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 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!”