Pondering the Pavement

May 6, 2019

Don’t Wait! Celebrate, Commemorate, Elevate, Eat Cake!

“Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words.”
– Plautus

Charles&Marjorie

Hanging with Marjorie, November, 2018.

My cousin, Marjorie, leaned forward in her long-familiar chair; her diminishing frame being dwarfed by her surroundings. She looked up at me over her glasses, giving me the impression of someone in contemplative thought. After a pause, she said, “Do you know what’s really strange?”

Of course, as a medium, I have a long-ass list of topics filling that roster. Resisting my urge to just spout off, “Top 10, alphabetical or just as they come to mind?” I just shook my head and said, “No. What?”

She sighed, “We’re the only ones left.” She glanced at a portrait of she and her late husband, George, longingly. He had passed away four months earlier, in July, after having been together for 71 years.

I nodded knowingly. “I was thinking about that on the way up here,” I said. Most of our holiday family gatherings were evenly distributed between the homes of my grandparents, my aunt & uncle and George & Marjorie. There was usually ten to a dozen people attending these obligatory soirées. My grandparents, great-grandma Harvey, my mom, Aunt Ruth & Uncle Bill, Uncle Frank & Aunt Bessie, Guy & Louise (Marjorie’s parents), and a few oddball stragglers from time to time—such as Marjorie’s Aunt Belva (who was nothing short of a sitcom waiting to happen) and a crotchety old spinster named Virginia (who burrowed her way under the family skin like a wood tick on a hound dog)—and, of course, this strange kid who had an unreasonable passion for shirts as garish as his inherited laugh.

And now the original cast had been whittled down to just two. It felt like the final season of M*A*S*H.

Our holiday meals were orchestrated with the precision of a well-choreographed assembly line. Everyone had their role, their positions marked as if part of a cable access broadcast. Most of the men would gather around a television. Football was the chosen sport for my Uncle Bill while my grandfather would immerse himself in any available baseball game. George would want to tune into anything from NASCAR to a local soapbox derby. Me? I’ve never had even the slightest interest in sports. I’d just withdraw deep into my happy place praying for a chance to ram an ice-pick into my brain. The women would all scurry into the kitchen, which was always too small to comfortably contain the growing populous of the gaggle of self-proclaimed cooks. They would all pitch in wherever needed. Marjorie, on the other hand, always had ONE task and ONE only: she made the mashed potatoes. No instant flakes for this woman. Oh, no, my friends. She peeled honest-to-God REAL potatoes. She had THE perfect blend of milk, butter, salt, pepper and a hint of what must have been either cocaine or the freshly ground bones of innocent kittens. I’ve never had mashed potatoes to match hers. NEVER.

I said, “It seems like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it?”

She just nodded. “It really is strange to think about,” she reflected. “It’s like…” her voice trailed off as she brought her fingers to her temples. “Boom!” she exclaimed, her hands popping off to each side in an abrupt gesture.

I laughed, “You are just THE hippest 88-year-old around!”

She chuckled in her lady-like fashion, but the glint of mischievousness in her eyes twinkled oh-so-very-brightly. “You know,” she said, “My birthday is May 11th.”

I nodded, “I know.”

She sat up as straight as she could and proudly exclaimed, “I’ll be eighty-nine!” She emphasized the “nine” firmly.

I leaned toward her, my left elbow resting on my corresponding knee, as I pointed a finger at her. “I’ll tell you what,” I said matter-of-factly, “I’m going to come back for your birthday!” I held out my left hand palm up, “I’ll bring cake…” then did the same with my right, as I continued, “… AND ice cream!”

“Ohhh!” she exclaimed gleefully as her eyes widened with excitement.

“And you know what THAT means?” I said with my arms & hands still extended. “You’ll have to hold the door open for me because my hands will be full!”

She gave her head a firm, quick nod and said, “I can do that for cake!”

You go, Girl.

We both laughed, simultaneously leaning back into our respective seats. She grinned while looking down into her lap. Then she shot a look back up at me, her smile softening slightly, and added, “Well, if I’m still here.”

It pained me to hear the reality of the situation. But I glossed over it and interjected, “Hey, it’s CAKE I’m talkin’ about here! Surely you can hang around for cake!” As with her “nine”, I bitch-slapped the emphasis on “cake.”

She winked. “I’ll do my best,” she laughed.

Despite her best of determined intentions, she sadly missed the mark by nearly 3 months to the day. In the wee hours of February 12th, as I held her frail hand, Marjorie slipped away quietly to reunite with those who had ventured onward before us. And, I’m sure, they had an amazing spread just waiting for her when she arrived. Well, except for the mashed potatoes because that’s STILL her job!

“When someone asks if you’d like cake or pie, why not say you want cake AND pie?”
– Lisa Loeb

20190505_133728

In honor of Marjorie’s birthday, I am inviting anyone within the local area to join me for pie on Saturday, May 11th, at 11:30am. I’m limiting attendees to an even dozen to match our old family gatherings (and to ensure we don’t take over the restaurant!). Please RSVP to me privately (charles@extralargemedium.net) no later than 8pm, Friday, May 10th. It would really mean a lot to me, and Marjorie. PLUS, you get pie. It’s a win/win. Restaurant location will be provided once you RSVP. Thanks! ♥

July 15, 2018

By George, Writing IS Cathartic

Filed under: Family Memories,In Memoriam,RIP,Uncategorized — cfilius @ 4:22 am

I lost one of the great ones this morning. George is my mother’s first cousin, 3 years her junior. They, along with my Mom’s big sister, Ruth, were inseparable growing up. This same connection carried on through adulthood. Mom and Aunt Ruth always referred to him the brother they never had. When they’d bring this up, George would respond with, “If I was your little brother WHY did you put me in a dress and drag me around the neighborhood in a wagon?” Then everyone would howl with laughter.

He worked in West Virginia coal mines “back in the day”. He worked in a furniture store. And wherever he worked he always advanced up the ranks. If there was a job to be had, George would get it. The depression didn’t stop him. His father abandoned the family when he was just a small boy. He knew he had to help his mother and grandmother earn money to “keep the family going”, as he always said. He honestly didn’t know the meaning of the words “no” or “can’t”. In 1969, he bought a Chrysler dealership in a tiny West Virginia town that didn’t even have a daily newspaper. His mother’s brother, Charlie, thought he was nuts for doing that. “You’ll never make a go of it!” he said. (Our Uncle Charlie was just a a pound shy of a pound of sunshine let me tell ya…)

George made more than “a go of it.” He was a top seller in the Chrysler corporation for many years. From the time he bought the business, in 1969, until he retired 25 years later, he was awarded several trips, Cancun & Las Vegas among many, by the corporation. He would be traveling with people who owned huge dealerships in large cities. Dealerships that employed several sales people. George, on the other hand, had one salesman: himself. He had a gift of gab, this man. He could sell ice to an Eskimo and condoms to the Pope. Being the unassuming man that he was, he always credited his customers with being his sales team. “Treat people right and they’ll tell everybody.” He was right.

He and his wife were inducted into the West Virginia Motorsports Hall Of Fame in 2017. George & Marjorie were forces to be reckoned with in the early days of car racing in West Virginia. I would visit them as a small child and see SO many trophies throughout the house. At that age I had NO idea they raced cars. All I knew was that my cousin had a boatload of trophies and plaques. I had NO inkling of what they did but it was obviously something REALLY cool! As I grew older, he would share drag racing stories with me. I would just sit and listen in total awe. This conservative man had been hell on wheels and he hung out with the likes of Richard Petty. You’d never know it unless you asked. He was humble. He was kind. He was understanding. He was intelligent. He was generous. He was all of those things, and much more. But more than anything, he IS loved.

He was also wickedly funny. Whenever I’d visit he’d say to his wife of over 70 years, “Margie! What have I told you about keeping that door locked!” or “Margie! Just slip him a few pennies through the door. Don’t let him in because he’ll think we’re gonna feed him!”

I would usually reply with, “That’s why I come here, George. For the respect. I haven’t received it yet but I keep hoping.”

He’d nod his head and say, “You’ve got a loooong wait, Charlie.” Then we’d just burst out laughing. By George, I’m gonna miss the laughs… and him. But, thank God, I had him in my life for 57 years. RIP.

GeorgeMontage100

 

 

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