar* and ancient photographs of grim-looking ancestors.

I knew and loved the Stewarts and as I sang I wondered what it must be like to be feeble, blind, a hundred years old, and sit in a rocker all day everyday with nothing to do but think about but the past.

Bud in 1989, a few months before he died
In the Stewart’s backyard was a well that they drew water from with a bucket, and on their back porch was a shelf that held a dipper, a bucket of water, and a washbasin, all of which were made of white, porcelain-coated metal. There was also a bar of homemade lye soap. They farmed with a mule and brushed their teeth with salt and baking soda. I would sit in the shade while Bud plowed during the day, and he would tell me ghost stories in the evening. One evening, his cows didn’t come home on time, so he and I went looking for them. When he asked me if I heard anything, I didn’t know that he meant cowbells, so I said I heard birds, frogs, and crickets, and he laughed about that every time I saw him for the rest of his life. Bud died in 1989, and I still miss him. The worst thing I can say about my life is that I didn’t adequately appreciate much of what I had until it was gone, although I spent a lot of time pursuing things that were worse than a waste.

As I travel on life
s pathway,
I know not what the years may hold.
As I ponder, hope grows fonder
Precious memories flood my soul.


As I was buying my groceries this week, an old and feeble man was buying his when another old man approached him, and the first apologized for taking so long. I assumed that the second man had driven the first to the store, and I’ve felt badly ever since that I didn’t offer to drive him sometimes. I miss having elders.

Peggy’s father is 85, and she worries daily about him dying. I know how she feels because I dreaded losing my parents. In one way, it was a relief when they died because it meant that I had escaped a lot of the problems that elderly parents can pose, but it was also an unhealing grief, although I didn’t anticipate this at the time. The fact is that I still need to feel loved and protected by people who are older and wiser than I, but more than that, I need to know that they care about me more than anything else
and that they would do anything for me. I lost my mother when I was 39 and my father when I was 45. These losses bothered me like a stabbing pain when they occurred, but they’re more like a bruise now. 

From the time of my childhood, I heard that life would look better in the rearview mirror, but I didn’t believe it. Now, I can never get used to the fact that people who remained in my life for years and years without the least effort on my part are gone forever, and there’s nothing that all the powers on earth can do to bring them back for even a moment.

Precious memories, how they linger
How they ever flood my soul.
In the stillness of the midnight,
Precious sacred scenes unfold.

Oh, how those precious memories;
They flood my soul.



*Cardui Tonic produced calendars from 1890 until 2012.

19 comments:

Sparkling Red said...

Memories certainly do grow sweeter with age.

I heard a quote somewhere about how, when both of one's parents have died, it feels like someone has removed the roof from the safe room you didn't realize that you were living in, and now you're exposed to the open sky.

Elephant's Child said...

Oh Snow.
Such a melancholy post.

angela said...

a very thoughtful and deep post today. I wish I could sit down with a cuppa and chat to you about your early life. It sounds fasinating. The older generation here have all gone or now can not remember. But I did pull an all nighter wiht my grandmother a few years before dementier (sp) came and took her way. And she told me many things. I cherish that chat with her

Stephen Hayes said...

I enjoyed this poignant post. You did an excellent job of visualizing these folks and I can close my eyes and see them. Thanks for sharing.

Winifred said...

What a lovely post Snow. Absolutely beautiful & so thought provoking & very true for most of us.

I think about my grandparents a lot now as I compare myself to them & wonder how my grandchildren feel about me. I wish I had my Mam longer than I did. I was 24 when she died & still feel bitter that she was robbed of seeing her grandchildren & I was robbed of all the time I would have spent with her. I feel sad when I see my friends who although they had their parents for a long time are now struggling with their loss of physical & mental abilities.

Wish I had been a lot more thoughtful when I was younger. Old age is a bug..r it has very little to recommend it.

Hope you're feeling better Snow, I haven't been on blogger much recently.

Ginny said...

I love that story about looking for the cows. It made me laugh. Technically you did answer his question

PhilipH said...

I'm always driving with my eyes fixed on the rear-view mirror Snowy; I care nought for what's in front of me. The past is where my life was vibrant, exciting, hungry for tomorrow.

I was relieved when my mother died when not yet 60. Same when Dad was free of the cancer that took him at age 72. I don't recall grieving about these deaths; am I odd?

People die. That's life.

rhymeswithplague said...

Poignant post, Snowy. Nostalgia, or at least our frailty and impermanence, must be the order of the day as I posted on the same subject...sort of.

Your were describing my childhood home, minus the mule and the plow.

Charles Gramlich said...

My mom lived to be 93. I didn't get to see her as much as I should have in the last few years. She did have pretty good health until very near the end. A blessing.

Snowbrush said...

“Such a melancholy post.”

It’s a word that others also use.

“when both of one's parents have died, it feels like someone has removed the roof from the safe room you didn't realize that you were living in, and now you're exposed to the open sky.”

I see truth in this, but there are a lot of variables, of course. After you were here, I posted a picture of Bud that I hadn’t been able to find earlier.

“I did pull an all nighter wiht my grandmother a few years before dementier (sp) came and took her way. And she told me many things.”

So many regrets come from not asking questions. My father was sunk twice by U-Boats, and now I can’t imagine why I didn’t ask him a hundred about that. Even if I studied U-Boats for the rest of my life, I still wouldn’t know what his experiences had been.

“You did an excellent job of visualizing these folks and I can close my eyes and see them. Thanks for sharing.

Coming from you, that means a lot.

“I feel sad when I see my friends who although they had their parents for a long time are now struggling with their loss of physical & mental abilities.”

Even losing my parents when I did, I still felt sad when other people would talk about their living my parents. My Dad was 40 when I was born, and my mother 34, so they didn’t die really young, but since they were older when my life started, I was among the first I knew to lose my parents.

“Technically you did answer his question”

Yes, I did, and that’s why it tickled him so.

“I was relieved when my mother died when not yet 60. Same when Dad was free of the cancer that took him at age 72. I don't recall grieving about these deaths; am I odd?”

I won’t take advantage of you setting yourself up that way, so maybe you’ll return the favor someday. I had dreams that left me sobbing almost every single single night for a solid year after my mother died. I went for months without a moment of joy, and wondered if I would ever know joy again. Then, when my father died (he lived with me for his last two years), I shed not a tear, and felt almost no grief, but for years now, I’ve not dreamed about my mother once, while I dream of my father several times a year, and they’re always happy dreams. There are so many variables—how one felt about a parent, whether it was “time” for that parent to die, how old the child was, what else was going on in the child’s life, and on, and on, and on. I suppose your responses were atypical, but I have no idea what they mean about you. I would guess that maybe you weren’t close to your parents, but I don’t even know if that’s true. When I try to think of similar experiences in my life, I recall that I killed a man, and while it was entirely by accident, I was in wonder how little it affected me. I used to worry that the sadness and remorse would hit me like a brick someday, but 40-years have passed, and it hasn’t happened yet. Will it? and will you grieve for your parents someday? I have no clue.

“Your were describing my childhood home, minus the mule and the plow.”

I wondered. Our lives are similar in ways that most people can’t relate to, yet we’re so different. I think that you’re much like my best boyhood friend.

“My mom lived to be 93. I didn't get to see her as much as I should have in the last few years.”

I would say that the worse thing about age is regret. I feel so badly about much, having let myself and having let others down in ways that seem inexplicable looking back. I actually regret letting other people down more than letting myself down, possibly because I know that if I had done by them as I should, it would be the source of my chief joy. Yet, even today, I knowingly let people down. When I wrote not too long ago about sin and how we are all fallen, some people vehemently disagreed, and suggested that maybe I should only speak for myself. Well, maybe they really are that much better than I, but then again, maybe they’re just less aware, and I don’t know which it is.

All Consuming said...

"Peggy’s father is 85, and she worries daily about him dying." - I can relate to this, though my parents are younger - 77 and 76 - and I've had to work on not allowing this fear to impact on my relationship with them, especially after he had his heart attack the year before last. I've got that covered these days, compared to how I was ten years ago.

I have no regrets already so far my relationship with them, or anyone I love. I think this is partly due to a silver lining that is borne of my medical history. I faced my own mortality more than once, and it completely changed how I viewed the world, and who I was within it. I make sure I see ma and pa as often as possible, and enjoy doing things that make them happy. (Ma is giddy with happiness when she receives jewellery off me. Which happen a great deal of the time, if I were a hairdresser as well she'd lock me in the cupboard at her house). Pa - we talk a huge amount, he likes to discuss anything and everything.

I'm sad to hear your regrets though, for they can only hurt you, when you dwell on them. But I know you are a dweller, it is part of who you are. You have plenty of time left, and I am 100% sure you have also shone light and happiness into far more people in the past, than those you feel you may have treated badly. Many people don't even know someone else regrets behaving in a certain fashion towards them, and the older we get, the better at amplifying regrets and worries we become. You have plenty of time left to give your all to those you love who are still here, so focus upon that and send me $600,000 in the post.

I jest, but actually this post is so heartfelt, and the words about losing your parents and Peggy's fears have brought forth tears. X

Snowbrush said...

"they can only hurt you, when you dwell on them...send me $600,000 in the post."
Peggy and I talked it over and agreed that I should send you the money without even asking what you wanted it for (Peggy said you probably wanted it so that you could come visit us, and I said it sounded like a whole lot more than you would need, and she said that you probably needed that much so that you could afford to buy a few souvenirs and to take us out to dinner your last night here). Anyway, I had the check all made out and the envelope all addressed when it occurred to me that the absence of that money might give me something else to "dwell upon." I knew you wouldn't want that, so I tore up the check--still without asking what you wanted the money for. Besides it would, by definition, make me your Sugar Daddy and you my nymphet, and what if Ken and Spatz became insanely jealous, and you had to come to America and live with Peggy and me? Would you even like America, do you think, what with all the guns and killing? Might it not be better if Peggy and I (and Brewsky, and Peggy's many file cabinets filled with clothing buttons, and all forty of my potted plants) came and lived with you; I mean without sending you the money and making you my nymphet? You could introduce Peggy to the jewelry business, and she could introduce you to button collecting, and Ken and Spatz and I could spend our evenings happily caring for--and learning about--potted plants, and maybe turning homosexual and going off to live in a three-man group marriage and never talking to you and Peggy again because we would realize that you had wasted the best years of our lives, years that we could have been with one another.

P.S. In case I change my mind about the money, instead of putting me to all the work of writing a check and running the risk of it being stolen in the mail, how 'bout just sending me your banking information (account numbers, passwords, usernames, etc.), so I can wire the money directly into your account? If you'll do this, I will probably go ahead and send you the money today just in case you need it for something important.

Sue in Italia/In the Land Of Cancer said...

A very sweet post.

Myrna R. said...

What a beautiful post. I guess there's nothing lika parental love. We never lose the need for it. My mother-in-law is 95. She talks a lot as if her mother were still taking care of her. When she tries to leave the nursing home, it's because she's going to "meet" somewhere with her mother.

All Consuming said...

" and Ken and Spatz and I could spend our evenings happily caring for--and learning about--potted plants, and maybe turning homosexual and going off to live in a three-man group marriage and never talking to you and Peggy again because we would realize that you had wasted the best years of our lives, years that we could have been with one another." - HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. This is literally the best response to a comment I've left that I have ever read. Possibly, horribly true too. I reckon myself and Peggy would have a high time and head off to Vegas if you and Ken shacked up, all Thelma and Louise style, (minus the driving off a cliff bit).

We'll talk money again slippery sam. Tsk.

All Consuming said...

Where has my comment gone?! Check your spam folder dearie, I'm either in there walking into walls, or blogger has eaten it tsk.

Helen said...

"I would say that the worse thing about age is regret. I feel so badly about much, having let myself and having let others down in ways that seem inexplicable looking back. I actually regret letting other people down more than letting myself down, possibly because I know that if I had done by them as I should, it would be the source of my chief joy."

Several years ago, my sister proudly proclaimed she had no regrets, nothing to apologize for in her life (70 at the time.) I remember thinking 'how arrogant' ~ I agree with you, aging and regret go hand in hand. Not that I dwell on my missteps, I hope I learned lessons along the way, am a better person for having stumbled. Thoroughly enjoyed your post, Snow!


Snowbrush said...

“A very sweet post.”

Thank you. It was written and posted much, much faster than most.

“When she tries to leave the nursing home, it's because she's going to "meet" somewhere with her mother.”

I fear senility and quadriplegia worse than almost anything because nearly all other problems would at least leave me able to end my life, and as sad and hard as that would be, I would prefer it to having my choice taken from me (what I would most prefer would be euthanasia). Of course, your mother-in-law might very well be happy, but what a horrible price for happiness.

“I reckon myself and Peggy would have a high time and head off to Vegas if you and Ken shacked up, all Thelma and Louise style, (minus the driving off a cliff bit).”

Peggy is, methinks, less flamboyant than you. She’s also quiet, mostly frugal, and hates Vegas as well as Thelma and Louise. Now, if you wanted to go to a button convention (there really are such things, and she really does go to them), that would please her enormously, and she would take great pleasure in introducing you to her many button-collecting friends. BTW, are you familiar with Pearlies, and do they still exist in England? I also have another question. We’ve been watching a series of American-made WWII documentaries entitled Victory at Sea. They contain much about the British side of the war, and I noted while watching the British sailors eat that nearly all of them held their forks in their left hands, which would be the exact opposite of how Americans hold theirs. So, seriously, are people in England taught to eat with their left hands? Before these documentaries, I had never thought of it despite having seen a lot of British TV shows and movies, but so many of those guys eat that way that it has to be either a British thing, a Navy thing, or else the film was developed backwards so that what’s on the left in the film was on the right in reality.

“Where has my comment gone…I'm either in there walking into walls, or blogger has eaten it tsk.”

We were out camping for one night, which we try to do about every ten days during Oregon’s short summers (by early September, the nights are already too long). It would be the most natural thing in the world for me to announce our trips in the comment’s section in order to avoid people from wondering where they went, but I know that this would pose some minuscule security risk, so I can’t bring myself to do it. Of course, I could send a mass email, but this wouldn’t catch everyone, and it IS only for one night (our mutual pain level is too great to be gone for two nights).

“my sister proudly proclaimed she had no regrets, nothing to apologize for in her life (70 at the time.)

I’m incredulous, and can but think that she was only talking about the big picture (as with the Sinatra song “I Did It My Way,” although even he sang “Regrets, I’ve had a few…”) or else she’s like the person who drives rapidly along forest roads running down all kinds of little creatures without ever noticing. I suspect the latter, meaning that she’s either appallingly obvious, doesn’t care about the harm she has done, or has such a low moral threshold that she thinks of very few things as wrong (at least for herself). In any event, I can’t imagine but what quite a few of the people she has known might come up with some things.

BBC said...

"This country will have a presidential election in November of next year,"

Stay tuned in for the entertainment.