Sunday, July 11, 2004

Mack...

I marveled at your strength,
The way you smashed bricks to dust.
Grinning over warm gin,
working side by side next to Dad.
Vain stories told by the dozen,
in a crude way,
of the blessed younger days,
Vietnam, street women and cheap wine.
Every day you always had a smile,
You always did something for somebody, for nothing.
You were good, but you were bad.
Nobody ever tried you,
Nobody ever would.
Damn...it's so ironic....
Even Cancer couldn't do,
what a sharp curve on a highway could.

Dkelsmith


My dad's best friend died in a car accident down in Alabama this past spring. His name was Mack Bowie. I don't know what made me think of him this evening, but nonetheless I have been thinking about him for the last few hours. Mack was younger than my father. I am not sure how old, but perhaps in his late 50's or early 60's. Mack was a strong man, I remember when my Dad was remodeling our house, Mack cut a hole in a brick wall with a masonry saw and a sledge hammer in under 20 minutes. Scarcely six feet tall, and weighing perhaps 170 pounds, I saw him heft anvils with what seemed to be relative ease. He loved fast cars, fast women, and Seagrams Gin. His nickname was "Kite", because he was "in the wind" so much. He was a great man, though he was a lot of things that my father wasn't. I kind of liked the wild streak in him, and I learned a lot of things from him. Things that Dad wouldn't have taught me...things that Dad would have felt were inappropriate. Three guesses who let me look at a Playboy magazine at the age of 9? But for all of his vices, he was an integral part in my upbringing. Certainly not on the level of my parents, but he was important nonetheless. Mack was old enough to be my Dad, close enough to be my uncle, and trustworthy enough to be a blood relative, but I always called him by his first name, and I don't know why. Ordinarily my father would have tanned my hide for calling an adult by their first name as a child. But, it was okay with Mack. He probably would have objected to being called, "Mr. Bowie." He used to accompany us fishing, and hunting, and working around the house. He came to help out, just for the hell of it. My father was doing some work on the house of Mack's long-deceased older brother. A larger, more powerful, and meaner-looking man spirited some of Dad's tools away in the middle of the night. Mack discovered who did it, and beat the man senseless in only a few minutes. I never did understand what made my Dad and this man friends, Dad is professional, degreed, staid, and modest. Mack was the antithesis...on all counts, but he was still perfect to my young and adoring eyes. I think Dad always felt the same way, too. The two of them were inseperable. Mack had only moved to Alabamam about 6 months before he died, but I remember Dad had tried to talk him out of it. Dad didn't want his best friend being so far away. They were from two different walks of life, yet they were cut from the same cloth. Dad, tolerated his idiosyncracies, and Mack tolerated Dad's straight-and-narrow approach to life. I remember one summer when we were putting a new roof on the house, that Mack felt it appropriate to let my father know his shortcomings. Mack felt that we were taking such a long time with the roof because Dad was "nailing shingles like a woman." (pronounced WOE-man) Dad simply shook his head and pursed his lips. Later as I was using a chalk string to set our last angles, I noticed that Dad's fly was unzipped. I said, "Hey Dad...X,Y,Z". Dad looked down and zipped his pants. Mack snorted and said, "Shit, you can say your ABC's and count to 100 if you like, it ain't gonna matter, cause Fred ain't got shit in them britches." Dad stopped working, his hammer resting on the last nail he drove home. He didn't say a word, he simply stared at the shingles beneath his knees.....I found myself at a scintillating quandary. The nagging resentment that someone talked about my father in such a way, yet the thrill that somebody would talk to my father in such a way. I waited to see his response, suddenly Dad put his head way back and literally started bellowing with laughter, Mack and I followed suit. Mack was something else, I will never forget him. But, after all of the years of knowing him, and months after his death I discovered something about him. I just now realized that he always treated us as if we were his family, and I always loved him for it.


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