I am often emotionally pulled in many directions as I do the work of remembrance of the victims of our nation’s tortured domestic terrorism campaign from the end of the Civil War until about 1960. Along the way, all the people I work with in this effort leave a lasting impression that gets buried in my subconscious. Until that memory gets jarred in some significant way that memory remains among all the rest without much thought.
My memory has been jarred in a significant way this week. Two men’s’ lives, connected to this work intersected in an extraordinarily powerful way and ultimately intersected with mine. One with all the power and privilege, knowing that his time was limited, committed himself to telling the story of one without power or privilege who endured the pain and heartache of the lynching of his then 20 year old brother since he was 18. His work on that story endured for 80 years.
The one with privilege and power was eulogized in March of this year. The one without power and privilege will be eulogized Monday, June 18th.
Dr. Thomas Clark Carlson made his transition earlier this year on March 9. I was so moved by his son Dan Carlson’s simple but elegant tribute to his father that I committed to getting Dan’s permission, shortly after, to share with friends in the Lynching Sites Project on Father’s Day.
On Saturday, afternoon April 28, Rev. Ron Morris, son of Deacon Charlie Morris, who had endured eighty years of pain and heartache, rendered a spontaneous version of Amazing Grace at a Candlelight Vigil held in honor of his uncle and Charlie’s brother, Jesse Lee Bond. The legacy of LOVE in that family passed on by his father Charlie was very apparent at this vigil and in his son’s rendition of Amazing Grace.
Ironically Charlie will be eulogized this Monday, the day after Father’s day.
In my mental flight, I imagine the two of them sitting down talking about what might have been, with Jesse Lee Bond, had true “LOVE” prevailed throughout our history.
On Monday, I will attend the funeral of a man empowered with the love of his Creator and pay my respects. I will listen closely for the accolades that I know will come for a life so well lived and I will once again share them with the LSP community.
On this Father’s Day I share the remembrance of Dan for his father, Tom:
A Tribute to Dad
As read by Dan Carlson at the memorial service for his father Tom Carlson in March 2018
Following my father’s death . . . I thought I might speak to what he meant to me, by sharing some of what he once referred to as the “mundane bliss” – that ethereal blur of seemingly inconsequential moments that make up a wonderful everyday life through the years of raising a family.
So here are a few snapshot thoughts on how I knew . . . Dad.
Dad. Pinning our outfits together on the clothesline like little invisible people after Winnie and I jumped in the ocean in Destin as kids.
Dad. Teaching Winnie to ride a bike. Running behind her. Letting go. Winnie cruising down the slight hill, smashing into a neighbor’s garage door. (Me celebrating.)
Dad. Putting together the million tiny pieces of a G.I. Joe airplane at around 2am on Christmas morning. Pausing to throw it across the room in a fit of rage. Regrouping. Finishing it so that it would look cool under the tree in the morning.
Dad. Booking a family vacation from Romania to Kenya entirely by telegram.
Dad. Driving my basketball team to games. Pumping the brakes to bounce the ancient Idlewild church van along with K-97 beats at red lights.
Dad the caretaker. Tending to camp fires. Composting gardens. Repairing things in a world before YouTube.
Dad the caregiver. Hoisting Mom from her wheelchair up into the ridiculously high front seat of our old minivan – which he dubbed “The Maroon Suppository.”
Dad. Loyally feeding – and then over-feeding – a lifetime of adoring albeit overweight cats and dogs.
Dad. Grading papers in the sun room at Shady Grove. On the porch swing at Cowden. Some old Carly Simon album as his portable desk. Thousands of thoughtful comments to hundreds of students. Dr. Carlson.
Dad. Playing me in Nerf basketball in my room. Our knees smashing together. Falling on the ground together in an awkward heap. Dad. Limping bravely back into the game to defeat me . . . his equally injured 5th-grade child.
Dad. Shaving his beard that one time when I was in high school. Coming into the room while I watched TV. Waiting for me to turn around. Scaring the shit out of me.
Dad. Immediately growing his beard back. Restoring equilibrium to the universe.
Dad. Teaching me to be respectfully irreverent. Telling our favorite jokes using only the punchline. (“Next time, put the potato in the front!”)
Dad seeing celebrities in public. Goldie Hawn. Robert Plant. Staring at them. Following them. Maybe even waving. Embarrassing us all.
Dad. Deciding to start working out again. Going to the gym in the exact same workout clothes he wore when he last worked out 15 years before. Like some sort of 80s Rip Van Winkle in dry-rotted high-tops.
Dad. Playing Scrabble with Sue. Hoping that I might interrupt with a conversation about the Tigers since he’s losing so badly.
Dad as the Best Man at my wedding. Beaming wide at Tara.
Dad, with a Coke Zero, peacefully watching his three grandsons flood out his backyard fountain.
Dad. Writing on a sketch pad at the end how he’s so happy that we’ve become friends.
And Dad. Sitting quietly in the backs of boats. Dreaming of fish. Spider Lake. Hatteras. Near Rose’s Trout Dock in Arkansas. Various and splendid backdrops: Fog on the river. Pre-dawn darkness on the lake. Sunlight just beginning to break across the ocean.
In honor of a lifelong fisherman, today we’ll practice catch and release and let the legend live on. We’ll say good-bye for now, but keep all those moments coming through stories and memories in years to come.
Love you, Dad.
(“Tell your friends.”)