Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Story of Cork ...

Do you believe in ghosts?  It's easy to mock people who do ... and most of my life I've been on the fence about the topic.  Do they exist?  Don't they?  When pressed for an answer, I typically say something vague along the lines of ... there's too much about this world we don't understand to say something definitively doesn't exist.  Who knows?

But this is the story of something that really did happen ...

When my Mom and Dad moved out to the country, they bought a home down the road a mile or two from the small cemetery where a lot of my relations were buried.   You can't see it from our property.   It's just a small area of land ... down a country road and around a corner ... out the way.  You wouldn't find it unless you were looking.

Well, my Dad had a cousin everyone called Cork.  We all loved Cork.  He was a mess of unrelated adjectives that don't make sense when you put them together.  Words like ... fun and disturbing and hilarious and unreliable and loyal and playful and trustworthy and reckless.  Cork was a liar ... he would tell the most outrageous stories ... things you knew couldn't possibly be true.  And yet he told them to you with the same conviction that most people use when they talk about Jesus.

"The only way to make money is to own a bar."
"The only way to make money is to be in a band."
"The only way to make money is to drive a truck."

He did all those things ... and yet accomplished nothing.   The bizarre part of it all ... is that despite his bands and his bars and his schemes ... you loved hearing his truck tires pulling up in the gravel.  Because, if nothing else, you were going to have a great time listening to him.

Cork died of heart disease in his early 50's ... and was buried in the cemetery down from our house.   He was a big man ... and his death deserves a post all of it's own because it's one of those "truth is stranger than fiction" stories.  But that's for another day ...

I wasn't living at home by the time he passed away ... and it wasn't too long afterwards that Mom started telling me stories.  Doors would come open on their own.  Lights would flicker on and off.  At one point she called me in a panic.  She'd made the bed and went back in the room later to find an imprint of someone sitting on the edge of the mattress ... even though she was the only one in the house.  She was certain someone was messing with her ... and she was certain that someone was Cork.

I listened to her stories with an open mind and never said anything negative.  Because ... like I said up there ... who knows, right?   It's not like I saw anything happen myself.   Until I went out to their house one weekend ...

I was in the bathroom on one end of the house ... everyone was in the living room at the other end.  While I washing my hands, I heard the back door open.  It seemed odd ... we weren't expecting anyone else.  So I walked out into the hallway to see the back door standing open.  When I pulled it, the door wouldn't close.  The latch for the lock was in the "out" position ... and it wouldn't move.  You couldn't press it in or do anything with it because it was "locked."  I stood there messing with it for a minute or two.  How did a door pop open in the locked position?

Mom walked by the hallway and saw me standing there and said, "He opened the door, didn't he?" and I said, "Who?"  She rolled her eyes, "You'll have to unlock the bolt if you want to close the door."

I was a little confounded ... how did that happen?  

A couple weeks later, Dad told me he spent a Saturday re-wiring their bedroom because the lights kept flickering off and on.  He said that evening ... after he'd finished everything, replaced the wiring, the hardware, the bulbs ... everything ... it still flickered.  He'd gotten frustrated.   He said he sat down on the bed and said, "Dammit, Cork it's not funny ... you're welcome to stay here but leave the goddamn lights alone!"

It stopped ... and, according to Dad, the lights never flickered again.

So ... that ... is the story of Cork.   Whether it's a ghost story or it's all merely coincidence, in the end, it doesn't matter.  Because it's the kind of story Cork would love telling ...

So don't ask me Hank
Why do you drink?
Hank why do you roll smoke?
Why must you live out the songs you wrote?
Stop and think it over
Try and put yourself in my unique position
If I get stoned and sing all night long
It's a family tradition!

Hank Williams, Jr. - Family Tradition