Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Tribute to Bart: 80th House Mountain Hike (published 3-13-2011)

My Cousin Bart, at age 63, died last night, unexpectedly, too early in life, after a sudden illness. My youngest brother called, to tell me, this morning.

Bart was the only son of my Uncle Roy and Aunt Maxie. Uncle Roy was one of Dad’s brothers. Uncle Roy and Aunt Maxie passed away years ago. Bart lived with Dad's oldest brother, my Uncle Bill and his wife, Aunt Bobbie, until they both passed. Retha, a cousin, took care of Bart, for several years. For about the last three years, Cousin Bart lived in a nursing home in Morristown, Tennessee.

Bart was physically and mentally disabled, due to early childhood spinal meningitis. His right leg and arm were drawn, but he could walk fairly well, with a shuffle. He didn’t seem to mind his limitations. Bart didn’t really think that he had limitations, for he loved life, family, and friends. He was sharp-minded, in his own way. Bart knew every state capital, and he loved to quiz you on it. If I didn’t get one right, Bart would smack his hands, laugh, and correct me. He could remember things, from the past, that many folks might forget.

Bart loved to cut up and joke. He was the life of many a family gathering. He loved to watch the old TV shows, Andy Griffith, Bonanza, and the like. He enjoyed calling people Barney, Goober, Floyd, Hoss, and such. I’d say to him, for instance, “Bart, you ol’ Gomer-lookin’ thing, you!” He would just shake his good fist, call me “you ol' Barney” or something, and laugh. We had a lot of fun with Bart. He was a rich soul.

After Mom died, Dad kept Bart at times, often for a few days, when my cousin, who plays in an Irish band, had to travel or do something else. Dad often took Bart down to the Burger Bar, a local restaurant, where the “old folks,” and sometimes the young ones too, hang out. Bart always livened up the place. Bart was good therapy for Dad, and Dad was good therapy for Bart. I drove up most every Sunday, to see Dad. My wife went with me often. I was, or we were, glad to see Bart, when he was there. The only problem was that Bart liked to sneak cookies! “Bart, did you get those cookies?” He would walk down the hall, look around, and just grin.

I took my 80th hike, up House Mountain, this afternoon, in honor and memory of my “ol’ cuz” Bart. He is in a far better place, and I could imagine him looking down, from much higher above, and seeing the view that I saw from the ridge.

While Mom went through her year-long illness, which led to her passing, over ten years ago now, she dreamed that she saw Cousin Bart in heaven, not disabled, whole in body and mind. Well, Bart, you ol’ cuz, you, I would like to see you, where you are now! Tell Mom and Dad hello for me, and tell them that I’ll be seeing them again one day!

Bart, these photos are for you, you ol' cuz! I will miss you!

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