Death, be not forgotten

You know, they are here one day and they’re gone the next, but they never leave you, that is, as long as you have your mind. As far as I know, they could still be with you if you lose your mind. I guess I still have mine, but, really, I don’t know how it is if you lose it.

I’ve thought about it, and I guess my first loss was Santa Claus. I was a big Santa Claus fan. In fact, when I was a child, my world sorta revolved around Christmas, and I hope it’s not blasphemy to say that when I was a child, Christmas was Santa Claus to me.

By the time I was 12 years old and got a Mossberg bolt-action shotgun for Christmas, Santa Claus was no longer in my life. I knew that Mother and Daddy bought the gun for me, and I think Daddy got it from Pete Whitehurst at the Western Auto store in downtown Perry, although I am not certain about this. In any event, my Santa Claus was dead, replaced by my parents.

Papa, my Grandfather Walker, died in 1957. I was 15 and had my learner’s driving license. Why do I remember this? Well, before he died, Papa “was slipping” and Grandma wanted me to drive when the three of us drove down the dirt Centralia Rachels Road in rural Washington County heading, on Sundays, to Pine Hill Methodist Church.

Papa and I would be in the front seat and Grandma in the back, and either the red dust would be boiling up and around their 1950 Chevrolet or we’d be slipping from side to side on Centralia Rachels — depending on whether the road was wet or dry.

I remember being embarrassed that Grandma told Papa, “Larry should drive.” Although he was “slipping,” he had enough sense to know that she thought I was a safer and better driver than he was. Shortly after, he slipped away permanently and is buried at Pine Hill.

Uncle Bob Uhels, Grandbuddy Gray’s half-brother, who lived with Grandbuddy and Granny, died, I believe in 1958. Why do I think it was 1958? Well, I had the “Asian flu” in the 10th grade (I was so sick I wouldn’t have cared if I died), and so I did not go to the funeral. I have trouble remembering much about Uncle Bob. That’s what happens when folks die. Even those who knew and loved them start forgetting and soon there is no one left who remembers much or anything about them.

Let me back up. My first dog was Blackie, and I loved Blackie. At first, he lived in Perry with me, but then Blackie moved to Washington County with my Walker grandparents. I don’t remember being consulted about this, but I still got to play with Blackie when I visited my grandparents.

One day Grandma called Daddy and told him that Blackie had died. I still think about Blackie, but I can think up all I remember about him in just a minute or two. Except for Mother, who is 96 years old, I doubt that anyone else on the face of the earth remembers Blackie, and I’m not sure Mother does. This is sad to me.

Sadder than Blackie, and I did love Blackie, is the old, black gentleman (and he was a kind gentleman to this little white boy) who worked with Papa on Papa’s farm. We called him Uncle Charlie, and I know that “Uncle” is not acceptable today, but that’s the way it was in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Of course, Uncle Charlie and Aunt Julie are dead. They had no children. I’d like to know where they are buried and when they died, but there is no one to tell me. If I knew, I’d take some flowers to their graves, and I’d call Uncle Charlie “Mr. Charlie,” and tell him I loved him, because I did.

Billy Bledsoe left in July 2014. I remember a lot about Billy, and many of my thoughts of him make me smile. He was a great wit and had more quips and sayings than anyone I’ve ever known. He was my “fishing buddy.” My memories are fresh, but I know they are not permanent. Sad, but true.

Most of all, I miss Daddy. I occasionally visit his grave in beautiful Evergreen Cemetery and visit with him a few minutes. I dream a lot about Daddy and so many others. Often my dreams make no sense. But, at least I still remember. I hope remembering will continue until I die. And then what? Who knows?

And, when I’m gone, I know that many will remember. They’ll remember for a short while. And then what? Who knows? Perhaps some will dream about me, and their dreams will make no sense. But at least they’ll remember.

Larry Walker is a practicing attorney in Perry. He served 32 years in the Georgia General Assembly, and presently serves on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. Email: lwalker@whgmlaw.com