Camden, I recently took a trip to St. Louis to visit friends. I was only there one day. It was a great time, and I do wish I could have stayed longer. Maybe next time?
Getting there means that I drove through some Homeland. Now I did not have the time this trip to stop and see everyone that I would really like to see. So, if you are reading this and you are one of those people I hope that you forgive me for not letting you know I was in the area. My plan is to return in October for Homecoming. Not sure if I will be there the week before or the week after Homecoming. I need to check with a friend to find out which week works best for her busy life and travel plans. I will let you know.
Camden I did take the time to stop and see my mom. She did not know that I was coming. Yes, she was surprised, and at first not very happy. Maybe a little pissed. But hey, who could stay pissed at the charming guy that I am for very long? Do not answer that question!
I did call her when I took the Kingdom City/Fulton exit off of I-70 headed toward Mexico. Missouri, not the country. I wanted to make sure she was going to be home and not a doctor’s visit or something else important. So technically I did give her advanced notice. What, maybe twenty minutes or so?
At lunchtime, I called Pizza Hut. They delivered the pizza, breadsticks, sauce, and pop. Or was it soda? Or soda-pop?
Hell, it was Pepsi. Diet of course. Mom is watching her figure.
Of course I had pineapple on the pizza. Pineapple does belong on pizza. Just saying.
My plan worked Camden.
I did not want mom to go to a lot of trouble. I did not want her to fix a big meal with three pies and ice cream. We spent the day talking and going through photo albums.
She forgave me for the lack of notice.
I forgave her for no ice cream in the frig. Hey if you are going to surprise her you get what you get. I should have asked Pizza Hut to run by Dairy Queen for me. Next time.
The picture you see here is of me and Uncle Keith on a pony, found in one of those photo albums. I now have that photo. I slid it up my sleeve. The same sleeve where I keep the aces when playing cards. Do not tell your mom!! I did tell your great-grandmother that I was taking the photo.
Along with a few others I found.
Still do not tell your mom about the cards. We will keep it between you and me.
Now getting back to the picture. We are sitting on a pony at my grandpa’s farm. He would be your great-great-grandfather.
When we were young grandpa always had a Shetland pony or two as well as other ponies at the farm for us to ride.
In addition to the row crops, he planted he had cattle and hogs on the farm. He also from time to time would buy young unbroken ponies and break them. He would then sell them.
I will have to explain to you in another essay what I mean by breaking them, and how it was done.
Basically, he would train the horse so that it could be ridden. There were always several ponies to choose from to ride when visiting. Most often the ponies did not stay long after they were trained for riding.
Grandpa had two ponies that were permanent residents. High Socks and Lady Bird were the oldest and permanent residents on the farm. High Socks was auburn color with a black mane and he had white hair running way up each leg that looked like high socks.
Lady Bird was black and white in color.
I do not remember how she got her name.
It would have been the period of President Johnson and First Lady: Lady Bird Johnson. Yes, I would imagine that is where it came from. He also had a Shetland pony that was kept for several years for Keith and me to ride.
A horse and a pony are different. Ponies are not baby horses. Both are measured in hands and a full-grown pony will be shorter than a horse. He raised ponies. They looked pretty big to me.
I am not going to get into it any deeper than that. I am not an expert and there are exceptions to the is it a horse or a pony rule.
Nothing is ever easy.
Take another look at the picture. We are so cute on that little pony.
I could not remember the name of the pony. Nor could I remember the name of the pony that kicked me.
The only person who could provide me with that information was my uncle. My dad’s brother. Mom had given me his phone number a few years ago. He told her to tell me to call him if I ever wanted to talk.
Like me, my father, and my grandfather, my uncle also had prostate cancer.
I decided to call my uncle and talk. I wanted the names of the ponies.
I dug through my sock drawer and found his number. I keep many things in my sock drawer. I will have to talk more about my sock drawer another time.
When I called we talked for a long, long time. I had not seen my uncle or talked to him in over thirty-two years. The last time I saw him Camden was right after your mom was born. So it has been a while.
We talked about memories from the farm. We talked about grandma and grandpa. He filled me in on his life and his two sons. We talked about my dad.
I described the picture to him and he told me that “Honey” was the name of the pony that Keith and I were on. He also told me that “Brown Beauty” was the name of the pony that kicked me.
Camden, I will give you a little background here and tell you that when I was young I had a fear of walking or standing behind any pony or horse. I still do. I do not think anyone should spend much time behind them. You should pass through that area quickly. Just my opinion.
I came to that opinion while watching grandpa breaking/taming ponies. I saw them stand on their hind legs in defiance. I saw them kick. I wanted no part of being behind them.
My uncle decided one day that he was going to help me overcome my fear of standing and walking behind the ponies. Surprisingly I remember more of the incident than I thought I would. I do not remember anything after I was kicked.
This is what I remember.
After refusing over and over again he finally convinced me to stand directly behind Brown Beauty. I was still not totally sure that this was a place I should be standing so I made sure that I was several feet back.
Once I was there my uncle went into the next stage of his plan. He hit that pony on her ass as hard as he could with his bare hand. What happened next was not part of his plan.
The pony kicked. Brown Beauty kicked with both legs. Imagine that dear uncle!
Now this pony was not very tall. I was seven years old so neither was I. She tattooed my forehead with both of her hooves. I went flying backward and hit the ground.
These are the words that my uncle used when he described what he saw.
“When you hit the ground I thought you were dead.”
I did not ask how he was going to explain that to my parents. I should have. He continued talking.
“The pony’s legs were extended straight out so you were far enough back that you did not get the full force. If you had been standing a quarter of an inch closer you would have been killed.”
My family was a little upset with my uncle. Just a little.
I was taken to see a doctor in the little bitty town of Laddonia. Now I would imagine that Laddonia might no longer have a doctor’s office, but 54 years ago they did.
I have no memory of this so I will kind of wing it. The doctor said, “Huh. I think he is going to live.”
That is when I told everyone present that I was one bad mother … I heard someone sing, “Shut your mouth.” The legend of Kevin/Shaft Brown then started growing in my scrambled mind. Actually, I think that was pre-Shaft, but we will overlook that minor detail. I am not working for the New York Times. Not yet.
(I know most people will not get the Shaft reference, but I laughed)
I imagine the doctor mentioned that chocolate ice cream cures everything so I should eat plenty. I believe that he was the original Team Kev doc.
Wait a minute, Brutus just kicked me in a rib so I guess I should say that it cures almost everything. Maybe I have not yet eaten enough? That is my theory. I am a walking chocolate ice cream clinical trial.
So since the title of this essay is “Forgiveness,” I guess we might want to talk a little about that here.
Mom forgave me for not giving her much-advanced notice before showing up at her house. But as Forgiveness goes that is a very minor situation. It was more of an apology I gave her for not calling at least five minutes sooner. An apology and a person feeling they need to be forgiven or a person who feels they need to forgive are two different things in my scrambled mind. Brown Beauty messed with my brain.
Regarding the pony taking me out in round one, is there a reason to forgive? Maybe, I really do not know. So let me ask a few questions.
Did my uncle intend for the pony to kick me? I do not think that he did. Brown Beauty was supposed to be a calm and gentle pony, but I guess no one had smacked her ass to actually find out. Now we know.
Did something bad happen as a result of his actions? Yes, yes it was bad. I am still trying to get some mileage out of what happened. You should hear me tell the story when I explain that I was attacked by a man-eating ferocious wild Shetland pony stallion and lived to talk about it. Shoot low boys, they are riding Shetlands. But I digress. I do that often. Time to get back on (the horse) track. I am so fucking funny. No comments, please.
Did things return to normal?
I think they did. I had no additional medical issues.
Did I get an apology or I am sorry from my uncle? I do not remember. I was seven with a scrambled brain. Well, no harm no foul. Life continued and I did not hate or dislike my Uncle. So I guess I forgave him.
I still to this day do not like walking behind a pony or horse. If you ask me to stand behind one I might do it, but I will be in the next zip code.
I will not go over everything we talked about or else this essay is going to be way too long.
Let’s move onto our discussion of his cancer.
From our talk, this is what I understand.
Once his dad and then his brother were diagnosed with prostate cancer he knew that he was at a very high risk of one day being diagnosed with the disease. He knew that it would be very important for the disease to be found early. He also knew that his two sons needed to be told of their risks and be checked frequently.
It was discovered from his regular test that his PSA had risen to a level where they needed to perform a biopsy. The biopsy confirmed that he had prostate cancer with a Gleason score of 8. That is considered to be aggressive cancer.
My cancer was Gleason 8. Gleason 8 often kills if not caught early.
He opted for surgery.
His test following surgery showed no evidence of disease. He continued to get regular checks and is still checked, just not as often. He has been told that he is cured.
His only medical treatment was the one surgery. He did not need additional surgeries. He did not need radiation. He did not have poisons injected into his body. He did not need to take pills day and night. He did not feel sick. He has not dealt with pain.
His story should have been my story, but it is not. Mine unfortunately is the latter. Not knowing what he knew has unfortunately led to much pain and suffering.
Physically and mentally.
He asked about my cancer.
I walked him through everything.
Everything that has happened and what my future looked like.
Camden when I decided to call my uncle I knew that besides talking about the ponies and other old memories that at some point I would ask him Why no one had ever contacted Keith or me to inform us of our higher cancer risk. I did ask.
The conversation was very informative. It was not very pleasant. It hurt.
After talking with family I have decided not to post what I learned and the details of our conversation at this time.
One day it will be posted.
It has to be posted. I think it explains the reason I am in my current situation.
I am thinking that it will be posted after I am gone. So don’t be in a big hurry. I hope you have to wait a long, long, long, time.
Leaving that part out makes this essay feel incomplete. Messes with the title. I do not feel like writing this whole thing over using a different slant. This is like the sixth time I have changed this essay.
So since this essay is titled “Forgiveness” I will just add that none was given.
So who can I Forgive to leave this essay on a more positive note? First of all, I have Forgiven myself. Who else can I Forgive? Hold on I am thinking. Yes, yes I know.
Brown Beauty, I Forgive you for kicking me in the head. Now I can move on.