Category Archives: Trialing the Ashes

Santa Barbara Cemetery

Having managed to locate the ashes of Carol’s parents, today we buried them.  At the cemetery of the Santa Barbara Cemetery Association.  First though Carol checked out all the local burial places.  The one right here in Goleta is supported by the taxes of the people of Goleta.  Being buried there was consequently somewhat cheaper.  But it was located right next to the Freeway.

Carol had her eye on Santa Barbara Cemetery for some time. Her mother had always wanted to live near the ocean; but she never got to (though they had the money) because Carol’s father was worried it might upset his allergies.  Turns out you can see the ocean from the Santa Barbara Cemetery.  So Carol decided that would be the place since it afforded her mother an ocean view and her father wouldn’t be around to complain about the allergies.

 

  So looking one way—you can see the ocean (barely) and you turn around and you see the mountains.  Quite a Santa Barbara place.  But more expensive than Goleta—3300 dollars in fact for a duplex plot for two parents (stacked on top of each other).  We will probably buy a plot for ourselves there.  I said, though, what if we change our plans, and the lady showing us the plots said the cemetery would buy it back (with a transfer fee of 150) should we change our minds, or we could put it up for sale on Craig’s List.

 

 

I thought jeez what an opportunity; and asked if we could buy more than one plot.  Maybe a dozen or so because the way I figure it these little plots are bound to go sky high what with the surplus of yuppies about to die and in a decade we could probably fetch triple what we paid for them.  But the lady showing us about got real stern and said the law prohibited any speculations in cemetery property. I had to work, with help from Carol, to convince the lady that I was just kidding.

 

Carol said a few words with me and the cemetery lady present.  Then we went out to lunch.  Just Carol and me.  Not the cemetery lady.

 

39 days without cigarettes–I think.  Now what do I have to be anxious about. 

April 10 Again

This memory business is started to agitate me.  I was watching TV and a commercial came on for an upcoming movie with Steve Carrell as Maxwell Smart of the show, Get Smart, produced by Mel Brooks, as I recollect.  In any case, I sat there for a good 15 minutes annoyed as hell that I could not remember the name of the guy that played Maxwell on the TV show.  Damn.

Finally, it came to me…Don Adams?  Is that right?  I refuse to look it up.  Then I got pissed that I could not remember the number of his trusty female side-kick.  That’s what she had: a number not a name.  So I am going like in my head 41?  22?  79? And after running through a bunch of numbers I hit 99.  I am pretty sure that’s her number and I think she was played by a person named Barbara Hershey…though I am not sure of that.

And like I am writing an email and all of a sudden I can’t remember the name of a colleague whose office is like two doors down from me and with whom I spoke last week.

God!  Right now, I am pretty sure I am forgetting something though I have no idea what it might be.

But for some damn reason, I have been remembering for weeks now that Joan died April 10, of last year, 2007.  So here it is April 10.  Jewish people traditionally light a candle on the anniversay, I guess it would be called, of the death of a close relative.  I have no candles and am afraid I would forget it and burn the condo down.

So I will put up a picture here of Joan from 1943. 1943?  But damn that was a long time ago.  No?

joan1943 

What the hell am I forgetting? 

A Death in the Family

Carol’s mom died in the late evening of October 13, 2007.  She had been nearing death for a couple of days and was, so they reported, becoming agitated.  They gave her some anti-anxiety meds and then Carol got a call saying her mom had died.

Carol called her Uncle Bernie who lives in Las Vegas to let him know his sister had died; Bernie was a dentist and during his time going to dental school had lived a while with Carol and her parents.  He told Carol he knew that her parents had been very, very difficult people, but that she, Carol, had survived it whole and had been, in his opinion, a great daughter.  He even said he could not have wished for a better daughter himself.

carolsmom 

An incredibly nice thing to say.  That was the only thing that made Carol feel like crying because she has been preparing herself for some time for this occasion and has done a good job of it, I think.

I never had what you might call an intimate conversation with Carol’s mom.  She liked me OK I guess because I married her daughter.  It was very important to her that her daughters be married, so I filled the bill on that score.  Also she liked the way I scrambled eggs because every time we visited there, after Carol’s father died, she had me scramble the eggs which honestly I did better than she did because hers came out hard and dry.

Those were probably the best moments I had with Carol’s mom sitting at the kitchen table eating scrambled eggs.  She also always had cream cheese and bagels on hand.  And purple onion.

Family Valued

I have gone back to SC four times now since about 1994 and each time I am grateful for the welcome I receive from my relatives.  My first trip back was amazing.  I was exhausted the whole time but woke each morning with positive expectations.  Going back was important somehow deep down to see the place and the people I had known when I was a boy.  And when I did finally, after some driving around in Georgia, get to my see my relatives I was enveloped in a sense of acceptance and warmth.

 

grandmainside

 

 

Why should they have paid such kind attention?  After all I had been in no real contact with them for about 40 years. I didn’t really ask myself that then.  But now I would answer by saying, well, we were and are family.  I was WB’s son and that was enough for them to go out of their way the way they did.  And perhaps they were curious a bit about me as I was one of those children of the prodigal son, WB, who had gone off to California while they had all stayed at home, many still living within forty minutes of each other by car in upper Carolina and now a bit in North Carolina.

When WB left in 1955 he lost immediate contact with all that family, and so did I.  We were in California very much the “nuclear” family, mom, dad, kids and dog, with no extended family anywhere about.  Back there though there’s lots of extended family, living in what politicians might call family values territory.  And family is valued, though I don’t think the family thinks about it that way.  Family is just there.

I don’t know how frequently the many members of the family get together or actually see each other.  But I do think they are always aware of each other and have a pretty good general idea of what might be happening in one portion or another of the family, who is having a baby, or who is getting married, or who has come down with something, and who has moved, and who got a new car.  And while it would not do at all to pretend things are all hunky-dory between individuals in the family or that they all like each other or something like that, I do think in times of trouble the individuals would try their best to overcome their personal feelings and help out if they at all could.

As I was told frequently while growing up, blood is thicker than water.  In a growing and changing world, where it becomes increasingly hard to be recognized by anybody, family recognizes family.  And being recognized is tremendously important, and additionally in places like SC where the government provides very little for the people; people must provide for themselves and family can take up the slack. Psychological recognition and, more in the past than today, economic need held family together.

I can see better the importance and the function of the extended family partly because I was not raised back there with all that extended family about.  At the same time, with all that family about, one could easily spend one’s every waking moment thinking about family, gathering news of family, doing for family, and visiting family, with the result as one relative suggested, it becomes easy to forget that there is anything beyond family, that there is a bigger or other sort of world out there of people who do not think, or feel, or believe as family thinks, feels, and believes.

In places like California.

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On the way back from the services for Joan, a number of us stopped to take a look inside Grandma’s old house, built in the early thirties. 

Sweet Tea

South Carolinians, I conclude, take their eating damn seriously.  Their idea of lunch is my idea of dinner; and their idea of dinner is on a whole other plane.  We went with a cousin to a K and W’s near Simpsonville, SC, for lunch; this is a chain of cafeterias located in West Virginia, Virginia, North and South Carolina.  For about 3.50 I got a heaping plate of white rice covered with country steak and gravy.  For just over a buck I got a side of black eyed peas; I had something else too…maybe a little salad.

 

addies2007

 

 

Carol and I ate with another cousin, at the original Stax in Greenville, home of the famous deuces wild breakfast, two apparently of everything.  I had a club sandwich that covered one half of a large platter and on the other half was a heaping mound of French fries.  Also in Fletcher NC, Carol and I had lunch with another cousin at a local place called the Acropolis where I ordered—over my cousin’s warnings—the lamb gyro platter with Greek salad. Damn, another huge amount of everything, and I ate it all for 7.95.

And sweet tea.  Wherever you go–sweet tea.  I grew up on sweet tea as a matter of fact, and the only place I have ever found it is back there in the South.  I order iced tea in California and they bring you this tea with ice in it and nothing else.  With sweet tea, you boil some water and dump three or four teabags in it and let it seep and boil till it is practically black, and then you put in a heaping cup of sugar and add water to stretch it out a bit, and put the whole thing in the refrigerator and let it cool. 

No wonder I am a caffeine head.  I started drinking sweet tea as a kid and drank it all through the time I lived with my parents.  I wasn’t allowed to drink coffee as a kid, since that was an adult drink and would stunt my growth.  But what the hell, pray tell, is the difference.  Maybe coffee cost more. I remember now I made sweet tea and our particular touch to sweet tea was adding to it, along with the sugar, a small container of frozen lemonade.  Clearly, this stuff was the original energy drink. 

I had a special lunch at Aunt Addies.  It was pretty hot, on a Sunday afternoon, as I recollect, and Aunt Addie wasn’t up to fixing lunch for everybody.  But earlier in the day, I had admired some of Uncle Ed’s tomatoes that were sitting on a sideboard ripening in the sun.  I picked one up said it smelled like a real tomato.  Uncle Ed said I should eat one before I left.  When it seemed like we were fixing to go, Uncle Ed said I should eat my tomato and did I want to make a tomato sandwich out of it.

Now I don’t remember having ever eaten a tomato sandwich, but I must have because as soon as he said, tomato sandwich I knew what to do.  Take two pieces of white bread, slather them both with mayonnaise; sprinkle pepper over the mayonnaise, slice the tomato as thin as possible, stack the pieces high so you use all the tomato (if it’s on the small side), salt the tomato.  And put it altogether.  Damn that was good.  Carol took a bite and wanted her own tomato sandwich.  So we ended up staying another hour as we all ate tomato sandwiches and drank sweet tea.

I am talking so much about food because I gained about six pounds in ten days in SC.

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That’s Aunt Addie’s house on Chipwood off Lisbon Road right near Mountville, SC. 

Miscellaneous

I wanted to find something on local history so Carol and I went to an independent bookstore in Greenville SC.  I couldn’t find much but located a picture sort of book on Laurens County.  Honestly, how this book got published I don’t know.  I certainly don’t recommend it; it’s called Images of America: Laurens County.  It had pictures of the damndest things. For example the entire graduating class of ought 7 with no names just a picture of unknown people, or for example, John Langston, described as a substantial citizen but with no indication whatsoever as to why he was or what he did to make him so.

 

mountvillechurch

 

 

I did find out that Laurens was possibly originally called Laurensville and that it was divided into five townships, variously:  Laurens, Dial, Waterloo, Sullivan, Scuffletown, Hunter, Cross Hills, Jacks and Youngs.  So cousin Jacks Tingle was named after a Laurens Township.  Ora is mentioned very briefly as part originally of the township called Scuffletown.  No explanation is given for this odd name, though one supposes a family named the Scuffles lived there.

Mountville is mentioned as a community that sort of sprang up on its own and as having probably the oldest church in the county.  I think Uncle Douglas may be buried there. Anyway, don’t buy that book.  If you see it, just pick it up and look at the pictures while you are standing there.  And then put it back where you found it.

Healthful eating has not caught on in SC;  indeed the restaurants of SC seem to be engaged in counter-programming against all those healthy trends coming out of places like California.  How else to explain a restaurant chain that flauntingly calls itself Fatz?  I ate at Fatz; the food was medium good and the portions enormous.  They start you out free of charge with some flavored rolls that have been deep fried.  Carol ate all of them.

All of the visiting Tingle brothers ate breakfast at Ryans in Laurens right across from the WalMart; this is a chain of different styles of restaurants.  The one we went to was all you could eat forever and ever.  They had a separate room for smokers.  I went in there to take a puff and found myself in a room with four other smokers—all workers at the restaurant and all black—I don’t know how long it’s been since I was in a room with four other smokers. 

But laws are being passed and challenged and passed again restricting smoking in public places and bars.  One of the workers sitting there said, “Are they trying to take all of our pleasures away from us.”  Carol and I went back to Ryans at seven or so for dinner, and the guy who had defended his right to smoke was still working.  He looked really tired and had the horrible job of just standing there behind the steak and ham and waiting for people to come up and tell him what they wanted.

 All you can eat for 8.99.  With sweet tea or soda pop extra. 

According to the Laurens picture book, that’s the oldest church in Laurnens County, located in Mountville near Duncan Creek.  I don’t know though if the structure pictured is still extant.

Continue reading Miscellaneous

For the record

Last year about this time while in Ora, SC I spent a number of hours trying to locate the spot on a river or creek where I had nearly “drowned” when I was in second grade.  I thought I had located it on the Enoree; I even wrote a song about it with the word Enoree in it, but during this past year in a visit with Joan, I mentioned what I had done.  And she said, what did you do that for?  Thinking I guess that I made too much of having nearly died while she was supposed to be watching out for me. And then she said, anyway it was on Warrior Creek.

 

warrior1

 

 

 So during our last day in the Ora area, I made Carol ride around with me while I tried to locate Warrior creek.  I found Warrior Creek Road and drove on it on and on through what appear some land of the Cherokee Nation (hence I guess, the name Warrior Creek) but had no luck at all locating any body of water near Warrior Creek Road; finally I came back out on the main road well above Ora, and driving back what do I drive across, but Warrior Creek.

 

warrior2

 

 

So I got out of the car and took these pictures.  The Creek is low perhaps because of the extended drought, and this is not the spot where I nearly “drowned,” but this is Warrior Creek. And I must have nearly drowned on it somewhere nearby.  Indeed, I regret having not turned off onto a dirt road with the sign “Slippery Rock.”  I would bet that gave public access to the Creek.

Also I drove back to North Greenville Community College today and took these pictures should some doubting Thomas not believe there really is a Tingle Residence Hall.

 

jacksa
 
 
 
jacksb 

 

 

Tigerville

I don’t know why—maybe it was money for gas, or time lost to make money, or a general inability to enjoy ourselves—but we did not when I was a child in Ora SC travel very much, if at all.  I don’t remember even having gone to Clinton which was maybe in those days 15 minutes away by car.  But I do remember us having driven a considerable ways to visit some relatives. I didn’t know where this place was back then, but I now know it was a place called Tigerville north of Greenville by 15 minutes maybe.  That would have been a lot of travel back then close to two hours, I bet, what with what the roads and cars were like back then from Ora to Tigerville.

 

rain

 

 

Actually Tigerville is more a name than a place, or let’s say if you did not know the name you would in all likelihood not know you were in the place, since there isn’t anything to suggest that there is a Tigerville exactly.  But we went there because that’s where Uncle Neal lived with his wife and two sons, at that time back in the early 50’s.  Neal’s wife, Doris, was a school teacher and the sons were Rusty and Jacks (yes, Jacks).  They were roughly parallel in age to me and Brother Steve and I remember having enjoyed playing with them, though I have no idea what we did since we had none of what people might call toys.  I suppose we ran around and looked at things.

Carol and I went to Tigerville escorted by my cousin, Lucy, to find located, where once there had been nothing, the campus of North Greenville Community College, directly in front of Uncle Neal’s House.  I did not know fully understand the intensity of the relation of the Tingles to this college—a Baptist College—until driving onto the campus I read across the top of a building the name of my cousin, Jacks Tingle, and then further around back found the Tingle Residence Hall.

I don’t remember there having been any college there at all when I  was a child but there must have been something there or maybe it appeared after my time, but that is where Uncle Neal became an ordained Baptist Minister and later worked through the ups and downs of the college over the years as head of facilities, I think it was.  Later on, no doubt because of the location of the college and his father’s involvement with it, Jacks Tingle gave the college a lot of money.

Jacks has a lovely house located in a lovely piney woods right next to the college.  The house is situated in such a way as to produce what in California might be called a view.  Views are rare lower in the state, but around and north beyond Greenville one is heading into North Carolina and the Smokey Mountains. Jacks at one time was the owner of many, many Burger Kings and that’s where the money came from to help out the college so that now there is a Tingle Residence Hall.

Jacks has suffered several strokes so we did not drop in unannounced at his home, but earlier in the day, we did, down in Greenville, drive by Rusty’s nice brick house.  He was out front doing something to his car, so we stopped.  I can’t say had I seen Rusty on the streets that I would have recognized him; it has been 50 years more or less since I last saw him and people do change over 50 years. But as we talked I remembered his presence and understood why I had enjoyed playing with him and Jacks.  He is a good guy.

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A road in the rain outside Charleston. 

Fellowship Hall

I don’t know how many people exactly attended Joan’s service, but there was a number, around 20 I suppose of mostly Tingles and their husbands and wives and children.  After the services back in the Fellowship Hall of the Church, I tried to mingle but felt like a billiard ball bouncing from this little bit of conversation to the next, struggling mightily the whole time to remember exactly to whom I was speaking, what with fatigue and the ravages of time having wreaked considerable havoc on my memory and other mental capacities. 

I remember much more vividly than last year speaking briefly with Uncle Douglas’s wife and his children, a son, whose name now I have forgotten completely, a daughter with her daughter and another child evidently on the way.  Douglas’s son works at Clemson College as one of the managers of the dairy farm there, with hundred and fifty cows, not to mention students. 

Uncle Douglas died very young, years back, in his mid fifties I think of lung cancer.  He took up the habit in the military and he smoked Chesterfields, unfiltered, which was the only way you could ever get that particularly awful brand.  Or was it unfiltered Camels?                                           

Uncle Carl was there though it was not sure he would be since he had been in the hospital in Greenville but the day before because his blood pressure had been going up and down erratically.  So he was checked in for observation, I guess.  He had been out driving somewhere again without his license when his condition was discovered.  I told him he should probably stop driving because it could get him in trouble.  I asked him how his eyes were and he said, bad and getting worse.  I can hardly see a thing.  The condition of his eyes though I could tell was not going to keep him from behind the wheel.  He has been driving since he was about 13 and he has no intention of stopping till he drops or becomes too weak to turn the wheel.

Uncle Carl is a small man and he has shrunk further every time I see him.  And every time I look at him I am startled because he looks so very much like WB but with a very bad overbite and smaller chin.

Aunt Edith, who lives up in Greenville, is very frail.  Aunt Adie struggles with a very bad lung conditions, and Carl, well, is Carl, though there is less of him each time.  They are all that is left of the original seven.  Aunt Mamie died a few years back of cancer, colon cancer, I believe it was and Uncle Neal died sometime in the 80’s of a massive heart attack while sitting alone in his truck.  

I felt bouncing around like a billiard ball an awful lot of loss.  I know the next time I visit, as I believe I will, in all likelihood there will be still fewer left and my connection to the family, although I continue to cultivate relations with cousins, will become thinner, and more anemic.  And so too will my connection to that particular piece of country side become thinner.  Every time I go back another landmark has vanished.  All that will remain soon of what I remember will be that little church, founded in 1792 and the graveyard beyond it with WB and Joan lying there now side by side.

Human, too human

We were fortunate on the day of Joan’s burial to have weather more balmy than blistering, not like June 17th of this last year when we laid WB’s remains to rest.

 

stone

 

 

The service started promptly at 11 and the Reverend preached for a good 30 minutes from diverse texts including the 23rd Psalm and 1st Corinthians among several others.  The subject was death and how to stand it, with his being a strong advocate of the Christian approach to this existential problem.  All had been laid down for Joan and her kin even before the beginning of time, he said.  This idea, however, frightened me even more than the idea of death, so I am not certain I benefited in the intended way from his homily.

After the preaching, we repaired to the graveyard for further preaching.

Joan’s ashes had been “vaulted,” the Reverend having attended to that for us, in a metal box itself coated over with what appeared to be a beige space age plastic completely unyielding to the touch.  This was a new policy set in place by the church to keep the ground from sinking over decaying boxes.  The vault and Joan’s ashes within it appear completely non-biodegradable.  That box, barring an atomic explosion and some form of anti-burial policy in the distant future, will remain in that graveyard for the next three billion years until the sun blows up and the end of time.

 It was that kind of day overall, one that made one think of the time before time and the time when the earth will be reduced to an astral charcoal briquette, if even that, when the sun gives up the ghost and goes nova.   These thoughts—and that of one’s personal morality—put the day on the hard side emotion-wise.  Most of my days are on the hard side emotion-wise, but this was quite a bit more than usual hard, if you can imagine.

Later Carol and I towards the end of the day on the way back from a visit to the Village Cup, Lauren’s one and only coffee house, drove again through the graveyard and ran into the Reverend, who was there doing graveyard chores.  At first I didn’t recognize him in his street clothes, and as we talked about the day, I realized that his shape in his street clothes was so considerably different than his shape in his suit and robes I had to conclude that the Reverend had to don for his preaching a corset or something of that kind that shifted the weight around his waist more upward.

 I do not judge.  But I was put in mind of Ecclesiastes and the vanity, all is vanity theme that runs through that book.  But of course I am not sure of Ecclesiastes is saying that vanity is a bad thing really; just perhaps that is how it is.  In which case that would make Reverend Roper, in the words of that notorious atheist, F. Nietzsche, “human, too human.”  And who is not, human, too human?.

Continue reading Human, too human