Friday, March 26, 2010
Wanted to share the story about my Grandfather I told you about in the previous post. It was written by his neighbor, Alan Nordstrom, in Sept. of 1994. He read it at Bobdaddy's funeral service.
Robert C. Crenshaw
GOOD NEIGHBOR BOB, GOODNIGHT
The porch light's out tonight by Bob's backdoor. I've never seen it look so dark before or feel so dark and empty looking from our yard across the garden to his house, and yet the moon is nearly full. Two herons glide beneath the evening star, one honking to the other from ahead. These thirteen years I've never seen two herons flying so, mates I suppose, one anxious that the other follow close. They disappear behind a distant line of oaks. Bob's spade stands upright where he jabbed it near the second row he'd readied for tomatoes. One row's already in, their frail stems braced with fronds and rusty staves to stand against the rain. I'd helped that day, plucking the little topsoil weeds, the last day I saw him, but mostly stood and talked while Bob knelt to his task and packed firmly in with his rough knuckles, the small roots. I ask about tomatoes and once more he told me how he'd start with seeds in pots under an ordinary light, since grow lights were too costly, then transplant to his nursery tent till they were large enough to stake up in the ground. I doubt if I can do that yet. I never learned the whole of what Bob told me. I kept the spirit of his teaching, not the letter. Nor did I learn the punch lines of his jokes so I could laugh again when one came around again. He could tell again about Maude Alice and the girls, about his temper as a boy, about those high school letters in athletics, every sport there was, about his fishing trips, Jack Daniels, hunting hounds, the Depression days at the Shell station across from Rollins, padding the students home-bound lubrication bills to lend them ready cash, about his wartime air base welding job that ended with knocking his bastard boss in the nose, into a water vat, about breaking his own back as a young man, thrown from a truck, about escaping the hospital, about soaking off the body cast in a hot and whiskyed bathtub, about working thirty years in citrus groves, knowing insect sprays and fertilizers inside and out, reading roots and leaves for miladies being a trusted steward, riding those rows and rows of acres, counties round.
What else? So much. So many cups of coffee in his kitchen and in ours. So many Sentinel bags stuffed with navel oranges, peppers, green and red, vidalia onions, pole beans, snap peas, cukes, kohlrabi, yellow squash, and, of course, tomatoes too good for Florida, a miracle of cultivation from his sandy soil made rich with canny love. Not liking vegetables himself, he grew for others, grew to give away, the bounty of his art, because Barbara liked this and Linda that, Alicia and Gail some other crops, and always there were neighbors to supply. Farmer Bob. Good neighbor Bob.
And also stubborn Bob, who took just so much grief from seed-scavenging squirrels, from looting coons and possums, and one gutter-battering woodpecker, before taking fateful action. His aim was true so nothing suffered long that preyed upon his garden or sapped what little sleep he got in recent years. A family man without a wife, without a son, with doting daughters sometimes too fretful for his nerves, he coveted his privacy, his self sufficiency, hating to be beholden of in debt. Yet even he cracked his shell for us, grandfathered Kim- cutting and carrying over gardenia blossoms, courtly roses, camillias, flaming birds of paradise-and fathered me in ways my long-dead father hadn't done. I wouldn't be the son he would have wished for, except in humor and respect, except in admiration of his fierce pride and dignity, except in reverence for the care he lavished on the earth and on his friends. World weary and deliberately alone, he seemed to be weaning himself from life of late, pasting his past in place by telling it over, piece by piece, a few more times. But he had seen enough of change, the better days were gone, not much to hope for now, leave that to younger hearts- leave that to me.
Bob bore his load, he lived a rich and honest life, kept up his courage and his cheer, and sufferered manfully more than a man should have to. He leaves us wealthier in spirit for knowing what we know of him- his love of birds and dogs and growing things, his generosity, the keenness of his humor, his art of telling stories, but mostly his devotion to his wife and daughters.
Were I a Seminole Indian spotting those rare herons gliding in the moonlight overhead, beneath that evening star, I'd think two spirits were heading heavenward together, honking joyfully.
I don't know why those damn marks are on his picture! It almost didn't let me post the entire thing, so I didn't try to fool around with it too much, sorry bout that!