Saturday, I was not too inclined to celebrate.
However, our trip from the Southwest corner initially was scheduled because of a Saturday celebration. So Maureen and I paused in the various requirements for helping family and loved ones handle the passing of our matriarch, Estelle Jewell, to attend a birthday party.
It was not just any birthday party. It was about 80 people celebrating a year of birthdays. Gail Marks Byrne reached the milestone first even though she looks more like a 50 youngster, and some honorary member, an old cuss, was the second to hit the mark. Some of the younger ones actually won’t get to the official date until the end of the year. We all celebrated our 70th birthday together Saturday.
I saw old friends, most of whom I recognized at the celebration at Eddie and Brenda Hankins’ barn. The discussions were engaging, entertaining, and common ground was rediscovered. This is especially gratifying for adopted classmates. LeRoy and Teppe Dowdy on a whirlwind trip through the South stopped on their way back to Birmingham, Ala. as the other Castle Heights outlier twosome.
Maureen met folks who mean alotto me. She learned new things about her husband, that old cuss who was second to reach 70 this year. We discovered she and Pat
I discovered Ronald Nokes is in the barge business and works with a tugboat company. Ronald’s work is on the river. My tugboat work also includes barges, although much smaller in scope, on the ocean waterfront and offshore.
I discovered Andy Berry, who now lives in Columbia, hand wrote a letter to me a couple of years ago because he doesn’t own a computer. Andy was always a lot smarter than me and I often wish I had foregone computering.
I was not surprised the women of that class, Sarah Jaeger, Beverly Phillips, Marty Bone, Ann Boyd, and all of the others remain beautiful and gracious and the men are still boys, having a good time.
In short, the celebration was wonderful. Yet I simultaneously struggled with the enormity of my mother’s passing. In addition to being an incredible woman, she was my researcher for many of these columns. My father, Jimmy Jewell, provided many of the stories here. Not having them has produced a void that cannot be filled. And I’m not talking about helping me with these columns.
In the sunshine of a Tennessee May Saturday, I looked across the green pasture outside the barn and realized it was time to relieve the watch.
On Navy ships, watch standing underway was shared by almost the entire ship’s company. There were the mid-watch, morning watch, forenoon watch, afternoon watch, first dog watch, second dog watch, and evening watch. Relieving the watch consisted in information transfer to the oncoming watch, a solemn ceremony grounded in Navy tradition and truly a relief for the off-going watch standers.
There are precious few of my parents’ generation left. They are treasures who stood up and conquered the first two global wars and the worst depression this country has ever known. They witnessed the transition from true horse power to the automobile; kerosene lanterns and wood-burning stoves to electricity and gas appliances; true ice boxes to refrigerators; shared telephones and party lines to mobile phones, texting, and internet. They witnessed more change than any generation before and likely any future generation. Those remaining are delightful in continuing to stand the watch.
As Gail Byrne noted last year, we and our classmates are now survivors as well. I turned 65 without a pause, just another tick on the calendar. On the other hand, 70, is different, a critical change exacerbated from losing my best friends, my parents within nine months. I am no longer a mover or shaker in the work force: I am an advisor, the experienced counsel.
I am officially old, a happy observer. The next generation, my two daughters and son-in-law amongst them, have relieved me from my watch.
And I have relieved my parents from their watch.
Saturday after the big 70th birthday party, my family rendezvoused at Elmcroft to complete cleaning out my mother’s apartment. Kate Hansen, my niece and I looked at the bird feeder. Bill and Kathy (my second cousin) Denny installed the twin feeders for my mother to watch the birds. Perched atop the feeders were two goldfinches looking into the room.
I am pretty sure my parents had sent them to check out how well we were relieving the watch.
Jim Jewell, a retired Navy commander lives in San Diego but was raised in Lebanon. His book, A Pocket of Resistance: Selected Poems, is now available through Author House, Amazon and Barnes and Noble online. Jim’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org.