Greetings and salutations, everyone; yes, once again it is I, your popular host, Mani the purebred border collie, here today to talk about some things rather different from the usual stuff. You may remember me from such posts as “Good Things And Bad”, among so many, many others.
Here I am in a characteristic pose.I was thinking of taken a nap on the soft Pottery Barn sheets, on this quiet afternoon, but I heard a hawk crying, and so I went downstairs to check it out, but couldn’t see anything.
It is, in fact, a quiet afternoon, with those little moments of almost complete calm like the guy I live with thought he would have when he retired…but it didn’t turn out that way. The moments of calm are still very pleasant, especially after the frightening weather of last week. For a few days last week we were under a tornado watch, though the guy I live with didn’t say anything about that; he just kept it to himself. Never mind that those things rarely happen so close to the mountains. They can still happen here. There were tornadoes all over the place northeast and east of us. Even though they were well over a hundred miles away, and not huge ones, the guy I live with still thought they were scary.
Since it’s the last day of July, the guy I live with went shopping and brought these home. He said he used to give them to Slipper when he was sick, but that I didn’t need any. (Because once the box was opened all the crackers had to be consumed. It’s like a rule or something.)He also brought this home because he said “you never know”.He talked to a “skunk guy” (really, a guy who used to relocate wild animals) who said this worked the best.
So now I have this story to tell. It’s kind of long.
It’s a story about Necco wafers (which were brought up in a comment), two sisters, their children, the guy I live with’s childhood in Los Angeles, and the things he didn’t hear about as a kid. For some background, you might like to look at this: https://paridevita.com/2012/05/03/yesterday-today-and-tomorrow/
I didn’t write that post, but it’s still okay. The story I have to tell is a totally true story, and kind of astonishing. I’ll try to tell it in the most dramatic and interesting way possible.
A few weeks ago there was a knock on the door, and it was a young deputy sheriff. The deputy said the guy I live with wasn’t in trouble, and handed him a thick sheaf of papers. He looked at them, knew what the papers were, because he had gotten some earlier and responding had slipped his mind (he’s ancient). He told the deputy that he had to hear this story before the got to the sidewalk.
It was a request from the U.S. Army for a sample of mitochondrial DNA so that the remains of his mom’s cousin, Hudson Upham, who was piloting a B-17 which crashed near the summit of Mont Blanc in November 1946, could be identified so that all the crew members could be buried in separate graves in Arlington National Cemetery. There’s stuff on the internet about this. The guy I live with told the deputy that his mom, who is the only surviving person who remembers Hudson (he taught her to do a dance called “the jitterbug”), would give the DNA sample since that only seemed right.
That was a story the guy I live with had heard since he was very little. The retreating glaciers on Mont Blanc exposed the plane and the remains.
Now back to the Neccos. The guy I live with loved to go to his grandparents’ house in Los Angeles, as a kid, to the house on Oakwood Avenue. He would work and play in the garden, spend time in the house, with all its little secret places, smelling of books and old Army things, and full of artifacts from Asia, because his grandfather was stationed in the Pacific before the war, and during the war. The neighborhood was old; houses built before the First World War, up and down tree-lined streets. That’s all changed now.
Sometimes he would walk down the street with his grandfather to the liquor store, to get a newspaper, on Western Avenue. The liquor store smelled of candy, at the cash register, and that’s where the Neccos were purchased. The guy I live with would walk back home with his grandfather, eating Neccos, which he really liked and always associated with his grandfather–even now–while his grandfather smoked a cigar, sometimes. The smell of cigars makes the guy I live with think of summer evenings in Los Angeles. Just like the powdery surface of a Necco, and particularly the taste of the licorice ones (the best ones) makes him think of his grandparents and the Uphams.
The house was owned by two sisters; one his grandmother, and one, his great-aunt. Hudson was his great aunt’s youngest son. There was another brother, Frank, whom the guy I live with knew pretty well. He was in the Navy, on the USS Essex, in the Second World War. He was commander of the air group. The planes. He retired commanding the naval station at Corpus Christi, Texas. When he was little, guy I live with once got to go on the aircraft carrier USS Princeton when it was in Long Beach, one time; his “Uncle Frank” was Captain of the aircraft carrier.
The guy I live with constantly heard about the Uphams when he was at his grandparents’ house. His grandparents used to talk about them all the time, because his grandfather greatly admired them, so the guy I live with would see images of driving around Los Angeles looking at Christmas lights and think of the Uphams. Of course for everyone involved the previous decade had been anything but Christmas, and now, in the 1950s, the guy I live with’s father was in rehabilitation from being wounded in Korea and no one knew what his future would be.
There was a baby grand piano in the house. The guy I live with used to hear stories of the oldest Upham brother, John, who was wounded at Omaha Beach on D-Day, playing the piano there to help regain use of his left arm.
One time the guy I live with watched the movie Saving Private Ryan. He’d never seen it before and said I shouldn’t watch. I could hear it, though. They mentioned something about the tanks not getting ashore. The guy I live with called his sister to see if she’d seen the movie and she said she had, and so he told her that the 741st Tank Battalion didn’t get its tanks ashore, but that the 743rd did, and that it was commanded by John S. Upham, Jr., who was seriously wounded that day.
The guy I live with’s great-aunt and her husband, John Sr. (also in the military) lived in the house earlier, and one time the guy I live with went to his grandparents’ house and his grandfather was busy with a trowel, uncovering some bricks in the grass. They were part of a line of brick stepping-stones which had been laid down maybe in the 1930s.
The garden was old by the time the guy I live with first experienced it. The shed had been a garage for a Model A Ford, and had been moved into a corner of the yard, by the “way back” there. The guy I live with loved playing in the shed, though going into the back of it, where stuff had been piled for years, was a bit too scary. But the sight of a line of newly uncovered brick stepping-stones, laid down long before he was born, by people he had only heard of, was one of the most magical experiences of his childhood.
Until next time, then.