“You Could Write a Whole Book About Me”

Believe it or not, our buddy Clay passed away. He left the VA Hospital at 8:45 pm on Monday, Jan. 14, heading for his next adventure on the other side. In most cases, people wouldn’t be that surprised by the death of an 81-yearold. But did any of us ever really think of him as that old? Looking more like 60-something, with that sparkle in his eye and his infectious joie de vivre, I think we all joined him in his expectation of making it to 125. Or we just didn’t think of his dying, ever. It’s a big blow. Of course, Clay would probably be more philosophical about it. In that low, slow purr of a drawl that was his speaking voice he might be telling us to just take it easy and not to forget him. For that matter, he’d probably like nothing more than to know that people will be telling “Clay” stories in Riverwest for years to come. Doubtless, they will. He loved sharing his memories, his stories. Born in rural Mississippi, thrown into work before he reached his teen years, he didn’t have much “book learning,” but he rounded out his education through expansive and extensive life experience. Always on the lookout for opportunity, he made his own way through many parts of the country, and even to some exotic spots of the world. He was a farm worker and an oil worker and an ironworker and a Marine and a Sea Bee and a cleaning person. He was a loving son of the man who gave him his own name and a father and, onceupon- a-time, a husband. He was an impish kidder and a great partier and a vocal admirer of beautiful women. He was a gypsy who finally settled down, in Riverwest. But mostly he was a fun and full-of-life, kind, caring friend to many, many people. It was what he called “blood cancer” that took him. He seemed to be doing well for a while with the transfusions he was getting. I guess it was too easy to believe that with all he’d been through in the past, somehow he’d get through this, too. I still have the wilting celery in my ‘fridge that I bought to make him the potato salad he so enjoyed. (“How come you haven’t brought me any potato salad lately, Ellen?” he asked the last time I saw him.) I’m certain I’m not the only friend he had that wishes we’d been there at Clay’s bedside to hold his gentle hands and wish him safe passage. Clay once told the Riverwest Currents, “When you’re traveling down the highway, you don’t know where you’re going, but you can always look in the rearview mirror and see where you’ve been. I can tell you anything except where I’m going.” If you’re listening, Clay, “We love you and we miss you something awful. There’ll never be another you! We just hope to God you’re having a good time, wherever you are!”