Doris Pollock stopped in the office the other day to renew her subscription to the Times-Republican. Her mother was the appropriately named Joy Alley, who played piano at the church in Sewal from the time my father attended until I started going there in 1991. It was originally the Sewal Evangelical United Brethren Church. It had transformed into a Methodist denomination by my sophomore year in high school.
Doris remembered the days when my father was missing for 12 months while on vacation in Vietnam. His dog tags read E.U.B. That was the last resort for soldiers. It also had his blood type, O positive. It was not a good sign the Army needed to know that, either. The Sewal parishioners donated supplies, including Kool-Aid, and sent them overseas to my father. Some other people in America shipped Agent Orange to Indochina. The farmers and shopkeepers of Sewal sent prayers. The millionaires of St. Louis with family resorts in Aspen sent curses. I am not sure how things evened out.
When my father returned from Vietnam, Doris said he was a different person. When his sister tried to hug him, he told her, “Don’t touch me.”
Another story Doris offered involved my brother Grant playing basketball in junior high. My father was always convinced athletes that lived in town got more playing time than those from the country. After one road game, when the team got back to the high school in Corydon, my father climbed the steps onto the bus before anyone could get away. My father said his piece to the coach on behalf of Grant and Doris’ son, Scott Pollock. My brother was always embarrassed when my father tried to stick up for him for whatever reason, and I asked Scott if that was the case that night.
“I do remember your dad coming on the bus,” Scott told me. “But we were highly likely screwing around in the back, so I don’t recall what was said.”
All was well in the end, as both Grant and Scott started on the freshman team and played in a couple of freshmen tournaments the following year, where they were both named all-tournament. When Grant was a senior, he was one of 20 players selected for the academic all-state team, along with former Iowa Hawkeye point guard Troy Skinner of Palmer. In 1984, it was Palmer that beat Matt Garver and Tork Hook’s Wayne Falcons at the state tournament before winning the championship. That was when games were played in Veterans Memorial Auditorium, before moving to an arena named after a bank.
My daughter Jasmine is quite the authoritarian, perhaps taking after her grandfather. Perhaps authoritarian is not the right word—it makes me think of Vladimir Putin in clown makeup, an image that apparently is against the law to share on social media in Russia (the punishment is supposed to be a 15-day prison sentence and a fine, but one offender was committed to a psychiatric institution)—so I will use the term ‘bold’ instead. She rooms with my youngest stepdaughter, Natalie. There are owls everywhere, but not real ones. They are stuffed. They were never alive. As Jasmine grows older, she is able to reach the poster of an empty birdcage on the closet door, which once said, “Life is Beautiful.” She has ripped away a quarter of it, so it just says, “Life is.” The rest is now up to interpretation. Since Jasmine can sleep in, she is busy keeping Natalie awake at night. There is also a finger of drywall scraped away, so I am assuming Jasmine has attempted to escape before. The fact she is tunneling demonstrates her patience.
“No sleep for you,” Jasmine once told Natalie, channeling the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld.
Another time, Jasmine whispered in glee “In your eyes!” as Natalie tried to reach under the crib to grab a wayward pacifier. Jasmine was pouring out the last drops of her bottle onto Natalie.
One night along the Ho Chi Minh Trail during Operation Paul Revere, a chopper landed. The pilot told my father they could not fly in reinforcements. My father climbed up, pointed his shotgun at the pilot and said, “You Will.” The reinforcements were sent. If his granddaughter is anything like him, it’s probably best not to mess with Jasmine.