Saturday, August 18, 2012

Napoleon and P-Jank Showed Me The Way

I'm gonna tell ya two short stories in order to relay one message.

My grandmother has a lot of family in Winfield, Alabama. Because of this fact she and my granddad used to pack the kids up once a summer and make the 4-5 hour trek up highway 43 to visit.

I have heard many stories involving these Winfield trips from my Mom, my aunts and uncles.

The stories told of the very rural very poor society of Winfield and the unbelievable characters that lived there.

One of these characters was P-Jank Wilcutt. How's that for a name? I warned ya these were some unique characters.

P-Jank wasn't truthfully related to the family. He was a cousin to my great aunt's in laws or something. But regardless, P-Jank lived nearby (along with his parents and his sister Cootie. Yes, his sister was named Cootie.........FUN FACT: Cootie later became a prostitute. Every time I think about these folks my heart goes out to her...I mean, being named Cootie has to be bad for business when you're a prostitute.)

Anyway, on one of the summer trips, long before Cootie's prostituting, My Uncle Nathan was out in the yard playing with P-Jank. They were probably trading stories of city life and country life when eventually Uncle Nathan asks, "How old are you, P-Jank?". P-Jank thought about it for a long while. My uncle stood there in amazement. He thought he had asked a simple question. My uncle thought,"How is this a question you have to think hard about?"

After a few moments P-Jank asks, "Well, Nathan,how old are YOU?". My uncle says, "13". To which P-Jank replied , "We look about the same age. I reckon I'm 13 too."

I have always been shocked by this story. I'm sure those folks in 1950's Winfield, Alabama didn't have enough money to have elaborate birthday parties for their kids but I figured they would at least remember the day so they could say "Happy ___th Birthday".
Birthdays are a kid's most exciting day of the year I thought. And these poor folks didn't even know when it was.

I always pitied P-Jank and Cootie (Cootie for many reasons) but then I eventually read the story below. It tells of a general that Napoleon was questioning. That general explains why number of birthdays isn't important.


"Napoleon was involved in conversation with a colonel of a Hungarian battalion who had been taken prisoner in Italy. The colonel mentioned he had fought in the army of Maria Theresa. 'You must have a few years under your belt!' exclaimed Napoleon. 'I'm sure I've lived sixty or seventy years,' replied the colonel. 'You mean to say,' Napoleon continued, 'you have not kept track of the years you have lived?'

The colonel promptly replied, 'Sir, I always count my money, my shirts, and my horses - but as for my years, I know nobody who wants to steal them, and I shall surely never lose them.' "


Reading that story made me happy. Firstly because it illuminates a truth I hadn't thought of in that way.

And Secondly because I didn't feel all that bad for P-Jank and Cootie anymore.
Actually I kind of envy them (well.......not Cootie).

I envy P-Jank because unlike him I am well aware of my exact age.
I just think as much as I love cake and ice cream (and pointy party hats) ,
it'd kinda be cool to not know how old I was.
And please don't think I'm using this as a ploy to forget I'm getting older. Without specific age numbers we'd still know we were getting older.

I guess I just like the idea because it would actually push us all to live fuller lives. No one would have to freak out and cause themselves so much internal struggle because they were turning 30,40,50 whatever. No one would feel like a loser because they hadn't accomplished goal_____by the age of ___.

I realize that I find inspiration in the strangest places. I can't help it. I just do. Somehow P-Jank and Napoleon have reminded me that I have to wake up each day and give life all I've got. Thinking age is thinking too grand scale. I need to focus on kicking ass, today. That's all that matters .

I know this is going to sound like a bumper sticker, but I firmly believe it:

"It is not the number of years in your life. It is the amount of life in your years"

1 comment:

  1. From what I've witnessed of your life, your years have lots of life in them! I love it!