Sunday, August 1, 2010
Passing of a Key
Outside the sixth day of February is bleak and cold, bare and brittle in a winter wind that kicks up some light snow that has fallen earlier. It is very dark, probably much as it was at end of January 1900 when he first opened his eyes to the light of day. But his eyes will not open to another light of day. When the woman beside him stirs at early dawn he is cold and gone. He has slid just a week into age 57, just pass the line his namesake, his own grandfather reached, when that man died at 56.
The grandfather had been a builder, the whole family were builders once, and he had been up country putting down a barn roof after a rain, slipped in the wet and plunged to the ground. He died after lingering a day in agony, just short of his 57 birthday in that past drear October. Now the grandson died of cirrhosis, brought upon him by his choice of pain killer after he too had suffered a fall. He was going down a ladder to inspect an underground tank, a product of the iron works of his employ, when his foot slipped on a rung and he shattered his leg and his soul on the cold steel floor of the structure.
Of such missteps our life's balance often hangs.
The Kid was 15 when it happened. That old man, who really wasn't an old man, as The Kid would realize eventually, had been The Kid's surrogate dad for many years. The Kid's image of what a man was came from his grandfather more than his father, for that old man was there. That old man took him on the fox hunts and to the barrooms and on train rides and told him stories on the trips. Now that old man was dead.
The end came like a knife blade cutting off a chicken's head. Oh, The Kid had seen that several times, although usually that old man hung the chicken up by the feet and cut its throat with a wire. The point was the scythe of death had fallen sharply and ended things when The Kid felt bad about the last times visited. He had lived there with his grandparents in the spring of 1956. His own parents had moved north and left him in their care until he finished out his school year. That old man was still going to the bottle for solace then and the bottle contained a demon.
That old man drank until the demon possessed him. Then he lay on a dining room sofa and cursed all and everything. It happened every night. He was no more the same old man who had companioned the lonely boy years before. The Kid would not go near him and somewhere near the end of this The Kid had angry words for that old man.
And now the angry words stood as perhaps the last between them.
It had been that old man's car, a royal blue 1954 Ford coupe. It didn't have many miles for the injury and the illness had taken away the jaunts into the countryside to follow the hounds. The car was to open up the world to The Kid, to renew old friendships and to become part of his own persona in the years ahead, but at that same time it always carried a haunt.