A Downhome Perspective on All Things Southern

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By Sharman B. Ramsey

 Prostate cancer can do bad things to a man.  Even after the cancer is gone the consequences continue.  The worst of which is interfere with his ability to fool around with his wife…or an old girl friend that called to "reminisce".   

What is there to live for when a man can’t manage the most basic functions of life?  Claude sighed.  With estrogen and lubricant, even after a hysterectomy, a woman could still have a “real” life. Effie was proof of that.  But for a man with high blood pressure and experience with one of "those" that lasted longer than four hours who wasn’t brave enough to try that pill again because the trip to the hospital was too embarrassing….Before he could think twice, knowing he would never get up the courage again to end the humiliation, he put the gun to his forehead and he pulled the trigger.

 Claude’d been acting strange for a while now, Effie thought.   Since that floozy from the past had called and he’d taken the cell phone out into the back yard to talk.  And then the next day she’d gotten that call from the hospital telling her to come pick him up but nobody would tell her why he’d gone there in the first place.  Those damned HIPPO rules!   

And why was everybody smiling so big?  What was funny about a man in the emergency room.  Probably had something to do with that prostate cancer he had and didn’t want to tell her about.  So she didn’t press it.  But she wanted to slap those silly laughing bitches right across the face.  Couldn’t they tell how upset he was?  The Big C no matter where it was wadn't no laughing matter. 

For days after, Calvin had searched through the closets and drawers of this house.  Effie asked him what he was looking for and he wouldn’t tell her.  He’d shrug his shoulders , and say, with his usual southern eloquence, “Nuthin’”.   

That was why she’d gone to the Beauty shop today.  She figured she’d perk him up.  She’d dyed her hair burgundy like Sharon Osborne.  Before she stepped from her mother-in-law’s mud encrusted 1988 Coup de Ville, she caught herself reaching into her purse for the Virginia Slims she’d smoked for years to keep her weight off.  Only it didn’t work and she just hacked away and her fat jiggled.  So she figured maybe the baby was right and so she’d quit.

But, since she was looking at the hands that wouldn’t find a cigarette, she stopped to admire the new set of nails she’d acquired that matched the crimson color of her lips.  Five weeks she’d been nicotine free.  Five bitchin’weeks and ten more pounds to her already jiggling butt tightly encased in the stretch capris.  But her granddaughter had put a stop to her smoking.  Five years old and she had a hold on her heart like nothin’ she’d ever known.  

She opened the door and stepped out.  Those white high heeled fringed boots had made her legs look long and sexy when she walked into the Nail Salon, but those damned flip flops she'd had to put on to wear out so she wouldn't mess up the pedicure were freakin' old fart shoes. 

She thought of Sadie flipping around in the last ones she'd had to wear home and smiled.  The little darlin’d be home soon so she’d better move her ass.   

Effie fiddled with putting the key in the door.  Her finger nails had just been painted.  The nail job cost $50.  She didn’t want to screw it up putting the key in the door.   

Finally she made it into the kitchen and tossed her purse on to the table.  She sat down to kick off those flimsy flip flops they put on your feet to keep you from putting on your regular shoes and messing up your toes.  

“Calvin?” she called.  “Calvin, honey, I’m home.”  She walked on her heels with her toes in the air and spread wide to give them a better chance to dry.  She blew on her fingers spread like jazz hands and went searching for Calvin. 

“Good, God, almighty,” Effie shrieked when she saw him.  She backed up to the wall and slid down.  “Oh, shit, I’m gonna be sick!”  She jumped up and ran to the bathroom crying and gagging.  When she’d puked all she had to puke, she put her face against the cold fake tile wall.  “Get yourself together,” she said to herself.    “Sadie’s gonna be home soon!”  So holding onto the walls as she went down the hall, crying and shaking.  She made herself go back into the living room. 

There he was sitting at the picture window in his cream naugahyde recliner wearing the black leather biker’s jacket he’d worn when she’d first met him with his shoulder length grey hair pulled back in a pony tail.  Beneath the red kerchief was a big black hole.  Blood had splattered on Elvis's white suit in the picture painted on velvet they'd brought home from that flea market near Graceland when they’d ridden cross country to Memphis for the funeral.   

His eyes were open but empty looking down the gravel driveway lined with his dad’s rusty car collection up on cinder blocks.  The CD he’d stuck in the boom box Pinky had left at home before he’d gone and joined the Army (damned fool thing to do seeing as how he’d just owned up to being gay)  blasted out Kenny Rogers set on repeat singing “Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town.”   At least he waited to be gay till after he knocked up his high school sweetheart and she'd given Sadie to them to keep so she could go to beauty school and make something of herself. 

The music that continued to repeat over and over finally sunk in.  Good lord, did he think she’d gone into town to see some man?   

Just because she'd worn those same boots she'd worn all those years ago dancing?  She'd forgotten all about them till he tossed them out from the back of the closet while he was doing all that digging through boxes.  He'd showed up at the Whiskey A Go Go one long good looking drink of water.  The rest was history.  He loved those boots.  His eyes got all stormy and she knew exactly what he was thinking cause she was thinkin' the very same thing.  Every time she'd wear them he'd throw her over his shoulder and find the nearest surface.  Damned near killed each other...That was when she'd first met him and she just wanted to take him back to their youth a little...remind him of what he'd seen in her.  All right, she was jealous of how frisky he'd seemed when that old girlfriend had called him.

She now knew what he’d been looking for...the pistol he brought home with him when he left the Army forty some odd years ago. 

Oh, God.  She'd finally killed him with her white boots!  Effie fainted dead away.   

When she came to she crawled to the phone and dialed 911, like they could make any damned difference to Calvin now.  Then she leaned back against the wall and looked down her jeans clad legs past her shiny red toenails to her husband still dead in the naugahyde chair..  The beautiful grand room of their modular home (fancy name for a doublewide) was now splattered up and down with Calvin’s brains. 

She’d have to redecorate.   

They’d come a long way from the last home they’d lived in down in Florida before their son Harry made money and bought them this house 2000 miles on the other side of the country from him.  Up till then they’d mostly had single wide trailers with just two bedrooms that they’d brought their four sons and one daughter up in. Calvin worked construction jobs all around the country and it just made since to take their house with them.   

She and Calvin had one bedroom and the children were in the second.  It never dawned on her till all these reports on TV that it might not be proper for Viola to be sleeping in the same bed with her brothers and their friends.   

Viola assured her that none of her brothers friends had ever tried anything.  That one soldier that stayed with them one night Harry beat up the next day.  But he really wasn’t one of their friends so he didn’t count, did he?  Calvin kept the bed springs jumping so hard all those years she didn’t have time to think about what was going on in the next room.  That was a hell of thought with her husband dead in his favorite chair in front of the Elvis altar in their grand room. She damned well wouldn't decorate all in white again!

Now she understood what all that talk had been about when he said when he died he wanted to be cremated and his ashes sprinkled about the country.   

Effie sat up.   

She heard the ambulance coming, but that wasn’t why she’d perked up.  Remembering Calvin's words reminded her there was still something she had to do.  She had purpose. 

He was a big man.  There’d be lots of ashes.  Hell, she grinned, if they ran out of ashes, her vacuum cleaner bag was full!  They’d have a funeral for him here in Los Angeles where they’d met after she’d jumped on the Turtles touring bus in Panama City, Florida and ridden the ride of her life across country winding up in Los Angeles.  She was enchanted with the free love and flowers of the Love generation.  She could see who was left in the commune where she’d conceived their first child.  Pinky wasn’t Calvin’s, but then she wasn’t really sure whose he was.  She’d been dancing at Whiskey A-Go-Go then while Calvin sold flowers on the corner in Haight Ashbury.  That was before they gave their heart to Jesus in Tulsa ten years ago.  That was another place they’d have a funeral.  All those relatives there wouldn’t want to be left out. 

Then they’d have a funeral for him and spread his ashes on the Indian Reservation in Arizona where his grandparents still lived.  That was where Reggie must have gotten his drinking problem.  They’d have a traditional Indian funeral and gather everybody from his Grannie’s clan.  Sprinkle a few ashes on the Reservation.  Course they’d have to keep an eye on Reggie when the jug was passed.  Reggie had proved himself to be a true son of Calvin’s.  The apple don’t fall far from the tree, they say. 

Effie grabbed a beer out of the refrigerator, twisted the top off and upended it gulping it down, feeling its effects immediately.  She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and tossed the empty bottle into the garbage by the door.  The hell with the diet.  If a girl couldn’t have a beer when she found her husband sitting up in his recliner with half his head shot off when the hell could a girl have a beer?   

By now, Effie was getting revived after the shock and started thinking.  She’d have to call Al and Harry her two sons that had absolutely nothing in common with her or Calvin, but they’d sprung from their loins so to speak and must be contacted.  Harry had gone off and made more money than God so he’d bankroll the cross country funeralizing, so long as he didn’t have to associate with the family any more than necessary.  She knew her sons.  Harry had turned into a regular Donald Trump speculating on Real Estate down in Florida.  It was time she visited him in Palm Beach anyhow.  Maybe they could have a funeral there at Dr. Kennedy’s Presbyterian Church, Calvin’s favorite TV church, next to the Crystal Cathedral.  They’d have a funeral there too! 

Al and his wife had just been successful with their fertility treatments and were now expecting quintuplets, due any day, but by the time she made it to their part of the country, the babies ought to be born.  They could probably get a RV for the rest of the trip and the family could all go together to make sure their daddy, her Calvin, would get the send-off he deserved.  

She caught herself before she turned to wink at the corpse sitting in the window now flashing with red lights as the paramedics pulled the stretcher out of the back of the ambulance.  She’d get Harry to ante up for one of those super RVs she and Calvin had seen on HG TV.  Calvin would love this.

Only Calvin was dead.   

And Violet, their only daughter, wouldn’t want to be left out.  She’d married a guy she’d met at the University of Alabama, a black men who wound up mayor of his hometown there in the Black Belt of Alabama.  Violet had informed them that Black Belt referred to the soil not the majority population in that area.  The black church they attended would surely want to hold a funeral and there was just nothing like a funeral in a black church.  They really knew how to throw a send-off.   

Hell, her nephew had just returned from the mission field for the LDS.  Wouldn’t it be something hearing the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  Calvin had been brought up Mormon, wouldn’t they want him to get a right sendoff?   

Thank God she’d already been to the beauty parlor, she thought, as her grief took over.  She tiptoed around the mess in the great room to let those good looking young men in the front door.  The bus from the Alzheimers Day Care Center pulled in right behind the ambulance.  She’d better get Mama Buchanan in the back door while the paramedics took care of the son whose name Mama’d long forgotten.  The school bus would be pulling in soon and Sadie would bounce down the stairs looking for her Papa who usually stood waiting for her at the bus stop.   

Oh, God, here come the tears.  The Papa who wouldn’t tote her on his shoulders ever again.   

Before she opened the door, she looked back just once, “I hope the sun is shining and wind is in your face, my love.  Point that Harley toward the light and gun your engines right toward the Pearlie Gates and the Lord Jesus.”

As an after thought she added, "You better gun it real hard when you get there.  You might have to run over St. Peter to get in."






Copyright 1996  These are my own working genealogy files that I share with you.  The errors are my own.  But, perhaps they will give you a starting point.  All original writing is copyrighted.  Webmaster

Copyright 1996  These are my own working genealogy files that I share with you.  The errors are my own.  But, perhaps they will give you a starting point.  All original writing is copyrighted.  Webmaster