My three-year-old sees a face on every car that crosses our path. Secretly, you see it too. The headlights are eyes, the grill a smile. Sometimes a vehicle can be temperamental, breaking down at the most inopportune times. Sometimes we name them and cry when we sell them.
Which raises a valid question: are the vehicles that tote us hither and yon ALIVE?
On a day in June, I got my answer.
I drive a 16 ton school bus with roughly 100 kids (on two runs, Middle and Elementary – yes, they try to kill me, especially the small buggers). On a brilliant, Cape Cod morning I woke the beast at 6:45 A.M. and started my first run of the day: the middle-schoolers (the texting-swearing-gossiping crowd). They can be loud, but they are good kids from the hills of Sagamore Beach. While I enjoy them, it turns out the bus may have its own tie-rod to pick with them.
On that beautiful morning, the bus decided to eat the kids.
Perhaps it was the gum stuck to the floor. Or perhaps it had its tormented fill of seats being ripped. Whatever the reason, it wanted to crush a few kids in its hydraulic doors.
The run started out very normal, but by stop #3, the door was acting suspiciously slow, as if biding its time and calculating the opportune moment. Kids getting on eyed the Loser Cruiser with a curious eye.
They it finally happened – while stepping onto the bus, one student got pinned by the doors, followed by a gasp of collective shock, then a scramble to release the door manually.
The bus had finally flipped and was channeling Stephen King’s twisted mind. Thus began the kid-munching drive from hell.
Through a joint effort between myself (driver) and several, tasty victims, we managed to out-wit Bus 14 using a coordinated attack involving the automatic switch and manual release.
Supposedly, the whole incident was blamed on some faulty thingamajig, but let’s face it: If Christine was the pinnacle of vehicular perfection, then Bus 14 had at least a dozen loose screws.
In April, my grandfather, an Iwo Jima Marine and truly gentle soul, died. I was asked by the family to write his obituary and when I was done I realized, without doubt, that his was the definition of a well-lived life. It was a cathartic writing experience for me and led me to realize that I too wanted such a complete and full existence, never wasting a moment. We only get one chance on the stage, folks. This life is not a dress-rehearsal. Make the most of it.
For your consideration: a well lived life:
NORTH EASTHAM – Joseph Blackburn, 86, artist, Iwo Jima Marine and long-time resident of North Eastham, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, April 18, in the company of his daughter Cynthia Robotham of Hyannis and beloved wife of 64 years, Pearl Blackburn.
Joseph was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts on November 17, 1925 and moved to Berlin, Connecticut with his family as a young child.
He joined the United States Marine Corp when he was 17 and by 18 he had landed with the Marine’s 5th division on Iwo Jima as a machine gunner in the Engineering Battalion. He was one of only 600 men to survive what was considered the bloodiest, month long battle in Marine Corps history. During his time with the Marines, Joseph wrote hundreds of letters home to his family, all illustrated elaborately with cartoons covering the envelopes. Some of his artwork from the war, along with letters he wrote while under fire on Iwo Jima, is displayed in the World War II museum in New Orleans, LA.
Never one to blame the Japanese people for the decisions of their commanders, Joseph found himself guarding a Japanese Colonel after the surrender of Japan. Seeing that the man had himself lost people he cared for, Joseph drew his portrait and gave it to the Colonel as a gift of peace. The next day, the Colonel brought an elaborate, 5-foot scroll from his home known as Japanese Heaven and gave it to Joseph as a gift. The scroll still hangs in granddaughter Kate’s home as a symbol of forgiveness, tolerance and peace.
When he returned home to Berlin after the war, Joseph fell “madly” (yes, his own words) with 18 year old Pearl Thompson of Hartford. They were married a year later and had two girls, Cynthia and Kathleen. Joseph attended Randall School of Art in Connecticut on the G.I. bill and eventually worked as Art Director for General Electric in Plainville, Connecticut. Joseph also served as a selectman, Civil Defense Director, in many capacities at the Berlin Congregational Church as well as volunteering for the Boy Scouts of America. During the fifties he built a crashed plane and rocket replicas to full size for Boy Scout exercises.
He and Pearl moved to North Eastham in 1977 where he worked on the Mosquito Pest Control until his retirement in 1990. A gifted oil artist, Josephs’ work can be found in numerous churches, museums and private homes across the Cape and nation-wide. He was known to paint for the sheer joy of doing so and often painted elaborate seaside scenes on the green head fly trap boxes that could be found on salt marshes across the Cape during the eighties (many of which were frequently stolen for the artwork).
Joseph and Pearl were avid gardeners and kept the grounds of their home plentiful with flowers, fruit trees and vegetable beds, all of which were often toured at the requests of passerby’s. If one could not find the Blackburn’s at home, one need only to drive the mile to Nauset Beach and find them enjoying the vistas from the dunes. Joseph will be greatly missed by all who loved him.
In addition to his wife Pearl, Joseph is survived by two daughters; Cynthia Robotham and her husband Jerry of Hyannis, MA and Kathleen Bachta and her husband Robert of Jefferson City, Missouri; grandchildren; Jacob Bachta of Jefferson City, MO, Joseph Robotham of Hyannis, MA, and Kate Conway and her husband Russell, of Bourne, MA; great grandchildren, Finnian and Kalli Conway of Bourne, MA. He is also survived by beloved sister-in-law, Mildred Snow of Berlin, CT whose late husband, Charles, was Joseph’s best friend.
“A man’s character may be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation.” Mark Twain
Mark Twain, brilliant dude that he was, nailed it. Some words just take on a life of their own. But what happens when they are stored away, sudden dinosaurs in our functional lexicon? Do we lose a piece of who we are at heart?
Take the word “WICKED.” It
is was the word of choice on the Cape and Boston.
If you are from here, don’t deny the truth: WICKED
When we were wicked young, it was used non-stop because swearing would cause an instant “laser-beam look of death” by your wickedly uncool parents.
When we were teens, it was used to define the truly great, such as Four Seas‘ obscenely good and wickedly awesome pink mint chocolate chip ice cream. We also were able to combine the the two fairly well (when our parent’s weren’t in earshot at least): “F&%king tourists are lined up deeper than the Bud line at Fenway, but that f$%ing Maple Walnut is sooooo wicked good!”
But then adulthood mowed us down like a driver that has never seen a rotary, let alone Cape Cod’s emotionally scaring traffic. In adulthood, wicked somehow was no longer in style (gasp!).
Wicked made us old.
Wicked was suddenly uncool.
Some green chick and her babe of a sister hit Broadway and stole our word all together!
The real nail in poor WICKED’s coffin was it’s six, simple letters that took too long to text (and for we, elderly, uncool, Broadway-addicted weirdos, learning text-jargon took long enough). LMFAO??? I mean seriously . . . it took me months to figure that one out, which, of course, made me WICKEDLY ANCIENT.
Suddenly, a keystone of our lingo was gone . . . turned into a dusty, dweeby adjective that was heralded as a joke along with our now wickedly uncool ’80s.
What happens now that we are no longer so wickedly awesome? Do we deny WICKED ever happened? Throw it under the proverbial Urban Dictionary bus?
NO I SAY!
Rise up with me, those lovers of WICKED! Do not deny your hearts (or your red, canvas Converse)!
Bring back our beloved WICKED and tell those little brats that lol at our ’80s butts and Underoos that we have BTDT and that we did it all with the help of one, killer word.
The old is new again, baby: WCKD is our WICKED!