During this period of isolation, or careful interaction, I’ve been concentrating on my attributes, those that I’ve been able to measure since childhood, and what I learned from my weaknesses. It is my weaknesses that are giving me such entertainment, for since childhood, I’ve not been able to upgrade some foibles.
At about age 9, every boy in the neighborhood knew I was the best slingshot maker in Valdosta. They came to me with deals, payable in marbles, if I would make them a “James Edward Slingshot.”
But everyone in the neighborhood also knew that I was the worst slingshot shooter in Georgia, and the three scars on my foot and hand are proof of where I shot myself.
As quarterback of the high school football team, wide receivers knew to go to the spot I designated, from scrimmage to the endzone 55 yards away, look over your shoulder, open your hands and score.
But when boys gathered for a pickup basketball game, let’s say 10 of us. The teams consisted of 4 players each team, a ninth player rotated between teams. There are at least three skills needed to play basketball: dribble, pass, shoot. In each category I had a rating of 2, on a scale of 15. So, they let me be the score keeper.
On the baseball team I played centerfield, primarily because of a very strong arm and good outfielding skills. At the crack of the bat on long fly balls I could judge where I needed to be, and at what angle to make the catch and throw to cut down any runner who dared challenge my arm.
But infielders require different skills to move faster and throw accurately more times. I was a very poor infielder.
At bat, I had the team highest batting average, due to my ability to do what Ted Williams said he did: watch the pitcher’s arm on the downswing, and on his release, keep your eye on the ball all the way to your bat.
But that skill never worked for me against a woman softball pitcher. They don’t make the same movements. By the time they release that underhand fastball, the only thing I pick up is the sound of the ball in the catcher’s mitt.
One charge, and admission, I made to a new hire secretary or administrative assistant: “I create the documents; you keep track of them. I misplace stuff.”
Another example, another confession:
The Errant Custodian
On March 28, 2016 I drove Toian to the hospital. Before we unclasped our hands and I returned home for the evening, she removed her wedding rings and said, “You take good care of these.”
When I arrived home, I wanted to select a place in our home that would only be accessible to me, thus assuring that these tokens of our lives together would not be immediately shared. I wrapped the rings in a nice plastic bag and selected a special private place. I did a very good job. I even forgot where they were. In unvarnished rhetoric, I lost them. Periodically, I would pretend that my inability to find the rings was just a temporary mental lapse, and I would search pockets, cracks, and crannies that I deemed suitable and secure.
On March 28, 2020 I opened the medicine cabinet and was overwhelmed by the amount of stuff, that was accumulated there. The expiration dates on the first three medications forecasted that the rest were also likely unusable. As I began emptying the third shelf, my hand slid gently in the direction of a plastic bag. Even before I could see the contents, my fingers signaled that it was something special.
Four years to the day of my entrustment with the symbols of our time – during the period described in the book WE, my search was over. For the next half hour, I sat quietly caressing the rings and remembering some of the days when I held Toian’s hand that always seemed warm and gentle.
Good memories are treasures that we horde for ourselves.
Sometimes they are the only currency that can buy peace of mind.
They give us safe passage to where we were once content.
Good memories are not exhausted by time.
James Edward Alexander
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