Remembering too much


As an old man, I’m supposed to suffer from ailments that take away remembrances of the past. Oh, that that were true … I could sleep so much better at night. After an early retirement, in the first hours after midnight, I routinely find myself tossing and turning and digging up bones of melancholy from all of the many years gone by. These flash-backs aren’t universally sad or happy—just unexpected, vivid, and sometimes disturbing. In putting this little piece together, I’ve struggled with trying to tie some of my more recent dreams into an organized narrative of some kind—it can’t be done. As the reader, you’ll just have to be content with a setting, a background, or a personal real life experience that I might interject to explain a possible meaning. I warn you … I’m not sure how this will turn out.

   Reflecting on my own mortality and witnessing, in just the past few months, the death of two more high school classmates I was very close to (Charley Becker and Shirley Reasoner), I’ve noticed that death has always been accepted but reacted to in very different ways. As a Christian, I’m receptive to Lamar McLendon’s recent memorial words … “as we grow older, we miss those who go to heaven before us and were welcomed with open arms”, but I have at least two classmates that profess to believe in no superior being. With this concern, I’ve lain awake and … a strange word keeps coming back from my childhood–“nowalayme”. I remember repeating it, or something that sounded like it, over and over and I believe it had something to do with falling asleep.

1863       Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was an exceptionally religious man. He prayed for the souls of, not just his own, but also those of the Yankee soldiers before he rode out to slaughter them. On his deathbed, after the battle of Chancellorsville and with his left arm amputated, his famous last words made no mention of God. Weakly smiling, he only whispered: “let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees”.  Southboro Elementry was heavily damaged by fire years ago and was never rebuilt but the shade of old Banyan trees is still nearby and when the wind blows just right—you can hear Johnny Riggs holler out at Moskowitz.

1958       Before graduation, as we gathered in the old gym in back of Central Jr. High and across the street from Gail Prather’s house to have our Royal Palm yearbook signing party … we had our whole lives ahead of us and we would all live forever—even Bruce Bell and Anne Walker.

I have to get some sleep. That word again … nowalayme … I think my mother taught it to me, but I don’t remember why. Sounds like it might be of American Indian or Pacific Island origination and may even be a proper name? I just can’t get it out of my head. Maybe if I roll over on my left side …

1959       Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner stared in the movie ON THE BEACH. The population of the entire world was being wiped out by a radioactive cloud that, as it progressed south over the globe, had left only a few humans in Australia alive. As a submarine captain, Peck leads his crew on a submerged voyage to the north Pacific and San Francisco. They are trying to track down a mysterious coded radio signal that has continued to be intermittently transmitted, even as no one at that latitude is supposed to be alive. What connection can I draw from any similarity between a few Hollywood dots and dashes and Ruthie Hall’s unpredictable, and sometimes sad, emails?

1991       Another movie, so controversial at the time that it only appeared in obscure neighborhood theaters and for short engagements … BLACK ROBE centered on French Jesuit missionaries along the St. Laurence River in 17th Century Quebec.  The plot revolved around the, usually futile, efforts of the priests to convert the Native American population. In a sequence I will never forget–Daniel, a young Frenchman, relays a conversation about religion and eternal life he has had with Annuka, a young squaw he’s become very fond of, to the Jesuit, Father Laforgue:

Daniel:            They have an afterworld of their own.

Father Laforgue:       They have no concept of one.

Daniel:            Annuka told me they believe that in the forest at night the dead can see. The souls of men hunt the souls of animals.

Father Laforgue:       Is that what she told you? It is childish, Daniel.

Daniel:            Is it harder to believe in than Paradise … where we all sit on clouds and look at God?

nowalayme–down to sleep. I pray the Lord, my soul …

2 thoughts on “Remembering too much

  1. Dam! I wish I could put words together like that, that make since. Jim really enjoy reading your adventures, kind of being right there with you so don’t stop. Turning 83 on Nov. 8th and still riding motorcycles.


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