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Sunday, June 28, 2015

REMEMBERING UNCLE MILTON

edward hopper

I saw the date just now, shocked to see it the end of June. Last I recall was coming to terms with it being the middle of June, and before that, the first of June. It's like looking at the moon one night seeing a crescent. A couple weeks later, what seems like next night, I look at the moon and it's full. And sometimes it feels like every other day is Friday. I've gone into the zone where I have to ask the date every time I write a check at the grocery store or hardware store. One day bleeds into the next. Took a nap at six this evening, woke at 8 thinking it morning. The light was the same as 8 in the morning. I was thinking this is Sunday, will go see the race later. Got up, thinking about taking carrots to the donkeys, and realized, stepping into shoes, it's night, not morning. Groggy, boiling water for some tea, the phone rang. It was mother. I sounded like something out of a Rob Zombie nightmare. Sipped a cup of tea while we talked and gradually was able to talk without sounding like a giant clam blowing bubbles from the bottom of the ocean.

edward hopper

She was shocked by a picture she saw of me on facebook, white hair and white face hair. She said I looked like her grandfather Forster. I had a feeling she would say somebody on the Forster side. She said I even look like her uncle Milton, her mother's brother. I knew Milton in early childhood. It was uncle Milton who told me when I was 4 that if he ever heard of me sucking my thumb again, he'd take a butcher knife and chop it off. He added my mother would tell him. I knew she would. I was boxed. Nothing to do but stop. I was afraid of uncle Milton and crazy about him too. He was good to kids and cut up to make kids laugh. He had a belly, smoked a big cigar, talked gruff, and I knew he meant business. When uncle Milton spoke, the ground shook. This is from a child's point of view. From an adult point of view, he was a good natured man madly in love with his wife, Pearl, and she was in love with her man. They were regulars at Tony's bar nearby. To the kid, hanging out at Tony's gave them the golden glow of really neat people. 

edward hopper

Grandpa, Milton's brother-in-law, took me into Tony's a few times, gave me a coke. We sat at the bar. The bartender's name was Tony. It was one of the last neighborhood bars, at 39th and State Line, Kansas City, if I remember correctly, which I don't. It was just over the state line so people from the Kansas side of the line could have beer there easily. It was like an Edward Hopper painting with a golden light in my visual memory. I was Jim Brink's grandson. Everybody was friendly to the kid. Tony's is one of my favorite moments in early childhood memories. The mystery place grandpa and grandma went. They would have been in early forties. I don't have much recollection of Milton's facial features. I remember dark hair, cigar, a WC Fields nose. I'd recognize a photograph of him from that time, but can't call up an image without an assist. I can see him in my mind's eye, but features blurry. I don't recall ever seeing a photo of great grandpa Milton Forster. Uncle Milton was a junior. I had a feeling I'd favor someone from the Forster side. My feeling is my soul connection was with mother. 

edward hopper

Great grandpa Forster, a man I know next to nothing about, has my respect for one thing I know of. My mother's mother was born in a covered wagon, birth certificate at American Falls, Idaho. He had a wagon with kids, a pregnant wife, traveling those long prairie trails and Rocky Mountain passes. Somehow or other they made it back to Garden City, Missouri, just south of Kansas City, where grandmother grew up. Grandmother worked as a waitress and grandpa worked on a golf course making good money as a caddy and later groundskeeper. Grandpa's mother and dad were German immigrants. My feeling is they met on the boat from a German port on the Baltic to New Orleans, a long ride. They took a boat up the Mississippi to the Missouri to the Kansas City area, a stockyard. Jesse James territory and time. Grandpa told me once he grew up in a gang. I thought he meant hanging out with the boys. No, he meant a gang. He and his older brothers were German. They were rough. Probably a gang of German immigrant kids bonding together for protection from the Irish gangs, Mexican gangs, the children of the people who worked the stockyards. They scared the hell outta me the kid. Their grandkids my age scared me too. I might see what I can uncover about great grandpa Forster. 

edward hopper himself


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1 comment:

  1. I can so relate to the first section of your essay and enjoyed the entire piece.

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