I have so many great memories that stand out. Perhaps tops on the list would be holding my son for the first time. He was so tiny and squirmy.
Unfortunately his mother’s and I’s relationship was not a strong, stable or trusting one. We fought and said terrible, hateful words. I know mine were worse and certainly designed to inflict maximum hurt. Eventually I left her, and him. I couldn’t see us being a good parental unit together, for I certainly was not going to make the effort. In my heart I knew that wouldn’t be good for our son, Jeff. I had lived through my parents divorce and all the yelling, shouting, door slamming, drinking bouts, and icy tension. Our problems were not his problems and he deserved better. There was no way I was prepared to deliver.
Kelly eventually married Bobby. He adopted Jeff. They had 4 more kids together and are still married. Jeff turned out pretty good. He took up running cross country and playing basketball. He became a decent player in high school and in junior college. He graduated high school and juco with honors.
One of my hopes in moving back here to Quincy was to get to meet Jeff and if he wanted a relationship I was prepared. If he didn’t I certainly understood. Unfortunately this hasn’t happened yet. But I am a patient man. In the mean time to see him play b-ball and be there for the graduation have become cherished memories.
Memories Part II
I started this prompt making a list and Jeff was the first two. Many of the others are from various stages of my life, most come from my travels around the country and Europe and Asia. I had a few motivators for how I have lived.
Jeff is perhaps the greatest. If we ever meet I wanted to have crazy stories to tell and I wanted them to be about the world outside of this sliver of Illinois. Julie is another. The second girl I ever loved. The one who broke my heart into a gazillion miniscule parts. I spent years looking for them, putting them back in my chest. Cheri. The first girl I ever loved and thinks me crazy for it. I first saw her in high school. I was standing on the glass enclosed walk way between the main campus and the technical and mechanical part of campus. Her head held high, walking firmly, confidently; she ignored the stares at her bulging belly. This was the 80’s so she had large hair. The bangs she teased 5 or 6 inches above her crown. She held her books crossed over her chest. I decided to follow her to see where she was going, even though my class was in the main campus building and she was heading into the technical building. I couldn’t help myself. I was drawn to her, to that power, that determination. I watched her go into a class and the first bell rang, signaling I had two minutes to get to my class. It normally took me 4 minutes from this section of school to get to where I needed to go, so I didn’t dither any longer. But everyday I would wait and watch for her. I hoped she would look my direction and I could find the bravery to talk. She never did and I was not certain how to approach a woman, for that is how she carried herself, even if everyone else in the school failed to recognize it, who was so obviously pregnant. Two years after graduating high school we began dating. It didn’t last long, 6 months or a year. She moved away to Springfield. Whenever I drive past Springfield I would stop and call her, even after she got married.
She eventually divorced, and went back to college and graduated. She now has two masters, one in mathematics, and one in computer science. Cheri teaches at the first university I funked out of, ISU. Her daughter, the one she was pregnant with in high school, is a student at ISU, taking photography classes. Cheri and I still talk, even tough she is with some pompous ass computer science professor, and they have two sons together. C’ est la vie.
My friends in my hometown. I often think of them as I write about travels, sites seen, experiences had. This corner of the world Quincy is located in, is well protected. Hardly anything bad happens here. Doors are left unlocked. Windows left wide open. Keys left in ignitions and car doors unlocked. One can walk about any street, day or night. Often I think history doesn’t happen here. It happens else where. But moving back I seldom talk about my travels. I feel out of place talking of such matters. Though if the occasion presents itself I mention situations or events in passing.
Finally my friend Mike. I meet him in China while teaching there. He was retired from the Army, and moved to Sanming City with his wife Lin. Her family lived in Sanming. She escaped to Germany after Tianamen Square. There Mike meet her and they married. They moved to Sanming to take care of Lin’s mom. Mike with nothing better to do, decided to bring baseball to the University where I was teaching English. I ended up helping to coach and became the unofficial program photographer and cultural translator between Mike and the Chinese translators the school provided. It was surreal at times. Communist officials would stop by and take batting practice. Mike would often times fling his hat to the ground in disgust, stomping the field as a barrage of profanities filled the air. The Chinese students were horrified to see such a display of emotion. Some nights we would play past dusk and everyone was hard pressed to see the balls, either coming out of the pitchers hand or flying off the bat. At least once a week Mike and I would head to the whore house masquerading as a restaurant outside the school gate, for cold beer and fried peanuts. There he would talk of looking for a Spanish galleon off the Oregon coast, or excavating an old fort in Nombre de Dios, Panama, while I diverted any unwanted attention by surveying an old rail line built by the French in their failed attempt to build a canal. Or he would dream of moving to Hainan Island; there he would build a football team and I would be his assistant. As we talked the beer bottles would fill the table. There would be 15 or 20 empty bottles at the end of everyone of these nights. Eventually he would stumble back into town and I would trudge back to my room on campus, sometimes with a hooker, but most times alone.
We coached together the better part of two and half years. After two and half years I had to get away. The madness of it all was too much for me. Unfortunately 7 or 8 months after I left Sanming Mike Past away. I am not sure of what, much was lost in translation. All I know is that I break down any time I think of bringing his remains from China to the States, to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Originally I planned to make a list of memories but this project has taken on form of its own very different from what I visualized. My plan was to make the list and then in time come back to expand on some of these memories in later posts. Well I guess I have to adjust this idea a little as I have expanded on a couple of items on the list. Here are the other memories on that list.
1.Wandering the grounds of Giverny and staring into the pooled water which inspired so much.
2.Drinking Vietnamese Iced Coffee on the streets of Saigon (AKA Ho Chi Minh City). Once a plastic stool like chair buckled under my weight sending me sprawling into gutter, as I spilled this delicious drink. I am not sure what street I was on, but it was near to where the old US embassy stood in Saigon.
3. Driving my 1978 gold Trans Am with the t-tops off and the Kenwood Stereo turned up.
4. Sitting in a small one room shack on some island in Thailand watching the light blue waves brush the small cove below the hut.
5. Driving my 1987 750cc Honda NightHawk through the cool nights, up and down the river roads outside my hometown of Quincy.
6. Traveling over narrow country roads in Western Ireland. I remember seeing the multitude of greenish hues of grass and moss. It was as if every shade green possessed was being used. It dotted creek banks, and patches of earth near and under trees and bushes. It covered brick walls and rolling hills and steep mountainous peaks. I would never have believed that so many possible shades of green existed if I hadn’t driven those roads. And as my family and I drove those roads our Irish cousin Father Kirean would regal us with tales of Brian Boru and his battles and glory. He would point out areas were the little people lived or fought or cursed. And of course he had all the town square gossip, which was lost on us Yanks.
7. Being blessed by Pope John Paul II in Vatican Square, in 16 different languages, and despite my lapsed Catholic standing.
8. Lying in bed sick, and Fanbin stays with me nursing me. She would place wet towels on my forehead and sing songs in Chinese. When I was racked with bouts of shivers she covered me in blankets and held me tight. I have never forgotten how loved I felt that night.
That is the end of the list. But I know I have more favorite memories.