Johns Hopkins Hospital, circa 1954.
Jim took this picture when he was a 1st year medical student at Hopkins. A California guy raised in the shadow of the Sierras he loved the snow in the mountains but never had to slog through it to work until he landed at Hopkins. A camera buff he enjoyed seeing the world transformed into black and white.
This morning snow is pelting down outside my window and I am thinking a lot of Jim, even more than usual.
Tomorrow is the 3rd Anniversary of Jim’s death. Its been rough lately – – because you see he is not really dead for me. He is very much alive to me – and I intend to keep it that way through my stories.
Some days I forget to write checks to pay bills but I have vivid memories of most of the 57 years of days Jim and I shared starting with the first time I set eyes on him at St. Michael’s Catholic Church on N. Washington Street in Baltimore.
Maybe its my storyteller mind-side that keeps me remembering like I do. And, you know something- -I am grateful for it. I have worked hard to hone the ability to retrieve times, places and people. Since I tell family stories memories are the “stuff” I work with.
Twenty years ago I attended my first five- day-out-of-town storytelling workshop which was led my favorite teacher, the incomparable Donald Davis. He started the first session with the instruction “take us somewhere we can’t go if YOU don’t take us.” Donald’s direction was electrifying for me as I walked into my grandmother’s long-gone house. Every step brought it more clearly into view. 2301 East Seventh Street, Charlotte, NC wasn’t gone after all.
On a trip to Fresno our daughter Robin and I sat in the car with Jim outside his favorite childhood home. Talking it through he brought the interior of that house to life for us without stirring from the car. He also pointed out the spot on the block where he ran his bike into an oncoming car when he was 11 years old. He laughed, “I was showing off for a girl coming down the street”. He was tossed in the air, hit the hood of the car and landed in the street. His brother Tom told me, ” I saw it. We thought he was dead.” Lucky and foolish yes, fortunately not dead.
An African folk tale, The Cow Tail Switch is a golden nugget for me. In the story five sons find their father’s bones in the jungle where he was killed by a wild animal when he was hunting. They conjure him back to life. The story ends with the wisdom, “no one is truly dead as long as people tell his story.”
I came to storytelling through Genealogy and that “raising of the dead”, at least on a chart, has always been the heart of my mission. When my kids were not interested in my charts I turned to storytelling to breathe life into those names and dates I had worked so hard to find.
And what about this?