01 June 2009


I think Jeremiah began to work for my mother and father around 1947 or 1948, doing lawn and garden work around my father's optometric office in Bakersfield. He was born in Tyler, Texas - or at least he considered it his hometown - born about 1908, I think, so that if he were alive today he would be 101. Peter knows quite a lot more about Jeremiah than I do.

Though he first entered our lives as a yard worker, he became of great importance to my own growing up.

"Jerry" had little formal education. He could read, in the sense of puzzling out written material, but I think he was functionally nearly illiterate. We grew up with him, so never thought anything unusual in having a 'black' man (actually I think his ancestry was fairly equal parts of African black, American white of some sort, and American Indian - again, of some sort) as effectively a second father during our Oroville years; and one whose native English was fairly non-standard - not only East Texas vowels, but such archaisms as 'holp' as past tense of 'help.'

Jeremiah had been married, and had, I think, two, or possibly three children. Herbert was the one Jerry talked most about. Herbert lived in Los Angeles and was himself married and had some children.

I remember a time - perhaps about 1971 or -2 - when I was visiting at my mother's house in Hilo, talking to Jeremiah about religion. I had become a Christian by then and was eager, with new-convert zeal, to talk with Jerry about the Lord. He had a phonograph record - and old 78RPM, I think - of a preacher talking about repentance. Jeremiah loved to play that record.

He told me that he was glad I had come to the Lord, that it was a good thing, but that he himself had made a mistake at one point in the past, that the only way for him to come back to God would have been to go back and undo that mistake - and that that was now impossible. I think he thought he was doomed to Hell as a result. He may have been talking about the divorce that separated him and his wife.

Or he may have been talking about his relationship to my mother. That is a matter which will have to come into these posts at a later time. Anyway, Jeremiah died in the early 1990s, I think - Peter will know the date - and I pray regularly for his soul and his rest with the Lord, whose "mercy endureth forever."

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