Friday, October 06, 2006
Leaving a Trail
Wednesday was to be a great relaxing day of laundry, study, and recreational reading. It certainly began that way when I went to Hardee's with LaWanna for a biscuit before she had to head downtown for an insurance class. When she left I purchased a newspaper and was happily engrossed when I heard a soft whistle. There were Mark and Lindsay to have a biscuit before work. They came over and visited while having their breakfast. When they left I read a while and headed home to get some laundry started. Once home, I checked my e-mail and had one from my mom which is somewhat unusual. She was informing me that her sister had died Tuesday. The visitation was to be Wednesday and the funeral Thursday, both in Dawson, Georgia. I wasn't really that close to this aunt and, sadly, not really close to most of mom's family. Here is the problem; mom was to leave early Thursday morning with a friend from church in Americus to travel with a tour group for 11 days through much of northern US and into Canada. It would be her first such trip since retiring and I was very happy for her to be going. Suddenly, she had to decide between attending her sister's funeral and going on her trip. Adding to the stress is the fact that the friend who was going is not very independent and leans on mom a lot. It would be very hard for her to go if mom didn't. I called mom to encourage her to go on the trip. I offered to go with her to visitation on Wednesday and to the funeral with my brother on Thursday. She seemed to have already decided to go on the trip but I think her sons honoring her by being there helped. Lots could be said about the whirlwind trip. According to the preacher who conducted the graveside service, Aunt Cortez made Sister Teresa seem selfish and self-centered. Exaggerations aside, she was a sweet lady and raised four good-hearted kids. Much of what was said during the funeral and in private conversations relate to the title and topic of this post. What struck me, however, was a seemingly insignificant event after Keith (my brother) and I arrived back in Americus. I stopped at his house long enough to change from my suit and visit a few minutes. During this time he wanted to show me something. It was in an antique looking cardboard box labeled Snap-On. The tool inside was a "Torque Meter". It is similar to a torque wrench but more like a screwdrive than a wrench with a meter built in. It was engraved in neat cursive NOLAN WISHUM. A man had stopped Keith in a parking lot and said he had something to give him. The meter had obviously been assigned to dad when he worked at the Redman/New Moon mobile home plant in Americus in the 1970's. He would have used it during the time he was a Quality Control Manager and checking the work of people on the assembly line. The plant closed in the 70's and the company was moved to another city. Eventually they closed there and had something like a "factory yard sale". This man we didn't know bought the tool along with other things and later discovered the name engraved on it. He attempted to return the tool to dad but learned he was deceased then tracked Keith down to give the tool to him. That says a lot about the character of this gentleman that he would make that effort to return what is little more than a keepsake. It also says something about dad that someone would make the effort. It occurred to me that it likely said something about dad's character that when he left the company he did not carry with him tools that were assigned to him and for which he had not paid. So I sat there a minute and studied the tool that had been engraved by my dad and used daily by him more that 35 years ago and thought how little intrinsic value it held for me but what great value because it told part of a story of a man being transformed from a sharecropper with a short temper and love of fistfights to a funiture store employee then manager then production worker then manager then T.V. repairman and all the time knowing that these were not his true calling. He was first a Christian husband, father, and elder. The jobs did not define who he was. They simply provided income for living expenses while he went about defining who he was. Not many rich and powerful folks noticed. But a good many simple, hard-working folks did. I am thankful.