(Contact Info: larry at larryblakeley.com)
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A listing and access link to all:
song lyrics and mp3 audio files http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/songs/ (all of which are a part of this Web site) can be accessed simply by selecting the "htm" file for the song you want;
quotations http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/quotations.htm; and
essays written by Larry Blakeley http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/articles/articles_larry_blakeley.htm,
all of which are used to tell the story in this Web site, can be accessed by going to each respective link set out above.
My son, Larry Blakeley http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/larryblakeley_photos_jpeg.htm manages this Web site.
Major Roy James Blakeley (December 10, 1928 - July 22, 1965) - USAF (KIA)
When I was young my dad would say
Come on son let's go out and play
No matter how hard I try
No matter how many tears I cry
No matter how many years go by
I still can't say goodbye
- "I Still Can't Say Goodbye," Performer: Chet Atkins
MP3 audio file/lyrics http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/songs/still_cant_say_goodbye.htm
For a larger image click on the photograph.
John Lewis Ashton, my grandfather and my grandmother here (affectionately called MeMa by all the grandchildren), both of whom I loved very much. http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/directory_john_edna_ashton.djvu
John Lewis Ashton was the second most important man in my life. He was also one of the best bird hunters (even when he became half blind) and "42" players I've ever known. He was an exceptionally bright, witty person and interesting for me to carry on conversations with. He had an exceptionally tender heart for children. But, if you were a man that had any intention of abusing another human being - not with him around - you won't. And, don't even think of messing with him because he just didn't take any flack whatsoever from another man. I know - I've seen it. And, no exaggeration here. In fact, he was called "toughy" and I've heard him called that by other men on occasion. So, that was proof enough for me.
I've only seen him cry, once - not to imply that he did not have a heart - for he had a heart of gold to me. That was when the "missing man flight of F-104's" flew over the burial ceremony for my father - he cried like a baby. Some things are so overwhelming emotionally - like the missing man flight, that nobody can hold back. It's just a feeling of loss, pain and sadness, but with a presentation of respect that just cuts to the middle of your soul.
My grandfather wanted us to stay with them for a while. We ended up living with them and attending the Rotan, Texas schools. Both of my mother's parents provided us with some stability that we needed very much at that time. I knew them both very well and loved them very much.
Some words at the bottom of a poem ("The Bridge Builder" by Will Allen Dromgoole http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/poetry/bridge_builder.htm) that my mother copied with her typewriter that expressed her feelings about what a great man he was for us during these difficult times: "I copied this in remembrance of my Dad, John Lewis Ashton. The Bridge symbolizes all of his efforts in helping me raise my children after the death of their father, Major Roy James Blakeley, Vietnam 1965.
Thank you, Daddy. You will never be forgotten for all the years you stood by us and the love you gave us. I miss you every day.
With love, your daughter, Johnnye Blakeley (nickname "Easy")" - Johnnye Blakeley
But, for male bonding after my father's death, I gravitated to my granddad Ashton and, as a child, hung-out with him often. Some of the funniest moments were sitting on a bench with a group of 4 or 5 men his age from a small West Texas town (Rotan, Texas) and listening to their stories. These were some of the funniest conversations I have ever heard. The sense of humor these men possessed always impressed my inquisitive mind. It wasn't profane, just good-natured humor. I loved listening to them.
And, as to growing up with grandparents around - I would not trade those experiences for anything. It was sort of what families used to do out of necessity before World War II, I suppose. But, it gave me a perspective on life and family roots that would not have been there without them.
His life is a complete story in and of itself. I suppose, like many from poor backgrounds, life was rough. But, I believe his family was particularly rough. He left home at 13 and lived by himself on the fork of the Brazos River. He had a very hard youth, if you can call it that.
He is testament to the truth that money does not make the man and what it is that one loves about another.
For me, he reached out his hand and helped me up when I was down. He continued where my father left off.
He was the second most important man in my life. He was a "diamond in the rough" - to be polished up a bit and all of a sudden, you see what a good person he was. My father knew this. My mother knew this. I found it. I still miss him
His last pair of glasses here. These eyes see very well. Don't let the lenses fool you - he saw life better than many know - with virtually no formal education to aid him. Even though my mother's parents were poor - I never knew it. That's not the way I view my surroundings. You had to sit alone on the porch to know what an older generation of experiences can teach you about your life. You had to hang out with those folks, sit in a booth with them at the local café, or on the bench outside the local drugstore. I loved taking rides with him in the pickup truck. I was driving him in and out of town ever since I was 11 years old.
To know him, you had to need him. People like that need to be needed. Like all of us, that's their reward in life. They live for that.
In his later years he raised hogs for a living. I helped him often. Well, his place for this was across the railroad tracks - some of you know where I mean. My children don't.
But, anyway, he occasionally took the route through that part of town and on occasion pulled a stuck car out of the mud. Sure, he lost a few hogs at night, but it was not often. I figured my Granddad just overlooked it - presuming it was someone in need to feed some empty stomachs at home.
And, I remember many times him picking up both a black man and woman walking between Rotan and Roby.
But, as long as I live - I will never forget a life changing incident that happened a few days after my Granddad died.
There came a knock on the back door of my grandmother's home. I answered it and there stood a large black man that I recognized as a man named Donnie Powell. He asked for my grandmother.
I asked him in, but he declined and said he preferred to stay outside. My grandmother came to the door and greeted him.
He looked up from the bottom of the steps and said, "Mrs. Ashton, I am very sorry about Mr. Ashton passing away." That was it. That's all he wanted, or needed to say, so that's all he did say. She thanked him for his kind words - and he walked off.
I knew then that my grandfather was truly what I had always thought he was - a genuine person that had compassion for his fellow human being - no matter what color of the skin.
I was never more proud to be his grandson than that one fleeting moment of confirmation of who he was.
I knew right then who I wanted to be. Like the lady said in the restaurant in "Harry Met Sally" - "I'll have what he's having!"
And, so my article "The Belly of the Ship http:www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/belly_of_ship.htm" is my truth about this man; I looked, listened, and am following in his footsteps that have slowly been covered up by time. What he left behind in his wake is this - a soul that will never forget the goodness he taught me to hold dearly - no words telling me this - just teaching by doing. And, we all know the best teachers have students that want to learn. I did, Granddad.
For these lessons of manhood have enabled me to look at ordinary fatherhood responsibilities with the concept of the "Bridge Builder" as my mission in this phase of my life.
And, more importantly, I always knew I must continue onward, no matter what manner of pain from the past that has always filled my heart and soul; for I had "miles to go before I sleep http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/poetry/stopping_by_woods.htm."
No, this path to manhood must be shown by us - fathers - an appointment of responsibilities, that for the most part can be characterized as, quite simply, "unglamourous" to most men (and, I believe, women, too - until possibly it becomes too late MP3 audio file/lyrics at http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/songs/damage_done.htm). It requires us to teach a boy - not just to expect it to just happen, by chance, without any pruning, and tending to, whatsoever. This "cop-out" by those that are falling down on the job is debasing to a young boy ("Another Funeral: Youth Burying Its Own," Larry Blakeley, October 5, 2004 http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/articles/another_funeral.htm ). My life that I have tried to be as open about is an attempt to show others that there is hope - "just don't do it! Not, yet - there is much more to life, and many things that you can do, later, to lift your self-worth and self-esteem, as I did. Just hang in there. Some of us are out here that understand, and care, and don't want this to happen to our gender." And, my credibility requires me to expose myself - the good, the bad, and the ugly - so that you can know that tough times can be endured - one day, one step, one moment at a time. And, you can do it, too - just as I did. And, many of us are waiting on the other side of the bridge crossing that dangerous ravine of death, to welcome you into our camp of goodness in man.
No, my friend - to reap the rewards of your everlasting memory, you must lead a life here on the good earth that confirms your adherence to these principles of goodness. There are no shortcuts, whatsoever. You must give yourself up, for a much higher cause. And, you must be willing to become "ordinary" for a while - and, come down off your throne of vanity of your own making.
And, my greatest reward will be after I am gone that my son will continue this family's bridge building. And, just maybe, someone will knock on my door after I'm gone, and my son will answer, as I did - and recognize the significance of this to his soul - the tender soul of a young boy desperately looking for the "right" path to manhood.
"You know that the beginning is the most important part of any work, especially in the case of a young and tender thing," Plato here. http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/quotations/plato_quote.htm
And, I will always be grateful for that moment - that one glimpse of truth, compassion, and respect from one soul about another - no matter what color, race, or manner of faith.
These are truly moments of opportunity that you must develop a keen eye for - moments where simple truths are confirmed and validated about your "bridge builder.' For me, the ability to see these fleeting moments were honed from the days I held on tight to my granddad's pants, and looked, listened, and stored these moments of real life's teachings. And, no matter to me that he could indeed by labeled as a poor, ordinary, and virtually unknown man to the larger arena of American society. For this is really, to me, the true meaning of "grass-roots" Americans. You and I that have these stories and remembrance that are so familiar to each of us, even though we have never met. These stories need to be told in order for others to appreciate the power of being "ordinary."
"I am not a Very Important Man, as importance is commonly rated. http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/within_my_power.htm" - Dr. Forest E. Witcraft (1894 - 1967), was a scholar, teacher, and Boy Scout administrator.
For these lessons in life, among many others, have meant so much to me in my search for manhood, and I am most humbled by my granddad, and the respect that he instilled in my heart. And, even today, at 50 years old, I can still feel my childhood, while looking up to him - just listening and watching - Your Ever Loving Grandson, Larry.