Tuesday, November 14, 2006

first love

my grandparents
robert severs
edna daum
were both born in rural arkansas
robert on september 12 1910
edna on february 7 1912
they were my mother's parents
they met in grade school
married young
in may 1930
moved to detroit right after that
they had 3 children
richard - the oldest
an artist
class valedictorian
popular with the ladies
karen - their only daughter
an artist too
who let her parents down by marrying an arab
whom they grudge-matched with for 35 years
glen- the youngest
the failure
the least educated
always tried to please robert but never could
ended up in detroit
working my grandfather's same job
at domestic linen in detroit
a commercial laundry plant
running the machines
trying to fill his father's shoes
and earn his respect
but he never would

papa told me and faris all kinds of things
sometimes he'd talk to us like we were adults
not kids
and it was cool
'cause no other adults ever did that
and he had a great sense of humor
a childlike twinkle in his eyes
always making sly asides and wisecracks
nothing at all like our father
we loved joking around with him
he was the anti-fayez in some ways
a man men admired
and women wanted to be around
a real charmer if ever there was one

he once said
when we were driving the back roads around pleasant grove
in his white and yellow 1972 ford pickup truck
"never marry your first love..."
it was shocking advice
from someone who'd married his
and stayed married for 0ver 70 years
which i can barely fathom
we thought of him and edna as the model love story
but we found out later that he'd had an affair
when he was in his forties
with a secretary at the factory he worked at
he'd tried to leave edna
but his girlfriend didn't want the kids
just him
it blew our little minds
and when i was older i got this feeling
that he was being punished by
"ed" (his nickname for her)
she never quite got over the betrayal
even though they spent another 50 years together
after it happened
my grandfather paid his penance
by agreeing to go back to pleasant grove
and follow ed's wish to live her final years
in her parent's old house
the middle of nowhere arkansas
those "final years" ended up being 33

so who was it who wrote "no one died in 1978"
they lied

richard died in 1978
on august 23rd
he was just shy of 43
he'd had cancer
i still hear my mother sobbing
as she got word on the phone in our kitchen
it nearly killed my grandmother
a salt of the earth country girl
the big city never changed her
down to earth
(she once said she only had practical dreams
she'd be at the grocery store, sewing, cooking)
a devoted christian
firm believer
church every sunday
she was an enthusiastic hymn singer
with a really funny voice
she took religion very seriously
papa once said
they never once had sex on a sunday
this was another shocker

"she says richard waits for us
but i don't think he really does"

i remember this like it was yesterday...
nana sitting in the living room of their house
on her green lazee boy chair
slowly rocking back and forth
doing the crosswords with her bifocals on
when she says
"the one thing i look forward to the most when
i die and go to heaven - is seeing richard waiting there for me"
i'll never forget my grandfather's face at that moment
it contorted into a twisted sigh
because you see
even though they both knew richard was gay
and even though they'd been taught for years
in church
that there was no place in heaven
for sinners of that nature
edna was lost in blissful denial
she ignored the "facts"
and continued on as a devoted christian
who believed her son would make it to heaven
despite his "sinful lifestyle"
this was something my grandfather couldn't reconcile
he told us on another trip in the '72 ford
that he wished he could talk to her about this
talk to her about whether there was a god
or not
and plenty of other things

he was afraid of dying
he didn't know where he was going
he wanted to believe but couldn't quite make the leap of faith
all these feelings he had
and questions
they struck a chord deep in me
i will never forget how sorry i felt for him
as a teenager i was ill-equiped to say anything
that might possibly offer comfort
i wish we'd had a chance to talk when i was older

i don't think robert and edna ever discussed
these things
but she was by his side
right up until the end
believing to the very last breath
that it would all be ok
and richard would be waiting when she got there


Blogger daniel said...

The strings in this song are SO amazing, especially the 'solo' section after the line "she says richard waits for us but i don't think he really does."

But the ending is also SO sad..."i'm afraid of dieing nothing could be worse."

Then of course you follow all this up with No Guarantee. Heheh.

7:13 AM  
Blogger Centuryhouse said...

That's a rich bit of family history, fascinating really. I never got to know any of my relatives, I'll live vicariously through your experience ;-)

12:09 PM  
Blogger Ron said...

I'd like to think that I'll see Jesse again, be with him in the hereafter. But I don't. I wish I could. But I don't, and I can't change what I believe in my heart just because I want to. A tough morning, reading these blogs about BN. It's hard, but necessary. Thanks for writing them.

6:26 AM  

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