November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Do more people die during the holidays or do we just make it sadder when it happens during the holidays? My grandfather, father, cousin, uncle and another uncle along with his whole family died within the span of what we consider the holiday season. Thanksgiving was a holiday my grandmother grew to dread, she said we had lost so many during that time of the year. At the time she was stating this we had only actually lost Uncle Bill and his family. Then in four years her husband, my grandfather died the week of Thanksgiving. She noted this before there were so many lost. Losing her son's entire family in the fire was for sure the beginning of how she dreaded the holidays. They died the days following Thanksgiving one by one, the three of them. The boy was only twelve years old. In years to come my daddy would die on December 11. His brother would follow the next year on December 5. She would out live all of her son's. The one tragedy she did not have to endure was the grandson that died nine years after her death in 1999. I know she would recant the time of the year once more, because it was the week after Christmas that the crash occurred. This would have given her more to add to her account of tragedies during the holidays. Death was not the only thing that she reflected on when the holidays grew closer. The fire that caused the death of her son was not the only fire. The house that she had worked so hard for burnt to the ground three years after the fatal fire. There wasn't anyone at home, but the things she had worked for were gone. This house also contained many of her dead son's belongings. Furniture that was much better than what she had acquired through the years. Fire was something that my entire family was taught to fear. My daddy would not let us lock a door in the house. We were not allowed even to lock the bathroom door while bathing. He had convinced himself that his brother died because he could not get out of the burning house because of a locked door. He did not die from the smoke or flames. He bled to death from cuts he sustained breaking the glass out to escape the fire. I smell something burning was a common statement that was followed by the whole family searching closets and walls for what was causing the smell of something burning. The old house was what we called the house that burnt to the ground. Mama and Daddy had taken me to Rogersville to buy my winter shoes for that year. We had gone to the Ole Shoe House in downtown Rogersville to make the yearly purchase. I had picked cotton and earned the money to buy this great pair of shoes. Shoes that when my grandmother saw them, were not practical. She was in the hospital at the time of the shoe purchase and fire. On the trip back from the shoe store the smoke could be seen boiling in the sky when we reached the five forks in the road at Whitehead. I noticed the fire when Daddy got the panicked look on his face and started driving fast. We arrived at the old house to find the Lexington fire department had given up on putting the fire out. The house was already starting to cave in. My grandfather had used the time that Grandmother was in the hospital to pull a big drunk. The entire time she was gone was a time of breaking her rules. The house was a total disaster. The food was a bright idea of three drunken men. I think liver and onions was on the menu for one night.

Daddy was confronted as was approached the house by Preston Dean, a neighbor that had come to watch the house burn. Preston was quick to tell my daddy that he needed to stop Grandaddy from running back into the house. Sure enough, at the south end of the porch that went all the way across the house, was Granddaddy trying to get up on the porch and into the burning house. Drunk, crazy, or selfish may have been the reasons he was trying to get into the falling house. Daddy rushed to where he was tackling him to the ground to make him not go into the house. Even after that he had to hold him down, because he was still trying to get in the house. In the days to follow we would know what he wanted to get out of the house. He and grandmother had put seven-thousand dollars in a stuff can. The only part he did not know was before Grandmother went to the hospital she had hidden it in the outbuilding that was used as a well house/wash room. The money that was saved in the can is the money that was used to rebuild their home; another thing that I think of every Thanksgiving. A Thanksgiving memory I gathered along the way.

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