Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pirates & Tributes

Mother, mother ocean, I have heard you call
Wanted to sail upon your waters since I was three feet tall
You've seen it all, you've seen it all...

My sister's first husband, married and divorced in her wild wild youth, and the father of my oldest niece, passed away yesterday. He wasn't that old, but these things sometimes happen. He had been ill for a while, but that's not what I want to focus on.

What I want to write about is him being the closest thing to a real "pirate" I ever knew. My sister met Eddie Dalton when we lived in Louisiana when I was still a kid myself. He was a little older than her and quite dashing... long cut blond hair, blue blue eyes, muscular. He was a Marine who served some time in the tail end of Vietnam and the discipline he learned there meant he was also one of the neatest men I knew, but neat in a somehow military way. Neat like cowboys, precise, and spare. Tough guy neat.

This is one reason I think he was kind of a pirate. He was the man who once told me that John Hinkley Jr. was the only "ex-Marine"--because he missed his target. He thought that was pretty funny; he had that kind of sense of humor that people don't always get, but I can see the humor in that joke now.

Yes I am a pirate, two hundred years too late
The cannons don't thunder, there's nothin' to plunder
I'm an over-forty victim of fate
Arriving too late, arriving too late

He called his car "La Bamba" and I would sing "here comes La Bamba" when he would drive, fast, into the driveway, loud music playing. I remember he always had cool things from Asia-- a puzzle box I never did figure out. I remember how he drove that car off a dead-end highway and a fencepost landed squarely in the passenger seat through the window. He was fine-- and the car was mostly fine. He thought it was funny. He lived fairly wild, too, and that's why he was not the man my sister stayed with forever. But he never did marry again. I don't know if he carried a torch or if he just never found anyone else ornery enough to take him on. Even so, he helped out our family many times when I was in high school, even when my teen enthusiasms bugged him, a man who mostly wanted to be left alone.

When Sara was born, he was so excited. Back then, I guess people didn't find out the sex of babies as much as we do today, so we didn't know what she was until birth. He brought her a football-- a nerf one-- and held it up to her while looking through the nursery window. That was her first toy. He loved her so much-- and she is probably his best redeeming grace, that face, those blue eyes of hers, the narrow face that looks so much like him. She is a kind, gentle person who cares sometimes too much; it hurts her and she worries a lot. I wish she could take a teeny bit of his strength like that; the ability to tell the world "he wanted to be buried facedown so the world could kiss his ass." It's not a bad lesson to learn, sometimes.

He was an amazing carpenter of boats and this is the work he did most of his later years. He called himself a "fishhead" because of his work in the Destin, Florida, area with fishing/charter boats. The fiberglass he installed is probably one of the things that caused his poor health, but I think he would have found that funny, too. I imagine he built a number of the boats that you would go on if you went charter fishing in Destin. Probably from scratch. I wish he could have done that without the demons that sometimes haunted him. I think he would have been rich if he could have capitalized on that gift-- not that he would have had that as a goal.

And I have been drunk now for over two weeks
I passed out and I rallied and I sprung a few leaks
But I got stop wishin', got to go fishin'
Down to rock bottom again
Just a few friends, just a few friends...

He once got into a fight with a police officer who had pulled him over and the policeman ended up with the worse end of the fight. It is not something to brag about and at the time, I was really mad at him. But here's the twisted pirate logic: he and his buddy had been drinking too much. Eddie figured he was the MORE sober one so was driving. My niece was in the car (was pretty young) and he wanted to protect her. The policeman who picked the fight, by the way, was the one who got in trouble-- not Eddie.

I'm not going to pretend he was a saint now that he's gone-- oh, no, far from it. In fact, I imagine he would be pissed if people started that. He was a hard man to like sometimes, but Sara loved him dearly. It is fitting that she was the one who had to make the decision to let him go, yesterday. He didn't suffer long, and he wouldn't have wanted it to be a big long ordeal.

I've done a bit of smugglin', I've run my share of grass
I made enough money to buy Miami, but I pissed it away so fast
Never meant to last, never meant to last

He wants his ashes scattered across the gulf of Mexico, and they're working on setting that up. I think that is fitting for him, because I think he was most truly happy when he was building a boat or sailing out there in the salty air.

Mother, mother ocean, after all the years I've found
My occupational hazard is, my occupation's just not around
I feel like I've drowned, gonna head uptown.

I have always thought of him when I heard this song. I also have thought it would be kind of cool to be drunk now for over two weeks--just to tell the world to piss off and do what you wanted to do. This is something I think of Eddie with. I probably always will think of him when I hear this song.

May you find fair winds and following seas on your final journey, Eddie.
And perhaps a pirate ship to crew and sunny days ahead.