Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog


The Hillbilly Big Chill: Day 4
July 20, 2009, 8:06 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

It’s Monday, and I am procrastinating about telling you about the high school reunion.

After I got a rental car from local firm Ace Rent-a-Car [Support the Troops sign is in their strip-mall store window] I swam at the YMCA near Greenwood this morning.  It is the whitest Y I’ve ever been at, but today I saw one black and one brown person.  The outdoor pool is 50 meters long, which makes me feel like a weakling for the first 10 minutes–will I make it to the end (gasp)?  It’s also the most C of the YMCAs I know.   Not only does the big sign above the registration desk affirm their basis in Christian principles, an open Bible sits on a lectern in the lobby.  Above it on the wall is the passage from Matthew’s Gospel:  “Ask and ye shall receive.”   And on the stairwell wall is a framed famous portrait, Werner Sallman’s “Head of Christ,” the most famous of the fair-skinned versions, the non-Jewish Jesus.  The picture is one of the few Protestant icons.   It’s also on the social hall wall of the Protestant church in which I grew up–and those of many others. 

I had lunch with a second cousin of my late mother’s and his wife, both in their 80s.  Reared on a farm, she cooks a big spread.  We had lemon chicken with capers, corn on the cob, sliced tomatoes, home-grown green beans cooked with sausage, new potatoes cooked in with the beans, hot white rolls, and chocolate pie for dessert–chilled, very fluffy yet dense and sweet.  She told me how to make the pie:  a dense graham-cracker crust with almond slivers, melted Hershey’s chocolate bars, and Cool Whip.   There goes my morning workout!   The tomatoes were not quite ripe enough, she apologizingly noted a few times.  The corn was great, I thought, but could have been better they said.  Her husband said, “It’s not from Johnson County, I know.”  She said, “Well, I bought it here.”  “But it’s not been grown here, I can tell.”  

At these luncheons I can count on hearing of the family deaths that nobody thought to tell me about.   I had learned last week of a first cousin’s death at 66 when my brother mentioned having attended the funeral, as if I had known.  (How would I have known?)  Today I learned of three other deaths in the past year:  one of my mother’s younger first cousins, of cancer at her daughter’s home in another state, and the two old, widowed husbands of three of Mom’s cousins.  (One man married two cousins–his first wife died in a car crash and he quickly picked up with the other one.  Reportedly he never ceased bragging about his sexual conquests till the very end.  The other man used to harangue me as a boy with right-wing conspiracy theories, including ugly ones about Jews controlling the financial system. 

Every time I part from this couple they say, “Don’t wait so long next time.”  “Let us hear from you.”  I could, but we don’t really exchange that much news when we talk, and they don’t like to stay on the phone very long anyway.  Well, now there’s email, which gives them many grandchild fixes.  What I want to say is:  “Let me know if someone dies or if there’s other news in the family.” 

As I drove out of town I passed through the Indiana Masonic Home, a large campus of big old red-brick buildings around a large circle drive.  (My mother’s father built many of them.)  It used to have its own hospital, orphanage, and old folks’ home.  Maybe it still does, but the major development of the past decade or so has been single-family ranch-style houses up and down new streets where cornfields used to be.   Old Masons and their wives live there, and drive electric golf carts around the campus.  Most of the houses have signs out front “The Smiths.”  I was going to stop in and see the mother of a good friend.  She never leaves the house, so I knew she’d be there, but I couldn’t remember which house was hers and didn’t see their name. 

I passed through Greenlawn Cemetery to look at my parents’ graves as well as those of my mother’s parents and her grandparents, among others.  One sweet, small granite stone marks the grave of Tillie Jean, a would-be older sister to my mother.  She used to point it out every time we visited.  The stone says:  “April 11-14, 1916.”

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