Last night I was once again called by the splashing of my fountain, but this time when I stroked the river stone, I willed myself back to the Sunday afternoon in 1974 when Clint found it. We were, in colloquial terms, “running around.” Clint’s divorce would not be final for two months, and though our relationship had pretty much become common knowledge, we chose to keep it to ourselves as much as we could. Hell, Shirley's lawyer had already had us followed to Las Vegas - with photos to prove it - so I'm not sure why we were hiding. More than hiding, I think we were separating ourselves from all the chaos that we, in fact, had created by falling in love.
Dr. Bob Edenfield, a friend and colleague of Clint, owned a stretch of land along the Ocmulgee River north of Macon. He once told Clint to use the land for fishing whenever he wanted, and it became our haven during the tumultuous final months leading up to Clint’s divorce.
Clint was driving a blue Chevy Nova, one he was forced to buy when his car broke down on the way to Mississippi one time. Behind the wheel, at 6 feet, 4 inches, he looked a little like a praying mantis, his knees visible slightly at the bottom of the sheering wheel over which he was hunched, elbows flailed out slightly. On that day, though, one of his children was using the car, so he drove my tin can of a Toyota Corolla, in which he looked even sillier. He folded himself into the drivers seat, and left to make rounds at the hospital. He saw each of his patients every day, whether or not he was on call, just one of the dozens of ways he set himself apart from the “average” doctor.
Parrish spent the night before with Lil and Olin Dominy and was staying for the afternoon, so when Clint finished rounds, we grabbed my old picnic basket and put together a meal of Havarti cheese with dill, a baguette of bread, some bananas and a bottle of wine. I loved that old basket, the handle and hinges held together with fishing twine. We kept it until it literally came apart at the seams. Clint was reading The Eiger Sanction, and I threw in a few issues of The New Yorker.
So, off we went, down to the river. Over time, we had carved out a spot for our picnics, and we spread out the table cloth, stretched out and began to read. I was July, that is to say, it was hot, but our spot was shady and comfortable enough. After a while, I got up and kicked off my Keds and walked out on a boulder that jutted out into the river, sat down and put my feet in the water, dangling them back and forth, splashing up the water. Clint was asleep. He had narcolepsy, and he took frequent naps.
My splashing woke him, I suppose, because he came and joined me. We got hungry and decided to raid the picnic basket, and as we were making our way back to the river’s edge, he reached into the shallow water and came up with the moss covered rock. He sat it on the tablecloth to dry while we ate and read.
I am still at a loss for words to describe how far away we were when we went there. Less than 20 miles from the bedlam of Macon, we could have been on another planet. After about 3 hours, we loaded up and returned to reality. Those times kept us sane and focused on what we wanted, and what we wanted more than anything else was each other.
That rock sat on Clint’s desk at his office until he retired. Then he moved it to his desk at home, where it stayed until about a month ago when I put it in my fountain, returned it to the water, completing a circle that began 35 years ago.