The holiday season has begun.
Halloween, All Saints Day, Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas, Twelfth Night and Mardi Gras will all pass in the blink of an eye and the bleak midwinter of Lent will be upon us before we know it.
So, pause, breathe and take time to remember and share the stories of your life. Listen to your family, your friends and any strangers you’re lucky enough to encounter.
Pay attention to what’s happening around you for that’s the meat of tomorrow’s stories. And most important, reach out to those people in your life you’ve lost touch with, before it’s too late.
Because time once passed is lost forever. That is, unless there’s a story to tell.
Remember: You Matter. Your Stories Matter. Tell Them Well!
The Storytellers Channel
Yesterday, I discovered Gerald Lester Witt, one of my cousins had died; 23 months ago.
He had just turned 68 a few months before. He was a couple of years ahead of me in high school. Other than that, our lives rarely overlapped outside church and the occasional family gathering. He played Chief Sitting Bull in Annie Get Your Gun his junior year at Thomas Jefferson High School, when I played Annie’s little brother, Jake. It was my freshman year and my first role where the character had a name beyond such memorable titles as The Christmas Mouse and Juror Number 3.
Jerry embodied many of our family’s physical traits. He was short and resembling blocks of stone piled one on top of another just like most of my uncles and cousins on my Daddy’s momma’s side of the family. He was loud, quick witted, and funny; unless you were the subject of his wit. Which I frequently was.
One of the few times I remember running into Jerry outside of church was when I was in the 6th grade at Gill’s Country Day School and Jerry was in the 8th Westhampton School. The same school where Warren Beatty and Shirley MacLaine’s daddy had been principal. I was playing running back and Jerry must have been playing linebacker. All I remember was I had broken free and was headed for the goal line when suddenly the only thing between me and glory was a short, pile of stone blocks. Now, I wasn’t even five foot in those days and while Jerry was short, he was taller and heavier than me. I was fast and nimble and all of that proved to be of no consequence. I don’t remember Jerry hitting me. I never seem to remember physical pain, but not scoring that touchdown still stings to this day, 50+ years later.
Jerry was the hero that day. Which was rare. Most often, he found his attention as a clown. His big brother, Foster, was the fair-haired golden child. Foster was presented as perfect to the world. A burden that finally became to hard to carry. Jerry was always seen as screwing up. Irony of ironies, it turned out Jerry had MS. He was diagnosed in college. He went on to graduate, go to work for the City of Virginia Beach for 35 years, get married and have a daughter.
Occasionally, I would hear snippets of what was going on in his life, but other than a family gathering shortly before my father’s death our paths never crossed again.
I’m writing about Jerry today to celebrate a hero. An unlikely hero at that. I would never have imagined the boy I knew growing up would have become the man he did.
I’ve titled this piece “A Loss” not only to acknowledge his passing, but to mourn never having gotten to know him beyond those childhood interactions.
I find myself wanting to learn more about the folks who have brushed up against me over the years. The ones I’ve paid attention to and the ones whose passing was barely acknowledged, if at all. Richmond City’s Thomas Jefferson High School Class of 1970 is in the process of planning for our 50th Reunion. The thing I enjoyed the most at our 20th, 30th and 40th reunions was listening to my classmates’ stories. Not so much reminiscing about our “glory days” but learning about their journeys since.
Learning that I was unaware of Jerry’s passing heightens my already intense desire to hear their stories, now.
I Want to Hear from You
We’re moving into the holiday season where we celebrate the good things in our lives. I’d love to hear your stories of things you’re thankful for in your lives.
Linda Goodman has offered to share a story, closer to Christmas.
Til next time,