Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Road Runs Both Ways

Long Road Back
Not sure.

What is this?  Are these segments fiction?  Did you make up all this?  What are you going with this? Is there more following?  So many questions, so here is a scanty explanation. 

When I visited my parents back “home” until my father’s death in 2005 and mother’s in 2011, we always did these few traditional actions, without fail. I had a sense that these were essential rites that we absolutely must do.

We always went to Pam's Cafe, and ate catfish or buffalo carp “fritters”, deep-fat fried, served with two slices of white bread, a big slice of strong onion, and cocktail sauce at Pam’s, the best and only restaurant in their town. Dad always had a cup of the blackest coffee I had ever seen at that time.

The waitress, usually a wild exotic teenager who grew up to be a worn-out waitress--Wanda?  Betty?, brought refills of coffee by.  She never asked if my father wanted a refill; he would tap the cup on the saucer to let her know.

My folks always sat in the same corner table that gave them the best view of the front door.  That way they would know who came or left, and then they would tell stories about them to me.  Oh, those stories. What these old wrinkled people who walked through those doors did with their lives could make a sailor blush.  

We always went across the “new” Missouri-Illinois Pike Bridge that spanned the Mississippi River (The River)to drive up Hwy. 79 in Mih-zer-uh (Missouri).  

The bridge was built in the early 1920's and opened up for traffic with a Gala Potluck. He was only six years old and had to pee.  Badly.  "Ma" told him to pee over there on the slope next to a tree.

Well, then.  He was  in his best clothes--knee pants, high socks, seersucker jacket--and just as he was getting his business done, he slipped on the long grass, sliding down the slope into the mud.  That is all he told me about that.  

We would drive up and around that road until we came to the places to stop—could stand there and look down The River and its spots of little islands.  Each stop gave us a new love for The River.

And we always went to visit  the cemeteries.  My father’s side of the family was buried in the small Nebo Cemetery in Illinois, while my mother’s side were buried in the sizable Crescent Cemetery in Pleasant Hill, Illinois. The farm where we lived for 40 years was a mile north of Nebo Cemetery.

The most interesting things about these places are that I did not know 97% of its occupants, and I really didn’t care.  My folks would walk around looking at headstones, talked about what those people did in life, and my father would speculate whether or not if they made it to Heaven. 

His staunch opinion was they did not.  In fact, my father generally believed that most of the people he knew were damned to hell.

Nebo Cemetery became interesting to me when two of my brothers were buried there in 1997 and 1999. I would go by myself in my rental car to place silk flowers at their graves, talk with them a bit, and look around the corn fields, at the rusted abandoned train tracks, and try to remember the town as it was in my childhood.

Now, I cull volumes of photos of those visits and re-live it all with stories my folks told me. Connecting those memories with faces, and reading letters not meant for my eyes have connected me with a totally different world one hundred years ago.

*The stories here in following posts are non-chronological and have a strong basis in truth.  A few tidbits here and there have been added for the story's sake. But, I have to say, just a few. 

** This is actually a re-post from years ago, which now can be called a back story.  I apologize for not providing readers with this cement.

***My mother told me other stories--oh my goodness, the stuff she knew!  Another day. 

1 comment:

D.G. Hudson said...

You are lucky you got to hear those tales, it's the best way to know what those times were really like. I do like catfish, too. Whenever I went home to visit Georgia after I moved to Canada, I always wanted certain items of food: catfish, BBQ pulled pork, and so on. Both my grandmothers were excellent cooks, so food memories and certain stories take me back to my childhood.

Enjoyed your post!