Dancing the Hassapiko



Virginia Hope Powell has died at the age of 90. We called her Dee.

She was sharp as the proverbial tack almost to the end, her little gray cells fed by political obsessions. She was an FDR-style liberal Democrat to her core.

deeBut parenthood for her ranked ahead of politics. Her score there was mixed, a score shared by most everyone, so we can’t really complain.

Family rumor has it that she almost married the mortician in Sylvester, the small town in rural southwest Georgia near which she sprouted way back during the First World War.

Her life likely would have been happier with the undertaker. Instead, she married a brilliant, handsome man whom she met at the University of Georgia, inserting herself into a decades-long drama of booze, confusion and poetry.

She was an only child, and her daddy was a cotton farmer. Her mama was a housewife with a college degree. Rare back then.

She spent 95 percent of her life in Georgia because the handsome man loathed travel. The other five percent was just over the state line in Florida, an insignificant jaunt.

She long dreamed of visiting the Greek Isles but never did.

Her primary accomplishment was two children, both of whom resemble their father far more than their mother, a recipe for more booze, confusion and poetry.

Due perhaps to having virtually no religious beliefs, she was hesitant to die. Her handsome man was hesitant too, but that did not save him from the heart attack on Mother’s Day in 1991 when he was 75.

She could have gone to the Greek Isles then, but after almost seven decades in Georgia, she simply didn’t know how.

Alas, she lived too long.

In the final years her small family splintered, spiraling into rancor. It would’ve been better if she hadn’t seen that. She would have died in peace perhaps.

One by one, we quit drinking: The handsome man, the daughter, the son. Dee didn’t have to stop because she never started.

But our late-blooming sobriety came too late. We three re-entered sober life like battered space shuttles covered with heat tiles bought from the lowest bidder on a back street in Bogotá. Our spaceships spun out into sharp shards.

* * *

Pray that Dee begins her next life far away from Georgia, perhaps in Antipaxi, Corfu or Samothrace, the salty breezes from the Ionian or Aegean seas caressing her soft childish cheeks.

And later may she marry a plain and kind man who sells calamari on the coast, dances the Hassapiko and strums the Bouzouki.

And may he be quite allergic to ouzo and all strong spirits.

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