I remember him, and his voice. His smile and little teeth as he stood in his hand me down clothes beside the cedar bush, in the driveway at his grandmother’s house. I remember how his hair shone like a golden whisp in contrast to his two older brothers darker locks. He was knobby kneed and pink lipped and the visit his family paid to the brown house across the street was always a welcomed and anticipated time.
His Grandfather was the only grandfather I ever knew. I don’t know if he knows this of me. Mr. Kornegay, Cutler’s (and Corey’s & Chance’s) Grandaddy, would walk with me across the footbridge to the other side of the creek, through the bamboo forest, to look at the town water plant and all the empty wooden electric spools and unused cement drain ditch tubes. I could wear his fedora, walk with his cane, and appreciated his slow pace, as I was never one to rush to get to anywhere.
Mr. Kornegay would leave the garage door up in the back of his house and I’d wander in, spin the potter’s wheel, enjoy the cool of the shadows out of the sweaty summer sun. There was the swing by the garage, hung under the balcony, that all the neighborhood children were welcome to swing on.
I swang on that swing many a time with Mr. Kornegay and his grandson’s Cutler, Cory, and Chance. He told me I was always welcome. I played in his yard perhaps more than I even played in my own. He had rocks and moss and a creek, and a kind way with a little girl who’d known no grandfather of her own.
I was in second grade when he died. I remember my Mama sitting me on the bed in my room and breaking the news. The welling pain I can recall as vividly as I can recall his loving brown eyes, and wrinkled face. At 8, Mr. Kornegay’s death was my first bout with heartbreak. I’ve always loved him, I’ve never forgotten the love he showed me.
I’ve never forgotten the importance of his family in my childhood, either. The widowed Mrs. Kornegay, who’d always been grandmotherly to me, still kept the garage door open for me and still let me play in the creek behind her house. The Kornegay grandsons and I played, and grew up together. I was sandwiched in age by Cory who is one year older, and Chance, who is one year younger. I’d ride with them out to their house in the country every now and again, even through high school, and even after. But I remember most fondly our younger years, spent swinging on that porch swing under the balcony any time they came to visit their Gramma. Those Kornegay boys grew from great boys into great men.
Their Uncle Holt lives in the great brown house across the street from my childhood home now. I talk to him whenever I go see my Mama…Mrs. Kornegay must have died about 8 years back. I don’t see Cutler and Cory or Chance much anymore. The modern closeness of the internet keeps a line of memory open; an alley to peek into, to linger upon.
Cory lives in the mountains and wrestles wood into beautiful staircases, mantles and porches for a living. Chance seems happily married, liberal, living in the town of his alma mater, loving life.
Cutler, the youngest, the small boy who I remember looking up at me with his bright blond hair and sparkling blue eyes…the boy whose four year old grin I remember so well…the boy whose name was always so fun to say, is a father of two in his early 30’s and, well. He’s dying.
The unfortunate prognosis has set me back, and the raw feelings I felt that sad day in second grade, upon learning my sweet neighbor Grandaddy had passed away, those feelings returned full circle.
There’s nothing more the doctors can do is what i’ve read. Brain tumors.
Cutler will be taken away from the lucky ones who knew him. Who’ve known him. Who know him still. Who love him.
Cutler, I’m crying. I haven’t seen you in many years, but I’m crying. For you. For your brothers. Your Mama and Daddy. Your wife, your poor children. In anguish, crying for the love of your family, and for the memories I have of you all. I’ve followed your journey, and have wept, hoping for your life to be spared, hoping for your wonderful family, whom I love, to not be dealt this hard hand.
I wish you all the bravery in the universe, dear Cutler. I pray peace over the aching your family must endure when your spirit lifts from this earth. I wish you weren’t going. And I still hope you won’t.
If you do have to go soon, though, please give my regards to your Granddaddy. Thank him for me? And tell my Daddy up there I love him, too, and I miss him so bad.
Tears for you all.