Today would have been Irby Hicks’s 95th birthday. He made it just five days shy, dying in the wee morning hours of Saturday, July 9, four days after a massive brain hemorrhage essentially shut him down.
We pause for a long moment of reflection, love, and respect. Without Irby Hicks there would be no Art Scatter, not just because without him we would never have been born, but also because he instilled in his seven children the love of language and story that is crucial to the forming of any writer. Three of his children became professional writers. The other four are devoted readers.
Dad now enters that strange but powerful after-existence of memory, surviving in hearts and minds and stories. And memory being the elusive and misleading thing that it is, he approaches the category of myth. What do we remember, what have we forgotten, is it true?
For some reason, some of my most potent memories of my father involve food, and yet I’m not quite sure the events I recall actually happened. Did I hear them someplace, in a different context? Did I take unrelated things and invent a storyline to string them together?
I vividly recall the time he put a chicken on the chopping block and lopped off its head. The decapitated bird rose up, flapped its wings, and flew across the low-lying garage, finally flopping to the ground on the other side. One sister recalls this. No one else does. So my sister and I wonder: Was this somebody else’s story that we somehow transposed to Dad? I remember the time I came home from school and encountered a whole hog’s head staring up from the bathtub: Dad had acquired it, and until he had time to strip it down, there was no place else to store it. No one else remembers that one. Did it happen? One thing’s true: the garden. That large, lush garden that for years flourished so magnificently. Maybe I think of food because it nourishes, and Dad nourished my own life. I am, in many ways, what he planted.
Like all fathers and sons, we had our times. In my late teens and early twenties I had the arrogance of the young, who like to take the full measure of their elders from the narrowest channels of their minds. And Dad did not suffer fools gladly, especially if the fools happened to be his own offspring. But those days were long past. Dad commanded respect, and we were all, I think, a little in awe of him. His even keel, his love of song, and his dry wit brought him down to earth and bound us together.
Dad was straight and strong and durable, and although we certainly knew better, I think that until three or four years ago we didn’t quite believe he would ever wear down. Well, he did. It was his time, and he went as gracefully as the circumstances allowed.
Now we turn our attention to Mom, Charlotte Lucille Baldwin Hicks, who is 91, and who has grit. Her story isn’t done.
If you’re interested, you can read Dad’s obituary notice here.