Chapter One - Eating Sand
My first memory is of sitting in the sandy road in front of our house and eating a handful of sand. I remember choking on the horrible dry mixture, but little else other than Mama, my maternal grandmother, picking me up. I must have been about one year old and must not have been walking for long for surely I would have tried a dirt sandwich at my first opportunity.
Obviously, I had already established my standard bite size for I did not take a little taste on my finger nor did I merely drop a small bit in my mouth. No, I grabbed as big a handful as my little chubby hand would hold and stuffed it all in my mouth. It was horrible. I choked and gagged on the dry sand. Luckily, Mama was not too far away.
I have other memories of that time period including eating a handful of ants which wasn’t a lot of fun either. And there was the giant spider in my toy box. No, I didn’t eat it. When I peered over the edge of my toy box there was a giant spider in the corner of the box and I would not reach in to get a toy. As I recall Mama either didn’t believe me or knew what it really was for I don’t remember her helping. A few days later I realized it was a rubber spider that someone had given to me but for several days, I had not taken a single toy out of the box.
We lived on a cotton farm in Newsome, Texas which is less than 100 miles east of my future home in Dallas. It was so far out in the country that the zip code was E I E I O.
Papa grew cotton but he also had a few acres of potatoes and a family garden that was an acre of more where he grew corn, lettuce, beans of various kinds, and all the other vegetables that we lived on.
There is quite a difference between that old farm house and where I sit right now. I am typing this on a HP computer with a 22 inch HP HD monitor sitting in air conditioned comfort while the temperature outside is in the upper nineties. Beside me is another HP computer that I use as a backup and my notebook computer is in its case by the front door. The house is full of the latest electronics and gadgets. My iPhone and iPad are sitting next to me in the charger. The old farm house had no electricity or running water. It did have a butane stove and two butane heaters that were fed by the big silver butane tank outside. At night, we had kerosene lanterns for light. Of course, there was no television or radio for there was no power. Heat came in through the screened windows during the summer and in the winter the cold found its way through the seams in the plank wall and floor.
What a change, but then it has been over 60 years since my sand eating days and I have much to tell of the years in between.
A few months ago, my second oldest daughter, Robin, asked me to write about my life. While she did not specifically say why, I do know the void that exists with information about my many events of my childhood and even event lately. That begins with the fact that I was 37 when she was born and that leaves a lot of years that preceded her birth. Normally a lot of that would have been filled in as she grew up, but unfortunately, we did not have a traditional linear life together. It is a bit complicated, but the gist of it is that her mother and I divorced and I had custody of Robin for most of her childhood, but she went to live with her sisters when she was almost 15. Since then we have been close in our relationship but I have always lived some distance away. That distance meant that we did not get to spend large amounts of time together and when we did, the time was spent with discussions of more current events rather than the telling of old tales that happens in more relaxed and less time pressed times.
Before I go on to explain the comment about her sisters, let me say that I am writing all this for my children. Well, there is some portion of selfishness here, too. I want to share my life and some of my adventures in hopes that they might be handed down with time. I also want them to know about their grandparents who were gone before all but Kathy, my oldest, were born or old enough to know them. That is such a shame.
Shortly before she died, my mother, wrote of growing up in east Texas, some of it the same farmhouse in Newsome where I dined on fine east Texas sand. I would love to have that history from many of my other relatives, particularly my father.
The only thing I can do about that absence is to relate various stories and tales from those years.
I should also explain that I do not plan on completely following normal conventions with this “book”. It is certainly not a formal manuscript nor intended for publication so I shall take certain liberties. I may use incomplete sentences. I may dwell more on facts in places rather than writing to entertain. On the other hand, I may be silly and sometimes maudlin in places without a second thought. I just want to tell the tale.
Let me warn, too, that I may not sugar coat some things. I plan on telling it like it was. I don’t mean that it is a tell all “book” for I do not intend on hurting the feelings of some of the people in my life (who are still living). Nor is there anyone with whom I feel the need to belittle or to get even with for some event or times from years ago.
May you rot in hell, _________. OOPS! But I don’t want this to be just a book of dates and events. I want the color to go along with it. While I will not get into graphic detail, I will surely talk about my relationships and there may be some “interesting” revelations. I have had a colorful life and I am not ashamed of any of it. Well, very little of it and certainly less of it than I should be.
Let me give you an example, I may talk about one of my relationships and how nice it was to find a woman who liked to do the same things I did at the time, go out drinking beer and chasing women. When you are young and foolish, there were a lot of things you do that most people would hide and not talk about. I would rather talk/write about my life warts and all. Oh, there are boundaries for sure, but I am sure that some of the discourse will cause my grandmother to spin in her grave as I have continuously caused for many, many years in so many ways. I’m surprised the spinning has not blown the east Texas sand off her grave.
I hope that you will see the real person. There is good and bad in everyone and I really am not going to purposely hide much of anything. I have done bad things now and then, but I have done many more good things of which I am proud. As I grew older, I used to joke that I used to have many bad parts, but they were worn off from frequent use. I have certainly have regrets and most of those are related to my children, but very few outside of those. I know that I am basically a good man. I work hard and have a tender heart. I also have a hard side and that has shown up in both good and bad ways. I don’t plan on hiding that either.
With my words I hope to be informative. I hope that some of the events will touch your heart; explain the why’s of this or that; and that some will make you laugh. Without a doubt some will make me cry as I write but then in many ways I am just a big baby. As I mentioned I am tender hearted. I am also hard as nails in other ways or would not have survived all those years of managing Teamsters.
At this point, I do not know how much of this I will get written. It is shortly before my sixty-fourth birthday and I have had some health issues over the past couple of years. Nothing serious as yet, but it has gotten my attention. It is a reminder of age and time and how no one knows what tomorrow’s sun may find. I will write on this as I can and as I am moved, but will I have it done in months, years or ever? I don’t know. I will just get started and plug along.
I am going to incorporate old photographs and various things I have written over the years. That alone would make this quite huge. That will include all of my poems. Well, all that are good enough to include and that will be a lot, since I have written them for about 40 years. In addition, I may incorporate sections of Mother’s book and a few of her poems.
Hmmmm…. My mind is racing as I write this introduction and about things I want to include as well as people. There are lots of people and various relationships that will have major roles. Thinking about those made me realize that I cannot hold to something I said earlier.
I said “I don’t mean that it is a tell all “book” for, as I said, I do not intend or hurting the feelings of some of the people in my life (who are still living). Well, I don’t intend to be purposely mean but I will tell the truth about some events and some events that I believe should be in the open. That includes one relationship that was tainted over and over by her drug addiction, but most everyone knows that she had those issues. They don’t know some details that I may discuss. Another relationship was so filled with hypocrisy and stupidity that it has to be told. Then there is the thief. Yeah. There will be discussions that are certainly not sweet and nice, but life is not always a “rosebud dream”.
I doubt that I will write this in sequential order. No, let me correct that. I know I will not write this in sequential order. The final result should be fairly in date order but not the writing. As soon as I finish this writing session today, I am going to do an outline of chapters and start sketching events and memories in each chapter. Through time as other events and adventures come to mind or kick me in the butt enough to make hop on the computer to tell about them, I shall but I will usually insert them in the proper time period.
Before I move on to what happened in the days, weeks, years, and decades after I ate a big mouthful of sand, I will add that today is Friday, June 14th, 2013. It is Johnny Lynn Mathews’ birthday. He would have been 62 today and wherever he might have been, I am sure I would have gotten a birthday hug.
So we start with that and something I wrote a few years ago.
In another life
Or perhaps in a parallel universe
I would be gathering 50 plastic pink flamingoes
Or posting your baby picture
On telephone poles
All over town
I might be buying black arm bands
For the party
And black crepe paper
To stretch across your yard
And around the tombstone we would plant in your yard
The party would be planned
The black cake ordered
And, oh, the gifts
For months we would have been looking
For those “special” gifts
The ones like Porcelana
To hide the age spots
And Grecian Formula
To cover up all that grey
Of course, there would be an application
To join AARP
And perhaps retirement information
From Social Security
The laughter would be building
It would be so hard to hold it in
We would hardly be able to wait
For your fiftieth birthday party
My only brother
But in this world, in this life
It is not that way
How can this be
We lost so many years together
Forty-three to be exact
Mother never forgot
She kept it to herself most of the time
But she never forgot
Once before Memorial Day
We went to buy flowers
For all the family graves
And as we looked and tried to choose
She turned to me with eyes overflowing
And said “What kind of flowers do you buy
For a seven year old boy?”
She never forgot
Though she seldom talked about it
Not long before she died
Mother said the old saying
That time heals all wounds was a lie
Because every time she thought of you
And that terrible night
It was like it just happened the day before
With me the years seem to make it worse
Maybe because so many others have gone
Leaving me more and more alone
All the grandparents
Aunts, uncles, cousins, friends
Less and less of the past
To hold on to
What I’d give to have a birthday hug
Or to see what the years have done
To see the lines in your face
The grey in your hair
Oh, the years we lost
I never knew how much I would miss you
And miss all the things
We would have shared
I miss you
And I miss all the others
That have left me behind
It will never be Home – Margate, FL
June 14, 2001