The earth has rotated into another day, August 06, 2018. The sun’s light bounces off the shimmering spit of lake that we live on, and Zackie Lee may be spending his last day on this earth. He has come to the time that we all do. His brought on by cancer and too many cigarettes and too much work. His body worn out, but not his being.
He married my oldest sister, and as a growing boy I cherish memories of him because for several years he was a model of maleness. Once, when he and my sister has spent the night at 312, the mill house in which we lived, he was shaving in the bathroom. I rushed in to watch—the first man I ever watched shave. That occurred sometime in the late 1950’s, and even today when I am in that bathroom, I look at the old, wooden medicine cabinet with the small mirror in its door, where he allowed a small boy to watch and learn.
He was always, even after their divorce, part of our family, a long, shared history. During “vacation week” in 1968 he and I painted the exterior of their house on Applewood Street, and over the years when I visited my mother, he was present, but also always working either in the mill, or performing a private survey for a customer. Sometimes, on a weekend visit, he would pay me to hold the rod for him as he marked off a property line. He paid well, it was good gas money for my trip. A cherished photograph from those days shows him playing on their kitchen floor with son Matthew as he crawled about. They were taking potatoes out of the peck basket that my sister kept on the floor. He called Matthew, “Tater.” One more time that he presented himself to us after a long day of work. Over the years, we called him often to help my mother with some task in or on or with her mill house. He never disappointed our requests for help.
He grew up in the time that taught that a man, if he were real, worked and provided for his family. No one knows the inside of any marriage except their own, but over the many years I watched him provide—a house well furnished, plentiful food, college educations for his three children, weeks at the beach for anyone who wanted to come (for one he let drive his new corvette to the beach), hunting lessons and trips with his oldest son, his Grady White boat, and more. He provided for us all in so many ways. He learned that lesson well, as all us boys did in those days. And perhaps, from some hole in his being, he, like all males of that era, forgot to or was unable to, provide the non-material of life. But, he found that later, and as he aged into a frailness that kept his body from always working, he gave of himself. We couldn’t have asked for more.
The great star we call sun sits in the eastern sky, heating the spit of Lake Norman on which we live. Perhaps this is Zackie’s last day here, but he will always be a son and brother and father for us.