I’ve had a lot of spectacular things happen in my writing career over the last couple of years and, as 2016 rolls on, it seems like I’m going to have even more success. It’s nice to know that, even if the readership is small, I’m still getting people engaged and interested in my work. It’s nice, too, to finally be seeing some positive feedback after seventeen years of constant growth and struggle. I think that my biggest wish though as a writer would be to share this new success with two people who helped foster this love of story telling and creativity in me. My grandparents were a hugely influential part of my life. They had as much a hand in raising me as my parents did. The old adage, it takes a village to raise a child, was no more true in anyone’s life than in mine. Both of my parents were hard working, honest people and, to help them, my grandparents stepped up and offered to watch my sister and I while my parents were away during the day.
My days were spent running through the woods and riding my bike over the hills and humps between the house and the workshop while my nights involved eating dinner around the same kitchen table where the generation before me had gathered to do their school work and have supper. The house was full of the warmth and aroma of traditional Southern cuisine cooking in an iron skillet while my grandfather stood in the next room in his dusty overalls picking the guitar and singing. If I close my eyes and think for just a moment I can hear each twanging note of Wildwood Flower as the earthy scent of saw dust and fresh tilled dirt mingled with fried potatoes and white beans on the stove. No matter where I lived, even to this day, there is still no place like the home I knew in those two acres on a hill tucked back in the woods of South Nashville near the Percy Priest Lake.
He would tell us stories about his life growing up on a farm in Smartt’s Station during the Depression. He’d paint a picture of sun and warmth, of hard work and strained bodies finding laughter, love, and joy in hard times. “We didn’t know we were poor, Danny,” he’d say in between notes plucked with his thickly calloused fingers. “We lived in as close to a Utopian society as you could find. We had what we needed and that was all we wanted.” Even now I can remember the stories of his adventures with his “big little brother” J.B. who was born with muscular dystrophy and was told he’d never walk, let alone make it to adulthood. J.B. and my grandfather proved the doctors wrong on both and, one day, I’ll write about all the adventures of Willie and Jay just the way the man told me when I was a starry eyed little boy listening. When the stories were over, my granny would have us read. We were never short of a book to pick up or the encouragement to learn and grow to be better than we were the day before.
It’s been three years since he passed and, with granny’s mind continuing to slip further and further away, I find myself like most of the people who have been in her life; a ghost of a memory she can only occasionally recall. I wish I could tell them how much they mean to me, how much everything they did for me has meant. I wish they knew that I had finally gotten my life together, had become a decent father and a respectable man…for the most part. I wish, beyond anything, that I could sit there in that warm embrace and hear one more story, one more song and share one final meal around that table.
You all have my word, next post will be blood and guts, zombies and monsters, chaos across every last inch of your screen. Until then, go tell the people that matter that they matter while you still can.