Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Who Am I?

 “The beginning is the most important part of the work.”
― Plato, The Republic

It's easiest to begin at the beginning, isn't it?  When people tell stories and they start in the middle you get all confused and you have to ask "Now, what a minute, who's that guy Dave?  Where does he fit in?"  (Now, see?  You didn't even know there was a guy Dave in this story!  Truth be told, there isn't.  Confusing, right?)  I never like to begin a story in the middle, so I'll start from the start.

I named this blog My Rockin' Chair because of one of the most significant men in my life...JT Settlemyre.  JT was my grandpa and he was a red-haired, fired-up, white-likker-drinkin' son of a gun.

I adored him.

JT Settlemyre, United States Army Cook and Troublemaker

When he was "celebratin'" (which is what he called his three-, four-, five-day drunks), he liked to sing his "drinkin' songs."  How I LOVED those songs...even more so after learning how HIGHLY inappropriate they were for an impressionable young girl.  One of his favorites, after marinating in the juices of his Canadian Mist/Sundrop concoctions was:

"Takes a rockin' chair to rock, takes a rubber ball to roll, takes the woman I love to satisfy my soul, I said I'se JEALOUS...jealous-hearted me.  I said I'se JEALOUS...jealous as I could be."

He would sing snippets of these songs and no more.  While I have the whole catalog of JT Drinkin' Songs in my head, I have no idea if any of the lyrics were correct and it's doubtful that they were truly in tune.  I always encouraged him to sing them...and I would sit right there and sing them with him.

So if it does, indeed, take a rockin' chair to rock...well, then, this is my rockin' chair

JT was unafraid to be himself and, if he gave you advice, it would be one of two things, always in his strong, southern drawl:
1.  If you get into trouble with the law, you tell 'em you know JT.
2. Don't take no shit offa nobody.  (I almost softened that...but I know he wouldn't want me to.  No apologies.)

He offered pearls of wisdom, steeped in his sense of self-worth:
1.  Glad you got to see me.
2. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

JT was one of the few people in my life who gave me the idea that maybe I was someone special...at least to him.  He would carry on about how smart I was ("You could get on that Wheel of For-tune.  You know ever' damn one of those things!") and, when I went to college...the first in my family to do so...he was proud.

He was larger than life and he gave me my love of a character.  Once, I shared a long plane-ride from San Francisco to Hawaii with a brash, drunken stranger who boasted that, when he saw his teenage children upon landing he would gleefully run up to them and yell "I'm gonna KICK YOUR ASS." He brayed laughter and slugged down vodka after vodka.  When I covered myself to nurse my five-month-old son, he loudly announced that he was NOT going to LOOK AT THAT but he realized that babies have to be fed.  He then shielded his face with one large hand while he noisily sucked on the ice cubes left in the bottom of his vodka cup.

I think many people would have been put off by this obviously drunken, slightly off-kilter stranger, but I was fascinated.  When the flight attendant mouthed an "Are you OK?" over my seatmate's head, I gave her a nod and a smile.  She shrugged with a "What can you do?" look and moved on, probably grateful that I wasn't demanding to be moved on the full flight.  I was JT's granddaughter, though, and I was not only accustomed to loud voices and drunken laughter but I reveled in them.

These things are the stuff of life.  Characters.  People who love you.  People you love.

JT.  You've been gone for years but I hear your voice in my head.  I can smell the tobacco-and-whiskey flavor of you.  I can hear you say "Heeeeeyyyyy, Kelllllyyy!"  Both of my kids have the initials JT.  I love you, Grandpa...this one's for you.


  1. Kelly, thank you for posting this. I miss him dearly! I love you Grandpa!!! I miss you! - Fletus

  2. Thanks for making Daddy come to life again. Love, Mom