Even I’m sick of reading it. I remind myself of this woman at work who, whenever she sees me (and I literally hide from her, so I try not to see her) reminds me of what poor health she is in, because she is an “insulin-dependent diabetic.” “Insulin-dependent diabetic” is her “My father, who died when I was six.” Boo- hoo. Send yourself some flowers. Maybe if you didn’t snack on sticks of butter and fried pork rinds during your morning break, things would be different.
So I’m going to tell you a bit about my father. Feel free to click the get-me-the-hell-out-of-here button at any time, as this might appear to be dripping with sentiment, especially towards the end.
My dad was one of the earliest bloggers. Even before there was a computer or an Internet, my dad penned an article for the now-defunct
No one was safe from embarrassment or humiliation. When he brought it to light that despite frequent calls, no one from public works had picked up his green yard waste that had been rotting in the alley for six months, the mayor himself rolled out, towing a trash trailer, and afterwards got bogged down in the sandy alley because no one from public works had made a delivery of crushed seashells, either, to the alley to help pack down the sand.
And it wasn’t infrequent that he wrote about something that happened at home. He had made my mother somewhat of a minor local celebrity by documenting the behavior of The Lady of the House, which he always called her in the column.
My mother clipped most of his articles and kept them in boxes for years. When she would request duplicates, my father would bring home additional papers the next day. The funnier they were, the more copies of them were retained. Some were sent to my aunt in
I had no idea she had kept these until I was thirteen. (Do the math. How many years after my father died was this?) One summer I came home from my annual three month stay in
My sister (who’s alive, remember?) maintained these volumes of scrap books for the longest time, and sometime in the late 80’s asked me if I wanted to hold onto them for a while. I did, promising myself that I’d read them all.
So they sat there for years until one day I opened them up and discovered the newsprint (which was 40 years old in some cases) had turned brown and started to crumble. In order to preserve them I spent a weekend at work, photocopying them one by one. Did I say work? I meant Kinko’s. It took forever. Eventually I reluctantly threw out most of the newsprint versions, and the new versions, printed two sided on copier paper, fit nicely into three fat three-ring binders. Much easier to handle for the reader, which some day I would be.
Then I moved back to
I spent weeks feeding them through the scanner, creating gigantic PDF Files. Did I say at work? I meant at home. It was a slow, taxing process, but during that time I read a lot of them, got rid of duplicates, sorted them out into even more categories, and burned them all onto CD’s for family.
During that time I learned more about my dad than I ever knew, mostly good things. He stood up for civil rights at a time when it was unpopular to do so. I learned that he was also more tolerant and liberal than my mother would ever be, and I learned how he suffered during the war when he was stationed in
I know of my limited appearances, because after all the articles were scanned, I ran detailed searches. The Lady of the House was in dozens, scores, possibly hundreds. Then that darling Little Urchin and her zany toddler antics, like the time she was bitten on the butt by a goose, were all over the map. Son and Heir: four stinkin’ hits. Even worse, the freakin’ parakeet, Sporty, was showcased in at least 20 columns. Outdone by a bird. Simply by being the last born, I lost out of the fame lottery.
It had always been my intent that during my retirement I would go back to the St. Petersburg Public Library and check out the microfilms of the Independent and read every article my dad ever wrote. It was how I would honor him, by squeezing out the last letters of everything that was typeset onto newsprint. I would know everything I could know.
But after discovering the puny number of articles I was in—did I mention it was just four?— I was going to step up this investigation pronto, so Other Bill and I drove across the state, and I marched into the St. Petersburg Public Library and demanded access to the microfilms. At first I was so eager, I just wanted to start with the first ones. The first thing I wanted to do was find the first one and the last one he’d written. But that was tough to do, because the microfilm reader/printers were purchased, I’m guessing, during the Eisenhower administration, and they are placed under fluorescent lighting that make them impossible to read from. The only way to read them was to print them out, at a quarter a pop. And there were 12 years of these, or so I thought. I was there for several hours, and grew more and more frustrated. And broke. I went back to the drawers that held the films and discovered that there were eight years of missing microfilms, including all of 1957, 1958, and 1959, which were the only ones I could have been in. My heart sank. I checked with the librarian, but she didn’t know where they were, or if they ever had them.
When I got back home, I called the archives of the
So I did research. I called the
For whatever reason, no one archived the Independent for those years. The Times was the morning paper, and I guess for cost-cutting reasons, it was decided only to keep those. What they missed during the morning and afternoon would just be caught the next day. That was enough.
So what could I do, except accept defeat. Be grateful for what you’ve got, was one of my mother’s catch phrases, and I guess she was right. So, maybe the Little Urchin and the Lady of the House and that goddamned parakeet got more ink than I did, but none of them got anything like this, which I am including because no one can prove that they own its copyright anymore. Or that it ever existed, for that matter.
Spring Arrives For Small Boy
By William G. Wiley
The almanac makers say that the vernal equinox will not be around for a couple of weeks yet.
But obviously, they don’t know what they are talking about.
Actually, spring arrived a couple of weeks ago. And I have all the evidence to prove it.
That was the first day in many weeks when the sky was decently clear, the air balmy and the sun had a degree of warmth in it.
And that was the first day that Son and Heir, having arrived at the noble age of one in early January, had an opportunity to explore the world outside the immediate confines of the four walls which have more or less limited his activities since he arrived on the scene.
It was a good day to explore. And, as soon as he was released through the front door he let it be known that this was his world which he wasn’t about to share with anyone. None of this business of being held by the hand and guided about the premises. He’d been studying the outside scene from inside through those long cool weeks, and it was time for close personal investigation.
So he toddled down the front sidewalk working out an itinerary. The first thing that needed attending to was a herd of ants which had been thawed into activity and were busily scurrying up across the sidewalk lining up a food supply.
These demanded close inspection. He squatted down for a closer view and watched them for the better part of a minute before they needed a good poke.
He poked, smashing one ant while another climbed on his finger and made its way up his hand. He studied it closely as it circled his hand, and then waddled back to show it to me. I flicked it off his hand and he immediately lost interest in ants.
There were better things to do. Bird chasing, for instance. A mockingbird had flown down from the pine tree and began grubbing the lawn for whatever might be found there. Son and Heir descended upon him with arms flapping and the bird flew back into the tree, cursing angrily.
Then Son and Heir noted that the freeze had missed a couple of blossoms on a flame of the woods bush. He picked one, put it in his mouth and chewed it. It didn’t taste good and he spat it out.
So he toddled out to the front sidewalk and strolled up and down until it occurred to him that the cracks in the sidewalk might constitute intriguing avenues of adventure. He picked up a twig, sat on the sidewalk, and plowed the sand from the crack.
A neighborly cat came mewing by. Obviously it was in the need of patting. So it was patted. Then its tail was pulled. Then it was chased with great flappings of arms. The cat disappeared around the corner of the house, and that adventure was over.
Then came a game of trailing the hose. After picking up a hung of it the little boy noted that the hose didn’t end at the edge of the sidewalk, but trailed off through the grass. He followed it across the lawn and around the corner of the house. In a moment I heard him squawking and hurried forth. He had followed the hose into the azalea bushes, got himself entangled and couldn’t get out.
I brought him around in front again. He lay on his back, watching the clouds. A breeze came and dipped the fronds of the palm trees so the sun got in his eyes. He flopped over on his belly and poked his fingers in the grass. And when he turned so I could see full in his face, he looked like a squirrel. I hurried over to investigate. There was a good reason for his appearance. He’d tucked away a palm nut in either cheek. He gave them up with only a brief struggle.
Then he waddled back and sat on the steps in the sun with me. The warmth made him sleepy and nod.
We called it quits and went inside.
It was quite a day.