Sunday, September 30, 2012

In the court of the king

#92

King Vitamin is no Captain Crunch. The elder king with his crown of spoons grins maliciously from the box as if elated over the nuggets of cereal in his spoon. I stare, waiting for him to move, put the spoon in his mouth, to see how his face changes with just a bite.

These are my earliest memories of death.

Shorts and a t shirt, the later twisted on my body from being hastened out of the house in the early morning. The sun, bright and blinding. I squint, driving the shards of sleep into the corners, my bare feel on the gravel drive between our house and my aunt's burns my soles.

Across the table, my cousins carry on, pleased to have company early. The TV plays Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Greenjeans is talking from beneath his hat. We don't have a television in our kitchen. Milk drips down their chins in wet white rivulets, exploding on the table and the gold brown linoleum floor, in sunburst patterns. Their house smells sour.

I want to go home.

They thought watching my grandfather fall down the stairs would scar me, scare me from going up and down them. The heavy thunk of each step as he rolled, rolled, rolled into a pile at the bottom. I don't have a problem with them. He was bedridden after that.

He was a seed man---sold seed at a store. His wife was the post master. She has been gone for years though and he has been living in the front room of our home. I have little memory of it, but they say we used to play. I do remember his skin. It was darker.

The cereal is hard in my mouth, scrapping tender flesh around the gums as I chew. Spoonful after spoonful, I wait as they take the body that is no longer my grandfather. I can not find it in me to grin like the king or be as excited as my cousins. My aunt offers pancakes, trying to fill the space within me, but I refuse and take another bite.

-----

The grass is green on our side of the field, unlike the far corner which doubles as the baseball field in Spring. Our boys, in their orange jerseys and blue pants, line up at the twenty yard line, preparing to charge the football toward the end zone. The score is 12-6, not in our favor.

I am silent today, much different than other weeks when I am carrying on, yelling encouragement, along with the rest of the parents. When we arrived at the field, once my boy had run along to join his teammates, I told my wife we would lose today. I could feel it, like the fireplace smell in the morning air.

The quarterback hands the ball off cleanly to the running back and he swims through the opposing team, slipping here and there, avoiding their attempts to take hold of him. Ten yards. Five yards. The ref raises his hands signaling a score. Cowbells. Horns. A hundred voices. The boys run for the sideline, their own arms raised.

'Girls and glory,' he says from behind me.

I turn, raise an eyebrow.

'The reason we played when I was in high school,' he says, like a war veteran. Just the facts, no emotion.

His lips curl, adding wrinkles to his already well creased face. His shock of white hair firmly in place, remains unmoved the slight fall breeze. A blue sweatshirt swallows his body, thin with age. A grandfather. Maybe more.

'These boys, they are different. At this age, they play because they enjoy it,' he adds, his eyes crinkling behind wire rimmed glasses.

'I wonder when it is we lose that,' I reply, but he is already moving down the sideline in a slow gait toward where the boys are settling up to kick off again to the opposing team.

My stomach rumbles, asking for breakfast. Perhaps cereal.

But please, no grinning kings.

Writing just to write. We did end up losing 27-21 yesterday in a hard fought game. Thanks for all the love for my son as well on his special day....we had a great time at his birthday---will write about that later this week.

51 comments:

kaykuala said...

Got it! #1

Hank

Mrsupole said...

No two is good too.

Grace said...

The first one made me recall the death of my own grandfather, my first experience of going to a funeral.

You painted him well...and I can feel myself chewing my own cereal as I read this ~

I am glad your boy enjoyed his party. I find it hard to watch a game though when they are losing but it speaks of courage and perseverance ~

Happy Sunday Brian ~

Mrsupole said...

And three.....

Mrsupole said...

Dang it third time was not a charm.

Mrsupole said...

Hi Brian,

I think I was 8 when I went to my first funeral. I can still remember the dress I wore. I guess that is just something we have to learn to accept doing at different times in our lives.

So glad Cole had a nice birthday and sorry for his losing the game. I guess that is just another thing we also have to learn. We just cannot win everything or life would be boring with always winning. Losing makes winning all the sweeter.

Thanks for such a thoughtful story, death is a hard thing for any of us to understand and so is losing. Come to think about it, they are both about loss.

God bless.

kaykuala said...

A funeral bears good for one gets a reminder. Good or bad and right or wrong suddenly to the fore to create awareness on those attending.

At a young age winning doesn't impact as much as enjoying the game.It's a bonus to win but having fun beats all.

Hank

annell said...

Nicely done!

DJan said...

Well written prose. It reminded me of my own first brush with death was my grandmother.

Daniel said...

A little bit of melancholia today. I feel you. Blessings.

Leovi said...

Very good, pure emotion.

Valerie said...

This reminded of my grandfather's demise... brought on by a fall. I was quite young but it's amazing how much I remember of that age.

I hope I remembered to wish your boy a happy birthday. See... the memory does fade in time....smiles.

Pat Hatt said...

Didn't have such a brush
Until I was good and flush
Almost an adult, if I ever was one
When death gave a run
Think he was bidding his time
And came in all at once with his grime
And yeah just to play for fun
Is how it should be spun
But the older one gets it seems
You have to win or you'll never get your dreams.

Claudia said...

such a melancholic voice today..so hard to lose something that is precious..felt write with losing your granddad and then..how often do we lose this "first love" of doing something just because we love doing it, not to impress someone, not for money or fame or whatever...ugh...wanna have that childlike joy back in some areas of my life..

Lorraine said...

and I was with you through it, your ability awes me

Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell said...

Sorry the boys lost, but like you said, they just love to play at that age, so hopefully they weren't as upset as their parents may have been. ;)

I remember that King Vitamin cereal and I bought it as an adult to try it again. OMG, that stuff is putrid!!!!

Daydreamertoo said...

Phew... deep.
I don't know if there is a 'right' age for kids to be up close to death. I do think 5 too young but, maybe 8 or 9 kids can understand a little bit more. Must seem awful though, to have to be somewhere you really don't want to be, to eat where you don't feel comfortable and where the 'smell' isn't that nice. As I've aged I've realised all homes have their own particular 'smell' some I've been in have been dreadful.
The guy at the game sounds pretty typical.
Love your look at life Brian.

Grandmother said...

Good for you that you stopped eating when you wanted and not succumb to an adult trying to make you feel differently than you did. Also, good for your boys that they play for the fun of it. Bravo!

CiCi said...

Writing just to be writing. Oh boy, to see into your writer's thoughts. Fun.

Linda said...

I enjoyed the connections and the disconnects through out your poem, Brian. It made the reality more real without being so emotive. Happy Birthday to your son and congratulations on a well played game! The cereal being hard in the mouth and the TV blaring, with relatives around sure took me back to those days of Captain Kangaroo. Thanks for sharing, Brian. ♥

ayala said...

You describe your grandfather and your feelings beautifully...the house smelling sour..I feel like I am there witnessing it..and the sadness of it. Great write.
Glad your son enjoyed his birthday..sorry they lost the game.

Paula Wooters said...

Winning, losing, death, sour smells... life's memories pop up at the oddest times.

Gloria said...

I remember when my grandma die I had 14 or 15 and was so hard, really hard. Never forget.

Love the picture of the little Miller melt my heart!:)

Goofball said...

I'm not going to eat cereals tomorrow morning for breakfast.


happy birthday to C once again

Marla said...

I have missed stopping by, listening to you as I slowly sip my coffee. I hear your voice trailing as my mind wanders to my own memories as I read through. Isn't it funny how strangers memories can become linked to my own just through reading. Maybe it's part of the one spirit thing. I don't know but I will probably never stop trying to figure it out.

Anyway, I'm off to read more. Blessings to you and yours my yet to be met friend. :-)

PattiKen said...

Gloomy one, Brian. Kids' ballgames are supposed to be happy events, even when they lose. Like the old guy behind you said, at that age they play because they love it. And to answer your next question, I think they lose that when their parents lose sight of the fact that it's just a game.

Mama Zen said...

The little details in this make it incredibly poignant.

Eva Gallant said...

Kids should play for fun, but coaches and parents forget that.

Brian Miller said...

i would agree they lose some of it when their parents get too serious...and i think we can def make it about the glory....just emailed patti back telling her of having to work the chains on the other teams sidelines last weekend and it was rather horrifying...and to see how some of the coaches talk to their kids...or parents talk to their kids...it gets pretty intense...and crazy...

izzy said...

King of death ? Hmmm. Football can be deadly but I am glad this one wasn't!
Yuck to death on a box- especially cereal. Although now they say Monsanto's modified & engineered corn is cancer causing- pretty depressing.
Thanks for visiting- did you get to watch Sandburg yet ? :)

Travel & Dive Girl said...

Well said...

flaubert said...

Loads of thoughts going on here, Brian. You do tie them together nicely.

Pamela

Mary said...

So sad when kids lose a game they play just because they like it. Hopefully they will continue to like it even when they lose. I hear you about death, Brian. One is never ready..when one is a child...or an adult. Death of a loved person is very hard. A sensitive write. You are heard, Brian.

Jenny said...

A well written post...Kids like playing, sadly some parents get too involved at every Level!

Gail said...

Your words encourage me to see clearly and the truth in the first is scary.

I greatly enjoyed the second "girls and glory". I have two grandsons who play football and they still just love to play.

Laurie Kolp said...

I love how you wove this together, Brian. That must have been a difficult thing to witness as a child (for anyone really, but I know you're sensitive like me). I wish we could all live like children, enjoy the simplicity of life with innocent eyes.

Mom said...

Interesting that you remember that Daddy had dark colored skin. Also interesting that none of us inherited his coloring. What a hard day in our lives you describe here and you do it so well with sight, taste, smell, and feel. Thanks for the write and for the picture of Daddy's great grandson...he would have loved your boys :)

Who Is Afraid Of Miss Lovett? No, Mrs.Lovett... said...

"King Vitamin is no Captain Crunch. The elder king with his crown of spoons grins maliciously from the box as if elated over the nuggets of cereal in his spoon."

Hi! Brian...
Thanks, for sharing your very poetic words as you reflect on death, [and when a child, the confusion that comes with [the] loss Of a love one...sadness.]

As you shift gears...

Who Is Afraid Of Miss Lovett? No, Mrs.Lovett... said...

"My stomach rumbles, asking for breakfast. Perhaps cereal.
But please, no grinning kings."


Brian, I'm so happy [to read] that you, and your family, enjoyed Cole's special day...too!

Tks, for sharing the image too!
deedee :)

sonny said...

that about summed it for me...at this age..they play...because they enjoy the game...oh to be a child...

Dave King said...

This is great writing. As the News of the World used to say: all human life is there - especially that bit about smelling the forthcoming defeat. I know that smell.

Tara Miller said...

Your words feel heavy with sadness on this rainy day of past losses and memories. Kids should play for the fun of it and enjoy the wins when they come. But wins isn't all it should be about - I agree, parents and coaches have a huge influence on how each player views the game as well as if they continue to play because of it.

I just enjoy watching them play, win or lose.

Alice Audrey said...

Better to have to give up a brand of cereal than pancakes. Unless the association with death spread all over the place.

Myrna R. said...

When I write just to write, it never reads as well as your sensitive essay.

How beautifully you connect the past and present with thoughts and emotions familiar to us all, but uniquely told in your style. Brought back memories of my grandfather, and made me look forward to my grandson's future games.

Glad your son had a good birthday.

lori mcclure said...

I miss this kind of writing from you. Full of emotion and imagery that doesn't swallow the action. Excellent in every way.

bluecottonmemory said...

I grew up with my grandparents - when I was 11, my grandfather died of cancer. I remember him eating milk toast for his stomach, teaching us to play bridge and his stomach churned - but I remember most him holding my hand during a long walk and it was just us. I also remember Mr Greenjeans and Captain Kangaroo, too!

Wishing your son much blessing in this new growing year. When your boys have a heart for a sport - it can be a beautiful thing and teach so much about life!

RMP said...

I admit I never heard of King Vitamin cereal before...did a quick search and I have to say he looks kind of creepy...definitely a far cry from Captain Crunch.

writing just to write can be quite a cathartic experience...at least I find it often to be so.

an absolutely beautiful write.

my heart's love songs said...

my father's father was the first funeral i ever went to and i remember having nightmares about him in his coffin for months afterward. it's hard to deal with when you're a child. hell, it's hard to deal with when you're an adult.

sorry the boys lost the game.

william said...

I have been to a lot of funerals but not at the age you did, must have been traumatic for you :)

Sheila said...

great stories, I like the straight forwardness of them. And the Captain Crunch on the gum line - OUCH! you are totally right.

Syd said...

Glad that your son had a great day. Playing the game to enjoy it--that's what it's all about.