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 now.
Then today, Mom called again. She’d just gotten a call from one of my cousins in Alabama. The doctors said it was time for the family to get there to see Uncle James 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 James & Aunt Bet (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 within 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 backyards since we were constantly hopping over the fence anyway.
Their youngest son, Shannon, is just a few years older than I am. Of course, to a pre-teen, all teens are incredibly cool. He (understandably) wasn’t terribly interested in spending time with a couple of little girls, but that 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 James 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.1Seriously! She has a walk-in shoe closet. That woman loves shoes!
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 backyard, 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 Bet 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.