Remember Your First?

A brown and white guinea pig sitting in the grass.

My last WOW was sent out on February 19th, 2012.  The first two paragraphs were written shortly after that date so the shed and pier projects have been completed.

Have you ever tried to remember the “Firsts†in your life?  Some examples of “firsts†would be: first sweetheart, first kiss, first date, first sex, first job, first car accident, anyway you get the idea.  I think we forget all those important things and maybe take them for granted, or wish they had never happened.  I was 16 when I found my first sweetheart.  Her name is Joyce Weaver.  I have no idea where Joyce is now, but she was the perfect “first loveâ€.   She was kind, attentive, and as sweet as a southern peach.  On our first date I went to her home at one of the coal camps in our area.  She lived in the Red Jacket Camp, and I lived about 6 miles away in the Page Camp.  I remember sitting in her living room looking at old photo albums while her mother was making dessert in the kitchen.  The TV never came on, the telephone refused to ring, and we stared into each other’s eyes and wondered what the future held for us.  As I left her home that evening, I remember thinking, as I got into the car, what it felt like to be in love.  Sadly, our relationship lasted a few months and when I told Joyce I wanted to start seeing someone else, she cried.  That was the first time I broke someone’s heart.  I decided then and there that I never wanted to do that again.  I can’t say that I ever have.

I ran across this quote the other day: “I no longer wanted to be the painter, I wanted to be the paintâ€â€¦..Van Gogh.  That’s how I feel.  I don’t want to read about places, I want to go there and experience them. I don’t want just to talk to friends and relatives on the phone, I want to go visit them.  I am shamefully responsible for waiting for life to come to me when I should be pursuing it.  The day is coming when I will be unable, health wise, to do all the things I’m capable of doing now.  If we live long enough, that happens to all of us.  So, I intend to pick up the pace of my life: build the lean-to on my shed; replace the planks & support on the pier; write that song I have bouncing around in my head, in other words, “get off the porch and run with the big dogsâ€.

We have a 14 foot Carolina Skiff hanging on the lift down on the pier that we use to ride out our tidal creek a couple of times a year.  Jerilyn & I enjoy seeing the changes that people make and the ride is peaceful and easy.  The other day I go down to the pier, lower the boat in the water, hook up the gas tank to the motor (2 cycle) and, after a couple of tries, the little engine that could, roared to life.  Our trip was planned for the next day, so I climbed out of the boat and started cranking the two hoists that raise it out of the water (barnacles form if you leave it salt water).  The boat was just out of the water when one of the steel cables broke.  I left it in the water overnight and the next day I dutifully installed a new cable and hoist the boat into the air and let it wait there for our rescheduled trip the next day.  Alas, the next day we discovered the new cable failed because the clamps weren’t tightened enough, and the boat was again in the water with many gallons were inside it.  The problem has been corrected, and we are now anticipating our trip but the point of this story is that life is full of problems.  How we handle those problems determines how happy, or unhappy, we will be.  It took me a long time to accept that life is filled with peaks and valleys and the valleys are all defining.  We are how we handle the valleys in our life.  Ernest Hemingway said, “Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I knowâ€.  Guess I’m not all that smart!

As a young boy, about age five, and living with my maternal grandparents, my grandma (Nellie McCoy) would send me out to a small country store (Stanley’s) to get one or two items.  I would never have more than a quarter in my hand (this was around 1945-6).  The walk was about ¼ mile, and I had to walk past several homes that housed coal miners and their families.  In one of those homes lived a coal miner from Hungary.  A very large, garrulous fellow, but he was mean spirited and most women and children were afraid of him.  As I left the house for the store, Grandma would always caution me, “Tommy Joe, stay away from that old hunkâ€.  Of course, hunk was short for Hungarian and stay away from him was what I did.  I can’t say that I ever watched that man do anything wrong, but his reputation was bad, so we all assumed that he was, indeed, a bad person.  Most of us grow up adopting attitudes from our parents, grandparents, and friends.  But as we mature, we realize that those attitudes weren’t always correct. I believe the more we are exposed to people from around the world, the more enlightened our thinking becomes, and the better we treat those people with whom we come in contact.  I knew all four of my grandparents well, having spent a lot of time with them, and they were good people.  They did not have the opportunities we have, to travel, to visit, to enjoy other cultures, so it would be wrong to criticize them.  But it would also be wrong for us not to change and allow our children to grow up with those very same attitudes.  I see a big difference in the way we treat people different than us and I know we, as a society, have a long road to travel to follow God’s commandment to “Love thy neighbor as thyselfâ€.  Regretfully, I don’t know what happened to “that old hunkâ€, but I hope he lived a good, full life and that all those he came in contact with treated him well.

Jerilyn and I stopped at a shop close to our home that was going out of business.  In the front is an antique shop and in the back is a woodworking shop run by a 68 year old gentleman named Dwight.  White headed, portly, with a pleasant personality, and talks unceasingly about woodworking and as he told me several times, “I’ve been doing this for more than 47 yearsâ€.  Everything in his woodworking shop has to be gone by the middle of September, which gives him a little more than a month to sell all that he’s accumulated.  I doubt this guy ever, ever, ever, discarded anything.  So, I’m walking thru his shop gathering things I want to buy and mentally deciding what I’m willing to pay for each, knowing that I will in all probability never use any of the stuff.  I laid it down on a bench and go get Dwight to come and give me an estimate.  Two of the things I wanted, he would not sell (couldn’t bear to part with them), and he priced the other things so high I refused to buy them.  I would guess that Dwight has to rid himself of more than 10,000 items within a month, but he will never be able to do it because each item is personal to him, they remind him of something in his past, and he isn’t willing to let go.

A few months back I decided to clean out our shed, so I took every single thing out and put them in one of three piles:  â€Definitely Keepâ€, “Possibly Keepâ€, & “Junkâ€. I cleaned the shed, put the “Definitely Keep†back in, some of the “Possibly Keepâ€, then called my next door neighbor (Cal), and he came over and took everything sitting in a nice pile in front of our shed.  Now, that’s how you downsize!   Poor old Dwight should be selling things at firehouse prices but he just can’t let go.  Erma Bombeck said, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say ‘I used everything you gave me’ “.   I feel confident Dwight used his talent well, but downsizing isn’t one of them. What he didn’t know was I have some empty space in my shed that needs filling.  He invited me to come back in a couple of weeks, said he’d think about selling me the items I wanted.  I doubt he will change his mind.  Nevertheless, there’s a riderless horse coming into town and it’s headed toward Dwight’s house.  Its name is Panic.  It should arrive in a couple of weeks.  Dwight is in for a heckuva ride.

Recently we bought a new Toyota Prius (Hybrid) and owning that car has been quite an experience for us.  It runs using batteries and a gasoline engine.  We were assured we would get 51 mph city & 49 highway.  We left the dealership with a full tank of gas (12 gallons), and I’m confident we’ll have to fill it up sometime this year, maybe Christmas?  Anyway, we needed to stop at Walmart’s on the way home.  Jerilyn is driving the Chevy Cobalt, and I’m driving our new car.  I park the car in a distant parking area, get out of the car and hit the lock button on the remote, the doors lock and then unlock.  I try several times with the same results.  Jerilyn walks over to see what’s wrong, and I ask her to check the car doors to see if they are locked (if I go close to the door with the remote in my pocket the car unlocks).  She tells me the car isn’t locked.  I’m scratching my head trying to figure out why the doors won’t stay locked.  I open the door and sit down behind the steering wheel hoping there’s a clue on the dash’s display.  There are no lights flashing, no warnings of any kind.  Then all of a sudden I knew the answer:  the car was still running.  I reach over and hit the proper button and all the lights on the dash shut down.  I crawl out of the car, hit the lock button on the remote and the doors lock.  As we walked toward the store holding hands, Jerilyn looked over at me with warm eyes and said, “Boy, that car runs mighty quietâ€.    “Yes it doesâ€, I replied as we entered the store with me feeling like Opie.  The Fonz would have to wait for another day!

One of my very best friends was recently diagnosed with breast cancer (stage 2), and I have been going with her to her doctors’ appointments.  Back in May, I purchased a small Sony voice recorder that will hold up to 550 hours of voice data, so I take that with me as we travel from one doctor to the other.  I always ask if it’s ok to record the session and invariably, they say yes. The reason I do that is because a few minutes after we leave their office, half of what was said escapes me.  Not anymore!  When I get home, I hook the recorder to my PC, drag the file to my daily journal, and give it a name, and five months later I can listen to what the doctors told us and not have to try and remember their exact words.  When Jerilyn and I travel I get her to record what we have done immediately after we get back in the car (or bus).  Those audio files are dragged to my daily journal, on the appropriate days, when we get back home.  Our travels are preserved for reliving anytime we want. If you are interested in doing that, here is a link for the same recorder I have:

The musing above reminded me that when I think of those people in my life that have transitioned to the other side, I always think about hearing their voice one more time, and I wonder what I would say to them if I had the chance.  To my mom and dad, I would tell them how much I love them and how I wished I had done better at letting them know that.  To my brother, I would tell him how sorry I was that we didn’t honor his last wish and that was to be unplugged from all the equipment and let him die.  We weren’t ready to let him go but he was ready.  To KD (mom’s brother & like a brother to me), I would tell him that very few days go by that I don’t think of him (maybe he already knows that).  To my cousin Jesse, I would tell him that I will always remember the sermon he preached to me on the phone the day he passed away.  I called Jesse on that Sunday, back in February of this year, and asked him to preach me a sermon because Jerilyn and I failed to go to church.  He preached a wonderful sermon, and I hung up the phone never suspecting that would be my last contact with him.

During our life, we take a lot of pictures, put them in albums and store them away for looking at years later.  Probably, having a person’s voice to listen to would be more meaningful, but as Benjamin Franklin once said, “Lost time is never found againâ€.

I hope you’re enjoying whatever season it is in your part of the world.  Thanks for reading my occasional missive.  If you would like to be removed from my distribution list please let me know.  I will not be offended.  In the busy world we all live in we often do not have the time to read all we receive.


“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.”

– Corrie ten Boom