(An example of how a headline can open your mind to old memories and help you write toward surprising connections.)
I don’t want to talk about the General Flynn who just resigned because he might have lied about what he said to the Russians.
I want to write about Jim Flynn, my father’s friend.
My father taught delinquent boys history during a time when we used the word delinquent to describe young men incarcerated for a crime(s). Delicate language as though they were simply late returning their library books. A time when we invested in the hope of rehabilitation. In this place where my father taught history to delinquent boys he met Jim Flynn, the man who supervised my father.
Jim Flynn was an Irish-American like my mother and her family. I was too young to notice, but my father told me that when Jim Flynn slipped into an Irish brogue, there was always a wee bit of Irish whiskey in his belly because, you see, Jim Flynn had never lived in Ireland.
We lived in a rented apartment, sort of a duplex in a maze of identical rented duplexes, when my father first took me to Jim Flynn’s house, an old Victorian he had fixed up. Now that I have grown up words at my disposal, I can say “the house he renovated”. Or, better yet, rehabilitated. Just like the delinquent boys under his and my father’s care.
And in this gangly relic of a house with its narrow hallways and half-lit stairs leading to impossible rooms, a ten-year old girl might imagine stumbling upon an imprisoned princess or the castle’s resident dragon or monster of whatever type.
This rambling and a little bit creepy house with its velvet chairs and lace curtains, contained Jim Flynn’s collection of things from the past. Things my grandparents sometimes talked about but I had never actually seen.
We sat in Jim Flynn’s parlor, the kind of room that my grandparents as children would have wandered into and would have been shooed out of, being too precious for the swish bam boom of a child’s love.
Jim Flynn eyed me and said “Do you know what this is?” pointing toward the center of the room. “A Victrola?” I said as a question.
Yes. A Victrola. The word filled, no – drowned my mouth, with the long “ohhhhh” of it. Delicious. Full. Round. Yet, the sounds hissing from the morning glory shaped horn of this odd grandfather of a machine bristled and scratched their way through songs I had never heard.
When I grew up and went away from my parents’ home, I asked about Jim Flynn from time to time. At some level, I worried if there would come a point when they no longer kept in touch – maybe a fight or just plain old forgetting.
Then, one day, when I asked about Jim Flynn, my father replied, “Oh, he died a few years back.”
Unknowingly, I had been living in a world without Jim Flynn in it.
Jim Flynn Resigned.
Last year, my father died but in his case, I knew exactly when he was in my world until the minute he wasn’t (except I am doomed to remember that at the moment of his death, I stood in line at Walgreen’s buying lip balm for my mother and wine for me.)
I miss Jim Flynn. I miss my father. I miss the me who lived in their world.