Monday, May 28, 2018

Memorial Day--two I probably told you before

I probably posted abEout both these stories, but it's Memorial Day so I tell them to you again.


Every Memorial Day there was a big dinner in Waiteville, where my father grew up, to pay for the upkeep of the local cemetery.  My crazy Aunt Arbana (who was probably my second-cousin once-removed but in my father's family relations weren't clear) would put Confederate flags on family graves and my Uncle Russel and Uncle Sid would go pull them up.

The dinner was amazing--more food than you can imagine. Ham and country ham and ribs and pork roast and chicken in four different ways and turkey and rabbit ans squirrel for those who liked it. Dozens of vegetable dishes and desserts of all kinds. No salads, as I remember, no salads at all unless you consider withered dandelions a salad.

My father would carry me to the car, still asleep, at 5 in the morning and we'd drive for two hours or more, crossing over and back into Virginia several times, and get to my step-grandmother's house for breakfast. Cleve Lafon Bradley (Lafons and Bradleys were mixed up in many ways) would have a platter of fried eggs, a plate of biscuits, bacon and sausage and country ham, sausage gravy and lots of jellies ready for her step-sons and their families when we arrived. Then she would talk non-stop while we all feasted.

Before the dinner we walked around the cemetery. I was eight when I happened on two tombstones far up on a hill. JAMES GORDON BRADLEY one said. The other read JAMES GORDON BRADLEY II.

I was horrified to find my name on not one but two tombstones and that was when I learned I'd been named after my great-grandfather and my great-great grandfather.

My grandfather's name was Filbert Jewel Bradley and my father was Virgil Hoyt Bradley, so when I calmed down I was glad they went that far back for my name!


My father served in WW II. He was 36 years old and couldn't be drafted but he enlisted. He spent 4 full years in Europe, landing on the second wave at Omaha Beach and finally reaching Berlin. He was in the Corps of Engineers and built bridges for Gen. Patten to drive his tanks across and then blew the bridges up. They weren't planning to come back, you see.

When he was in New York waiting to ship out to England, he and two friends were given tickets to a World Series game by grateful citizens. It was the Dodgers and the Yankees and my father decided which ever tear won would be 'his team'. The Yankees won.

So, I grew up in the mountains of southernmost West Virginia rooting for the Yankees. Those were the days of Maris and Mantle and Skowren and Berra and Whitey Ford and Bob Turley and Elston Howard and Richardson and Kubek. A great time to love the Yankees.

And I have ever since.....

Lucky me.

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.