Yesterday, my grandfather would have turned 89. We celebrated by going to church and, later, spending sunset in the bowl of grass by his gravestone. I thought I'd continue the celebration a bit longer by posting a brief excerpt from my (still-to-be-fully-revised) memoir manuscript, in honor of Frank Logan Asbury III.
June 30, 2012
My Dearest Claire,
I enjoyed with “unbridled mirth” the Father’s Day card and “poem” which you sent me on 6/29/12 – particularly the “fishy” nature of the “take me to the river” language!! – As hot as it has been here the past week I would be simply delighted to have you or others “take me to the river and drop me in the water”!! You are becoming completely skilled in your poem composing!!
Mason is off to New Orleans for a few days to do a little “courting.” We miss you here, my darling girl! Encl. is some monetary support!!
I love you – as do we all!
Ever since I could remember, five humongous fish had been mounted to the wood paneled basement walls on plaques. Their scales, fins and bugged-out eyes had been frozen by glaze, and a child – which I was then – could easily fit a fist into their open mouths. In this immobile state, they appeared much more alarming than I imagined they had been underwater. Pop-Pop loved to go on fishing trips with his Emory buddies, and these mounted fish were his trophies, and his company as he watched the game, snapping at the players as if he were a sideline coach. In his study upstairs, one photo showed him in his mid-fifties, wearing a slicker and knee-high waders and looking supremely pleased as he hoisted two fish as long and thick as his own arms.
In homage to his fishing prowess, someone (most likely one of his sons, who had inherited his sense of humor) presented him with a Big Mouth Billy Bass for my grandparents’ golden wedding anniversary. Billy Bass was a rubber fish mounted on a plastic plaque made to look like polished wood. When one of his young grandchildren eagerly pressed the button, Billy Bass twisted the front part of his fish-body and serenaded us with the songs “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and “Take Me to the River.”
Whenever a family birthday came, he would retreat to his study to compose a poem at his large wooden desk. Since four of their five children lived nearby, birthday gatherings were normal, on the back deck in spring, in the dining room in winter. After my music teacher aunt pitched “Happy Birthday,” Nana sliced the grocery store cake and silence would fall as he recited his original composition in honor of the lucky recipient – sometimes a limerick, sometimes a Shakespearean iambic, sometimes free verse.
For decades, he cheerily held court among his large and growing family, among the dogwoods and azaleas, beneath the high ceilings and grandfather clock’s deep clang, in the white brick three-story house they’d called home for more than fifty years.