How Esse Diem Purples: Announcing the Next Essays on Childhood Theme

September 21 is Alzheimer’s Action Day, and I am very happy to announce that Alzheimer’s disease awareness will guide the development of the 2013 Essays on Childhood project.

Though I am in the very early stages of designing this, I wanted to use today as a launch for the idea and to encourage readers to share your own thoughts about how these essays may unfold. Potential concepts so far:

  • Early onset patients: Are you diagnosed, or do you know someone who is? How might writing an essay about your childhood ease some of your stress, as well as leave an important legacy for your family?
  • Loved ones and family: Do you have specific memories from your own childhood about a parent, grandparent, or neighbor with Alzheimer’s disease? What experiences do you recall about that person? How did your interaction with him or her affect you?
  • Children and grandchildren: Would you consider interviewing an elderly parent or grandparent, and helping them record their story by writing it with/for them?
  • Anyone: Do you ever think “someday” you will write down memories and stories about your early life? Maybe that someday can be today. We rarely can know how long we will be able to recall details about our childhoods, and my annual experience with this project convinces me that everyone has an important story to tell.

Thank you for your consideration. I will post more about the project in the spring. Please share this post on September 21, and GO PURPLE!

Image via Literary Man

Broken Shells by Melanie Bartol Jones

Melanie Bartol Jones lives in Raleigh, North Carolina,  with her 3 girls, dog, and husband. Growing up, Melanie and her family moved every two years because of the Navy. This constant moving taught her how to notice details about people, places, and things, and mostly about herself. Constantly showing people who she is became an art and an opportunity to edit her story. Sports became a natural way for Melanie to fit in wherever she was, and she went on to play lacrosse at Brown University. Melanie’s life continues to be filled with details, physical activity, and change. One role she never imagined was becoming a preacher’s wife. But her husband is an Episcopal priest so the label stuck. On a daily basis she can be found volunteering for her kids’ school, reffing lacrosse, teaching pure barre, whipping up meals for 20, and realizing she may never be on The Today Show. Melanie’s writing focuses on the daily struggles of who she is going to be when she grows up and other faith questions. Check out her latest escapades and thoughts at Not Your Preacher’s Wife.

Editor’s note: I especially like Melanie’s series of “I want” statements that rhythmically wind down this essay. The whole thing is rhapsodic, almost as if the writer is speaking in a kind of trance that lets truth flow out rather than stay hidden. Thank you, Melanie, for sharing your writing.

Broken Shells | by Melanie Bartol Jones

Once I strolled down the beach with my mom when I was a little girl. We were looking for shells after a long day of salty air and strong sun and my eyes were tired. To be honest, I did not really want to be there except my mom and I always looked for shells together and there was no where else to go. I kept staring at the grains of sand and could only find thin, cracked shells that had been tossed one too many times in the powerful arms of the ocean.

Although my mom did not want to pick those shells up, I thought they were the most beautiful ones. Their colors were the most vibrant and I imagined that if they could talk, the broken ones would have the most interesting story.

When I look into the mirror, I often see that same cracked beauty of a tough sea shell. My eyes become blue lapis, a strong stone with material value and warmth. The lapis makes others want to possess me and makes me feel worthy to be bought like a jewel. They give me a basic commodity of value. But I can make them as cold and strong as the ocean that breaks the fragile shells. Then the other, weak sea creatures know to stay away from me.
But no one person is always the sea or the weak shell, or even the highly valued lapis stone.A mirror’s reflection can be as deceiving as the undertow of a fierce ocean. The water can have a pulling strength that overpowers the innocent swimmer before she is aware that it exists. That artificial vision in the glass sneaks up on me, and who I see becomes someone I don’t know and never want to meet.The pulling strength is something my mom always told me to avoid. “Only go in up to your elbows when there is an undertow,” she said.

This way I was evenly matched with the ocean because I could walk on top of it. I could sink my toes into the cool mooshy sand for stability and my arms could punch at the slapping waves. Then I returned to shore and the warm sand with beautiful broken shells. But looking in a mirror, there is no strategy to overcome the pulling force; unless, of course, you only take the quick glimpse. This way the freckles don’t really form on my hidden cheek bones and my large forehead does not overshadow my lapis stones. Others do this, too. A quick “How are you?” or compliment keeps you above water and out of danger, trapping the pain of experience behind the material wealth of lapis.

But I want to swim out so far I can no longer see the shells or the beach or the mirror.

I want to swim with my ribs rubbing against the sleek grey skin of a dolphin.

I want to go underwater and open my eyes until the salt stings all the color out and I can let the pain flow into the strength of the ocean and help someone else.

I want to blow bubbles to the top of the water until I no longer need lungs and I can still keep swimming.

I want to feel the grit of wet sand under my nails, the kind that is bothersome when building sand castles, and have it file my fingers down to become part of the ocean floor.

I want my hair to tangle in the seaweed and force my head to stay underwater and I don’t want to struggle. I don’t want to fight the strength of the ocean anymore.

I want to be a part of the ocean and use it’s strength, it’s beauty, and it’s undertow to help me see the mirage in my glass.

The beautiful cracked shell. Where does its attraction come from? Although the edges are rough and cutting, the tops are smooth from being tossed among salt particles. Its rough journey makes each shell more individual and more precious. All of my shells have rough edges and beautiful stories. And perhaps the rough journey is why so many cracked shells end up on dry land. Maybe the ocean became too much, the shell was not ready or willing or able to become sand and yet it was too tired to resist the strength and the temptation of the unknown.  The warm dry sand with funny looking people searching for them becomes comforting. The cracked shells wait on the shore to be picked by some tender hand and admire for its beauty. They wait to take on an easier transformation than the one required by the ocean. Be part of a lamp in a summer rental or glued securely to a picture frame or someone’s modern beige condo.

It’s always the cracked ones who wait longer. The perfect ones, who did not change, get picked first, making their lives enviable and sweet. But not me and my shells. We wait on the beach for some person to choose us because all the boring, beautiful ones are gone. But we have the story and strength of the ocean to carry through the rest of the journey.

I pick up a cracked shell and show my mother. She stares into my lapis chips and finds the beauty in me and my purpose in picking the broken shell.

She knows the strength of the story because she has her own broken shell. The one that whispers of dolphins and seaweed and salt water. The shell that brings the strength of the undertow and knows the beauty of a rough edge and a smooth top, and the beauty of a crack which gives a purpose and its own powerful story.

In a Man’s Voice: Poems & Essay by Jeremy Paden

Jeremy Dae Paden was born in Italy and raised in Latin America. He teaches Spanish at Transylvania University, He is published in Calíope, a critical journal of poetry of Spain and the Americas during the Renaissance and Baroque periods.  He is also a member of the Affrilachian Poets and a collaborator in Rose Tree Writers.

Though Jeremy and I have only met in person once, we have somehow found a writing connection, as well as a parenting connection, that bring me tremendous joy. I don’t know anyone else who, upon hearing that I was dyeing absorbant crystals red and brown with wine and coffee for my child’s science project, would have asked if I would send him some more detail so he might work it into a poem.

Jeremy isn’t a poet when he has time to be one. He is one when he wakes and when he sleeps, every day. I can imagine standing behind him in the grocery store and hearing him practicing words about the spiritual ebb and flow of the human psyche as he ponders the nature of standing in lines.

I am grateful to learn from his world view, and I look forward to sharing his 8-part Essay on Childhood: This World Is Not My Home. You may read some of Dr. Paden’s poetry online via the following links, and I hope you will!

You can read more about the 2012 Essays on Childhood writers here.

In a Man’s Voice: Three Silver Dollars by Terry Gillispie

Terry Gillispie was born in South Charleston, West Virginia. The only son to a single mother, he spent most of his formative years residing in various locales within the Kanawha Valley before a period of stability landed him at South Charleston High School, from which he graduated in 1986.

Blogger’s note: Terry was in my class in junior high school. I never knew where he went, or what his life at home was like. What I did know was that he was one of the most well-liked boys in our class, and yet he seemed to have a secret. I was too young to notice what were probably tell-tale signs of a stressed economic situation at home. Until this year, I never knew what happened to him. I had no idea he graduated just a few miles from me, probably the same week, from another local school. For sure, I never knew he had the heart of hero. Now I do. Thanks for finding me on Facebook, Terry, and for sharing this amazing story. You are someone special, and I’m privileged to be part of making sure everyone knows it. — EDG

Three Silver Dollars | by Terry Gillispie

Of all the stories I have regarding my childhood in West Virginia, the following tale stands out the most, and reflects an incident that had profound impact on my life.

I had an uncle I was close to during my childhood.  Uncle Shorty.  I never fully understood how he came to have this nickname.  From my earliest memories as a young child, to the day I towered over him by at least five inches, Shorty always seemed larger than life.  He was the kind of man represented by the popular cliché, “When God made him, he threw away the mold.”

Christmas 1978 wasn’t particularly memorable for me.  I do not remember the toys or gifts that that year, save the one present I received from Uncle Shorty.  In a tradition between him and me, every year shortly before Christmas morning I would visit his house and give him a “present,” of a tin of cashews.  Invariably, on Christmas morning, I would find an empty cashew tin containing some sort of treat.

In 1978, that treat was three silver dollars.

Silver dollars to an eleven year old were pretty special, and in typical eleven year old fashion, I hid them in the same tin under my bed.

The following year, 1979, was a particularly tough one for us.  It was just me and Mom, and like most single parent families, she had to cut a lot of expenses just to get from one month to the next.  Mom typically spent her days working several jobs and was gone throughout the day and late into the night, so I learned responsibility at a young age. I learned these lessons partly because one of the expenses that fell to the wayside early on was babysitting fees, and mostly because, well, I had no other choice.

Despite Mom’s expense management, spring 1979 was very tough.  I can remember short periods where money was tight and Mom was frantic with worry over how she would pay a bill.  There came stretches where we were without food for several days between paychecks from Mom’s various employers.  Now a parent myself, I can only imagine the worry Mom felt then over how she was going to feed me, keep me decently clothed for school, keep utilities on, and several other worries and fears a parent endures.

During this time, for whatever reason, I came to be playing under my bed as eleven year old boys are prone to do.  I happened upon the tin I had placed there on Christmas morning and quickly remembered the three silver dollars.

As I crawled out from under the bed with the tin in my hands, I knew instinctively that I needed to give the silver dollars to Mom so that she could use the money in whatever way she needed to get us through until her next payday.  I was torn over giving the money to my mother.  Yes, I wanted desperately to help, yet at the same time the thought of giving up my “treasure” from Uncle Shorty sickened me.

In the end, my eleven year old sense of duty prevailed.

Terry with cousin Kurt

Of course, Mom was ecstatic to discover that I had not spent the silver dollars and immediately went to the store to get us some items to get us by for a few days.  I recall a few days diet of milk, potted meat sandwiches and Cheerios.  My treasure, as it were, had gotten us through a very rough patch, and lifted Mom’s spirits enough that after this “between paycheck” crisis, she took some steps to ensure I was never that close to going without food again.

Most prevalent on my mind, though, was the heartbreak I felt over surrendering my treasure, even if for the welfare of Mom and myself.

Luckily, the local food mart in the South Hills area where I grew up in was owned and operated by a very friendly man, one who was always telling stories to the local children while negotiating menial chores for candy or small dime store variety toys.  His name escapes me after all these years, no doubt removed from the recesses of my brain responsible storing names and replaced with something more import to my early adulthood, such as the lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody.

The following day I entered this store and approached the store keeper nervously, trying to keep a grown-up face as I related my story and my desire to buy back the silver dollars at a later time.  I was delighted to discover that he was well aware of my mother’s purchase and actually had set aside the silver dollars.  I’m not sure if it was my sad expression, his generous heart, or perhaps a combination, but he told me I had an opportunity to earn back the silver dollars.  All I had to do was sweep the store and the store’s parking lot early every morning before the store opened for a month.  At the end of that, he would return the silver dollars to me.

Perhaps he thought this was a fair exchange.  A month’s worth of free labor in return for three dollars.  Ha!  I would have swept his store and parking lot for a year.  It was not until years later that I discovered one of the silver dollars in question had a slightly higher value than the other two.  I am sure this fact escaped my mother’s attention, but I’m fairly certain the shop keeper would have been aware of this fact.

Flash forward to 2003.  Shorty’s 70th birthday party.  Sadly, I was unable to attend and was at a loss as to what kind of present to send in my absence.  Cashews had lost their luster years prior.  I sat down and decided to write the story you are now reading, events that had never been relayed to anyone else in my family as Mom was a very proud and private woman.  In the letter, I detailed how three silver dollars had taught me a lesson about life, family, and duty.  I also included the three silver dollars.

Reports I received from my cousin suggest that the story and the present were very well received.  My cousin read the letter aloud to my uncle at the height of the party, and Shorty was so moved that he described me to other party-goers not privy to the family dynamic as his “second son.”

Needless to say I was moved by this, and felt very much at peace with the silver dollars’ legacy in my life.

A few years after that, we lost Shorty to a long and difficult fight with lung cancer.  I was blessed in that my schedule afforded me the opportunity to drive home and visit Shorty in the hospital prior to his passing.  Even throughout his sickness, and his incapacitation to a hospital bed, he managed to look so much larger than life. I was amazed, and I told him so.  He couldn’t reply, but his eyes passed on to me that he had heard and understood.

As I left his hospital room and went into the ICU’s waiting room to seek solace and comfort with other family members, my aunt approached me and gave me a long embrace.  As she pulled away, she pressed a plain unmarked envelope into my hands.  She looked into my eyes, “From Shorty.”  As I left the hospital and sat in my car, I opened the envelope.

In my hand were my three silver dollars.

You can read more about the 2012 Essays on Childhood writers here.

Essays on Childhood: Pick a Little Talk a Little by Susan Byrum Rountree

Susan Byrum Rountree has been telling stories ever since she understood the power of the Show & Tell stool in kindergarten. Words have always held a sense of magic for her, and she parlayed that magic into a 35-year career of bending them this way and that. She is the author of Nags Headers, a regional history set on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, and In Mother Words, a collection of essays about family life. Born and raised in Scotland Neck, N.C., a tiny town in the Tar Heel State’s northeastern corner, she studied journalism at UNC Chapel Hill. She is now Director of Communications for St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, in Raleigh. The mother of two grown children and two very precocious granddogs, she has written for a number of national and regional newspapers and magazines. These days she blogs about the magic of daily life on her blog, Write Much.

Pick a Little Talk a Little | by Susan Byrum Rountree

My father was an amateur magician. With a sleight of hand, he used to pull coins from the ears of grandchildren, use his nimble fingers to shuffle a deck of cards into a magic trick. He could separate inseparable rings.

He was a busy man when I was growing up. One of only three doctors in my hometown, he was up and out early, and though he most always was home for supper, often in the middle of it, the phone would ring, or people would show up at the back door, and he was gone again. My mother, brother, sister and I shared him all those years, waiting at home as he delivered babies (12 in 24 hours once), treated hearts — both broken and diseased — mended bones and emotions, nurtured families as they took root, grew old, died.

Susan on her mother’s lap

I’m child #3, so my alone time with Daddy was limited when I was little. I remember him teaching me to bait a proper hook with a blood worm while the waves of the Atlantic lapped at my feet. A walk in the woods one day (with my brother and sister), I think because my brother was working on a merit badge. A day he came home from work to sew up a tiny injured rabbit my sister found in the yard. And a day he pitched the softball to me in the back yard so I wouldn’t embarrass myself during recess. (It didn’t work.)

But one of the many things Daddy shared with me in those times when he was home was a love for banjo music. We watched the Arthur Smith Show and Hee Haw and Porter Wagoner, Daddy tapping his size 13 wing tips against the ottoman as I clapped along.

Daddy loved Earl Scruggs. Somehow back then I felt like Earl and Lester Flatt were neighbors, they came so often into our family room. I’d watch as their fingers flew, coaxing sweet music out of those strings, and it was pure joy.

Daddy had a banjo, too, and every now and then he and I would sneak away into the living room while my siblings were bent over homework, and I would sit beside him on the dressed up sofa — my feet not yet touching the floor — and he would play for me. I’d watch as those same magical fingers that shuffled the cards and stitched up that rabbit plucked the stiff wire strings until Bill Bailey filled up the whole room. Joy again, to have Daddy all to myself, for him to be singing just to me.

My kindergarten class performed a play when I was five. It had something to do with Valentine’s Day, and I played the role of “a girl.” In the picture, I stand next to a boy wearing a cowboy hat and a sly grin as big as the waxing moon. I don’t remember a thing about the play except one of the boys played Pinocchio, and that I wore a pink dress my grandmother had made and white cotton gloves. I hated that I had to stand next to the boy with the grin, who sang the theme song to the “Beverly Hillbillies” because he told our teacher Earl Scruggs was his cousin.

Susan’s kindergarten class

When I learned that Earl, the sweet man who used to visit with us often and played his five-fingered magic had died, I remembered that boy, and my Daddy playing for me, and how much banjo music meant to me once upon a time.

Wouldn’t you know that the brother of that boy is a Facebook acquaintance? So the news hound in me couldn’t resist asking if the story was true.

Not true, exactly, he wrote to me. But his uncle played in a band with the father of Bluegrass when Earl and Lester Flatt performed live for the radio. And wouldn’t you know? He and his sly brother, along about the time of our kindergarten play, sometimes sat on the stage with Earl and Lester when they performed. If I imagined them as neighbors, to be sure to a five-year-old, sitting on stage with the performers meant you were kin.

I’ve thought a lot about my banjo memories since then and have even played a little Foggy Mountain Breakdown as I worked. Though I thought my father’s banjo long gone to history, come to find out that my brother has been keeping it safe for awhile, and two years ago gave it back to Daddy, all cleaned up and ready for picking again.

“Get him to play you a song,” my brother told me.

Well, I just believe I will.

What would this world be like, if every single one of us took the time to coax our gifts out and into the world —  like the unassuming Earl, or Daddy with his magic for healing, with medicine or music? Small gestures can become great magic, when shuffled with the right hands.

You can read more about the 2012 Essays on Childhood writers here.

Essays on Childhood: The 2012 Writers

The Essays on Childhood project is pleased to introduce you to the writers for 2012.

They are, in a word, strong.

They are all skilled writers, but they are also individuals who exude a quality best described as simply iron. I know many of these people in some way: Some are social media friends, some are “real life” friends in my community, and some are even people with whom I shared a part of my own childhood experience. Their strengths come from intellect, and physical power, and emotional fortitude. They are special.

As a third year editor in this project, I’ve come to appreciate the different types of essays people write about their childhood experience. Every type is valid and good, but one can tear at your heart while another sends you into gales of laughter. Others may leave you reflecting on the mysteries of life, or convinced it’s time to reconsider your own story.

The word essay means a trial, or an attempt. Essay writing is personal writing, and it  requires courage.

This year I’ve seen a few drafts, and I have a good feeling about this group. These writers have plans to open their worlds to us.

I’m ready. I hope you are!

Gentlemen first:

Douglas Imbrogno

Douglas Imbrogno is a writer, editor, web video producer and musician. He is also a master of brevity. See some some of his words and videos at http://westvirginiaville.com




Terry Gillispie

Terry Gillispie was born in South Charleston, West Virginia, the only son to a single mother, he spent most of his formative years residing in various locales within the Kanawha Valley before a period of stability landed him at South Charleston High School, from which he graduated in 1986.

After a brief stint with the United States Army, he left West Virginia to attend Indiana State University, from which he graduated in 1993 with a degree in Insurance and Business Administration.

After leaving a lucrative profession in claims management, Terry now resides on the north side of Dallas, Texas, and stays at home managing the welfare of his three children while his wife circles the globe as a software trainer for John Deere.  This affords him the opportunity to work on a teaching degree via online studies while also volunteering for various duties at his children’s elementary school.

Brent Aikman

Brent Aikman was born and raised in Charleston, West Virginia.  He tried to leave the mountains twice, but always found himself back in the heart Appalachia.  At the age of 7 he was sent to play outdoors, and he never fully came back inside.  “I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” – John Muir



Steve Alberts

Steve writes faith-based stories about “God’s grace throughout (his) life.” He dabbles with song lyric writing, is attempting to write a novel, and enjoys acting, photography, hunting, fishing, and woodworking.

Born in Charleston, West Virginia, raised and educated in Spencer, and having Bachelor and Master Degrees from WVU Steve says, “I now live in Tennessee and love it here, but West Virginia is my forever home…until I get to the other side.” Visit his blog, On Steve’s Mountain.

Jeremy Paden

Jeremy Dae Paden was born in Italy and raised in Latin America. He teaches Spanish at Transylvania University, He is published in Calíope, a critical journal of poetry of Spain and the Americas during the Renaissance and Baroque periods.  He is also a member of the Affrilachian Poets and a collaborator in Rose Tree Writers.

Vernon Wildy, Jr.

Vernon was born in Richmond, Virginia on June 6, 1971.  After being schooled in the Henrico County school system, he went to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and received a degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering in 1994.  After college, he returned to the Richmond area and entered the workforce and worked in the transportation industry, mostly in operations.  During that time, Vernon discovered a poetry group in the area and began to read at open mic events around the city of Richmond.  He also was able to have some of his works published in Fantasia magazine, a local literary magazine.  While continuing with poetry events, he began taking graduate classes at Virginia Commonwealth University.  He finished his Masters in Business Administration in 2010. He self-published his first novel, Nice Guys Finish Last, in 2011. Visit his blog, I Got Something to Say.

Rob Boone

After a stint in the Navy, Rob began a nearly decade-long career in sales. Since relocating to St. Albans, West Virginia, from Tampa, he’s turned his sights to more creative pursuits: writing, acting, and designing.

When he’s not doting on his seven-year-old daughter, Jessica, he spends his time reading, writing, learning, and generally questioning the norms of the world at large.

Mary Lauren Weimer

Mary Lauren Weimer is a writer and professional blogger (www.my3littlebirdsblog.com) from Huntington, West Virginia. Her writing has appeared in Sleet Magazine, WV Living, and many popular websites. She writes daily for the parenting website Babble and is a regular contributor to Moonfrye.com.

She serves as a group leader for Education for Ministry, a four-year theological course of study through the Episcopal Church.

She is writing her first book which explores motherhood and identity.

Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

Susan Rountree

Susan Byrum Rountree has been telling stories ever since she understood the power of the Show & Tell stool in kindergarten. Words have always held a sense of magic for her, and she parlayed that magic into a 35-year career of bending them this way and that. She is the author of Nags Headers, a regional history set on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, and In Mother Words, a collection of essays about family life. Born and raised in Scotland Neck, N.C., a tiny town in the Tar Heel State’s northeastern corner, she studied journalism at UNC Chapel Hill. She is now Director of Communications for St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, in Raleigh. The mother of two grown children and two very precocious granddogs, she has written for a number of national and regional newspapers and magazines. These days she blogs about the magic of daily life at Write Much.

Melanie Jones

Melanie Bartol Jones lives in Raleigh, North Carolina,  with her 3 girls, dog, and husband. Growing up, Melanie and her family moved every two years because of the Navy. This constant moving taught her how to notice details about people, places, and things, and mostly about herself. Constantly showing people who she is became an art and an opportunity to edit her story. Sports became a natural way for Melanie to fit in wherever she was, and she went on to play lacrosse at Brown University. Melanie’s life continues to be filled with details, physical activity, and change. One role she never imagined was becoming a preacher’s wife. But her husband is an Episcopal priest so the label stuck. On a daily basis she can be found volunteering for her kids’ school, reffing lacrosse, teaching pure barre, whipping up meals for 20, and realizing she may never be on The Today Show. Melanie’s writing focuses on the daily struggles of who she is going to be when she grows up and other faith questions. Check out her latest escapades and thoughts at Not Your Preacher’s Wife.

Men, Writing, Expression: Their Way

John of thebeautifuldue.

Writer Michael Powelson introduced me to thebeautifuldue — the gospel according to john.

(Michael shared an essay last year with the Essay on Childhood project: http://michaelpowelson.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/the-best-medicine-2/)

I loved reading this poem the first time and have re-read it several times since. It is a combination by the poet of “several male sources.” While it could be the experience of just one man’s childhood influence, it pulls together pieces of various lives to tell the story that may very well speak many men.

I encourage writers for this year’s project to consider unusual ways you might tell your story using creative nonfiction or even poetry if that feels right. It needs to be your story, but some truths are more clear with non-linear narrative or even prose poems.

Enjoy (and read more than once) weak but strong….

weak but strong….

‘Your shoulders are shit, Sport. Probably all those dips.’
Doctor Welch first called me ‘sport’ when I was thirteen.
 
I had wanted to put on a little muscle, maybe go out for
football or wrestling, so Mom took me in for a physical.
 
Any excuse to see Peter Welch M.D. was okay by her.
She’d had a grand crush on the man ever since Dad left.
 
I discovered later that was the main reason for Dad’s adios. 
Peter Welch had played football at SMU before med school.
 
Mom would always emphasize he played ‘tight end’ and giggle. 
I love the woman but she’s never had both oars in the water.
 
‘But you said bodyweight exercises were the way to
avoid injury. What about primum non nocere? No harm?’
 
I felt compelled to remind the physician of his sworn
oath, a veiled attempt to justify my chosen vows of
 
faithfully beginning and ending each day for ten years 
with chin ups and dips, the latter my forte. They were
 
my lauds and vigils, repetitive ups and downs, blood-flushed
prayers that Dad might come to his senses and run home. 
 
As a senior in college I performed 6 sets of 25 reps twice a day.
That Christmas I learned my father had died back east, alone.  
 
‘Hippocrates, Schmockrates. Your greatest strength is also
your greatest weakness, Sport. That’s the oath to swear by.’