As some of you may know I have been busy rewriting and expanding the book " The Good-Bye Man" which was a Memoir of my experiences while Paul Schatzkin was writing the Biography of my father Thomas Townsend Brown.
I have asked and been granted permission to put up the first five chapters of the rewritten version of " The Good-Bye Man" and I would appreciate any and all comments that you have on it.
My membership on the Cosmic Token is helping me out too but I know that there are many folks here who are interested in the mysteries that have bubbled to the surface regarding my Dads work. We all see and feel things differently and because of that we all learn so differently. I appreciate any insight that you all can give me.
SPECIAL FORUM COPY OF "THE GOOD-BYE MAN"
Please note that there will be a special forward written but that is not ready for public release quite yet.
CHAPTER ONE ( The Moment Between the Chalk and the Eraser)
The black steamer trunk dominated the room. It was as old as I was and it had been with me my entire life. The brass corners were still shiney and strong. Though it had a few scars and faded travel stickers on its sides it was still in very good shape. The trunk and I were both forty years old and I considered that it probably looked better and stronger at that moment than I felt.
The lid had been left open in a gentle invitation to get on with the chore of packing away all of my Dads most important papers and books. Mother had decided that everything should be put in that single solid trunk. I didn't want her to be the one doing that. I couldn't ask her to do more than she already had. It had been a very difficult week and she was resting now. This task was directly on my shoulders.
She had come into that small room days earlier to select the clothes that Dad would be buried in. I watched her as she automatically reached for his charcoal grey business suit. Tailored in London, it was the suit that he always wore for important meetings and demonstrations. She hesitated then, as if hearing another voice and reached suddenly for a bright cotton Hawaiian shirt which he had bought on Cook Street. Mother smiled then and quickly selected the old pair of threadbare bone-colored Levi jeans.
They had laughed together about her threats to hide those jeans away from him so that he couldn't wear them so constantly but they were his favorites and she always relented, eventually washing them carefully so that they would be ready for him each morning.
She put the bright shirt and the jeans on the bed, smoothing them lovingly with her hand. " There", she said." Thats better."
She was resting now and this chore was up to me. I felt very alone but then something odd happened.
I looked around the room and was struck suddenly with the feeling that Dad was right there with me. I could even smell the cologne that he always wore. "Lilac Vegetale" was an old fashioned barber shop type of cologne that was popular in the fifties and its light scent was suddenly there, probably on some of his clothes or, maybe, he was there with me in that strange way.
I looked at his desk and saw that his glasses were still exactly where he had put them on his last night, setting them upside down when he realized that he just couldn't do any more.
I slumped in his chair and focused on them. I was not sure how I could ever bear the chore that was ahead of me. And then I saw that I had left my big Boorham and Pease record book on the side of his desk. I opened it and read my last entry.
"October 27, 1985..... Daddy died tonight. Quietly, in his own room..... He just slept away from us."
Knowing that the end of his life was near Thomas Townsend Brown had agreed with Josephine when she suggested that they give up their town house in Avalon and join their daughters family at the end of Pebbly Beach Road.
Our Quonset Hut on Catalina Island was a simple structure left over from a Navy installation during World War Two. It was showing its age, but it offered three bedrooms. My husband had agreed with me that it was important for my parents to be where we could offer support and comfort. We were worried about my mother and knew that she should not have to go through this alone.
Dad still had many of his recorders running during those last few months and he had developed a style of living practically on top of his work. We all decided that the smallest of the bedrooms would be his to use. Our twelve year old daughter, Jennifer, removed her Pony Club pictures and ribbons from the walls and watched with fascination as her Grandfather set about making the place "workable" for himself. Using a tape measure he carefully calculated how he could efficiently get his desk, chair, filing cabinet, single bed, shelves and operating sensors into the same small place. The room soon resembled a shipboard cabin. He had everything within an arms reach and the efficiency of it pleased him.
He had even purchased his burial plot, selected because it was pleasantly situated in a corner and had a bench next to it. I knew that he was thinking of Mother, making sure that she had a place to sit whenever she might come to visit. " The wind comes up this canyon in the afternoon" Dad told me as we strolled through the Avalon Cemetery. You can hear it start near the beach, if you listen carefully enough."
Dad was always attuned to the ocean. Our Quonset Hut was located with the others at the end of a tree lined canyon which opened directly onto the pebbly strewn coastline. The sounds of the sea lions barking beyond the surf and the odd music of the small stones rolling about in the waves gave Dad a particular pleasure. He worked at his desk directly under the slanted window which was open to the sea breeze.
That summer and fall of 1985 he spent hours walking on that beach, bending down to make careful inspections of those innumerable round grey and brown granite stones. He picked some of them up and carried them along for awhile and occasionally he would bring one or two home with him. When I asked him why he selected the ones that he did and he said " Because they want to come."
I looked up from my journal and stared at the shelf where at all of those special rockswere positioned. Here they were! With their painted on copper patches and carefully attached electrodes. Most of them were still connected to the automatic recording devices which were humming softly. I decided then to return all of those stones to the waters edge where Dad had picked them up. Daddy would want me to do that, with a "thank you" as I set them in the water.
I reached for my pen, thinking back on his advice many years before when I announced that I wanted to " Keep a Journal".
"Pick something solid!" Dad had responded quickly and enthusiastically! "It should be a hardbound book, not a flimsy loose leaf notebook or binder. Things should be written in sequence and you should not add or subtract anything once you have committed your words to paper. That's the test of it!".
Now I noted that, on a nearby shelf, my completed journals were standing like sentries in red and black. They represented decades of my life. "Write what you are thinking AT THAT MOMENT" Dad had stressed. " Write every day, if you can ,and write what is on your mind THEN no matter how simple it might seem! Your words will be the moment between the chalk and the eraser!"
And so I did. I wrote that mother had looked heartbreakingly frail at the graveside service. I wrote that I was proud of the compassion that Jennifer showed when she reached for her Grandmothers trembling hand. And I wrote how proud and pleased I had been with George for taking it upon himself to greet those who had come to the service, thanking them all for joining us. Tall, handsome and always gregarious he was well liked by the citizens of Avalon and many of the attendees had come only because of their friendship and respect for him.
Most of them knew nothing about my modest and retiring father.To them he was just a kindly older gentleman they saw on the beach or around town. Perhaps a few remembered that he once kept an office downtown and that he had leased the old " Bird Park" from the Island Company for some reason or another and that he had completely revamped what was once the old " Aviary", but other than that they didn't know very much about him.
The night before that gravesite service I still had no idea what I would say about Dad in the eulogy that I was expected to give. I put my hand on his beige filing cabinet and said aloud "I don't know how to do this! I need some help!" When I opened the top drawer and thumbed through the files one stayed open. I had never seen it before. It was a copy of a speech that Dad had given in the the forties about the meaning and importance of being a scientist. I knew then that he was showing me the words by which he wanted to be remembered. In every fibre of his being he was a scientist.
The rest of the eulogy came easily and I felt well prepared as I turned to face the small assemblage. I took a last glance at my brother before I began. Joseph had flown in that morning and I knew that he would return to his home in Washington State immediately afterward. He stood to one side of the gathering with his arms folded. I wrote in my journal.......
"He flashed me a smile. He is still at the edge of my life, still with his arms folded ,but at least he was there with that smile. Maybe he was thinking of the one true "brother-sister" conversation we ever really had. Maybe its a universal conversation.... the bit about which one will take care of the surviving parent. I had said "If Dad goes first, we want Momma to stay with us. She is already part of our family." There was an extended silence as we considered the other possibility. I finally asked the question that was in both of our minds."But if Mother goes first, what will we do with Dad?" Joe had grinned at that and simply said " Well Sis.....We will have to catch him first!"
I started to read my notes, reminding myself to make eye contact with those in front of me. My voice was strong and not wavering. I began to settle down, suddenly thinking " I can do this! I am going to be able to get through this! When I glanced up at the crowd again I thought I saw a very familiar person standing at the gate of the cemetery. The sight of that tall man standing there shook me and took my breath. I looked down to regain my composure and when I looked up again, he was gone.
Later I carefully penned in my journal "JD? Was that really you? Or had grief just clouded my vision?"
I spent the rest of that rainy afternoon packing Dads things. The old box that I had noted earlier was the first thing I placed in the bottom of that enormous black trunk. I intended to put that strange note away but the words still hung with me..." Daugher these words are as true as the rain on the window above your head" I simply did not understand. I didn't want to understand! I had a daugher to raise and Mothers company too. George and I had a business to run. I had no time to wonder about these words or the mystery of the man by the cemetery gate.
Seventeen years would pass before I would open that trunk again.