Mortality and Spring

I’ve had an odd mix of thoughts today. 

Mom called last night (Fri­day), and I learned that Dad­dy has had sev­er­al bad falls recent­ly. He was out of town for a busi­ness trip most of this week and end­ed up spend­ing a night in the hos­pi­tal while there, after a fall in the show­er. The week before that, he fell at home and hit his head on the hearth. Both times, he was­n’t wear­ing his foot brace. After some of his neck and back prob­lems in the last few years, he has a “foot drop” prob­lem. Of course, Mr. Marine does­n’t want to use a cane. That’s worrisome.

I still think of Dad­dy as the big, strong, fair­ly young man he was when I was small. He was 23 when I was born, fresh out of the Marines. I absolute­ly believed he could do any­thing. Part of me still does. I think he does, too, though, which leads to him tak­ing risks that he should­n’t take.

Con­sid­er­ing his lifestyle, he’s in pret­ty good shape—but he’s def­i­nite­ly 65, not 30. He’s still 6′4″, but that does­n’t seem as impos­ing as it did at one time. He does­n’t seem larg­er-than-life-impos­ing now.

Then today, Mom called again. She’d just got­ten a call from one of my cousins in Alaba­ma. The doc­tors said it’s time for the fam­i­ly to get there to see Uncle J for the last time. He had to retire back in the ear­ly 70s or so due to repeat­ed heart attacks. He had forty most­ly-good years after his retire­ment, but the end is near now.

We lived next door to Uncle J & Aunt B (one of Mom’s sis­ters) for a few years in the mid-70s. We’d lived a cou­ple of streets over from them in the late 60s, until we moved to Geor­gia in 1972. Most of Mom’s fam­i­ly lived in walk­ing dis­tance, but they were clos­est. We were in and out of their house all the time. I don’t know why our par­ents even had a fence between our back yards, since we were con­stant­ly hop­ping over the fence anyway.

Their youngest son, S, is just a few years old­er than I am. Of course, to a pre-teen, all teens are incred­i­bly cool. He (under­stand­ly) was­n’t ter­ri­bly inter­est­ed in spend­ing time with a cou­ple of lit­tle girls, but that’s was okay with me. I just want­ed his com­ic books.

Yeah, com­ic books. All kinds, from Richie Rich and Archie to Bat­man and Super­man. I could­n’t ever get enough to read, and books in gen­er­al weren’t falling from the sky, so com­ic books worked for me. Shan­non was real­ly patient with this lit­tle brat.

Uncle J was almost always home, usu­al­ly found in his work­shop or under the hood of some vehi­cle, tin­ker­ing. It’s pos­si­ble that he should have left the wood­work­ing to some­body else long before he gave it up, as he sac­ri­ficed more than a few fin­gers to the saw over the years. He was always build­ing or fix­ing, extend­ing the porch or work­shop, or build­ing a new cus­tom clos­et for Aunt Bet’s shoes. Seri­ous­ly! She has a walk-in shoe closet.

And there were plums. I real­ized today that I have nev­er bought a plum, nev­er thought about buy­ing one. Plums in stores? Why would they be there? Plums come from those trees in the back yard, those love­ly trees that grow just tall enough that it takes team­work or inge­nu­ity for a kid to get to most of the fruit. I believe Aunt B had some plans for pre­serves or what­ev­er one does with plums, but between her three kids over the years, and us, and the myr­i­ad nieces, nephews, grand­kids, and neigh­bor­hood raga­muffins, she did­n’t have much of a chance.

Who could blame us, though? Have you ever tak­en a just-firm-enough plum off a tree? Felt the swell of it, the pli­a­bil­i­ty, the weight of the sweet­ness swelling up out of it? Del­i­cate skin, so eas­i­ly punc­tured, cov­er­ing meat that is a balm to the tongue. Bite it, roll it around your mouth, savor it.

There are nev­er enough plums.

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