On a recent Sunday afternoon I found myself at loose ends. It was a hot, sticky day, too hot to go out and about, not that I had anywhere special to go anyway. For some reason, I felt a deep need to recapture the feeling of the Sunday afternoons of my childhood, and that could only mean three things: John Wayne, my Dad, and a bowl of popcorn
My Dad was a huge John Wayne fan. He watched every John Wayne movie ever made, from the old black and whites to the wide-screen, cinematic extravaganzas, or what passed for them back in the 60’s. Every Sunday after our big, mid-day dinner, my Dad would check the TV guide for the two local channels that played old movies. Inevitably, someone was running an old John Wayne although there were some days when he would have to settle for Randolph Scott, Robert Mitchum, or some other actor that passed for an action figure in those days. It didn’t matter if it was a Western-which were his favorites-or a war movie. As long as The Duke was in it, it was the pick of the day. How he never got tired of watching the same movies over and over was beyond my mother and I, especially my mother. The fact that she spent every weekday afternoon watching her soap operas with the same characters acting out the same plots day after day did not strike her as anywhere near the same thing. To me, however, it gave me a chance to spend a precious few hours with my Dad.
My Dad was the youngest son in a family of three boys and a girl who was the baby. His own father, my grandfather, died when he was 11. Back then, there was no such thing as Workers’ Compensation or Social Security, nor was there a mandate that kids had to go to school. So when my grandfather died in a work-related accident by falling off a roof he was repairing, my father and his older brothers all quit school and went to work to help support the family. He picked up work with auto mechanics around the area, apprenticed himself to them and learned a trade. By the time he was an adult, he had enough experience to go into partnership with another man and open his own gas station and repair shop. Years later his partner would die unexpectedly and my Dad would work 6 days a week to keep the business open, and food on our table. Sunday was his only day off and much of that time was spent doing things around the house that needed doing. When there was nothing for him to repair or redo, thankfully, he took command of the big armchair in the living room and the television. It was time for The Duke to save the world one more time.
As for me, I was the second of three daughters who would go on to produce yet more daughters. The sons would not come until our children grew and had their own families. Since there were no sons to share his Sunday afternoons with The Duke, I became that son. Together we would sit through the taming of the American West and World War II. Somehow, when it was over, you always felt better than when you sat down. You could always count on The Duke.
So last Sunday I popped a bowl of popcorn, scrolled through YouTube until I found an oldie but a goody, and, with my Dad smiling down from the photo on the wall next to the TV, we watched The Duke rescue his grandson from criminals, fighting the bad guys and saving the day (Big Jake), then fight for the underdog by taking on the town bully (Rio Lobo). Yep, you could still count on The Duke to make you feel better about the world. On that Sunday, I was 10 years old again, just me and Dad, and The Duke. It felt good. It felt like home.
We all need to take a few moments from time to time and reconnect with those things that fed our souls when we were children. Perhaps it was one-on-one time with a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle. Perhaps it was a special place that you called your own, somewhere safe that made you believe, even for just a few hours, that all was right with the world. As adults we often get so caught up in what scares us about the world that we forget what that feels like. Just like we recharge our physical batteries with exercise, good food and time spent out-of-doors, we need to recharge our internal batteries as well by finding our “safe place” again and connecting with what that feels like. We all need a Duke to remind us that everything will be okay when the credits roll at the end.
This week’s writing assignment on the Home Page is going to take us on a trip down Memory Lane to our “safe place.” As always, have lots of fun with this and remember to always, always, keep writing.
Peace and blessings.