A Treasure (Or Two) at Tybee

Mom and Dad weddingSo I spent yet another week cleaning up at my parents’ house at the beach, and oh my goodness, what treasures I found! Not like a Picasso in the bottom of a dirty, rag-filled box, but treasures just the same.

I emptied the drawers in my mother’s secretary and found a trove of college memorabilia. Mom often spoke about her Vanderbilt days but she’d graduated from a junior college in Savannah before Vanderbilt. I found her yearbooks–she’d been the editor of her college newspaper (The editor? Did I know this? Did she like to write as much as I do?), the president of a foreign relations club (What? Are we talking about my mom? The woman who’d run if someone came to the door?) and one of the outstanding students of her class–and I found her graduation program, too. She’d been the valedictorian.

The valedictorian, too?! All I can say is, you think you know someone. (Though to be honest, we always knew Mom was smart. Dad always said he married the smartest girl in Savannah. But to be perfectly honest, we thought Dad was exaggerating. Apparently, we thought wrong.) It was awfully nice to come across these treasures about Mom after all these years. (And maybe I should follow the writing advice she threw out there, back in the day when I thought I knew better than she did. Sheesh, is my face red.)

And then I came across something my dad had typed–and saved for all these years. I was stunned when I read the writing on the outside of the yellowed page in my Dad’s beautiful script, “William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech.”

Not because my dad wouldn’t know Faulkner. My dad was a physicist, chemist, and college professor but he read a couple books a week for as long as I can remember. Still, he read mysteries, thrillers…he wasn’t exactly literary.  Or philosophical.

But maybe I was wrong about him, too. Here is the section of the speech he meticulously copied:

I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.

I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

I’d never read William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize speech (It’s very short and you can read it in its entirety here.) and I have to say, I just about choked up when I came to that part about the writer’s duty: It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past.

I wish I could talk to Dad about this treasure. But even so, I’m glad he found a way to share it with me. And of course, typical of Dad, teach me one last lesson.

21 thoughts on “A Treasure (Or Two) at Tybee

    • Yes, Lisa, so true. I came across another note that my dad had written to his father when he was…maybe ten or so, and it had all these hearts on it. Now, that–that note had me in tears, thinking of that little, heart-drawing boy missing his daddy!

  1. Oh, wow…how great is this? Of course, this makes me never want to throw anything away again for the rest of my life in the hopes that my kids will think something I did was this great. 🙂

  2. Oh, Cathy, this is such a moving post. Your parents were such a lovely couple. The photo of them is wonderful, and from what’s in this post, they were passionate and wise. You were meant to find these treasurers. And thank you for sharing them.

  3. Cathy, you discovered priceless treasures which I am certain will be handed down to your kiddos. This was touching.

  4. Cathy, this is wonderful ! You gained much from your parents !
    Closing up your parents house is all ways difficult, or it was for me.

    • It’s an up and down experience, isn’t it, Homer? One minute I feel like crying and the next minute I’m overwhelmed with joy. But either way, I’m glad for the experience!

  5. Cathy a true treasure the little things we uncover and remember and those we learn for the first time. Aunt Marie , Uncle Fret and my dad your Uncle Charles as your mom would say…brought such love and laughter and joy to us all and these little moments in time bring it all back!! miss our Tybee times………Aunt Kay AKA mom is still telling the stories..some we are hearing for the first time!!

    • Oh, thanks, Debbie! Yes, I miss all of them, but I think more of all the laughter and joy these days. Give a hug to Aunt Kay and the rest of the gang–Mister Man and I are planning a trip to New Orleans soon. It’s been way too long since we’ve seen all y’all!

      • Let us know when and we will try to meet you down there or if you pass through Ruston , Louisiana you have a place to stay!

  6. Kathy, I can see you now going through all those memories of your parents and the days gone by! I see where you got all your smarts, as you had two very smart parents! !! Are you keeping the house at Tybee?

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