Oddments

In search of story


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Connections: November 12.17

My bedroom. Eat your heart out, Martha Stewart.

And do I hear “been there, done that,” dear reader?

What I want to reflect on, though, isn’t the chaos. It’s the book on the bed. Throughout all this mayhem, I’ve spent a few minutes every night with this book. Fittingly, I finished it on Veterans’ Day.

The book is “Tail-End Charley,” by James E. Brown, who kept a journal during his time as an Army Air Corps pilot. A kid who grew up quickly in the skies over World War II. To me it was fascinating, not just for the story in it but for the story about it.

Jim Brown wrote a book based on his journal, but it wasn’t published. Fast forward to 2017. His son, Gary, a writer also, took that manuscript and made it happen. He and his wife, my writing mate Tamara, and their daughter, a graphic artist, did it. They self-published and this handsome paperback is the result.

It is very personal, not just because it is first-person, but because it is brought to the world by his family.

I never met Jim Brown, but, boy, do I feel as though I know him! Underneath his descriptions of planes and places flows his understated narrative about himself, subtle and steady. In my opinion, his understatement is consistent with his generation and when he allows us a glimpse into his own feelings its rarity makes for eloquence.

I recommend this book, not because I know and like Jim’s family (I do), and not because I love reading about war (I don’t), but because of the down-home skinny kid who reveals himself in it.

 

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Connections: August 13.17

My family’s in the garden

the past grows ever green

my mom is in the phlox

most surely, though unseen

her dad in the tomatoes

my green-thumbed Grandpa Mauck

son of North Carolina

whose hills rolled in his talk

Grandma O’Hern in moss roses

her summer’s tried-and-true

her son, my dad, in marigold

(the only flower he knew!)

the dill for an unknown

its air a bit of mystery

but I know it figures somewhere

in my leafy family history

I don’t come (as they say) from money

I come more from dirt

so it’s good to feel them back

in horticultural concert.

 

 

 

Connections


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Connections: January 20.17

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAWhen the world is too much with us

and we need a Shangri-la

it’s time to get away

to the holistic basement spa.

With Tonka therapy

and sump pump ambiance

the clientele is served

with flair and flamboyance.

Sometimes they can’t keep up

I’m very sorry to say

I cannot get you in

they’re overbooked today.

With apologies to Wordsworth.

Connections


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Vagaries in Gestation: December 6.16

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAThus does the middle-aged dad (aka, my firstborn) demonstrate to his eleven-year-old apprentice (who is not easily impressed) how the core of the fake Christmas tree can be fake-played as a guitar.

Christmas is obviously underway. This tree was bought by my parents long ago and has seen over thirty Christmases. It always leans, but it wears its generations of ornaments proudly.

Amid a torrent of abusively dumb eleven-year-old-boy jokes, the tree went up, twisted limb by twisted limb. My grandson sipped apple cider from a plastic Christmas cup dating to his dad’s boyhood. Grit from the garage made its annual path through the kitchen. Tradition reigned.

Then came the phone call. My daughter-in-law and granddaughter had been in an accident. Everyone reading this blog knows that life can change in a blink, so I’m not here to tell you what you already know. My daughter-in-law and granddaughter are shaken but all right, and that is what matters.

But so suddenly did family goofiness change to intense family anxiety that the suddenness got to me. It was whiplash of a sort. There are certainly times in life when we feel as though we are on the end of the crack-the-whip line, and right now I’m that kid that goes caroming off in zig-zag trajectory, trying not to end up flattened on the blacktop. I think it was easier back when the Christmas tree was new.

 

 

 

Vagaries in Gestation

 

 


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Connections: April 5

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAIf life hands you lemons

or so I’ve heard it said

you should make lemonade.

(I’d make lemon pie instead.)

This grandma’s corollary

indubitably sound:

If life hands you kids

head for the playground.

Nothing is more sure

though its truth is often hid:

if you’re gonna be a parent

you gotta be a kid.

Connections


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GQ Dad

I would argue that Dad was by nature a man of questionable fashion sense. It can be reasonably opined that I inherited this, but “it takes one to know one” strengthens my argument. The Fathers’ Day ties I gave him were likely no help.

Bad ties aside, Dad was obsessed by red. His wardrobe, his walls, his cars, his lawn would have been blazing scarlet and sultry ruby had he his way. Every time Mom bought a black dress, he would observe that it would be much nicer in red. I’m sure he thought her iconic potato salad would have been better with a dousing of red food color.

One fateful Christmas, someone bought Dad a brilliant crimson shirt, and thus was born his favorite Christmas ensemble: red shirt with a painfully green St. Patrick’s Day tie. He wore it annually with pure euphoria and we dove for sunglasses.

Dad usually looked good, though, because Mom governed when it came to clothes. His blacks and beiges and pristine white shirts were her doing. And, protests to the contrary, they were his preference for most occasions.

But after Mom died his daily wardrobe became more expressive of his inner Matisse, and one day he emerged from his bedroom in full bloom: brown tweed trousers and red-plaid flannel shirt. Over the shirt — wait for it — a beige sweater with green and orange polka dots. That became his favored fashion statement his last autumn. Blaming the dementia would be handy but not fully honest.

The world according to Dad was brown tweed with red plaid with green and orange polka dots. His spine was straight, his head high: the proletariat could wear whatever — he rocked the look.

Happy Fathers’ Day to all dads who rock the look!