Posted 08-28-2004 at 17:16:22
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It really pays to have thirteen kids. It doesn't hurt to have a large extended family either, especially if you're the laid back type and your door is always open. Being generous and giving and free with what you have, no matter how little it is, will come back to you eventually...a fact that Horace Maynard is well aware of. In his household, family came and went and before long, it was hard to tell who was who, or even if they were family any more. Thataway, when you hit seventy-seven years old and your mind goes and they put you in a nursing home, the environment feels normal. Just another bunch of strangers all bedding down under the same roof.
Horace, my sister Judy's father-in-law has always been crazy as a bed bug, but a nicer man you'll never meet. He'll give you anything he has if he thinks you need it more than he does. He's five-foot nine and a hundred and seventy pounds of muscle and hard bone. Even now he could jump a fence, tear it down, and build it back up again without even breaking a sweat; his words not mine. You don't want to shake hands with him as he will do his dead level best to squeeze your hand into the shape of an hourglass...he's very proud of his grip. He has a lazy eye and for years I had trouble determining if he was actually looking at me when he was talking to me, but even twenty years ago when I was still seeing him on a regular basis, I knew he was a brick shy a load. He was, still is, and always will be...nutty as a fruit cake.
Horace can play any stringed instrument known to man. I rarely saw him that he didn't have a guitar across his lap and a Hank Williams tune on his lips. Every child in his family plays a musical instrument of some kind. The ones that can carry a tune, sing as well as play. Some of them say they can sing and try. Some of them actually can and do, and they all got their musical talents from their daddy. Inez, his wife, couldn't carry a tune in a bucket and never once tried to play any music right up until she died, even though there were banjos, fiddles, and guitars all over the house at any given time, and a piano in the front room.
If Horace was crazy before Inez died, he became doubly so after. So when I talked to my brother-in-law Bobby, and he informed me that Horace had been diagnosed with Altzheimers, my immediate reaction was...
"How the he11 can they tell?"
At which point he laughed heartily.
"Yeah, I know what you mean."
Horace never allowed his family to have a hot water heater. He heard about one shorting out once and catching a house on fire, so he refused to let one be installed. For as long as I knew them, water for washing dishes and taking baths was heated on the stove. For fifteen people. Sixteen if you count my sister after she married into that sweet, crazy clan. He had the same opinion of space heaters, so many a cold winter night the house was kept warm with a blazing fire in the big stone fireplace. This was in the nineteen-eighties!
He believes in ghosts, aliens, and is a die-hard Marty Robbins fan. He believes in hangings, God, and the devil, and will tell you with a straight face that if you walk past a cemetery after dark, a spook will follow you home. He will watch the Andy Griffith Show religiously, as he can identify with Earnest T. Bass, and has always maintained that the poor man was just misunderstood.
He will tell you...if you sit still long enough and have the stomach for it...that it was a bad sinus infection that popped his eye out of whack...and make you believe it. The details of that story are horrific and not for the squeamish.
He once tried to solder a hole in the gas tank on his weed whacker. He was an industrious man and did most everything for himself. The problem was, the gas tank was made of plastic and it blew up in his face and ultimately set the bed of his truck on fire. He drove thirty miles an hour everywhere he went and never used a turn lane in his life. He never could grasp the concept of what that middle lane with the yellow lines was for, so he just turned across it. That was okay up until Leander, Texas got to be a big enough town that everybody didn't know him...and know to watch out for him. He was sixty-nine when they finally took his driver's license.
Horace was taken to the doctor when he was found one afternoon engaged in a heated conversation with a photograph of his oldest son Billy, and it was confirmed that he should not live alone; that he could be a danger to himself.
With heavy hearts and worried minds, almost the entire Maynard clan of roughly thirty-six including his kids, their spouses and their kids, booked Horace into the local community run nursing home in Burnett, Texas, and for the first time in seventy-seven years, Horace was not free to come and go as he pleased.
The first night he got into a fist fight with three orderlies who were trying to move a fragile, unwilling, eighty-year old female patient from one room to another. From what I understand, he gave better than he got. It was three days later that he got into his second fist fight. It was one-on-one with another patient who took a swing at him first. Horace proclaimed that he was just trying to be friendly and spark up a conversation because "the poor old feller just looked as down in the mouth as a broke-peckered (sorry!)dog."
It was a week before my sister went for her first visit. With more than a little trepidation she approached his room and tapped on the door. Much to her surprise, she found Horace with a big grin on his face. There was none of the anger or indignation that she expected. As he sat her down on the corner of the bed and began to talk, all her fears were relieved.
"Judy, honey...this is about the nicest hotel I have ever been in!"
She said she just sat and stared at him bug-eyed.
"I swear!" He went on. "They take your clothes and wash 'em up for you and bring 'em right back! A feller can get a haircut fer free, and there's a honky-tonk right there across the road!"
The 'road' turned out to be the hallway that separates his room from the cafeteria. In the cafeteria was a piano, and it turned out that more than a few of Horace's fellow 'hotel guests' had a musical inclination. Furthermore, not one but THREE of Horace's relatives work in the nursing home and Horace was tickled to death that his niece Dolly was staying in the same 'hotel'.
This is where having a large family in a small town pays off.
He said he'd had more visits from family in the last three days than the last three years, and that Jerry and Billy showed up the night before with their guitars, and with him on the piano, they really had that honky-tonk hooting!
This is where being generous and loving pays off. People want to be around you no matter where you are.
He said that folks went to bed early and got up early, just the way he liked.
This is where it pays off being raised on a farm and developing a lifelong habit of going to bed and getting up with the chickens.
He said that if he had his way he would stay there forever, if he could afford it.
"A feller could do a lot worse than a swanky hotel like this!"
This is where it pays off to be just a little bit crazy... you tend to find your happiness wherever you go. (smile)