Wednesday, August 10, 2005

John Cougar Mellencamp 'Big Daddy'

As you may or may not know, I’m forever addicted to Long John Silver’s. It’s my favorite fast food restaurant. We have gone for more than a decade without one of those deep-fried “crack houses” here in Greensboro. So, whenever I’m near one, I stop. Everyone in both of my parent’s families expect me to drop by for some fish, chicken, hushpuppies, and clams. They accept it but I’m sure that they hate it too.

My dad once said, “Someone could be on their deathbed and Eugene would stop at Long John Silver’s.”

“I’d get it to go then,” I replied, always the funny guy.

I’ve always looked at it as having my cake and eating it too. I rarely get the time to visit my family in West Virginia so why not take time to stop, sniff, and eat those golden battered babies?

We pulled into the LJS on 219 in Lewisburg, West Virginia around 10:15 am. That was fifteen minutes before they opened the Seafood Shoppe that I love so much. I could wait and while doing so, Mom called to see if anyone at Penny’s wanted anything. I could hear the resounding “CHICKEN” coming from my phone pressed to my mother’s ear.

We got it to go and Stacy, Levi, and Harry hit it up when it made the table. Penny couldn’t eat anything because everything went in a tube. I told my mother that if I’m ever in that condition, I think that I could just chew it up to get the flavor and then spit it out.

And if I’m ever in a coma, just wave a chicken plank from LJS and put on the ‘Green Acres’ DVD’s with the volume cranked up. That should bring me out of it.

But, my Dad’s prophecy came true. That was the last day that I saw Penny alive. I thought that she had more time on this earth. I didn’t realize just how bad off she was until I walked into Penny and Harry’s house.

I could hear the back-up oxygen pump. I could see her lying in a hospital bed parked in the living room. She looked so frail and the strength that I’ve always known about her was no longer in her eyes. She knew who I was and we spoke but I couldn’t really understand her. Her voice was raspy and dry as if she had awakened from a thousand year nap.

I last saw her at Christmas and she was dealing with another flare-up with cancer. Her spirits were high and she told all of us how the chemotherapy was affecting her body. She was determined to kick its ass once again. Penny was always strong willed and a fighter. I didn’t think much about it to be quite honest. I would hear reports from my mother whenever she got calls from Penny or Harry about her condition. I just thought that she’d lose a little yardage on second down just to score a touchdown on the third. I had no doubt that she would be around another 41 years.

Harry, Stacy, Nathan, and Levi were something else. I don’t think that I could have done everything that they have. I had to spend most of my time outside reading a book. My heart was breaking for Penny and the rest of my family. I felt like a wounded animal that crawled into the woods to deal with my own pain. In a sense, I was. Because when I saw Penny’s condition, a smack from a speeding eighteen-wheeler would have caused me less pain.

My father said that I would be shocked. I wasn’t exactly shocked because he had lessened the blow. I was knocked over by how much Penny had been decimated by the cancer.

I saw my Grandfather cry for the first time in my life. I lost it. We all held hands as Penny prayed and we all wept together.

I called my father to get Aunt Betty and Uncle Malcolm’s phone number. I couldn’t stay there overnight. I felt like I was intruding on something very personal. I didn’t feel like dealing with it anymore that day.

He gave me the number and I could tell that he was disappointed that I didn’t want to stay there overnight. I didn’t call them. I felt that I could tough it out while Penny begged God to take her. But when I heard about Penny asking Harry to kill her, I couldn’t take it anymore and that was about the time that my cell phone rang.

It was my cousin, Dan. He and I have always been close even though we don’t talk that much because of all the miles between us.

He offered a place to stay even while all four of his kids were spending the night with him. I accepted and being with all of that youth and innocence was good for me.

I will write more tomorrow.

3 comments:

  1. Even as tears stream down my face, I want to read more--This is perhaps some of your best work and Ive been telling everyone you had it in you.....as a writer you did what can sometimes be very hard--you took the reader away from their on world and with a first class ticket flew them into yours...thanks also for humanizing this very inhumane world--

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  2. Anonymous7:35 AM

    Eugene-

    I am very sorry about your Aunt Penny. It sucks that while we still cant find a cure for it, mad scientists seem more concerned with cloning people or creatiing "human like" skin for robots. I feel your pain and hope you and your family will remain strong and close.

    Gat

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