Even though he is incredibly sweet, Junior would probably bop me if he knew I was posting a picture of his curly hair, but he’s not close at the moment and you must hear about this part of him.
On Saturday morning Jerry drove to the hotel to get Junior, while I started breakfast. It’s beautiful now in Lake Havasu, so we elected to eat outside. We splurged with an All-American luxury breakfast of bacon, eggs, biscuits and gravy, butter, cane syrup from Lambert’s in Missouri and sugar-free apricot preserves. (Not sure how those preserves fit in there unless it was to push down any stray guilt that might have threatened a kick-round.)
The picnic table in our tiny yard sits near this grapefruit tree that is in full blossom. Its perfume is so strong, that when yet six or eight feet from it, the scent of sweet citrus pervades the air. It was a beautiful morning and we lingered long over the meal…
We talked for hours, of our childhood, our adult lives, our children and grandchildren, our joys and our sorrows. A few months ago, Junior lost his beloved wife of 42 years, but of that I will tell later. We pressed him, so he spoke of his job in Chile, and his life there, of his condo that has three bedrooms, and of the fact that we should come visit, and where we would go and what we would do. We compared memories, we laughed…and touched each other’s arm…and silently cried…at least one of us did.
“Mother doted on you, Junior. Both Mom and Dad adored you.” A shy, knowing smile flickered over his face.
The hair. There were three of us children in that stage of the Farrell Forrest family–I was the eldest, my sister Donna was two years younger than I, then came Junior, the baby. Both Donna and I had straight, stringy hair that our mother either braided or occasionally coaxed into curls with rag rollers. Junior’s head was a fairy-land of golden curls, and he was so beautiful and Mother was so proud of him that she did not cut his hair. Finally–I think he was around two years old–my dad set his foot down. “I’m tired of people calling this youngster a girl. We’re getting his hair cut.” I remember the flat box that contained his golden cut-off curls, and we used to take it out and admire that magnificent hair.
“Do you remember the time when you were in the back seat with Donna and I and you wanted to get up front?”
“No, but I’ve heard about it several times.”
I reminded him of that time when the Prince was told to ride in the back seat with commoners, Shirley and Donna. He kept whinning to ride in the front, and finally, Mother said, “Oh, come on up here.”
From the front seat, Junior turned to smirk at his sisters. “Ha, ha. Told you I’d get my way.”
Big mistake. “Young man, you get in that back seat right now,” my dad ordered. And sadly, the not quite perfect angel snuggled down with his mortal sisters.
On Saturday evening in Lake Havasu, we took the boat across the lake and had dinner on the California side. We ate slowly, ordered dessert and coffee and talked. We spoke of errors in parenting and changes we would make if we were to do it all over, of generational advances and of societal challenges. We spoke of my sister, Donna, who was incredibly beautiful and distinctly talented, but who throughout her years railed against life and what she perceived as its unfairness, and who finally died of brain cancer…alone.
We talked of losing our mother when Junior was seven and Donna was ten, and I was twelve, and would that have made a difference in anything.
“You know, Shirley,” Junior said at one point. “I don’t want to be unhappy. I don’t want to think of the sad and negative things around me. I choose to remember the good things in my life.”
“I could live in a garden, Shirley but I don’t have time much anymore. Rose had flowers, but I like growing vegetables.
“We sold our house in the city, and bought this place in the country. No close neighbors.”
We talked of Daddy’s being impetuous, and often coming home from work and saying to Mother. “Get things packed. We’re going to Portageville.” My mother’s folks lived there and we children would dance around in glee, while my patient, godly mother would gather our things, and soon we would be off to Southeast Missouri. We spoke of going often to the zoo in Springfield, and Junior remembers once climbing out on top of the bear cage, and Mother screaming and crying.
“I was just looking down at the bear,” Junior told me, then asked if I remembered that. Strange thing is I do not. Perhaps I wasn’t there, or it was so traumatic, I have blocked it from my memory.
On Sunday morning, Junior attended church with us. Afterwards, on our way to dinner, he said, “Jerry, you still have it. Haven’t lost a thing.”
To me, “Shirley, that’s the first time I’ve been in a Pentecostal church in 40 years.
On Monday morning, Jerry and I drove Junior to the airport in Las Vegas. There can be no lingering at the curb in airports anymore, so quickly Junior and I embraced and spoke our final words. Jerry had helped set the luggage down from the car. Junior turned, expertly pulled out the handles, clipped one suitcase to the other, and walked away.