Tuddy died on me. Though he was a year younger, he lost his last tough battle. I was asked to speak about him during our childhood in Madison, NC. We were seldom apart.
In the process of examining this period (1944-52) at ages 4-12, something personal dawned on me.
At age 74 memory becomes an issue. However, one of my memories is quite vivid today. My Father was Baptist minister and, while a mild man, he was serious.
The scene is US220 (main street thru Madison) beyond the Presbyterian church. It is nighttime and we are door to door “evangelizing”. I am about eight years old, and I DO NOT like doing this!
It’s tough at that age to tell a father like mine “I DON’T WANT TO DO THAT AGAIN”.
As a matter of fact, I DIDN’T.
Looking back, while preparing my Tuddy-talk, I think I concluded I’d fulfill MY quota by saving Tuddy. Maybe even several of the Websters.
As I mentioned, we were inseparable. Homes too. Normal for me was the austere parsonage we lived in. Small, plain, with the tacit understanding we had the “…way, the truth, and the light.” MANIFEST DESTINY: TUDDY FIRST. 216 Hunter Street was different. Dark, rich colored furniture, lots space. BUT — there were beer bottles in the house. SF(the father) and Irene (mother) both smoked Lucky Strike CIGARETTES. While they all seemed en route to hell’s fire, I did realize Irene was gorgeous and made me tingle. Looked like Ava Gardner, blowing sexy smoke rings through deep red lipstick..LIPSTICK. And I perceived, or thought I perceived, an unspoken agreement with her that Tuddy NEEDED some saving.
Accident prone,never missed or won a fist fight, disheveled in any attire, somehow lovable Tuddy. We fought everyday. He, left-handed, had the boxing glove of that orientation. (Wouldn’t you’d know he’d be left-handed?). I had the right glove. WHOP,WHOP, no ducking. After every fight or accident I’d take him to Hunter Street and Irene. She would look at me with mixed suspicion and understanding gratitude, as he cried tears, often accompanied with other fluids, i.e. blood, snot, or pee.
I OFTEN talked to him in commands (having accepted my role in his salvation): “Tuddy, blow your damn nose!” Or, “…you can’t wear that nasty shirt.” My sister,Gerry,said “no stripes with checks”,”no browns with blacks”, etc. Rules he violated throughout adulthood and without concern.
There was a compounding factor. BILLY FULTON, the third of the three muskateers, or “Tommy, Tuddy, Billy. “Fulton” was pathological liar and had a “pornographical memory”. Devil sent, I was convinced, not what Tuddy needed. The daily highlight Billy created with two challenges: (1)”I BET YOU CAN’T…” and (2) “I DARE YOU TO…” Manipulation directed at Tuddy.
This would result in my admontion, “Tuddy, you idiot, don’t try that!” That would cause us to fight, and then a trip to Irene, Billy laughing at us.
Somehow I instinctively knew I couldn’t save Fulton. And I was right.
There was another easier cause. Tuddy told us he had a brother. “What is his name? Deems. “What is his real name,” I insisted. “Deems” Tuddy said. “Deems Bourne Webster. And my REAL name is STERLING!? ME: Bullshit, your name is Tuddy. Always will be” Tuddy”: I’m telling you my name is Sterling Fountain Webster, the third!”
“FOUNTAIN? THE THIRD? Who the hell is naming people up there? We can’t have names like than in our group. The next thing you know they’ll want to name somebody Xavier,
or Reginald, or some other ridiculous crap!”
My Father accepted a job in another town and Tuddy became Sterling.
Vee Bundy spoke of the adolescent years..Business partner, Rocco Lassiter, spoke of adult shenanigans and stole the show with very plausible “Sterling tale”:
Rocco remembered a “flush” time when they rewarded the group with a trip to the NCAA FINAL FOUR BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT, to be held in New Orleans. Rocco: “Sterling was in charge of housing arrangements. About a week before the tournament I called Sterling asked where he had booked us? Sterling said sheepishly ‘I haven’t quite got that nailed down yet. Call me back in two days!’ Two days later I was warned “…I might as well tell, you’ll find out soon. I got all of us a great place to stay. Lots of suites at a five star hotel. Great amenities. All first class’—Sterling concluded and paused. “I asked Sterling, what could be wrong with that”? His reply,”…Rocco, the rooms are in Las Vegas!”
Basketball, gambling, and flying,eh, Tuddy?
As the floor was opened for comments from his close friends and I enjoyed them all. At same time, with each story, I found myself thinking: Tuddy- don’t leave you keys in the car. Or, you speak about as much German as Mickey Mouse and you have no idea where we are! The gasoline doesn’t go there, you dumbass!
Irene–if my Dad hadn’t have moved I could have stopped SOME of that.
My messianic impulses were abated to the point that perhaps DEEMS got it right: “Parham, I believe the Websters CONVERTED YOU!”