His life is told in hats made of a different material than the straw and felt fedoras his granddaddy tipped by way of a how-do-you-do to people he passed when driving to town and back . . .
As a young boy, Stacy’s mother dressed him in white linen shorts with white suspenders, white knee socks, white bucks, and a white linen beanie hat and brought him to the green grass (okay, clover) and red clay of Grandmother’s Georgia yards. I’ve often wondered if his wardrobe was a reflection of his mother’s sense of style, an indication of early onset dementia, or if maybe she was preparing him for people he would inevitably encounter later in life – people who wouldn’t like the way he looked, or talked, or thought, or led. I don’t know if the clothes are to blame or not, but I don’t remember Stacy ever once taking a turn sweeping the red clay front yard with that broom made from switches Granddaddy lashed together with a length of twine.
In high school, Stacy donned the plumed headgear of a drum major. Now I think it’s safe to say that out of 14 cousins, he is the only one who paraded around in front of anybody . . . unless you count The Program Grandmother staged every Christmas morning. On that one day of the year, she paraded each one of her grandchildren – a.k.a. piano students – out to spin the bench to the right height, take our seat, and impress the parents with how fluently our fingers tickled the ivories. That’s what 13 of us did anyway, but Stacy? He played the trombone.
Yes, the trombone.
What few parents were left by the time Stacy’s name came to the top of the list fled the room before the mouthpiece touched his lips. Most of them didn’t bother to come up with an excuse, either, they just left.
Now law enforcement runs deep in our family. Granddaddy was a Revenue Agent and the town’s Sheriff, and today there are police, detectives, and a district attorney at our table. After high school, Stacy flipped the proverbial coin to decide which path to take and wound up in law school, later securing a job as legal counsel for a large corporation in Atlanta. But eventually, regardless of heads or tails, Stacy knew he must pursue the road not taken, and that path eventually earned him the honor of wearing the traditional ceremonial headdress of an Episcopal Bishop.
An Episcopal. In the midst of a bunch of Baptists . . . and me.
Stacy and I don’t always see eye to eye on Big Things like religion, you see, but here’s the thing: we have long, deeply profound, amazingly intricate conversations that never end up with blood shed because we are secure enough in our own belief systems to know that there is no One Right Way. Our confidence, coupled with our love and respect for each other leaves us feeling no need to convince the other, which makes way for good old-fashioned conversation of the back-and-forth variety. Stacy never tries to save my soul, though he does occasionally attempt to repair it from wounds inflicted by my early religious upbringing experiences.
White linen beanies.
Plumed drum major topper.
The traditional ceremonial headdress of an Episcopalian Bishop.
I’ve never seen Stacy wear a baseball cap, and I don’t remember any cousin ever laughing at him or poking fun at him behind his back because of anything he wore or didn’t wear on his head. They didn’t refrain from fear of the punch in the nose they would most surely have received from me had they ever engaged in such behavior. They refrained because while he may have been different – let’s be honest: odd – he is a cousin – blood kin – and that matters around here.
Several years ago, on his sixteenth birthday, I took Stace to get his driver’s license. Today is his birthday, and if math and memory serve me well, this is yet another milestone birthday. Because I’m simply not a good enough woman, the list of people I love unconditionally is short, but rest assured that Stacy’s name is on it. Up near the top.