Maxwell-Dickson-Melting-Numbers-Wall-Clock-P15067980“What time is it?” Mom asks throughout the day. I can understand that it’s easy to get confused in the winter when it’s still dark in the morning, and already dark by late afternoon. The digital clock by her bedside doesn’t seem to help. Her fading sight makes it hard to read the big clockface on the wall.

Fixing one problem, I continue to discover, creates unexpected new ones. I exchange her tiny watch for a Timex with large black numbers. She confuses the hour and minute hands. I change the wristband to sporty Velcro so she can put it on herself, though usually upside-down. The new strap irritates her frail skin.

My fall-back position is to tell her what time it is no matter how many times she asks.

We’ve made a game of figuring out what day of the week it is. Each morning, she chooses one of the seven days of the week that we’ve made in large letters and bright colors. With coaching, she always succeeds. Then I put the name of the day on the wall where she can see it from her favorite chair.

“Was it Monday all day today?” she’ll ask.

“Only until two o’clock,” I answered once, “and then it was Saturday.” My grin gave the joke away and she laughed.

Curiously, she never wants to know the date or the month or the year. Too much information, I guess. Now is the time that matters. The events of her past have become ships passing in the fog, heading to forgotten destinations.

When she learns that someone she knows has passed away, she is somber but not particularly sad for long. It’s more like she’s returned from bidding bon voyage to someone on an ocean liner as it left the dock. She’ll miss them, but is cheered to know they’ll have a good time when they get there.

I was hurrying with a long “to do” list for her the other day and dropped my wristwatch on a cement floor. The numbers 2 and 10 fell off and rolled around inside the glass. It wasn’t a cheap watch. The warranty had expired. I couldn’t decide if it meant I should speed up or slow down.


Old Soldiers

These four men were residents of Knox County, Ohio when the Civil War started. They enlisted together at Camp Andrews (near Mount Vernon, Ohio) in late 1861. They mustered out together on July 13, 1865. From left:

enlisted Nov. 25, 1861 at age 21

enlisted Nov. 4, 1861 at age 26

enlisted Nov. 1, 1861 at age 20

enlisted Dec. 12, 1861 at age 18

They enlisted together in a Knox County company being raised by William Walker, who served as company captain until spring 1862. Company K joined the 43rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry and left Ohio in Feb. 1862. With 3 other Ohio regiments, they formed the “Ohio Brigade,” commanded by Col. John Fuller. They served for the duration of the war. 

He regretted writing “Dixie”

Daniel Decatur Emmett (1815-1904)

Daniel Decatur Emmett (1815-1904)

In 1898, my great-grandfather Edwin Lewis Lybarger introduced his son Harry Swayne Lybarger to Daniel Emmett, the man who wrote “Dixie,” the song adopted by the Confederacy in the Civil War.

Edwin Lybarger was Grand Commander of Ohio for the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) for its annual encampment, held that year in Mt. Vernon, Ohio, where Emmett lived.

“He was a little old man with a cane,” my 10-year-old grandfather Harry wrote in his journal.

Emmett’s original lyrics (recorded 1916)

Union version of Dixie

Dan Emmett performing in blackface before 1860.

Dan Emmett performing in blackface before 1860.

Forty years before that meeting, Daniel Decatur Emmett (1815-1904) was a vaudeville performer with Bryant’s Minstrels, a troupe of white musicians performing in blackface, an unfortunately acceptable performance style in the 1850’s. They performed Emmett’s song “Dixie” for the first time at Mechanics’ Hall in New York City on April 4, 1859.

To Emmett’s life-long dismay, the song became an indefatigable symbol of nostalgia for the defeated Confederacy and the Old South.

“Dixie” tells the story of a freed black slave pining for the plantation of his birth, the lyrics written in an exaggerated version of African American vernacular, intended for stereotypical comic effect. “If I had known to what use they [Southerners] were going to put the song,” Emmett later said, “I will be damned if I’d ever written it.”

In the 1943 Paramount musical biopic titled Dixie, Emmett was portrayed by Bing Crosby.

Cat in box stole his heart

In 1909, my great-grandfather Edwin Lewis Lybarger and his wife Nancy Moore Lybarger traveled from Warsaw to Newark, Ohio for the GAR Encampment of Civil War veterans. They stayed with Uriah Brillhart and his wife Ida Severn Brillhart. The Brillhart family had lived in Spring Mountain, and Uriah would have been a young boy when Edwin returned in 1865 at the end of the war.

Among his papers, Edwin kept this old newspaper clipping:

Article in Ohio newspaper, 1909Capt. E. L. Lybarger at last is the possessor of a pretty little maltese kitten. For several years the Captain has been the lover of beautiful cats but could not keep them in his possession. He has bought them, had them given to him by the dozens but something happened to each of them, they either died or strayed away to some other place.

Capt. Lybarger was attending the G.A.R. encampment at Newark, Ohio this week and one day he was visiting at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Uriah Brillhart. The Brillharts owned a little maltese kitten which as soon as was seen by the captain captivated his heart. The Captain told Mr. Brillhart of his luck with cats and said that if he had any way of taking the kitten home with him that he would steal it. The conversation was then turned to other topics and the subject was dropped.

Maltese kittenWhen the Capt. and Mrs. Lybarger were getting aboard their train for home Friday, Mr. Brillhart handed the general a small box saying that it was a souvenir of the encampment. After the train pulled out the box was opened and there snuggled up within the box was the baby cat.

The captain carried the kitten home with him and it is now drinking milk and eating strawberry short cake.