September 27, 2007


As I slave away at the day job, I suddenly remembered something from my childhood. Well, suddenly is not a very good description. The memory sort of snuck into my mind like a foggy reminder of days past.

You see, when I was 2, my mom was admitted to the hospital with complications from pregnancy. Since my dad was blue collar and was working steadily at the time, he was unable to take off work to look after me. Each day, on his way to work, he would leave me with family friends.

Now, these folks were not ordinary folks. They lived in a house that sort of looked like the pre-oil Clampett homestead. The grandparents lived in a two room apartment above the garage/shop. They had 5 large Great Danes who resided in the family room, and when I say resided, I mean it! One sat in a lazyboy all day. One sat across the couch all day. One laid beside the coffee table and one in front of the tv. The last would follow you around getting under foot whenever possible. Being a tiny-two year old, these dogs seemed to me to be horses and they allowed me to treat them as such. In addition to the 5 dogs, there were assorted cats, birds and children. I was weary of joining the clan.

Each day at drop off, I would wail at the thought of having to go into that house. So, the only thing they knew to do was put my favorite record on the turntable and dance. Once my mind was on my favorite song, my daddy would slip quietly away. My favorite song? I know you are dying to know . . . Hot Legs by Rod Stewart. Don't ask!

There were several children in this clan. The oldest was P.L. She was a good 7 years older than me, I don't quite recall exactly, but I think it was 7. I remember she would dance to Hot Legs with me, swinging me around the room and rolling up her pant leg in a Rockette's-like routine. I would be in stitches. She would play with me, dress me up and otherwise dote on me - she had brothers and sisters but I guess they didn't allow her to play with them like a doll and I did.

I grew very fond of P.L. over the years and she of me. When I was 5, P.L. was diagnosed with a massive brain tumor. Several operations and other treatments left her wheelchair bound, bald and a shadow of her former vibrant self - but I still loved her and she me. Whenever she would have a particularly bad day, she would shrug it off with a beaming smile and suggest a dance - or rather a roll in her chair - around the room to whatever was a favorite song of that time. I enjoyed jumping into the chair and careening around the living room and down the chair ramp to various musical selections.

P.L. was a big country music fan and through Make a Wish or some other terminal illness connection, she met the Oak Ridge Boys, Alabama, Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton and even the President. I remember the pictures around the kitchen of those meetings.

When P.L. was 14 - maybe even 16, the brain tumor grew with renewed vigor and P.L. was dead before the year was out - specifically, early October. It was the first funeral that I can remember attending, though I know I attended at least one prior. She was my best friend, or so my young mind felt, and she was gone.

Her passing was celebrated with a party, the way P.L. liked to do all things. We danced around the living room. New dogs had replaced the danes and new music had replaced Hot Legs. The adults all got drunk and the kids all snuck drinks. P.L. would have laughed heartily at us from her chair. Over the next several years, P.L.'s dad would be further stricken with a genetic degenerative bone condition, one brother would give over to drugs, the other would begin to develop the degenerative bone condition, her mom would eventually die of breast cancer and her sisters would each have children before the age of 18. P.L. would have smiled a beaming smile at each of those hardships and soldier on despite them.

I do sometimes think of P.L., I spent such a large part of my childhood with her family and with others who knew her, yet, I can barely remember her features - save her beautiful, wide smile and wispy blonde hairs that never, ever grew back.

Still today, I can close my eyes and see every dirt-filled crack of the clan's house, I can smell the rancid stale whisky from pop-pops (P.L.'s grandad) glass, I can see the smoke rings from his pipe, I can hear the sliding sound that Dot's (P.L.'s grandma) walker made across the room, I can smell pot from the boys outside, I can see the always-green swimming pool, the pony tied out back, the dirt path to the woods. I can hear Hot Legs and the scratchy record we played. I can hear P.L. laugh at my dad's bad jokes, see her smile, but I cannot remember her features.

Every year, nearing October, I begin to think of P.L. even more, what she would have been like had she survived her brain tumor. I think of how different I would be if I'd never entered that house for all its filth but all its love as well. I wonder why I still think of P.L. and that picture of her with Alabama on the wall.

And every year, nearing October, I hum Elvira to myself, because it happened to be one of her favorites and to this day remains one of mine. Not because of the silly lyrics but because of the way it made P.L. giggle, smile and twirl her chair.

So the fog creeps away, and I'll go another year without thinking too much about P.L. till October comes round again. and I'll leave you with Elvira - not the busty vampiress, but the song:

That girl can sure enough make my little light shine
I get a funny feelin' up and down my spine
'Cause I know that my Elvira's mine

So I'm singin'
Elvira, Elvira
My heart's on fire Elvira
Giddy Up Oom Poppa Omm Poppa Mow Mow
Giddy Up Oom Poppa Omm Poppa Mow Mow
Heigh-ho Silver, away

Tonight I'm gonna meet her at the Hungry House Cafe
And I'm gonna give her all the love I can
She's gonna jump and holler 'cause I saved up my last two dollars
We're gonna search and find that preacher man

Now I'm a singin'
Elvira, Elvira
My heart's on fire Elvira
Giddy Up Oom Poppa Omm Poppa Mow Mow
Giddy Up Oom Poppa Omm Poppa Mow Mow
Heigh-ho Silver, away

Posted by Oddybobo at September 27, 2007 07:47 AM | TrackBack

What a great post.

And ironically enough I have an "Elvira" story too. But mine isn't nearly as nice as yours......

Posted by: Tammi at September 27, 2007 09:07 AM

Only 261 posts to go... glad I got to read thisas one of my first. How heartwarming and special... Thank you for sharing.

Posted by: vw bug at September 27, 2007 10:43 AM

Such a bittersweet's amazing how some people can rise above their pain and suffering and inspire others.

Posted by: Mrs. Who at September 27, 2007 08:57 PM

Helluva post, Oddy.

Posted by: zonker at September 28, 2007 06:15 AM

Awwwwwww... Lovely post, Oddy.

I feel blessed to be able to call you my friend.

Posted by: Richmond at September 28, 2007 10:01 AM

Great post, Oddy.

Posted by: That 1 Guy at September 29, 2007 09:53 AM

I love this.

Posted by: Bou at September 29, 2007 04:45 PM

How are we supposed to leave drunken comments to this post? A post like this could spoil Contagion's Blogcrawl! Quick! Write something silly.

Posted by: Peter at September 29, 2007 07:53 PM

I'm with peter... where is your blogcrawl post???

Posted by: vw bug at September 29, 2007 08:05 PM

wow. Now I'm going to be bawling in my martini. And that's a waste of good vodka.

Posted by: wRitErsbLock at September 29, 2007 08:41 PM

I'll come back and read the post after the blog crawl. Happy Saturday!

Posted by: sticks at September 29, 2007 09:19 PM

*Blogcrawls quietly through.*

Posted by: Mrs. Who at September 29, 2007 09:46 PM

I remember therhingm! my aunt and uncle wheere really into thos e guys!

Posted by: Contagion at September 30, 2007 01:22 AM

So beautifully written Oddy. I'm glad I waited to crawl through when I can appreciate it. Much love.

Posted by: Tink at September 30, 2007 08:42 AM

I like that song too. For me, brings back happy, carefree memories of college. I'm glad it makes you think happily of P.L.

Also, glad your Dad is OK.

I found you because of Chain Link Blogging Week( chain-link-blogging-week.html)

Now I'm gonna continue my tour by clicking on a blog from your blogroll.

You just can't get away from Blog Crawling-type thingies, can you?

Posted by: Lori at October 1, 2007 02:25 PM