102

Today, my father would have been 102.

He was my best friend.

He said little to me in terms of how to live my life. I am pretty sure i only received about four letters from him my entire life. Later, he said very little on the phone, letting my mother do the talking.

Everything he did, everything he said, and everything he wrote had a powerful impact on me.

And boy, did we enjoy laughing together.

Early 1943, about a year after they bought the house on Castle Heights Avenue. The caption was written by my Aunt Bettye Kate, her sister. This is roughly about the time i was conceived. He would enlist in the Seabees in August.
September 1943, about a year after they bought the house on Castle Heights Avenue. The caption was written by my Aunt Bettye Kate, her sister. i was about four months into making my debut. He had enlisted in the Seabees in August and would soon be on his way to boot camp and CB training.. And just look at those hands, even then.

And i must say separating my thoughts about him from those about my mother is just flat impossible.

i am one very lucky man.

i miss him, but i also learned from him life moves on, and our task is to live it well, and do the right thing, regardless of the circumstances. So i will once again repeat one of favorite poems i wrote about him.

Hands, circa 2009

When most folks meet him,
they notice steel blue eyes and agility;
his gaze, gait and movements
belie the ninety-five years;
but
those folks should look at his hands:
those hands could make Durer cry
with their history and the tales they tell.

His strength always was supple
beyond what was suggested from his slight build.
His hands are the delivery point of that strength.
His hands are not slight:
His hands are firm and thick and solid –
a handshake of destruction if he so desired, but
he has used them to repair the cars and our hearts;

His hands are marked by years of labor with
tire irons, jacks, wrenches, sledges, micrometers on
carburetors, axles, brake drums, distributors
(long before mechanics hooked up computers,
deciphering the monitor to replace “units”
for more money in an hour than he made in a month
when he started in ’34 before computers and units).
His hands pitched tents,
made the bulldozers run
in war
in the steaming, screaming sweat of
Bouganville, New Guinea, the Philippines.

His hands have nicks and scratches
turned into scars with
the passage of time:
a map of history, the human kind.

Veins and arteries stand out
on the back of his hands,
pumping life itself into his hands
and beyond;
the tales of grease and oil and grime,
cleaned by gasoline and goop and lava soap
are etched in his hands;

they are hands of labor,
hands of hard times,
hands of hope,
hands of kindness, caring, and love:
oh love, love, love, crazy love.

His hands speak of him with pride.
His hands belong
to the smartest man I know
who has lived life to the maximum,
but in balance, in control, in understanding,
gaining respect and love
far beyond those who claim smartness
for the money they earned
while he and his hands own smartness
like a well-kept plot of land
because he always has understood
what was really important
in the long run:
smarter than any man I know
with hands that tell the story
so well.

4 thoughts on “102

  1. Golly, so beautifully put and I thought of, not only Jimmy, but Ray Boggs, those quiet, wise men. We will always miss the wisdom they shared.

  2. Thru my 70 years, I have to stretch far into my family history, to recall the good times. I can recall more memories when thinking of my 3 brothers; one of which passed n 1999. My mom was an alcoholic, & Dad was teacher, coach, then principal. He was very strict. I have more memories of my grandpa & grandma, too. You are truly fortunate to have all the family memories, photos, & letters. I can tell u were loved by many.

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