I looked up and surveyed the landscape, and said, “Well dad, you can see it all from here!” That was the first time I really cried over the loss of my father.
It was only a couple of months later, at least in my mind, that my mom met and married John Sweeney, a short bald headed man that was born in
I must add here that John was only my mom’s second husband. She married Bill Lindsey after John died, and Bill is the gentleman I wrote “What’s It’s like to Die” (Chapter 123) about. Since Bill died, my brother and I often refer to mom as “the black widow,” having put three gentlemen in the ground!
First off, and I apologize to any of you from New Jersey, I have yet to meet anyone from that state I like, and John was not the first. John and I went head-to-head lots of times. He knew I did not like the fact that he and mom married so soon (at least in my mind) after my dad passed away. There was also the fact that he had a heavy Scottish accent and was Catholic!
In several of my Communications classes was a very hairy guy from
This guy was one of the leaders of the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) organization on the UT campus.
Most of the shouting and ranting was about the war that still raged in
One day I stood in a large open window in Ayers Hall, across from the Administration Building, and watched this guy standing, no he was blocking, the door into the public building while screaming, what to me was communistic, or at least, anti-American slurs through his megaphone.
The crowd faced away from me, listening to him, and chanting and jumping up and down in unison to his blaring cadence. Suddenly, I noticed the Campus Police lining up downhill from the Ad Building and I grew anxious and anticipated a dramatic encounter right in front of my eyes.
I grew so angry inside that my feelings began to swell and grow into a choking lump in my throat, but I held on, and just watched the police advance. Then the crowd hushed, and someone shouted “Just shoot them all!” The crowd turned and looked toward the window I was standing in and I suddenly realized that it had been me that shouted!
It came out before I even knew it and just when the crowd quieted and turned their attentions to the police effort. I had no idea that would be the instant my brain would choose to shout out its deep seated feelings!
A hot flush filled my face and I backed up into the shadows and waited to be arrested or attacked by irate protestors - neither happened.
I have met several people over the years from
Meanwhile, back on the subject of John Sweeney, I suppose the Catholic part bothered me some as well.
I remember I finished the fourth grade in
As we walked up a large winding staircase, with marble steps, we both began noticing the statues inset in the corners of Mother Mary and other saints. Even before we met any Nuns, mom looked at me and said, “Let’s get out of here!”
I do not know, but possibly that, plus a childhood friend who cursed constantly except on Sundays, set the stage for my early mistrust of the Catholic institution. Whatever it was, I did not like the fact that my little Baptist momma was marrying a Ca-thol-ic, as my brother and I often broke it down!
As it turned out, I grew to love the old funny talking man, and had I known about my own Scottish heritage back then, I might have gotten past his immigration to
Today, I have an extended family of step-brothers and sisters through this relationship. Michael, the youngest, is now the priest at the parish my mom still attends in Harriman. I call him, “My brother the Father!”
I grew to like Papa John as being part of my family, and Corey, who first dubbed him “Papa John,” also loved the old dude, and they often spent time riding around town together. Too bad I killed him with a hamburger though!
John was seriously injured years earlier by getting into 440 volts at the steel mill where he worked before the medical retirement. He survived the encounter with the extreme voltage, but it left his heart muscles weakened.
One evening, several years after marrying mom, he stuffed himself with two of my grilled burgers, and some of my wife’s potato salad and baked beans! Later that night he woke up having a heart attack.
I really felt bad about the incident and begged him to forgive me the next day. He told me, sitting on the side of the hospital bed that it was not my fault, and the doctor reinforced that by stating it was just a matter of time anyway.
I went to work the following day, thinking the best of thoughts for John, but I got a call about midday – John had had another heart attack and died.
I was always thankful I got to speak to him and discuss the hamburger incident. My mind is at ease.
However, when I tell you I make a “killer burger” believe me – it’s true!