Something Remarkable I Found Today

I still have my childhood desk. It’s an object I’ve hauled all over God’s green Earth with me over all these years. I grabbed it from my boyhood home my sophomore year at the University of South Carolina. Go Cocks! (Despite there still being a UNC Tarheel sticker on the desk from 1982 when Michael Jordan was King.) And it’s been my traveling companion ever since, along with a TON of other stuff that quickly accumulates in our lives.

I’ve always loved this little desk. I can’t remember when we got it. My mother was a huge antique fanatic, so our house was filled with antiques like the desk. She took me along when she went antique furniture shopping so I learned a lot about furniture from that and my grandfather having a chain of furniture stores and telling me about them when I was little. It’s an Arts & Crafts/Mission style piece with a drawer that’s the size of the entire top of the desk, with a lid that lifts up after pulling out the giant drawer. I realize you don’t need to work for Sotheby’s to know that, but I was just sayin’ And MAN that lid is heavy when it comes down on your fingers or head. It’d knock you out.

I’ve taken good care of it, as I do with everything I have that I value or have been appointed curator and caretaker of the family’s valuable junk. Why I got that job is only anyone’s guess but mine is because I’m an only child and no one else wants the responsibility. And keeping up with all that while moving as much as I have is truly a job.

Example: My ex-wife brought her slimy guy friends to my house, supposedly to help with moving some things and stole my parent’s wedding silver (after even telling me they might steal things. They also stole my stereo, a clock, garden benches, and a bunch of other valuable, pawnable stuff, as well as home furnishings and cookware. Seriously. One of them told me he just moved and owned nothing. Yet another red flag I missed involving her mother.) So that irreplaceable, and quite valuable, heirloom of my daughter’s is now gone forever, after taking care of it for so long. All it took was my ex to get involved. (When I approached her about the theft, she not only feigned innocence, she attacked me. How insane is that?) AND she herself had stolen all the cutouts of MY mother, as pictured below. The lengths I had to go through to get those back is also insane. I’m forced to use that word a lot with her. I’m objective; I care nothing about her. But we’re tethered through our daughter so I’m forced to deal with this and have removed myself emotionally, physically and in any other way I can think of from her. I couldn’t even look at her for 2 years she disgusted me so much. And still does if you can’t tell. But it’s for Cecelia’s concern I worry about her mom. Not me. I am as apathetic and inert about her as universally possible. She tells people I’m out to kill her, however. Her imagination is ruining my and Cecelia’s life is why I write about it so much. The consequences of this stunt of hers are turning out to be more terrible and tragic by the second. And she couldn’t be any happier if she won the lottery.

Moving on to an equally crummy topic, I estimate I’ve moved 20 times. That’s no exaggeration. I don’t use the word “hate” often, but I HATE moving. Moving 20 times makes me seem like I must be 350 years old. It’s starting to make me feel like it. And I’m planning to move two more times: firstly, back to the South. Then to the grave.

During all this time I let my stepdaughter use the desk for years when she was little, growing up. For nearly a decade. She was not gentle and kind with it. But I fixed it back up. I know some advanced woodworking from having a shop growing up and doing it as a hobby throughout my life. (I’d love to be a carpenter. It was good enough for Jesus, good enough for me.) And my daughter’s always plundering through it, but she’s careful about it and herself because she’s conscientious and smart. And I know I’ve cleaned it out a million times and restocked it and it’s been in use for decades now, and moved by a lot of strangers for me, all over the world.

So, you can imagine my shock today when I was digging through the big drawer seeing if my daughter had possibly misplaced anything in the very back. She likes to hide dolls, toys, doll clothes, and just weird things sometimes here and there when we’re playing and then we forget about it. (Not like food or anything perishable of course.) You can’t see in the far back of the drawer, it’s so deep and there are pegs that keep the drawer from sliding out past a certain point and onto your foot. The maker of that desk knew what they were doing.

But I felt some paper, which is pretty typical for a desk drawer. But when I pulled it out it was this:

Yours truly, age 14, James F. Byrnes Academy, Quinby, S.C., USA (“Woke” culture canceled my school because of the name. Serious. Google it for yourself.) I have to go part my hair down the middle, splash on a bottle of Polo cologne, and polish up my braces real quick…BRB

What you’re looking at is a note I jotted down upon learning my mother had passed away, at home, after she had a 3-year fight with leukemia. In and out of remission and up to Johns Hopkins and back constantly for chemotherapy treatment. She had a Hickman catheter installed (which goes straight to her heart) for the chemo, and should anything go wrong thereabouts, which totally freaked me out when I saw and learned of it. I was 11 or so at that time. It’s hard to remember, which is why this note blew my mind. Also a school photo from that year that was still with it. Talk about forward-thinking!

So what does it mean? And what is a “Boyce?”

Before I answer those, let me mention something about my mother, Cecelia, who my daughter is named after. And her mom has taken to calling and introducing her as “Celia” which totally disrespects the very person our daughter is named after, but the goal is is solely just meant to hurt me for a lifetime. I want our daughter to know these things, just as a ton of writing on this site is meant for her as she gets older so she can get to know how I operate, should I not still be around. Tomorrow is never assured!

Getting off track…my mother was very healthy her whole life. Exercised, was always fit, and ate like an athlete. Put wheat germ on everything including my food. Barf. She was athletic, in fact, and very strong. Here are some cutouts of her as a young girl with one showing an arm-stand position in 4th grade I can’t even imagine the muscles it takes to pull off. Not even a fully grown adult who works out all the time could do that I assure you.

mother Cecelia Musgrove
My mother, Cecelia Musgrove, showing off her stuff. The little picture is her holding me up to a water fountain in Chicago when I must have been 1-2, and the other photo is her with our English bulldog they had when I was born, Sugar. You can see her grandaughter in the background with a mustache. And I guess may well mention Cecelia’s Elsa and my Jerry Garcia Funkos back there and the possum and a photo of my sweet old dog Annie with a plaster paw print of hers you can’t see. And some drumsticks for a steel drum I bought Cecelia that she’s barely ever been able to even play with. Her mother won’t allow it. And a piece of driftwood from the beach my grandfather had a house at in Alligator Point, Fla. I’m telling you, I keep everything.

So it was and still is confusing how someone who never drank or smoked and took care of herself contracted cancer? I wish I knew, and I wonder about it all the time. My theory is that she was exposed to some chemicals that, back in the ’70s, weren’t regulated nearly as today. And my dad had tons of chemicals out in the garage. All sorts of serious stuff to strip paint, eat rust, and who knows what else. But I remember it clearly, and the smell of it all particularly. Since those go together I guess that shouldn’t be surprising. But “cancer” isn’t something that just one day happens. How could it? There’s no explanation for that, which is what I’d love to find answers for. There needs to be a catalyst for the cells to become cancerous.

…Off-topic again…maybe. This note, which is what the whole post is about, is about my mother. Something I don’t talk or write much about ever.

My mother wanted two things when she learned she most likely wasn’t going to win her long fight. Can you imagine being told that after all she went through? One was she wanted to die at home. The other was to die when I wasn’t home. She got both wishes. Although I’m telling you they weren’t so much “wishes” as her fortitude and power she still had even at that late stage. I believe it tells us something about how we can control our bodies, to at least some degree, depending on how strong you were going in. And as I just showed, she was extremely strong for a woman barely over 5 feet tall and 100 pounds. Light, and all muscle. You have to consider the odds I wasn’t at home that Summer, when we knew my mother was at home where we could be together, and knowing she could be gone any moment, were minuscule. I fully believe she was able to hold off until that one day, during the very few hours I was gone, to die. Amazing. I can’t imagine the thoughts that went through that poor woman’s head up until she passed away. Like I love my only child more than life itself, my mother loved me. I think it’s where I get the amount of love I have to give my daughter, in fact. Which I obviously cannot overexplain enough times and in enough elaboration.

So that’s what the note’s about. I had a good friend named Boyce Brice who I grew up with and we were close to their family. We all went to church together, his dad was our State Farm agent, and they took care of me some when I was left alone while my mother was in Maryland getting treatment. I stayed with another wonderful and generous family -the Hinsons as well. And a lot of time I was left alone, which I still marvel at, at the age I was. You RARELY hear of such things, and when you do it’s a situation of neglect vs. what I prefer to think of as a lot of trust. I even got to drive to the store to go grocery shopping. Remember: we didn’t have cell phones back then. We didn’t even have fax machines. And in fact, I don’t think we had cable TV at the house yet. And to not sound too much like a dinosaur, but I remember little houses out in the country where we lived with no indoor plumbing. We still had dirt roads to get places. Still do, down in the Lowcountry. I lived in SC, remember. Where the entire world is now moving apparently after making fun of the state and its residents my whole lifetime. The people laughing now are my friends going ot the bank after selling their properties to California refugees for 10x what they bought it for.

Boyce had gone up to Spartanburg, SC where Wofford College is for an enrichment program. He was always very smart. I always had smart friends, which I think was because I went to small private schools where you had kids that cared about their own education and were academically (and athletically) competitive because their parents cared as well. Or maybe they were dumb, and I was just dumber 🙂

So, that’s what the note’s about. Boyce, his mother (who I rode all the way to Wofford with alone which was about 3 hours away if I remember. That’s a long time to be 14 and sitting in a car with a friend’s mother. Or anyone, for that matter.) and I pulled up in our driveway and my dad came out of the house to the car and went to speak to Boyce’s mother, then came to me and told me mama had died while we were gone. I remember the next week or so very well, even though I felt out of body. I went emotionally numb. I don’t remember crying even. But I went up to my room and shut the door and went and sat at that desk, took ut a pencil and paper, and wrote this down. And my handwriting hasn’t improved much since those days I’m ashamed to say.

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