As with most memories, in that moment that you truly do remember something, it is in most cases brought on by pain. So most memories are of painful things, be it physical or mental pain. Yes there are those moments in life where memories are not brought on by pain. Those, my friend, are — for some of us — far and few in between.
Now we go into my first memory, and as you already know, it is of pain. The first memory comes to me at the age of only 2 years and 6 months. I know the month well as it is a month in the South that lets you know that winter is about over. That’s the month of March, with its warm days but still-cool nights.
A time in the life of a small boy who is wrapped up in new things that he sees. Everything was new in touch and taste, it was time for the memories to start — and start they did.
I was the great-grandbaby, a time when I could do no wrong and got my way. A time that I would never return to for the rest of my life. Not meaning the age, but the time when I would have my way just because of who I was in the family. I long to go back to that day in question and such a day it was for the beginning of a boy’s memories. The day was warn, the sun was out, the sky was so blue. That is one of the few times that my memories were brought on by pleasure and not pain.
My cousin was all of 9 years old, still quite young, but to a 2-year-old with no understanding of age, he was to be looked upon as an adult. His name was Poo John — where the name came from, I know not. I only know that he, and my great grandfather, were to be the only men in my life who ever would show me true kindness.
He lived just down the dusty dirt road that resembled most rural roads at that time in Tennessee.
All I remember at first was that he let me on the back fender of his bike so he could take me for a ride down the old dirt road. Up and down the road we went — it could not have been any better for this 2-year-old at the time. Then it happened. Just as President Roosevelt said at the outbreak of World War II, “a day that will live in infamy.” That day still does.
My big toe on my right foot had been resting on the rear axle. It slipped. As it slipped, I lost all balance, as I fell to my right side the big toe went into the spokes of the rear wheel. The outer side of the toe was peeled just like an onion. We crashed and burned — or that was the feeling of a 2-year-old at the time. I jumped right up, looked at the big toe and the race was on. I don’t know how long I ran or to where I ran, but run I did.
I ran, I cried, I screamed and I bled. No one could get close to me as I did not want the big toe to be touched.
Had it not been for the great-grandpa, the big toe would have rotted off. He was the only one who could touch it. His kindness was the only thing that was going to get me to give in, and finally, I did.
But the lemon drops did help a bit. The toe was coated with dried blood and the dust from the old dirt road. If the truth is to be known, it was the dirt that made the big toe stop bleeding.
Little boys and dirt just go together.
But, you see, it was the pain of the memory that turned that day into a fond memory of a grown man all these years later. It was also the memory of kindness and love for an old man, my great-grandfather.
Robert Lee is a concerned citizen and a former U.S. Marine who owns and operates Rockingham Guns and Ammo.