Invisible - July 27, 2011

A Mockingbird sitting in a Viburnum bush eating the berries, Viburnum dentatum 'Blue Muffin'

Some people are invisible.  I’ve known a few such people in my life. People that nobody pays any attention to until they do something wrong, bad, mean or terrible or sometimes they don’t do anything really, they just stay invisible. Invisible until they either just fade away or die or just disappear. In my time living and visiting Piedmont for 62 years I have a clear recollection of two such folks. Two that really stick in my mind. One I don’t really know much about except his first name, it was Robert. He went to school with us for awhile. He always seemed older than the rest of us, he had a beard or he could shave anyways which was more than the rest of us at our age could. Then one day he just disappeared. I heard later that he was sent down to Bryce I think in Tuscaloosa and there he wandered off one night and they found him dead, frozen to death.

Now before I go further with this story I don’t know for a fact that is what happened to him.  I heard that. Heard it several times. But whether it was true in every detail or if it was somewhere else, not Bryce or even if he died some other way and not alone and froze to death, it really doesn’t matter, he was invisible. It was like if you didn’t say something mean or hurtful either to him or about him either within him hearing your or even if he didn’t hear you, well he was again, invisible.  So the only recognition that he got as a human being was only ridicule and the butt of jokes that he probably didn’t even understand. Like I said I didn’t even know him but I think of him often. Whenever invisible people come to mind. I wish I’d said something to Robert, anything. Hello, Hi, Doing Alright?, Feeling OK?. something, anything that I’d would’ve liked someone to ask me. Did he feel alone? Lonely? Did he know he was “different”. Had some mental disability that he couldn’t help or do anything about or that nobody not his family or anyone could do about or even cared to do even if there was something to be done. I don’t know really. I just know I think about Robert sometimes. I could be Robert. You could be Robert. Any of us could be Robert. That’s all I got say about that I reckon. I don’t know anything else to say……

I knew another invisible person. Robert T. He lived down the street from my grandmother in a two story house where the doors had no screens if I remember correctly or the windows had no screens. The house had no paint, the yard had no grass, no flowers, one real big tree in the yard if memory serves me. Porches and steps that were broken. And that’s where Robert T. lived. Were his parents caring parents like mine, like yours? I don’t know but I don’t think so. I ain’t talking about how much money his folks had or didn’t have. I’m talking about did anyone care if he came home or not. What he did when he did leave home. I don’t really know. But I got a gut feeling about Robert T. And its bad feeling. I could be wrong, but I don’t think so…..He was invisible too. He was a kind of a bully of sorts, not a classic bully I reckon. I don’t remember him as such and I knew a lot of bullies in my time, too many. No he was scary in that you didn’t quite know what he would do or say.

I used to tell a story about Robert. I’m going to tell it to you here in a few more paragraphs. Is it funny? I guess. Could he help it what he did that day that me and the folks that were there found so funny? I don’t know, maybe, maybe not. It was funny then and its funny now I guess, but it feels different to me now all these years  later….I heard that he was dropped as a baby and that’s why he wasn’t “right”. I don’t know that as a fact but that is what we all heard as kids. And that knowledge is how we filtered all he did that we saw and heard, like it was an excuse for him being so “different”. But even though he was “different” he was still invisible too. If he didn’t say something outrageous or do something outrageous he was invisible. You never saw Robert T.

I was even a little scared of him. He was bigger than me at our age when he lived down the street from my granny. And now I’m going to tell you a story I used to tell about Robert to my friends. who never knew Robert T. Like I said its funny alright but its a bitter sweet story as the years go by…..almost like a bad taste in my mouth. One of those things I wish had never happened, not because it was so, so terrible but because it was part of Robert being invisible but part and parcel of his being “seen” and “noticed” on occasion too. He was “seen” but only to the extent that he wasn’t like the rest of us. Well not exactly anyways. I say outrageous things, I do outrageous things but I wasn’t “invisible” like Robert T.. I was lucky. I was so fortunate not being invisible as Robert T. Now we’re all invisible sometimes I guess, some folks more than others and some folks are so invisible they are never seen, never missed and never remembered. Here’s my story about Robert T

One day we had this ball game. A big ball game, a baseball game. Now we played baseball in our neighborhood over on South Center Ave. where my granny lived in an empty lot between granny’s house and where Brad Snead used to live back then. The lot was BIG, big enough for about 6 big apple trees on one half of the lot. Trees that we used for climbing, building tree houses in and gathering apples for my granny or Mrs. Herschel West to make apple pies for us kids. Now the other half of the lot we used as a baseball field. To me back then, age 4, 5,,6,7,8,9,10 or so it was like Yankee Stadium. Now on this day we were going to have an all day of baseball and along with that Mrs. Blackwelder, a school teacher who lived across the street, was going to cook hot dogs for all the kids in the neighborhood. Brad’ sister Kathy was going to make lemonade for all the kids to drink during the day. Some other girl to but my memory just can’t place the other girl besides Kathy. It was me, Brad S. the Parker brothers, Frankie W., Eddie B. Franklin W. and a few other kids that were or weren’t “regulars” and then there was Robert T. He showed up, not to play ball, he never wanted to play ball or even asked us to play. If he had we would have sure let him, we’d have been scared not to. Did he ever do anything to us to make us scared of him? Not that I can put my finger on now all these years later but we just knew something wasn’t right with him and that was one of the contributing factors that made him “invisible”.

OK back to the day of the ballgame. We started playing baseball about 8 o’clock in the morning I guess and about noon the hot dogs were ready as Mrs. Blackwelder hollered for all of us to come eat. Now Robert was down at his house as I remember and Mrs. Blackwelder either sent somebody down there to get him or he just showed up cause Mrs. Blackwelder hollered at for him to come up  but either way Mrs Blackwelder, well she “saw” Robert. For Mrs. Blackwelder no child was “invisible”. I knew that in my heart then and I know it now. And here came Robert and all the rest of us. We put down our gloves, bats and balls just long enough to down some hotdogs and chips and Kathy’s lemonade. Well we’re all crowded around the smoker or grill thing where the hotdogs are cooking and the buns are all spread out on this table they had set up right next to the grill.

Well we’re all salivating and licking our chops cause we kids, we’re hungry, starved and the hotdogs not only look good but smell good. And Mrs. Blackwelder with all the other kids standing there, all the kids in neighborhood, singles out Robert T. and asks him, “Robert, what do you think?, she was pointing at the hotdogs now in their buns on the table all piled up on two big old plates…You see I told you, Mrs. Blackwelder she “saw” Robert, acknowledged his existence like no other adult I remember ever did or tried to do. And what did Robert T. say that day to Mrs. Blackwelder’s query? Robert T. looked at that pile of hotdogs and said, “Goddamn at the hotdogs Mrs. Blackwelder!!!”……I reckon I didn’t know what old Robert T. was going to say but it sure wasn’t that…..And every jaw dropped except Mrs. Blackwelders, she just smiled and said.” Now Robert, that’s not a nice thing to say. There are a lot of hot dogs and you can have as many as you can eat but don’t use that word, you know what word I mean Robert”…

Well Robert said he was sorry but to this day I don’t know if he was sorry he said “Goddamn” to Mrs, Blackwelder in describing all them hot dogs or if was sorry he said it cause he was scared like the rest of us of not getting to eat all of them hot dogs…..And fellow gardeners I never in all my life seen a kid eat as many hotdogs as Robert T. did that day. It was like he’d never had that many hot dogs to eat ever in his life and I’d venture to say that was the case. You see “invisible” people don’t usually get invited or participate in cookouts like we had that hot summer day all them years ago. When all the hot dogs were gone, all the chips, all the lemonade so was Robert T. And we kids all played baseball till dark and even then might have played “kick the can” after dark……And Robert T.? He was invisible again and if I ever saw him again I don’t remember it. He just disappeared, vanished, became what he was to most of us most of the time…….INVISIBLE

Paul From Alabama

The comments below were transferred from my “old” blog as was the little story above with the date of the story as shown.

Almost lost my coffee with his response!  Mrs. Blackwelder was one of my favorite teachers.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011 - 04:31 PM
Now Paul, That was funny!!!!!  I can just see Mrs. Blackwelder when he said that!!  I laughed out loud!!!  Gotta pull that stuff out of your brain from way back!!  I, seriously though, remember the “silent people” in my life.  And, at times, believe it or not, I have felt like the silent one…..
Wednesday, July 27, 2011 - 05:15 PM
Reading this brought back memories of a girl from elementary school who was “invisible”.  She transferred to the school I attended in 7th grade and was in my class in both 7th and 8th grades.  Her last name also began with “H” so she sat in front of me both years.  I remember that she walked with a slight limp, never looked at anyone and in the two years I don’t believe I ever heard her speak to anyone… not in class, not on the playground.  I never remember the teachers calling on her in class either.  What I do remember is seeing her smile one day at something one of our classmates said and thinking she was so very pretty.  I don’t know what happened to her after our 8th grade year ended.  She didn’t come with us to high school.  I don’t know why.  I remember others in our class saying she was older than us… maybe even 16 when we were 13.  It bothers me now that I didn’t make an effort to befriend her.   I truly hope that life has brought something good to her… something for her to smile about.
Friday, July 29, 2011 - 08:28 AM
@Phyllis, Well when you’re as big as I am its hard to convince anybody you’re invisible…..:-) but that said I reckon we’ve all felt that way a time or two.
@Linda I believe your story and I know it’s true but I’d venture to guess that it’s the only person you ever met or ran into or had anything to do with that you didn’t do everything you could to make them feel wanted, cared for and liked……….and I see you do that for others every time you ever interacted with anyone I ever saw you with……I know you make me feel that way everyday of my life….
Friday, July 29, 2011 - 03:31 PM
Love the story and brought back some faces from the past for me…..Rickey
Friday, July 29, 2011 - 08:38 PM

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