Keeping a journal during all those dark days gave me an outlet, a foundation, something to grab and weather the everyday changes that shaped everything. It was a time of life folding back in on itself, the view from the hospital window of the old neighborhood, the history there, where even Jennifer lived as a child, and the history of the hospital itself, where I was born, where family members had died. Life repeating familiar patterns and doing the best to make memory make some sense of it all—and both memory and events co-existing in the now, both alive and in a dance as one.
My mother once tells my brother Wayne that I caught a lot more hell from my father than either he or Willie did. Oldest brother Willie is out of the house and in the Air Force in
Korea at age 17, marrying Marie Reeve from Omaha while he is stationed in . Nebraska marries Peggy Cole in the late 1950’s, during LSU’s championship football season. There’s no memory of the three Cothern brothers sharing the same room, much less the same bed. Age six or seven when Willie joins up, still there should be one old faded image of how the Cothern boys share space on Bernardo Street. Wayne I remember, pulling the covers off of me while sleeping on his back, clenching sheet and blanket between his arms, wadded material in his hands, under his chin, dreaming of beaches and hula girls, the blanket tenting above him. And those thousands of school mornings we wake to the same whistled reveille. High note, low note, notes in a circle, high note, low note. Again and again until we rouse. Finally, one morning, Wayne sitting up quickly, saying, For Chrissake, Mama, can’t you just wake us up without all that whistling? Wayne
Back then my father doesn’t drink everyday but when he does fears and frustrations and the ashes of anxiety and perhaps lost dreams fill those days with invisible clouds, tension everywhere, falling around us, and like the milk supply and the Strontium-90 scare in the 1950’s, always there, nourishing and insidiously eating away at dem bones, hoo-yeah.