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Meet the Lites – Charlotte III

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. Well, operation “TackyToo spies on you” is up and operating for trailers within my range. I hope to build up enough trust to have the court at least give me enough range on my anklet to cover the whole park. I’m having to pay a handy man to take care of the lots I can’t get to, and I don’t want to tip my hand on our security system just yet. I’m so N.S.A.

Picking up where we left off with my sister Charlotte, Jackson and I are moving in with Daddy and Charlotte is finishing her Senior year in high school. Like my Mom, Jackson and I don’t see Charlotte for another seven years. During this time Charlotte has gone off to college, paid for by Mom, taken a trip to France, paid for by Mom, and gotten herself married, paid for by Mom. Charlotte has earned a double degree in French and English and can spout nonsense in two languages.

This is not to say Charlotte isn’t smart, she is, but she is more likely to chase a rabbit down a hole than anybody I’ve ever been around. When we meet up again, she is married to a chemical engineer that works in the textile industry near Spartanburg, S.C. Judd is a good ol’ boy who was smarter than a Philadelphia lawyer. He turned me on to Dave Brubeck and no matter what else ever happens, I’m thankful for that. They had one child, Tabitha, and she inherited everything from her mom. I mean hair coloring, freckles and a nasty disposition.

It’s hard for me to ever blame the child, and I know that Judd was more patient than Job, but when Tabitha was about twelve, Charlotte up and took off. I guess she didn’t want to be around for those awkward teenage years, knowing what a pill she had been herself. She just took off and left Judd to cover the job himself. It’s hard to keep track of family when the go-between is gone, so I lost track of Judd and Tabitha for a long time.

Charlotte emerged a few years later at a Thanksgiving dinner hosted by Mom. She had a new boyfriend in tow, Dreidel Zaydel who was a gynecologist. We called him Dr. Dre because he demanded respect. He was as insufferable a little squirt as you ever hope to meet. The brain just exploded trying to figure out the attraction either could possibly have for the other. Well as the line goes, you can’t explain love, or nuclear physics, and so they were wed. Now here comes the funny part; and it’s ironic funny, and funny funny too. Turns out the Jews believe in Baptism. Who knew?

Seems that being Jewish is carried though the mother. Dr. Dre wanted his kids to be Jewish, therefore Charlotte had to convert. Part of the conversion process is getting Baptized, naked, in front of the congregation. I missed the ceremony, but I did confirm the requirement years later when a character in “Orange Is The New Black” converted in an episode.

The happy couple settle in Atlanta, have a couple of daughters, and after an appropriate amount of time, Charlotte hit the bricks for parts unknown. I believe Dr. Dre was able to find a nice Jewish step-mother for the kids, and they seemed to grow up less scarred than their half-sister Tabitha. I’m thinking the amount of exposure to Charlotte is a big factor in the wellness of children.

Charlotte is not heard from for years. There is a rumor she has married again in Texas, and there were some legal misgivings that Mom didn’t want to share. We fast forward to about ten years ago to a Christmas visit to Mom’s when Charlotte shows up with a really nice Hispanic fellow, Juan Gordito. After my usual eye roll, I had the opportunity to talk to Juan alone, and he was really, really a nice guy. I was tempted to take him outside and encourage him to flee at all haste, “don’t look back, just run”. I guess out of some bizarre familial loyalty, I didn’t. Thank God, he did it for himself about a year later. I’m glad he was able to spend his last days in peace.

Charlotte rented an apartment from Mom at a good rate, and attempted to support herself by teaching. Charlotte’s teaching career ended when she sued the state and county. The suit’s basis was an argument Charlotte had with a black child about the correct pronunciation of the French word, “poussey”. The child pushed Charlotte, and Charlotte fell, resulting in brain damage. As a result of the suit, Charlotte now has a certificate proving what we have always known, her brain is damaged.

Charlotte was awarded a full disability and retired to a life of chasing conspiracy theories on the internet in the apartment she rents from Mom. She lives there today, divorced from her kids and her siblings, and even her mother most of the time. Charlotte will appear again in later episodes, but for now you’ve got a pretty good picture.

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Meet the Lites – Charlotte II

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. Well, I got the spy cameras put in place without drawing attention to myself by anything other than a possum. After a quick tightening of my scrotal area, I grinned at him and the possum grinned back. Hopefully, we’ll gather evidence of another nocturnal predator and use the evidence to give him the old heave ho.

When last we left the continuing saga of Charlotte, I was five and recovering from a near amputation by means of Charlotte’s bicycle. The story will bump along until I’m nine or so and Charlotte is fifteen or sixteen. There used to be a phrase, “boy crazy” and I’ve heard it applied many times to Charlotte. Two events stand out vividly in my mind that speak to the “boy crazy” moniker.

The first involves a wading pool we used to frequent during the summer to cool off and to “get out of the house”. Charlotte was charged with taking me and my little brother to the pool, and she used this particular opportunity to meet up with her current boyfriend. During the course of this outing, I awakened the demons stirring deep with in Charlotte’s soul. Possibly the one hundredth rendition of  “Charlotte and Bubba kissing in a tree”, or some other misdeed pushed Charlotte over the edge. She followed me into the pool, fully clothed, to administer my first, and guaranteed to be my last, baptism.

Now, I don’t recall if my “life passed in front of me” or not, it couldn’t have been much at that point, but when I awoke I was up on the bank with Bubba pushing on my back and me throwing up water. On the way back to the house Charlotte regained her senses and concocted the story we would tell Mom. In return for my confirmation of the story, I was getting a temporary stay in my execution and some other considerations. Bubba was given a glimpse into the future and never returned. Bonne chance Bubba, and thanks.

My next clear memory was an escapade that ties in with my current problem with the park peeper. Now, before there was an internet and cell phones, there was still human behavior. One of those human behaviors is a curiosity about the human body, specifically how someone else looks naked. Kids handle it today with sexting and webcams, we didn’t have those.

This incident revolves around an evening when we were sitting in the living room, watching TV, and Daddy heard some suspicious noises on the side of the house. To avoid detection, Daddy went out the back door and circled around the house where he remained in the dark. The suspicious activity could be observed by the house lights and street light at the corner of the yard. Long story short, Charlotte is ahead of her time, she’s sexting some of the neighborhood boys without benefit of a cell phone. Daddy recognized some of the boys and was able to follow up and determine this was not just the case of some Venetian blinds being left open accidentally. Show time was known by the appropriate group, and only shared with the best of friends. Rather than being sent to a nunnery, my suggestion, Charlotte was grounded for what I believe was supposed to be the rest of high school.

At this juncture let me point out that sometimes punishing one child results in the punishment of the other children in the family as well. Such was the case in Charlotte’s penance. During this time I experienced the second near death at the hands of my sister.

The rough details are; Charlotte is washing dishes in the kitchen while I am passing through the kitchen being me, repeatedly. I probably don’t respond to threats to stop my actions until Charlotte takes the cast iron skillet she is washing and raises it above her head. A quick look confirms that the “lights are out” and I run hastily for the exit. I am too slow. When I awake, I find I have been tomahawked between the shoulder blades with a cast iron skillet thrown with all of the strength of a mad woman.

I awake in the hall next to the phone with Charlotte crying hysterically, “don’t die, don’t die”. Charlotte’s friend from the neighborhood is wiping my brow with a wet wash cloth. I have a lump the size of a baseball on my head and I can’t really raise my arms good due to the pain between my shoulders. The ensuing cover up establishes a sort of detente between Charlotte and I that stays in place until Jackson and I move in with Daddy. In truth, I probably seriously modified my behavior around my sister after the skillet incident. Having conjured up the beast twice now, I wasn’t going to be a statistic for “third times the charm”.

Like they say on those shopping channels, “but wait there’s more”, and we’ll get to it tomorrow. It is late and I have miles to go before I’m done.

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Meet the Lites – Charlotte

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. There is some irony involved in reporting on my sister, Charlotte, the day after my confrontation with the park peeper, B.A. Ware. Excuse me, the alleged peeper. With regard to that problem, Mulva is going to pick up some of those little spy cameras over to the WalMart and we’ll see if we can get the goods on old B.A.

My sister Charlotte, Holy Jesus, where do I begin? I guess she is my longest living relationship next to Mom, so there’s mounds and mounds of dirt that can be used to fill in the holes of our familial relationship.

As previously stated, Daddy and Mom married at the beginning of World War II, when he was 18 and she was 14. Daddy went off to war and fought the Nazis for awhile, and then was given a leave before being transferred to the Pacific theater. During this leave, he and Mom visited around North Carolina and generally honeymooned until it was time for Daddy to report. My sister Charlotte was conceived during this time, and was named after the city where the condom broke, as was the custom of that time.

Mom moved in with Daddy’s people and she finished high school while Grandma Lite and Grandma’s mom, Granny Waller, raised the baby. There were assorted aunts still at home and my sister never lacked for one second of attention. She was a fair child, with that orange-red hair and freckled skin that bespoke of her Irish heritage. She was the apple of everyone’s eye until she turned six, at which time she had to share the limelight with someone else, me.

Back then a son was a big deal, we previously mentioned carrying on the bloodline and all. Six years of uninterrupted idolatry played heavily in how Charlotte recognized her loss of status, and my right to exist. We lived in a family where there was not enough love to go around, particularly from Mom. Charlotte now had to share favor from the family with me. As we got older, she was tasked with looking out for me. I can’t say which condition stuck in her craw worse, sharing attention or babysitting. Either way, I was an unnecessary evil as far as Charlotte was concerned.

My earliest recollection of Charlotte was riding on the fender behind her on her bicycle. My foot had gotten caught in between the spokes of the wheel and the frame of the bike. While I screamed, Charlotte applied more pressure to the pedals to offset the loss of momentum from my foot being sliced like a roast beef at a deli. Fortunately, other kids saw and heard what was going on, and grabbed the handlebars to stop Charlotte from her determined course. I spent three weeks in the hospital, missed the opening of school and have a huge deep scar to this day on my left ankle that bears testimony to the event. I was perhaps a millimeter away from being physically handicapped for life, I was five.

While I don’t think that Charlotte was responsible for the event, I do think that it was the first time I experienced Charlotte’s white hot laser focus that would later be characterized by a complete disassociation of her brain to her actions. The old saying goes, “the lights are on but nobody is at home”, in Charlotte’s case the lights go out and ghosts and haints start flying from the house to create havoc until the lights eventually come back on. I’m sure there’s some clinical words that fit better than, “madder than a hornet that’s been peed on”, but Charlotte’s lack of rational thought while lashing out blindly is like a hornet that just knows to sting in response to stimuli. 

Well, it’s late and we can continue this some more tomorrow. I ain’t going anywhere and I got some cameras to hang before everyone starts stirring.

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Meet the Lites – Mom IV

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. The veins in my neck are still popping from a run in I had with Mr. B.A. Ware in Number One this morning. I strongly suspicion he’s the peeping Tom I’ve been getting complaints about. When Mulva said she saw someone peeping this morning and screamed, the next thing she heard was the door on Number One slamming shut. Well, I took off right over there. There then transpired an argument of, “suppose this and circumstantial that”, that got me perilously close to returning to lock up. Mulva is madder than a wet panther and I’m thinking I’ll just let her handle it. She’ll jerk a knot in his tail.

When we last left the other strong woman in my life, Mom, she had secured all of the property and served Daddy with papers. Mom had hired some crazy person to babysit us, she called her a governess. Until I learned better, I thought governess was just a euphemism for bat sh*t crazy. It was as miserable a time as I believe I’ve ever had. If I heard, “stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about”, once, I heard it a million times.

The coup de grace came when Mom brought home my new school clothes for the start of the school year. She had bought the same ugly plaid shirt in three colors. I’m no fashion pate, and I know money must have been tight, and three shirts for a dollar must have seemed like a great deal, but if something is ugly in blue, it’s probably ugly in yellow and ugly in red. That crying did give me the promised, “something to cry for”, a full force slap to the side of the head that sent me to the floor. I was stunned, laying in the floor with my ears ringing. I don’t know that I’ve ever been hit in the head that hard since. At least if I have, it didn’t hurt as bad.

In retrospect, I think that sealed the deal for me. I knew my sister Charlotte was intent on killing me, which we’ll talk about another time. The governess was crazy, and who can predict crazy? Now I was sure my Mom was capable of cancelling my birth certificate. I was ten, but I wasn’t stupid. As outlined in my story about Daddy, visits to Daddy at TackyToo just got longer and longer until we didn’t live with Mom anymore. Living with Daddy was hard, but at least the threat of enemas for bad behavior was a thing of the past.

We didn’t see Mom at all for seven years. No birthday card, no Christmas present, no nothing. I guess she thought of herself as the injured party. When I was a Junior in high school she had her new husband, George, contact us. After a few phone conversations with George, we agreed to meet for dinner. George carried the conversation and he was a fellow that Jackson and I both took to right away. Looking back now, we should have asked more questions about how such a great guy and my Mom met up, etc. We should have known there had to be a dark side there somewhere. But we were just kids, we liked steak, and Daddy was in a low period.

I was anticipating heading off to college, and when I left, that would leave Jackson without adult supervision. So, that following Summer, Jackson went to live with George and Mom in Asheville, N.C. It was a fine big brick house that backed up to a drive in theater that showed adult movies. Every teenage boy’s dream, right? Well, I went on about my life. I trusted Mom, and certainly George, to look out for, and do the best thing for Jackson. Now that I’m just now thinking about it, I don’t remember a lot of visits over the next few years, not Christmas or anything. I know Jackson and I stayed in touch, I just don’t remember visiting in Mom’s house. Strange memory to have pop up all of a sudden.

Turns out George is an alcoholic. Not a mean drunk, thank God. If he did do something that begged forgiveness, he would always make up for it. A great example of his repentance is the time he bought Jackson a 442 convertible. Guilt is a powerful motivator, I think I’m going to have that added to my tombstone.

Jackson married right out of high school and Mom’s parenting officially ended. Unfortunately, she was not able to rest back on her laurels and stop attempting to micro-manage everyone’s life. A logical mind would know that we are given opportunities to do certain things but once, and when that time has past, you have to let go. But, I said a logical mind. Mom is still hanging in at 88. I thought she had gone to glory this past New Year’s Eve but she slipped the Devil’s noose. We’ll talk about that another time.

Well I’m exhausted, I think I’ll go “peek” in on Brother Ware and see how he’s doing. J.K.

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Meet the Lites – Mom III

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. The hint of rain in the air was as false as Granny Waller’s teeth. Whatever clouds there were, died of loneliness, and we greeted this morning to the promise of another asphalt melting day here at TackyToo. I’m going to check my anklet’s waterproof qualities after while by jumping in the pool. That is, if I don’t hit the range finder first.

When we left off with Mom last, the family was living in town in a little rental house on the main drag. There were two of us kids, and Mom stayed at home to watch over us and perform the duties of house wife. Daddy had just started in the job that the universe designed him for, salesman, specifically insurance. With the ease of a round peg going into a round hole, Daddy excelled at insurance.

By the time I was four we had moved into a house that we were buying in a toney neighborhood. We had new cars, we took vacations, Mom had a maid, and when I started school, Mom located a private school for me to attend. Turns out, teaching myself to read at age five had resulted in me being sequestered from my neighborhood friends, who all attended public school. I was sent to a private school with heavy religious ties.

There were high expectations for the child that Mom would be able to mold herself. Mom felt that my sister Charlotte had been “spoiled” by her aunts, and with me, she had a second chance. So while Mom was taking care of the “baby” and occasionally dealing with the antics of my older sister, I filled the void by learning to read. This would be one of the personality traits psychologists call “middle child syndrome”.

During this time, there are vivid memories of the new Cadillac, of an extensive vacation in Florida carrying the grandparents Lite along, of Atlanta Crackers baseball games and the occasional UGA football game. My most positive memory of Mom of this time was when she came to school one time in her Sunday finest. I remember thinking at the time that she looked pretty, and my thoughts were confirmed by several of my buddys. Good times.

Well, Daddy was printing money like he had a press in the basement, and Mom was not going to let that cash lie idle. Maybe she suspected that with Daddy the money wouldn’t lie idle for long, but either way, Mom was ready to invest. A financial truism that has been hammered into my brain since I can remember was “they can print out more money but they can’t print out more land”. Mom used this truism to mount her empire. Her first investment was a boarding house two doors down from Grandma and Grandpa Lowe.

The boarders were people who were just going to be in the area for a short while, or folks who had a limited income and could get by on a bedroom and shared bath. Running a boarding house is hard work, and with the first meal at 6AM and the last at 6PM, you’re working 14-15 hour days everyday during the week. Mom had one phenomenal cook, Bootsie, that did most of the cooking. Bootsie was supplemented by two helpers. On the weekends the boarders were left to their own devices, but Mom always had some task that needed catching up on. It seems like we were at the boarding house as much as Mom was.

Mom was perturbed that Daddy had to be on the loan for her to buy the boarding house. When it came time to buy the house next door, using the cash generated from the boarding house, she was absolutely apoplectic when the loan office asked her to bring Daddy in to sign the papers with her. Same thing when she bought the house across the street from her other two pieces of property. Mom reasoned it was her business that had generated the income, she shouldn’t have to have a co-signor. It just didn’t work like that in the 50’s.

Coinciding with the purchase of the third house, Daddy got himself sideways with the insurance board. He was in deep and needed help to avoid prosecution. Mom was willing to help, for a price. For help in getting clear of the insurance problem, Daddy signed over all of the rights to any property that they jointly held, to Mom.

As you can imagine, there was a lot of whooping and hollering going on at our house every night. I was told that for the promise of no divorce Daddy agreed to put everything in Mom’s name. I think it was about 10 days after the signing that Daddy was served papers and forced to leave our house. I will never, ever, forget the night when Daddy told Jackson and I that he was going to have to leave. Our hearts were truly broken.

Well, the Dr.Pepper clock says 1:30AM, so I better head back over to Number Two before Mulva gets her knickers in a knot. Good Lord willing, and I don’t suffer a massive embolism from remembering all this stuff, I’ll be back tomorrow.

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Meet the Lites – Mom II

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. If brains were a dollar bill, I’d be three quarters short. I woke up feeling pretty good this morning and I thought, “I’ll just walk the loop around the park for a little look-see”. Well, I got four trailers down before my anklet started going off like one of those disks they give you at Chili’s to let you know your table is ready. Lesson learned. The run back to the phone to call my monitor was plenty of exercise enough for today.

Today, we’ll further plumb the depths of my soul, and relate more facts and suppositions about my Mom. By her own account, Mom was an excellent student and was typically at the head of her class. There don’t seem to be any contrary stories, which is the advantage of having your closest sibling eight years your junior. We’ll advance the story of Mom’s scholastic accomplishments to high school. My Daddy was a Senior in high school, and Mom a Freshman, when the “love that knew no bounds”, germinated. My Daddy was athletic, quick of wit, and “came from a good family”. My Mom was pretty, for a fourteen year old, but she was, a fourteen year old.

There are absolutely no accounts of what the burning issue of their immediate marriage was. My sister Charlotte was born over two years after their marriage. Maybe there was a pregnancy scare, real or orchestrated, I can’t say. Clearly, there was a fourteen year old girl who was ready to leave home, for whatever reason. The closest I ever got to a reason was a rambling dialogue from Mom a few years ago about men going off to war wanting their bloodline to continue (sounds like a line Daddy might use) and the fact that service wives got an “allotment”. The allotment rings a little truer for me. An opportunistic country girl might see this is as the opportunity to break free from whatever was going on at home and take a chance that with an “allotment” she might be able to make it on her own.

Anyway, the happy couple lived with the Lowes until Daddy’s induction. After Charlotte arrived,  Mom moved out on the farm with the Lites and waited for Daddy to come home. There were still sisters of Daddy’s living at home, so Mom had Granny and Grandma to watch the baby. Mom had her sisters-in-law to be a teenager with. Mom’s accounts of this time were very happy with the exception of how “spoiled” the family made my sister.

Mom finished high school and had high hopes of going to college, perhaps even “reading for the law”. Her hopes were dashed by Grandpa Lowe, who told Mom she was “putting on airs”, and he wasn’t going to stand for it. The crushing blow to Mom’s aspirations for a higher education came when Grandpa Lowe asked the question, “Do you think you should do better than me?” Grandpa Lowe’s own insecurities could not allow him to have a daughter (woman) be more successful than him. The theme continued on and on throughout his life, even though Mom was very successful in her business dealings. I guess, for Grandpa Lowe, it was one thing to have a strong woman at your side carrying you to success, but quite another to have your child outshine you.

Well, despite all of the best efforts of the Nazis and the Nipponese, Daddy returned home physically sound. The big tattoo of Buddha on his torso spoke volumes about his mental condition. In spite of Buddha, or maybe because of it, Daddy was given a lot of time, by Mom’s account, to get himself squared away. One day, Mom’s patience clock ran out, and she and Charlotte moved back to town to live with the Lowes. For Daddy to follow, he had to agree to a course of self improvement that would lead to success for all.

Now, I have charted some crooked courses in my lifetime, but Daddy’s next move was a forever puzzler. He used his G.I Bill to learn to be a butcher. Maybe it was the shortest course of anything available, who knows? I just know that when I came into being we were living in town in a little rental house on the main drag. Daddy had quit being a butcher, and had quit being a heavy equipment operator, and was now establishing himself in the insurance business. Mom stayed at home, and was charged with keeping me from expressing myself through dangerous activities. She was not very successful, and I’ve got the scars to prove it.

Well, it’s late and it smells like rain. We’ll pick this up again tomorrow.

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Meet the Lites – Mom

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. I caught a coughing spell today that made me wonder if my time was going to be sooner than later. Seems this weather has been making the air dirtier than usual and folks with a “sensitivity” are supposed to stay indoors.  Thanks, Georgia Power for doing your part in making the Smokey Mountains truly smokey.

Today, as part of my ongoing effort to resolve my issues, we will begin talking about Mom. Mom was born in 1927 and was baptized as Hanna Bea Lowe. She was the oldest child of Wilton Ben Lowe and Rose Bush Lowe. Grandpa Lowe was a journeyman barber and seemed to set up shop around the South in communities where there was kin that he could stay with while he “got himself established”. His efforts were aided by Grandma Lowe who, it was said, could squeeze a quarter so tight that the eagle would scream.

While barbering up in Kentucky, staying with Grandma Lowe’s kin, Mom popped into the world. It was eight years before my aunt Edna was born, four more years before the “baby”, Matilda, was born. To the casual observer this suggests that Grandma and Grandpa’s intimacy level was not very high, or that there was some sort of Leap Year schedule in place. Anyway, they moved around until settling in Blairsville, where Grandpa opened a shop of his own.

Apparently, when held to task, Grandpa Lowe could generate income, and with a little help from kin, they bought a house not far from the shop. This was the Depression, and Grandma Lowe reckoned that if times got too bad that Grandpa could carry his lunch to the shop and walk back and forth. As it was, Grandpa drove their Chevy home everyday for a hot lunch, perfunctorily prepared by Grandma.

My early memories of them were of the smell of talcum from Grandpa, and the smell of vinegar from Grandma. Grandma cleaned constantly and vinegar was the cheapest cleaning product available. She used it to clean everything. I interject my personal memory here because it must have been the same for Mom. The sweet smell of talcum from Grandpa, the sour smell of vinegar from Grandma. I know that children are effected by smells from very early on. Many is the time I’ve been told I smelled like a wet dog by my kids. So, I guess I’m wondering if a child’s affections could gravitate to one parent or the other based solely on sense of smell. Maybe.

More likely, the fact that Grandma suffered from headaches, and could launch into verbal attacks that would scald the hair off of a dog, might also have had a negative bonding effect. Grandma would usually follow the headache with a “sinking spell”, and then eventually get her cart righted again. Lest you get the wrong impression, Grandma rarely ever took to her bed during these fits. Hot lunch was always ready when Grandpa rolled up at 12:05, the house was always antiseptically clean. The family never missed service at the First Methodist Church on Sunday or prayer meeting on Wednesday night. Grandma made sure Grandpa’s church attendance was perfect as well, including his Men’s group on Monday night.

Grandpa was free to pursue his passion, hunting, after work or after Church on Sunday. Grandpa raised, trained and sold bird dogs. By all accounts he was good at his “hobby”, and people would come from all over to put in their dibs when there was a new litter. I seem to be giving more information on my Grandparents here than Mom, but in her case, I think it’s real important.

Well, the Dr.Pepper clock on the wall says it’s 1:15 here in the Rec room so I better snap this one off. I’ve got to take another dose of Tussin DM before putting my head down. It’s the only alcohol free cough syrup Mulva could find over to the Walmart. Can’t start back slidin’ now. More on Mom tomorrow.

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Meet the Lites – Daddy III

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. It’s 44 days and counting to the return of the Red and Black to Sanford Stadium. It’s so hot here the corn is popping in the field, and in just 12 days the Dawgs will start doing two a days in this heat. Lord help ’em.

When we left Daddy last, he had just lost his insurance agency over “an accounting error”, and had signed over everything of value to Mom on the promise she would stand by him. He was then served divorce papers and notice to vacate the house. Daddy left the house but he didn’t go too far. By staying close by, Daddy was able to chronicle the comings and goings of one A.C. Down. Turns out, Mr. Down was making frequent and regular visits to Mom. When confronted with the evidence, which included pictures, Mr. Down felt that a fair trade was the files for TackyToo. Daddy moved into Number Two at TackyToo, and my brother Jackson and I started visiting on weekends. It wasn’t long before the weekends became all week, and before you knew it, we had changed parental custody without using the courts. I was 10, and Jackson was 6, when Mom relinquished control of her sons to a man she felt was the Anti-Christ.

Our living situation changed a number of times between the move to TackyToo and the end of high school. We lived for a while on the farm with my grandparents. We lived for a while in Atlanta while Daddy was courting a woman down there. But through it all, the touchstone was TackyToo. Daddy would gamble away anything he could lay his hands on, but not the trailer park. We changed cars like the Pope changes hats. When I started driving, Daddy gave me a car. A few weeks later, I didn’t have car. Rinse and repeat until I was able to buy my own car and put the title in my name. I started working after school when I was 13. I would routinely “loan” at least half of my pay to Daddy. Jackson started a paper route when he was 10 or so. Daddy took all of the paper route money and gave Jackson a trip to the candy store in compensation. Looking back, Jackson and I were handling the groceries and Daddy was handling the rent. We were poor, but we knew a lot of poor kids, so we had friends.

We didn’t see Mom for another seven years. While Daddy could barely take care of himself, he had to be father and mother to me and Jackson. Thank God for Ozzie and Harriet, June and Ward Cleaver and Dobie Gillis’ parents. If not for them, I’m sure Jackson and I would have started a Manson like cult and wound up locked away forever or worse. As it was, my brief skirmish with the bumble bee was our first felony.

Daddy was still a young man when all of this went down and he was still very interested in the fair sex. If I had a stick of gum for every time I heard Daddy ask some lady if she wanted to “rub Buddha for luck”, I’d own Wrigley field. He had the gift of gab, and could tell who to approach and how to approach them. The older he got, the more he looked for women of means, as opposed to “lookers”. He loved to brag on the gifts he received from his girlfriends, and the older he got, the higher his expectations were for his girlfriends.

About the time I left home, Daddy hooked up with a woman he wouldn’t have looked at twice five years before. Inez had a good job, with a good retirement, and she loved to buy Daddy clothes. It was painful to watch, and I’m glad I only had to watch it from afar. Jackson, on the other hand, was in the thick of it until Mom came back around.

Mom had married a fellow with means and was enjoying a new life. When the other women in Mom’s social group found out she had two boys living with their Dad, Mom felt her new friends were being judgmental. Mom made connections again with Jackson and I, lest she be looked on poorly with the country club set. Eventually, Jackson went to live with Mom, and Daddy was released back into the wild.

Contact between Daddy and me through the years was sporadic. There were no Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthday celebrations. Like two islands in the Philippines, we might both be Philippine islands, but we’re thousands of miles apart. Daddy died in 2001 at 78. He left me TackyToo in a protected estate with a bunch of clauses. I guess he didn’t want me to gamble it away.

I’m going to call my sponsor now. I hate to wake him up, but it beats the alternative.

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Meet the Lites – Daddy II

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. It’s so hot here that I swear Satan has gone North for the summer. Of course Mulva’s pastor, the Right Reverend Dale E. Bread is convinced the devil is still here amongst us working his evil. We must remain ever vigilant.

When I left off last night, Daddy was returning from the war. I left out one very important point of historical significance. When Daddy was being transferred from the European theater to the Pacific he stopped by home long enough to impregnate Mom with my sister Charlotte. Daddy left to fight the Japanese and Mom stayed behind to begin her War of the Roses with my sister.

Daddy returned home along with tens of thousands of men all looking for jobs at the same time. As stated before, Daddy’s interests never fell towards manual labor, and even though he was able to make a nice living as a heavy equipment operator, he was always looking for better odds. During this time, Daddy contracted with Mr. A.C. Down to clear the land for TackyToo. Mr. Down was well on his way to becoming the Donald Trump of trailer parks. Sometime after the park was cleared, and the homes started to be drug into place, Daddy made a life decision. The story is told that after a particularly hot summer’s day, and an excruciatingly devastating bout with the hemorrhoids, Daddy climbed down out of the cab of the bulldozer to never return. During this lull in employment he created his greatest work, me.

Daddy could sell, his quick wit, good humor and desire to be well liked made his transition to the insurance business as slick as grass through a goose. He could add a column of three figures as easy as you or I recite our phone numbers. He could tell hundreds of jokes and was, as Mom said, “as funny as Herb Shriner”. Whoever that was. We prospered to the point that they added my little brother Jackson in the early 50’s. We bought a Cadillac, unheard of in our community. Mom bought a boarding house to run as her enterprise. Times were good, right up to when the wheels came off.

Daddy was an insurance man, and a gambler, he was a father of three, and a gambler, he was a Deacon in the church, and a gambler. Whoever Daddy was, part of him was always a gambler. If I view the situation from 50,000 feet, and use the cloudy lens of time, I can see how the War could have shaped someone who wanted the big score without the big effort. Groups of men confined to groups of men, all under high stress, are going to find their ways to deal with the stress. My Daddy’s personality and math skills pointed him to gambling.

Daddy’s willingness to have it all, and lose it all, were proof of his addiction as surely as my belief that I can take just one drink. You know that the only way to stop the pain of the addiction is to quit cold, but until Mom threatened to leave, Daddy didn’t know the pain. Once the pain started, it never stopped. With but a few minor victories over the course of his life, Daddy had peaked at thirty-four. The next forty four years were spent in brief ups and downs on the bottom rung of life.

Well, like they say, “Pain makes you stronger, tears make you braver, heartbreak makes you wiser, and alcohol makes you forget all of that crap.”

It’s late, we’ll plumb the depths of my soul some more tomorrow, right now I need to call my sponsor.

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Meet the Lites – Daddy

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. I tell you what, it’s so hot that Mulva bought a loaf of white bread over to the Walmart and it had turned to toast by the time she got home. I reckon we’ll be having BLT’s for lunch today with fresh tomatoes from the garden.

Today we’ll climb up the branches of the Lite family tree.We’re going to go up one level, to a stout limb called Daddy. Bocephus Buford Lite, or Bo Lite to his family and friends, came into this life in 1923. He was born on a farm with seven siblings, four boys and four girls in all. He was the baby boy, and by all accounts, spoiled rotten. He was clever and funny and used his talents to avoid as many chores as he could. He grew up during the Depression. The times were very hard, and everyone was supposed to pull their weight. Aunts and Uncles relate that Daddy did the minimal required to avoid a switchin’ and pursued his own interests.

When the CCC came to our area, Daddy took a job for some spending money. As it turns out, he learned some journeyman skills in construction. His CCC experience came in handy when he was drafted into the Navy in WWII and was placed in the SeaBees. Prior to leaving for the war, Daddy married Mom. He was eighteen and she was fourteen. Fourteen was young even by mountain standards, and they had to go over to South Carolina were it was legal. Daddy used to say, “we were going to Greenville, but got to Aiken and had to stop”. I was older before I got the joke, but it was a joke that has played out as a tragedy for all of us.

The SeaBees were the Navy version of the “C”onstruction “B”attalion. Their job was to provide infrastrucure to the U.S. occupying forces as the U.S. retook hostile territory. Driving a ‘dozer with a rifle in one hand was a skill Daddy had to learn for survival. Everyone is changed by war, and Daddy was no exception. Daddy brought back a vice from the war, and a constant reminder of where he had been. The vice was gambling, the reminder was a full torso tattoo of Buddha with Buddha and Daddy sharing the same belly button.

I don’t know how long that tattoo took, but it was done while the SeaBees were tasked with building infrastructure outside of Hiroshima. There were people who wanted to measure the effectiveness of the Atomic bomb, and the SeaBees built Quonset huts for them to live and work in. Now, from personal experience I know that a tattoo of that complexity would have taken some time, and there’s no telling how many rads of radiation Daddy got while he was stationed there. While I’m curious about exposing so many of our own servicemen to a known painful death sentence, I’m equally curious about what Daddy was saying by the Buddha tattoo.

Daddy wouldn’t talk about it, and maybe he was drunk the whole time and doesn’t remember. It does seem to me like he could have gotten a smaller tat, and maybe bought a little Buddha statue for the mantle. Anyway, Bo Lite came back home, and brought with him two constant reminders of WWII. For the rest of his life, Daddy was addicted to gambling. The tattoo that prompted some folks to call him Buddha behind his back, was also a sign that Daddy was not “right”, when he came back home.

Well, I feel like I been chewed up and spit out. All of this remembering is painful. I’m gonna head back over to Number Two before Mulva sends out a search party. We’ll catch up with Daddy tomorrow.