By Joe Rector
Nothing is much better for us older folks than to occasionally discover new ways to enjoy things that were once so much a part of our younger lives. That happened just the other weekend, and it’s thanks to my nephew Brandon that things worked out as they did.
Years ago, our family always enjoyed having older brother Dallas and his wife come home for a visit. We also looked forward to traveling to Nashville to spend a weekend at their house. Dal had been the father figure in our lives from the day that Daddy died in 1965. That must have been a heavy burden for a boy of 18 to carry so early and for so long.
In Knoxville, all of us settled in around the large round table in the kitchen. We drank coffee, beer, and cokes by the gallons, and snacks and meals filled the table. When Mother was still here, she always put on a giant pot of pinto beans and made a cast iron skillet of cornbread. Dal and Brenda usually arrived in Knoxville late on Friday; meals were served way past supper time, but no one minded.
Sometimes, Jim, Dal, and I would climb in the car and travel to Clinton Highway. We’d drop in at the Krystal and by a couple of dozen hamburgers and several orders of fries. At home, we spread everything on the table and dove in. Nothing was ever left.
In Nashville, we’d order food in, cook hamburgers, or go out for a meal. Usually, Dal had a new place that he wanted us to visit so that we could listen the to the musicians who performed. For such a quiet, shy person, he made friends with so many local performers, and he supported them with his presence as often as possible.
The center pieces of all our gatherings were large tables and music. Many times, we sat together until late in the night on a screened porch. A variety of conversations on all sorts of topics took place. Also included were jokes, many of them slightly off-color or offensive in the view of others. That made no difference to us; we just wanted to spend time together and enjoy each other’s company.
Behind it all were the steady rhythms of music playing. Dal loved all genres and had stacks of vinyl records and cassette tapes. He introduced us to the latest country artists and popular folks like Jimmy Buffett or Dan Fogelberg. Even after the rest of us dragged our weary bodies to bed, big brother would continue to listen to that music.
Brandon contacted Jim, my son Dallas, and me about coming to his house. He stated that the evening would include drinking beer, talking, listening to music. We jumped at the chance to do just that. When we arrived, Brandon ushered us to his covered deck outside. He’d bought plenty of food as well, and we sat down to eat with music playing loud enough for the neighborhood to also enjoy. We listened, joked, laughed, and talked the evening away.
The get together at Brandon’s house was the first time Jim and I and our sons had been together at some place other than a ball field. It was a memorable time. I discovered that my son Dallas and Brandon have many things in common. I learned that my nephew is a funny guy who can keep a group laughing for hours. I also saw that Brandon is as much a music lover as my older brother was. He literally has thousands of songs, although his are housed in a cellphone library.
I can never express to the three just how special the evening was. Brandon said he thought about Uncle Dal and how much he enjoyed that kind of time with family. I’m pretty sure that my brother’s spirit was right there among us and approved of renewing a tradition that was so important to us. It’s nice to include the next generation.