Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Family’

Overcompensation

over·com·pen·sa·tion | noun: excessive reaction to a feeling of inferiority, guilt, or inadequacy, leading to an exaggerated attempt to overcome the feeling.

———

Back in the 1970s, we lived in Fort Lauderdale, and I was trying to get established in the advertising and PR business. Those first jobs didn’t pay much.

Money was tight, a constant worry. The boys didn’t really lack for anything, but the situation weighed heavily on me and Deanna.

Things eventually worked out, but those were difficult times. I am reminded of them some mornings when I step into the closet to choose a t-shirt.

Yes, therein lies a tale.

It’s funny how the mind works. Back in our Fort Lauderdale days, as I struggled to pay the bills, I seized upon a small, inconsequential matter to be irritated about. Or, rather, to pout about.

It was the fact that, while everyone around me — friends, family, neighbors — owned cool and interesting t-shirts, literally every t-shirt I owned was plain, unadorned white. (Men’s t-shirts typically were white back then, in case you didn’t know.)

I didn’t own any t-shirts that bore logos, cartoons, or printing of any kind because I couldn’t afford them.

Well, that’s not quite accurate. More correctly, the money was better spent in other ways. I guilt-tripped myself out of owning t-shirts that were fun and appealing — and it bugged me greatly to be deprived in such a manner.

Time passed, and our money situation improved. Eventually, I rewarded myself with a few interesting t-shirts — a Georgia Bulldogs here, a Led Zeppelin there — but only a few. The money still was better spent in other ways.

That line of thinking ended when I found myself divorced. Suddenly, I was on my own and answerable to no one but Rocky Smith.

Accordingly, I began collecting t-shirts with gusto. I did it because, by God, I deserved those t-shirts. Not a very mature reaction, but immensely satisfying.

In the years that followed, I started taking regular vacations out west. I came home with t-shirts from Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, Yellowstone, Death Valley, Moab, Durango.

When I went on whitewater rafting trips in Arizona and West Virginia, I got t-shirts from the outfitters — Class VI, Outdoors Unlimited, AZRA.

Later, when I bought an RV and began taking road trips, I picked up souvenir t-shirts from the Northwest, the Great Lakes, New England, the Gulf coast, and more.

And naturally, in addition to souvenir shirts, I bought others that caught my eye. These two beauties, for example.

T-shirt-1

T-shirt-2

Okay, so what’s the bottom line? How many non-plain t-shirts do I own today? About 40.

The number seems to have reached equilibrium and stabilized there. When a shirt wears out, it gets a second life in the rag box. Meanwhile, I’ve picked up a new shirt to replace it.

I freely admit that my affinity for the t-shirts is excessive. I am overcompensating for a perceived deprivation from long ago that, in fact, I inflicted upon myself.

On the other hand, I truly appreciate and enjoy my shirts. And, as obsessions go, this one is pretty benign.

On wash day, when the t-shirts come out of the dryer, I hang them up instead of folding them. That way, I can peruse them more easily in the closet.

The shirts take up about two feet of closet space. As part of my morning ritual, I go down the line and pick out a t-shirt to wear that day.

Am I in the mood for the Elvis mugshot t-shirt? The SpongeBob SquarePants t-shirt? The Roswell UFO Museum t-shirt?

Perhaps a shirt from Grand Canyon (I have several from which to choose). Or the Allman Brothers Summer Jam 1973. Or the NASA I Need My Space.

Aha! The Beavis and Butthead. Perfect!

Anyway, that’s the story of my t-shirt collection. I should add that it involves one great irony:

I always wear a button-up shirt on top, so nobody ever sees the t-shirt but me.

T-shirt-3

 

Read Full Post »

On the website of the magazine Psychology Today, I found a pretty good definition of psychoanalysis. It’s a bit intricate, but you can handle it.

Freud pioneered the idea that unconscious forces influence overt behavior and personality. He believed that childhood events and unconscious conflict, often pertaining to sexual urges and aggression, shape a person’s experience in adulthood.

Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis created the framework for psychoanalytic therapy, a deep, individualized form of talk therapy. Psychoanalytic therapy encompasses an open conversation that aims to uncover ideas and memories long buried in the unconscious mind.

Psychoanalysts employ specific techniques, such as spontaneous word association, dream analysis, and transference analysis. Identifying patterns in the client’s speech and reactions can help the individual better understand their thoughts, behaviors, and relationships as a prelude to changing what is dysfunctional.

As the final sentence explains, the goal of psychoanalytic therapy is to help the patient understand the subconscious causes of dysfunctional behaviors in hopes of changing them.

A few decades ago, I spent a year in psychoanalysis. I met regularly with a psychiatrist, and we explored what makes me tick.

It was a unique and, in many ways, strange experience. All that effort and professional firepower focused solely on me, my thoughts, my beliefs. Having my innermost self under a microscope was surreal and a little spooky.

How I ended up seeing a shrink is an interesting story.

Deanna and I got divorced in 1989. I’ve mentioned the split occasionally on this blog, including here and here, but never in much detail.

I don’t intend to elaborate now, except to say that, when she handed me the divorce papers, a part of me was surprised, but another was not. There had been signs.

She and I began to have disagreements, but all along, I thought they were transient and fixable. I never believed they were significant enough to end the marriage.

Deanna saw it otherwise. It’s a fact that the only person you can understand with even remote accuracy is yourself. And even that is an iffy proposition.

Several years before the divorce, she expressed an interest in seeing a therapist. I took it as a positive thing. If issues are bugging you, it’s good to try to understand and deal with them. She ended up going to a psychiatrist affiliated with Emory University in Atlanta.

Immediately, the doctor proposed seeing both of us, in separate sessions, to facilitate Deanna’s analysis. She said sessions with both marital partners is always advisable.

To be clear, I’m a believer. Freud had some nutty ideas, but his central belief that (1) experiences in childhood affect behaviors in adulthood, and (2) it pays to understand them — that makes sense to me. I certainly don’t object to the concept of therapy.

Nevertheless, I was hesitant. I felt no need to undergo analysis. I was confident no sinister, malignant demons lurked inside me. All my demons are minor and benign.

Further, there was the cost. For one patient, $70 or $80 per session was brutal. For two, it would be crippling.

On the other hand, two facts were clear. First, the doctor might be right that understanding me would help her understand Deanna. And second, if I declined, I would be seen as an obstacle and a villain.

I agreed to undergo analysis.

The sessions were casual and calm. No couch was involved. The doctor and I got along well, and, session by session, she went about the task of sizing me up.

At the same time, I got to know the doctor and her methods. Often, I could see where she was taking the conversation.

For example, she showed interest in how my dad was affected by his World War II experiences. (He was a bomber pilot, was shot down, became a POW.)

After the war, Dad suffered significant anxiety and flashback problems. He struggled with PTSD for many years until, late in life, he finally fought it to a truce.

The doctor wanted to understand how Dad’s condition affected the rest of the family, and me in particular, which I freely admit it did. It was the topic we spent the most time talking about.

In those days, Deanna was a stay-at-home mom. My modest salary sustained us. Under those circumstances, the cost of therapy was a significant financial burden.

To her credit, the doctor arranged a generous payment schedule that I could manage.

And ultimately, also to her credit, she announced that she had seen enough. She said continuing my therapy sessions was not worth the time and expense. We were done.

In effect, she concluded I was acceptably normal and stable and did not require her services. It was a veritable thumbs-up for my mental health, a seal of approval from a professional. I was shrink-certified.

I wasn’t surprised. And it was supremely satisfying.

Mic drop

I don’t recall how long Deanna continued therapy. I never learned anything about her sessions, whether they were fruitful, or how they ended. I never asked.

But I well remember sending checks to the doctor every month, slowly paying down the tab.

Then one day, long after Deanna’s therapy ended, a letter arrived from the doctor.

She informed me that a fire had swept through her office building, and many financial records had been destroyed, mine among them.

She and her accountant decided to declare my debt absolved. Roughly $1,000 was being forgiven and, I assume, written off on her taxes.

I mean no disrespect to Freud or his disciples, but that gesture did more for my mental health than all of the therapy sessions combined.

Lucy

Freud-S

 

Read Full Post »

Pudgy

Some dogs have a heightened instinct to protect home and family. We think of breeds such as Dobermans, German Shepherds, Boxers, Rottweilers, etc. as being natural guard dogs.

When I was a kid, I had a dog named Pudgy, a certified mongrel, who was in no way the guard dog type. But on one occasion, he surprised us. It happened over the Christmas holidays in 1952, just after my brother Danny was born. Pudgy was a puppy then.

Let me begin by noting that my pal Jake, who has been with me for almost a year now, is my eighth* dog. Before him was Paco; before Paco was Kelly; before her were Dinah and Murphy; before them was Frederick the Bassett Hound; before him was Kimo; and before him was Pudgy.

Seven of them entered my life after I was an adult. Pudgy was the dog of my childhood.

Pudgy-1

Pudge was a happy, lovable little guy. Technically, he was the family pet, but everyone understood he was my dog.

He was born to a litter of generic mutts at a neighbor’s house when my family lived in Falls Church, Virginia. I was seven years old, maybe eight.

I remember going to see the pups one cold evening with Mom and Dad. Snow was on the ground. The pups were in the garage in a blanket-lined cardboard box, wiggling and yapping. A kerosene heater was nearby.

To get you oriented, think of the movie “A Christmas Story,” which takes place in the late 1940s. Ralphie’s world in Indiana and mine in Falls Church were remarkably similar. The people, neighborhoods, schools, communities — all essentially the same.

That night in the garage, the dads chatted, and the moms fawned over the darling puppies. Then they told me to choose any pup I wanted as long as it was male. Pudge was the most active of the litter, and he was rather striking with a white body, black head, and tan eyebrows. He was my choice.

We named him Pudgy because he was round and plump. Most puppies are, but the name turned out to be appropriate. He grew up to be low to the ground and stocky.

A month or so after we got Pudge, a few days before Christmas, my brother Danny was born. Mom brought Dan home from the hospital right after Christmas.

Dad was a disaster when it came to cooking, cleaning, and other domestic tasks, but we got by, and we managed to assemble a crib in Mom and Dad’s bedroom. Mom took care of the baby and slept a lot. New routines took shape. Little Pudgy ran around joyfully, soaking it all in.

A few days later, the first relatives arrived to see the new baby: my paternal grandmother, universally called “Honey,” and Aunt Betty, who drove them up from Savannah.

I recall the scene well. After hugs all around, Honey set down her purse, removed her pillbox hat and veil, and asked to see the baby.

Mom and Dad escorted her into the bedroom where Dan was asleep in the crib. Honey tiptoed up to the crib and peered over the rail at Danny.

Suddenly, Pudgy shot out from under the crib and confronted my grandmother, barking furiously, bravely protecting the new human.

Honey hastily jumped backwards. I’m not sure if she and Betty even knew we had a dog.

“Wal-tuh?” she said with alarm. “Wal-tuh” is the Geechee way of saying “Walter,” namely her son.

As my grandmother retreated, Pudgy advanced, barking like a small fiend. One of us, probably Dad, scooped him up and tried to shush him. He was slow to calm down. His puppy growls were almost comical, like the purring of a cat.

With Pudgy restrained, Honey and Betty were able to see Danny properly. Dan, of course, had been awakened by the barking and was bawling robustly. The scene was chaotic.

Pudgy soon calmed down and was himself again. But over the next few days, he continued to object loudly whenever Honey approached the crib.

Curiously, his problem was only with my grandmother, never with anyone else, and only when she came near the crib. No one had a clue what was going on in his brain.

You had to feel bad for Honey. She was a dignified woman, very straight-laced and proper by nature. She was a fine person, but, as the saying goes, she was standing behind the door when the humor genes were handed out.

Honey’s default demeanor was serious and formal. I remember her as a matronly lady always clutching a hanky. I recall no evidence that she had a relaxed and casual mode.

Stella Ham Smith (Honey) at 201 Kinzie Ave., Savannah, Nov. 1951.

Which was a shame. It might have allowed her to see the humor in Pudgy’s behavior and laugh it off. Instead, she reacted with concern and bewilderment.

After Honey and Betty went home to Savannah, life returned to normal, if having a new baby and a new dog can be normal. For a while, Pudgy slept under the crib, presumably guarding Danny. He launched no more attacks.

In 1957, the Air Force transferred us to Europe, and Pudgy couldn’t come along. He went to live with my maternal grandparents in Suwanee, Georgia.

Naturally, he quickly bonded with them. And, when we came home from Europe in 1960, it was clear that Pudgy was their dog, not mine.

To my knowledge, the guard-dog behavior he exhibited in Falls Church never resurfaced.

Pudgy-3

The Smiths suffering through a photo session, Falls Church, October 1953.

Pudgy had a good life in Suwanee as a country dog. Frank’s assorted hunting dogs lived in a backyard pen, and Leila’s cats were largely feral, but Pudgy was a pampered house pet.

His end came abruptly when he was about 13. I was home from college for the weekend, and Mom had asked me to stop at Leila’s to pick up some tomatoes.

When I backed out of the driveway, I didn’t know that Pudgy was under the car. He wasn’t run over, but he took a blow to the head that left him dazed and staggering. He was glassy-eyed, gasping for air.

I put him on the passenger seat and zoomed off toward the vet’s office.

On the way, suddenly, he snapped out of it. The old Pudge was back, relaxed and normal.

But it didn’t last. By the time we got to the vet’s office, he was in distress again, rigid, his breathing labored.

He died overnight at the clinic.

Pudgy was a good boy, loyal and faithful. A delightful friend. A credit to the family.

I still miss him.

Walter Allan Smith (Rocky) and Pudgy, June 1956.

Pudgy and me, 1955.

* Actually, I had a ninth dog, but only for about three days. When Deanna and I got married, she had a poodle named Loser. Loser always hated me anyway, but he went bonkers over the new living arrangements. After he bit me a few times, Deanna gave him to her grandparents.

 

Read Full Post »

Well, we have happy news in the Smith family: my son Dustin is officially retired from law enforcement. He served 20 years in the business, first with Family & Children Services, then with Athens-Clark County PD, then with University of Georgia PD.

As you can imagine, his work involved risks and challenges that were downright ugly. Now we all can rest easier about his physical safety and emotional well-being.

Dustin plans to focus on his new business, Sporting South Photography. Check out his website.

On Dustin’s last day with UGA PD, his wife Leslie posted this on Facebook:

“Today, Dustin retired from police work after 20 years. The first picture is from his ACC Police Academy graduation and the second is from UGA.”

Dustin 3-03

Dustin 3-19a

“He has served his community with dedication, loyalty and professionalism. He has made life-long connections and lost a brother. Thank you to everyone that supported him and prayed for him throughout his career.”

Dustin 3-19b

“He will begin a new journey with sports photography, that we hope will give him renewed focus and success, and maybe a little less stress.

“Congrats to you Sgt. Smith! Enjoy your next chapter in life.”

The lost brother Leslie mentioned is a fellow officer, Buddy Christian of ACC PD, who was killed in the line of duty a few years ago.

Dustin’s police career was filled with superlatives. He was not only a crackerjack officer, but also the kind of person you want to see in law enforcement: intelligent, empathetic, and compassionate. He recognized the importance of the work and the obligation to do it well.

That was apparent when he was named the Honor Graduate of his class at the Police Academy. It was apparent again when, in his first assignment on patrol in a section of Athens with a large Hispanic population, he went the extra mile and took Spanish lessons.

In time, Dustin was assigned to the Domestic Violence unit, a notably stressful job. But he was good at it, and Athens PD kept him there, even after the work began wearing him down and he asked for a reassignment.

Eventually, he was moved to Investigations, where he excelled again. In recent years, owing to his skills and years of experience, he ran the UGA PD Training unit.

Dustin told me some years ago that one of the toughest aspects of police work is knowing that half the people you contact on a given day hate your guts.

He probably wasn’t exaggerating. He had to deal with the worst people, on their worst behavior, often in the worst parts of town. As the cop confronting them, he was the enemy personified.

That’s why he and I see Athens differently. To me, Athens is the UGA campus, the special vibe of the downtown, the stately old neighborhoods, the Botanical Garden.

Dustin remembers rundown neighborhoods where a shooting, stabbing, or beating just happened. He thinks about dealing with drunk and belligerent frat boys and working on Saturday when the Bulldogs have a home game.

Maybe now he can get acquainted with a more positive side of the city.

Anyway, the page has turned, and Dustin starts his new life as a civilian.

And he promptly marked the occasion by making a delightful video that, in my humble estimation, knocks it out of the park. I can’t get enough of watching it.

https://rockysmith.files.wordpress.com/2019/03/a-day-in-the-life.mp4

That’s my boy.

 

 

Read Full Post »

As I’ve documented often on this blog, my dad was a bomber pilot during World War II. In 1944, his B-24 was shot down after a bombing raid, and he was captured and imprisoned in Bulgaria.

Dad’s two brothers also served, and, by the grace of God, all three survived the war. The night they were reunited in Savannah, they talked into the wee hours about their experiences.

But after that, the subject largely was closed. Except for occasional anecdotes about the good memories, they rarely talked about the war.

The only detailed accounting Dad gave about being a POW came in 1984, when, one evening in Savannah, his sister Betty got him to open up.

It was just the two of them. Dad talked for a long time and in great detail. After he went to bed, Betty stayed up and documented what Dad told her while it was fresh in her mind.

This is her typewritten account.

———

July 21, 1984

As told to me by Walter Anthony Smith, Jr.

Shot down June 23, 1944 — Prisoner of War in Bulgaria

Stationed in Italy — Flying a B-24 Liberator (4 engine bomber)

United States Air Force

Returning from a raid over Ploesti, Romania oil fields, his plane was shot down. After being captured, was imprisoned in Shumen, Bulgaria. (Shumen also called Kolarovgrad)

When he bailed out, he fell several thousand feet before he located the rip-cord, due to the fact that in his haste and excitement, his parachute was upside down and the rip-cord was on the opposite side from where it should have been.

When he landed in the mountains, he hit his head on a rock and was knocked out. When he came to, a peasant woman was looking down at him, probably thinking he was dead. When he opened his eyes, she ran away screaming.

At that time Walter ran, trying to find a place to hide and hoping to contact the underground. The woman must have told the military where she found the American, because about 100 soldiers formed a huge ring around the area.

As they closed in, they kept firing their weapons, trying to make Walter surface. As the circle grew smaller, they stopped firing because they could hit their own men. They continued closing in until they found him hiding in the brush.

The soldiers beat him terribly with their rifle butts in the back, head and all over. When he was down, they all urinated on him and took him to their commander.

The commander placed his pistol on the table and threatened to kill Walter if he did not reveal military information, but Walter refused to talk. He reminded the commander about his rights as a prisoner of war and that he could not be killed after he was captured.

All the men in Walter’s aircrew survived the jump and were captured and brought to Shumen.

Shumen was the only prison in Bulgaria for all Allied prisoners. It held over 300 men from 12 Allied countries. Walter was the highest-ranking officer, being a Major at the time, so he took command.

His first job was the get the men organized and come up with a survival plan. They only had black bread and watery soup to eat and about one glass of water a day for all purposes. They could hear water pouring over a waterfall nearby, but could not have enough to drink, bathe and wash bandages. Walter’s weight went down to 120 pounds while he was in prison.

As the Russians drew closer, Bulgaria was in turmoil. Many wanted to change sides. Some of the guards had deserted their posts. A group of Bulgarians who were Allied sympathizers, mostly educated at the American University in Sofia, slipped guns to Walter and the prisoners. They overpowered the remaining guards and took over the prison.

They commandeered a freight train and held the crew at gunpoint while the 300 prisoners got on board for the trip to Turkey and freedom. (A movie “Von Ryan’s Express” was based on this story.)

Walter turned command over to his deputy, an English officer, and flew with the friendly Bulgarians to Sofia, where he was given papers vital to the war. They included information about the locations of the enemy, all about their supplies, positions and movements, as well as the names of the prisoners and what had been done to them. Walter was told to take the papers to the Allied authorities.

They took Walter to the airport and gave him a plane so he could join his men in Turkey. He flew low because the plane had German markings, and he was afraid he would be shot down if the Allies saw him. He followed the railroad tracks for a long way and his plane was giving out of gas.

He frantically tried to find a button or switch that might turn on an auxiliary gas tank, but everything was written in German. While looking down for a place to land, he noticed a handle under his seat. He turned it, and it was the proper handle to switch to the auxiliary gas tank.

He flew as far as he could and landed in a cornfield near Svilengrad, Bulgaria just short of the Turkish border. He was captured again and locked up by Bulgarians who this time treated him well. They contacted the American consulate in Istanbul, who came the next day. Walter was released and went to Istanbul with the consulate.

When the train carrying the prisoners arrived in Istanbul, Walter and the embassy representative were there to meet them. The men were taken to hospitals and treated, some remaining there. 36 of them were on stretchers.

The Turks prepared fried chicken, fruits and vegetables for the men. Not having eaten in such a long time, they all got sick, but appreciated the efforts.

After receiving wonderful baths and resting, the men continued their train trip through Turkey, then around the Mediterranean Sea to Egypt. After 4 days they were back in Italy.

Gen. Nathan Twining received the intelligence from Walter and ordered bombing of the vital points that really hastened the end of World War II in that area. Gen. Twining recommended Walter for the Legion of Merit, our country’s third highest award. Gen. Ira C. Eaker also awarded Walter the Bronze Star.

Walter broadcast from Rome over the National Broadcasting Company’s news program (Max Hill being the reporter) and told about being a prisoner and now released. Although Mother, Daddy and I always listened to the eleven o’clock news, this night we did not. We did not know anything about Walter except that he was missing, so would have been thrilled to hear him speak.

The next morning, Lillian Mynatt, a distant relative, called and told Mother that she heard this program, and she knew it was Walter because he was described as a Major from Savannah, Ga. and she recognized his voice.

Within a few days we heard that he was freed. The newspapers all over the country and the Stars and Stripes had articles about the story. (See scrapbooks)

After staying in the hospital a month with pneumonia, malnutrition and filth sores, Walter was sent back to Bulgaria with an intelligence team to identify war criminals. Some were sent to Nuremberg, Germany for trial, some were turned over to the Russians and a captured German general hanged himself in jail rather than be tried.

When Walter returned to Bulgaria, the men lived in 2 beautiful homes. Quite a change from the prison. The trip was not without danger. The Americans were fired on many times by snipers who were still Nazis.

After the mission in Bulgaria was completed, Walter came home on leave in January, 1945. Mother and all of us did not open our Christmas gifts until he came home. He went to Macon to get Ann and Rocky, then they came to Savannah.

No need to say how grateful we are not to have lost him, as well as Allan and John who were in the service and have many stories to tell.

———

Tom Brokaw called the generation of my parents “the Greatest Generation.” They were born during the Great Depression, had World War II thrust upon them, and shaped the era of growth and prosperity that followed.

I read an article recently that said four factors created “the greatest generation.”

First, that generation of men and women experienced seismic changes. The world changed radically as they matured. And they coped with and adapted to the Depression, the war, and the good times that followed with dignity and grace.

Second, their experiences instilled in them a strong work ethic.

Third, they learned to be frugal. They found ways to deal with scarcity, to think creatively, to make do.

Fourth, from the men at the front lines to their families back home, they had a strong sense of duty and were willing to make the necessary sacrifices.

It added up to a generation noted for grit and strength of character. All my life, I saw it in my parents and aunts and uncles and their contemporaries.

It’s hard to say whether the generations that followed didn’t measure up, or, never having to face the same level of challenges, simply weren’t called upon to prove themselves.

All I know is, thanks to the Greatest Generation, the rest of us had it easy.

War stories-1

Dad (center front) and the crew of his B-24 at their base in Italy. Taken in early June 1944.

War stories-2

Dad (left) at the Officers Club in Italy after the train ride to freedom.

War stories-3

The Smith brothers, Walter, Allan, and John, back in Savannah in January 1945.

War stories-4

Dad and Betty before the war.

 

Read Full Post »

Sunrise, Florida, 1972

In case you’re too young to remember, writing a “letter” once was a common form of communication.

It was a physical, non-digital thing. Not to get too technical, but it was, like, sheets of paper that you wrote words on. When you were done, you put the sheets in an “envelope,” and the Post Office delivered it to the intended party. Got it?

Recently, I came across an old “letter” that I wrote to my parents and siblings in 1972. It came back into my possession after Mom died.

In late ’72, my wife and sons and I had just moved from Metro Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale, and I was writing to give my folks the latest news. At the time, Britt was seven years old, and Dustin was 18 months.

It’s an interesting look back at our lives in those days and of the boys as kids. Fun and nostalgic. Here it is.

———

1540 N.W. 62nd Terrace
Sunrise, Fla. 33313
Nov. 5, 1972

Dear Smiths, one and all,

I thought I’d write our new address above just to see how it feels. This is the first time I’ve written anyone from our new house. In fact, this is the first time I’ve written anyone since we got to Florida. Now that I think about it, it’s one of the few times I’ve written anyone from anywhere. Oh, well.

Firstly, we all are well, although feeling a little out of place. We’ve been in the house since the middle of October, and that’s hardly long enough to find the bathrooms, much less feel relaxed and at home.

I managed to get out and cut the grass once, but I had to borrow a lawnmower. Now the grass is ankle deep again.

But really, I suppose you want to know about Britt and Dustin more than the grass — although there is a similarity in that all three are growing like weeds, ha ha.

As far as adjusting to the place, Britt has done much better than Dustin. Britt made a lot of friends around the neighborhood right away, so everything’s hunky dory with him.

Dustin, on the other hand, is just now coming around. For the longest time he wouldn’t leave his mother’s side, following her from room to room, wailing like a lost soul. Now he will venture into another part of the house on his own, for instance to get a toy from his room, as long as one of us is sitting down and probably won’t vanish before he gets back.

His latest favorite thing is to go out in the back yard (escorted, of course) to run around. He will look up with a pleading eye and say, “Bemly OW? Zobloo OW?” “Ow” means “out.” The rest of it is anybody’s guess.

He still isn’t talking very much, but he does use certain words to get what he wants. He says “Dow?” in the same pleading way when ready to get down from the dinner table. He says “Ba-ba?” when he’s tired and wants to lie down with his bottle. He calls me “Da.” He calls Deanna “Ma-MA.”

The child is whip-smart and headstrong. As often as not, he wins a confrontation because he’s not afraid of anybody or anything. He sees outlasting you as a challenge.

When we set the table for dinner, he is known to climb up on a chair, climb from there onto the table, and proceed to toss napkins and silverware onto the floor. If we take him down and say, “No, Dustin” in a calm manner, he shrieks and proceeds to scale the chair again. If we take him down and bark, “Dammit, quit!” he shrieks and proceeds to scale the chair again.

Climbing is his thing, as you know. He can climb a glass wall. The other day, I was moving the porta-crib into our bedroom so some friends coming to dinner could put their baby in it. Dustin wanted to get in. I said no, I need to move it. He ignored me, grabbed the side rail, and began hoisting himself up, gripping the bars with his toes. It was like watching a monkey or an acrobat.

Britt’s big deal is that he learned to ride his bike at long last. He got it last Christmas, and finally, he’s out there riding up and down the sidewalk. For the longest time, he avoided it because he didn’t want to fall down and get hurt.

We admitted he would do some falling, but argued that the rewards of being mobile would make it worthwhile. No dice. Eventually, we got some training wheels, and that helped. Except that he leaned to one side, and the rubber wore off lopsided.

When he saw that all the kids in Sunrise ride their bikes to school, he wanted to join them really bad. And he finally did — with the training wheels still attached. Bad decision. He got teased something awful.

That did it. He finally let us teach him to ride. It only took about half an hour and one or two harmless falls, and then he was fine.

Well, I guess I need to finish this up and get it to the mail-lady. I thought she was a mail-man for a long time because she wears one of those pith helmets, and all I ever saw was her head bobbing past the fence. But then Deanna told me she is a she, and I looked out the side window, and sure enough, a mail-lady.

Or, as Allan puts it, a mail-man lady.

I’ll try to write again soon about how we’re progressing. Meantime, drop me a note. I know Mom will write because she gets to feeling guilty like I do.

Love,
Rock

PS: Dustin did fine trick-or-treating, but he didn’t know what in the world was going on. He was dressed as a farmer with a red bandana. Britt was a cowboy in full western regalia, including chaps, hat, and six-gun.

Sunrise 10-18A

Sunrise 10-18B

———

FYI, the above “letter” is contained in an “envelope” with a “postmark” reading “6 NOV 1972 U.S. POSTAL SERVICE FL 333.” Affixed is an eight-cent EISENHOWER USA postage stamp that had to be licked.

 

Read Full Post »

Meet the Fam

My previous post was a report on how I got motivated last year and began tracing the Smith family lineage in a serious way. With the help of Ancestry.com and other online resources, I traced the family way back — to the King of Jutland, a Danish Viking born circa 760 A.D.

His name was Halfdan Haraldsson, and he lived 33 generations ago, in the Early Middle Ages. Back then, Charlemagne was King of the Franks, forcing Christianity on everyone, and the heathen Vikings were busy plundering the region.

When doing the research, I focused on my paternal lineage, and I was able to follow the Smith name back 400 years before I ran out of clues.

That was disappointing, but not fatal. It was an easy matter to switch from paternal to maternal lineage and keep going back. Eventually, I stopped with Halfdan.

To be clear, the line of ancestry I documented is just one thread in the greater tapestry. I followed the most promising clues, going in one direction when others were equally available. In the end, I identified one specific chain of relatives out of a veritable web of them.

With that preamble, here is a summary of what I learned about our forebears over the 1,200 years between Halfdan Haraldsson and the Smiths of today.

———

Denmark, Germany, and France

Halfdan Haraldsson (circa 760-810) was born on the Jutland Peninsula in northern Germany near the Danish border. He lived in Denmark as an adult, fighting various rivals and becoming King of Jutland. He was a Viking and certainly facilitated much of their signature raiding and plundering.

The son of Halfdan and his Norwegian wife Helga was Harald “Klak” Halfdansson (c. 800-854), who succeeded his father as king. Harald married Sigrid Helgesdatter (800-854) also Norwegian.

Fam-1

King Harald “Klak” Halfdansson.

Klak’s son, Godfrid “The Dane” Haraldsson (825-885), was in line to become king, but he was impatient. Godfrid moved south with a contingent of followers and seized land in Germany. Twice, he led raids back into Denmark, trying to overthrow his father. He failed.

Godfrid finally gave up and moved further south, establishing a fiefdom in Guines on the northern coast of France near Calais. Godfrid’s son Sigfrid (905-968) was the 1st Count of Guines.

Beginning with Sigfrid’s son Ardolph (965-996), the family name was gallicized to Le Blount.

Ardolph Le Blount was the 2nd Count of Guines. His son Rudolph (996-1036) was the 3rd Count. Rudolph’s son Robert (1036-1086) was the 4th Count. There was no fifth Count because events led the Le Blounts to leave France and become Englishmen.

To England in 1066

In 1066, William the Conqueror assembled an army from across France to invade England. That undertaking was, as you undoubtedly know, successful. Sir Robert Le Blount (the 4th and last Count of Guines) commanded William’s fleet of warships. He was known as “the Admiral.”

As the spoils of war, the Admiral was awarded a large chunk of the county of Suffolk, northeast of London. He became the 1st Baron of Ixworth, that being his town of residence in Suffolk.

Between 1066 and 1270, six Le Blounts held the title Baron of Ixworth.

Fam-2

The family coat of arms.

During the 1200s, the family name evolved to Le Heyre, Le Eyre, and Eyre. Historians haven’t confirmed the reasons.

English Nobility

For several centuries, the Eyres lived as proper English nobility with holdings in both Suffolk and the county of Derbyshire, north of London.

In 1424, Sir Robert Eyre (1392-1459) of Padley, Derbyshire, England, married Joan de Padley (1399-1463). My previous post describes Sir Robert’s service as an English knight and the burial place of Sir Robert and Lady Joan.

To America

By the mid-1500s, the names Smythe and Smyth had appeared in the lineage. Richard Smyth (1553-1593) of Herefordshire, England, who died in Plymouth, Massachusetts, is the first Smith in our family known to have come to America.

Richard’s son John Smyth (1592-1649) and John’s wife Margaret Blythe Smyth (1596-1645) were among the first 140 settlers of the Maryland colony, arriving in 1634 aboard the Ark and the Dove.

Fam-3

The arrival of Lord Calvert, leader of the Maryland colony, on the Ark and the Dove.

Maryland and Georgia

In the Maryland colony, the spelling of the family name changed to Smith. Maryland was home to the next several generations of Smiths, most of whom lived in Somerset County on the Eastern Shore. I haven’t made inquiries, but many of our relatives undoubtedly still live there.

Around 1800, three Smith brothers from Maryland moved south to Georgia. They were Archibald Smith (1736-1799) and two of his three younger brothers. (Benjamin, George, and Elijah were the brothers, but I don’t know which two accompanied Archibald or where they settled.)

Archibald lived in Hancock County, midway between Atlanta and Savannah. His son moved further south to a rural area near Savannah.

In 1839, Archibald’s grandson George (1817-1867) married Jemima Ruth Sumner (1815-1896), and they settled in Bartow, Georgia, near Augusta. The second of their eight children was John Wesley Smith (1845-1918), my great-grandfather.

In 1875, John Wesley, a Confederate veteran, married Martha Roseanna Sherrod (1854-1939) in a double wedding ceremony with her sister Elizabeth.

Fam-4

The youngest son of Martha and John Wesley was Walter Anthony Smith (1881-1950), my grandfather.

Savannah

In 1892, John Wesley Smith and his family moved to Savannah, where he worked as a house painter and roofer. In 1918, at age 73, he died on the job in a fall.

In 1916, John Wesley’s son Walter married Stella Etta Ham (1894-1969) of nearby Pooler, Georgia. The oldest of their four children was my dad, Walter Anthony Smith, Jr. (1917-2002).

Walter Senior was a prominent Savannah businessman. At age 19, he took a one-year business course and became a clerk at the Railway Express Agency. Soon thereafter, he went into the cotton business.

Walter became a “cotton factor” at the Port of Savannah — an agent for inland cotton farmers. His job was to grade, sell, and arrange for the shipment of the cotton to world markets. He was in the cotton factoring business for 40 years.

My dad, Walter Junior, was a bomber pilot during World War II, and he flew jet fighters in Korea. After his Air Force career, Dad went into banking, which had been his major in college. I’ve written about him many times on this blog.

Fam-5

Dad, a dashing cadet at Army Air Corps Flight School. He included this photo with his Christmas cards in 1940.

Today

Names come and go. And soon, I regret to say, the Smith name will fade away in my family.

That’s because all of the children in the latest generation of Smiths are female. When they marry or pass on, our line of Smiths will come to an end. The literal end of an era.

I realize, of course, that a name is a superficial matter. As the foregoing family history illustrates, what counts is the bloodline and the people. I get that.

Still, the looming demise of the Smith name makes me sad.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »