Badtux the Snarky Penguin

In a time of chimpanzees, I was a penguin.

Religious fundamentalists are motivated by the sneaking suspicion that someone, somewhere, is having fun -- and that this must be stopped.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Missing her

At 5AM I woke up crying from a dream.

I was a child once more, in the Old House, the house where my mother was raised as a little girl, eating dinner with my grandmother. I still remember the rich warm wood tones of that house, the worn bare planks of the floor, the rich wood planks that formed the walls and ceilings. The house was low to the ground and cool and damp in the summer, and that was its downfall eventually, as the termites entered it and chewed it to pieces, it is long gone, torn down by myself with help from a neighbor after it became unsafe and had partially collapsed. But in that day and age it was a cool sanctuary from a harsh and uncertain world.

Suddenly my grandmother clasps her chest, and she sits down, and dies, and I am awake with tears in my eyes. Oh, she did not go like that. It was a far longer, gentler death for her, a death that did not happen until she was 84 years old, and it has been over five years since she is gone. But I still remember talking to her about her childhood growing up in the abject poverty of rural Louisiana in the 1920's and 1930's, about her life as the wife of a sharecropper and sawmill worker, I still remember just sitting with her as she watched "Touched by an Angel" and "Murder She Wrote" at peace with where life had left her even though she was living on less than $500 per month in Social Security widow's benefits in a house that had no air conditioning and no modern conveniences. I remember the six months I lived with her, and the three years I lived next door to her, visiting every day. I remember...

I wish I had had the courage to ask her about her younger sister, the one who died in a fire at an early age, the one she never talked about. I wish I had had the courage to ask her about the time my mother had to be rescued from a bad situation in Mississippi as a teenager, a time that one of her sisters now gone once told me about but that my mother will not talk about. I wish I'd asked her about my Uncle Marvin, "Crazy Marvin". I wish everybody else I could ask about these things was not gone, all my great-aunts and great-uncles. But that is what happens when you are solidly into middle age, your links to the past go, dead, you lose your history and forget where you belong or forget that you ever did. I wish...

But wishes like these come true only in dreams, or in the maudline musings of a middle-aged heretic who has lost his past and is seeing a future that is terrifyingly real. All I can do is remember her. But who will remember me?

There was a musician, I will call him Jeremy. He was a young man, barely 30 years old, but had a history of heart disease and several heart attacks in his past. He wrote songs as if possessed by the ghosts of Woodie Guthrie and the Bob Dylan that died in the 1960's. He released an album. He had a web site. One day he simply disappeared, gone. Is he dead? I don't know. I Google for him and find very few references to him, one being my own web site. I have MP3's of some of his songs, songs that seem to exist nowhere now except on the fragile bits of my own hard drive. But where is he? Is he dead, or did he simply tire of music and disappear into a quiet life as a historian of early 20th century folk music? I don't know. And one day, that could happen here too. A week will pass without posting. Two weeks. Someone will ask, "what happened to the penguin?" And some people will send EMAIL, and get no reply, or worse yet an 'unknown domain' bounce. And everyone will shrug and go on with their lives.

I will now leave you with the words of long-gone blues artist Blind Lemon Jefferson:

Well there's one kind favor i'll ask of you
Well there's one kind favor i'll ask of you
There's just one kind favor i'll ask of you
You can see that my grave is kept clean.

An' there's two white horses followin' me
An' there's two white horses followin' me
I got two white horses followin' me
Waitin' on my buryin' ground.

Did you ever hear that coffin sound
Did you ever hear that coffin sound
Did you ever hear that coffin sound
Means another poor boy is underground.

Did you ever hear them church bells toll
Did you ever hear them church bells toll
Did you ever hear them church bells toll
Means another poor boy is dead an' gone.

There's just one last favor i'll ask of you
And there's one last favor i'll ask of you
There's just one last favor i'll ask of you
See that my grave is kept clean.

Far from being kept clean, Blind Lemon Jefferson's exact gravesite in the decrepit Wortham Negro Cemetery is unknown. There was not even a monument there with his name on it until some blues fans bought one in 1967. Such is the fate of all of us, eventually, even the greatest amongst us. Who, after all, knows where Julius Caesar's bones were buried?

- Badtux the Maudlin Penguin

Posted by: BadTux / 7/19/2005 08:25:00 PM  


# posted by oldwhitelady : 21/7/05 3:37 AM  

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