Tuesday, September 27, 2016

John Walker, Jr., passes away


a father,
from South Carolina’s Low Country,
where the soil is rich
and so is the burden of history and heat,
gifted with an intellect that set him apart
and enough football skills 
to get him to college,
the first to do so in his family,
football skills and a master’s degree
 make him marketable as a teacher,
so he escaped the Low Country for opportunity
in the cool mountains of East Tennessee,

a mother,
rooted in the rich farm life 
of East Tennessee
and the intellectual will
 of a New York grandfather
who escaped the cold 
and the limited opportunities
 of a 14th child,
gifted with an intellect 
that set her apart--
devoted to learning and to her family,
burdened by the restriction of choice
when culture forgets truth,
and thinks being a woman 
narrows your possibilities,

man and woman found each other
from out of the loneliness 
that too much intellect can create
and from an equal excess of heart
that flowed from each to the other,
 and to all,

a son is born
and all their universe centers upon him,
as he grows, he, too, can feel set apart,
as his intellect drives him to places
few others around him seem to see,
his heart, too, big enough to hijack him,

so much of the man we saw
is the mind in full flower,
yet fertilized and directed by the heart,

racing to figure, to connect dots,
even those no one else sees,
in his last years when illness and stroke pummeled him,
his doctors pronounced that Johnny with half a brain
had more brain than they with a full brain,

a drive to him, as to so many first-born,
and maybe even more 
to those named junior
to someone extraordinary as senior,
excelling in school, 
his brilliance rewarded with high grades
and a ticket away from East Tennessee to Duke
where he again excelled in class
and then won a ticket to Columbia Law School,

Daddy died before he could know of either success,
of the honors that showered upon Johnny in school
and in the practice of law,
brilliant in understanding bankruptcy law
and for decade after decade  his law firms successful
due to his knowledge, his skill, his hard work,

the teacher in his parents also in him,
the occasional course at U.T. Law School
and the annual refresher of law
 across the state,
Tennessee Law Institute,
the inexplicable made accessible,

like Grandmother,
 he could not abide English mistakes,
there is a correct form
and woe be unto any who don’t follow it,
including protocol rules of seating
 at a wedding, or at a Thanksgiving table,

his approach to God best facilitated
with the rules clear and God manifest
in the Word and in the Practice,

his thirst to know, to learn, to experience
rewarded by A.F.S. with a summer in Switzerland 
that led to a lifelong love affair 
with people and place of that extraordinary country,
a passion that drove him to return year after year,
even taking his mother there once for holiday,

returning to ski slope,
to tradition, to being honored for being special,
to mountains that draw him to their beauty and to their power,
to pull him from the ordinary into wonder and grace
and away from the humdrum and limiting
that birthplace can be for one,
a driving need to be differentiated from the other,

our ancestors must have felt within them
a call to be elsewhere, to the different,
to the opening-up of possibility
that a change of place, a change of longitude, latitude,
can allow if one can but grasp it,

and Johnny grasped it, 
in his schooling, in the pull of Europe,
in his politics, so contrary
to what cultural homogeneity counsels,

politically, the different, to him, 
important to include in the whole,

a cook who knew the male can provide
for his kids, for the family, for the taste buds,
a father who doted on kids, on his kids,
 and on his grandkids, on his nephews, his niece,
and who loved any time
 Duke sports overwhelms.

he did the best he could,
can any of us wish for more?

from his brother, Henry Walker


Bill said...

Henry, I only met him a couple of times, and he was indeed the man you describe. Very, very well put.

Unknown said...

Thank you for this tribute, Henry. He sounds like a good man. ..we need more like him.

Jeff said...

Henry, sorry for your loss. We know he is in a better place. Probably eating Swiss chocolate and sampling single malts. See ya Thursday. JC