The Wardrobe

on September 18, 2010 in The Wardrobe

I was almost three years old when my Uncle Cabe passed away. He was thirty-five. Caleb Edward Story was the sixth child of Lawton, Sr. and Nancy Bentley Story. My father, Thomas Jonathan, was their eighth child. Daddy often said Cabe was the “strongest of us all.” He could swim faster and hit a ball out of sight. Others said he had a sweet heart and cared deeply for people, while others bragged of his intellect and good looks.

Caleb Edward Story

Caleb Edward Story

When Caleb was a young teenager, he sustained a hard lick on the head while playing football at school. In the following months, he gradually declined and starting dragging his left leg. He eventually lost use of his legs, and his wrists seemed to melt into his arms as his hands curved inward. He was diagnosed with spinal meningitis caused by the injury. It would be a long and slow process, but his spine would eventually curve backwards. And at age twenty, Caleb lost his mother to heart failure. All around, it was a difficult time for the Story family.

The doctors said to keep Caleb out of a wheelchair for as long as possible. Force him to keep going, keep him strong. He got around the house in a straight- back caned chair. He used his weight to rock it about. But before it was over, Caleb was in a wheelchair and then worse, bedridden.

He really was a handsome man with thick, almost black hair and blue eyes. And though he was bedridden, I never saw him in pajamas. He always wore a white long sleeved dress shirt. He enjoyed listening to a radio by his bed and drank from a glass straw. I sometimes wonder if I really remember him, or just remember the stories about him. But one story I know is real – because I was there.

Often we – the Story cousins – got together at PaPa Story’s house on Adrian in Tucker. Our parents visited often helping Uncle Cabe by massaging his arms and legs.

PaPa Story loved sitting on the front porch in his rocker. My grandfather was a very tall man, about six-five with beautiful thick silver hair. He had sky blue eyes. He took his time to speak and drew deep breaths due to asthma. He often wore a city looking dress hat that made him look like the movie stars in the forties. PaPa Story loved children. He had nine of his own and twenty-six grandchildren. He especially enjoyed “high spirited” children and did his best to encourage this behavior – even when it meant allowing the kids to run wild through his house playing hide and seek.

PaPa Story

PaPa Story

Home base was the mimosa tree in the front yard. PaPa Story’s rocker was lined up with that tree so he could enjoy the hummingbirds and watch which of his grandchildren could make it to home base first. His “say” was the final word and ended many arguments about who the real winner was. He was proud of his fast runners, but awe-struck by the children who won by the use of their wit. Before the game was over, it escalated to boys against the girls. Instead of one hunter, we had all the boys hunting and all the girls hiding.

This was too much for me as I was afraid of being trampled. When the thundering loud counting started from the boys, I ran for safety to Uncle Cabe’s room.

The house on Adrian Street was a four square house with no halls, no closets. The kitchen was connected in the very back which led to an enclosed back porch. When the boys started hunting, they ran in the house through the front door, making a couple of circles through the house, then out the backdoor, without slowing down. They sounded like a herd of elephants.

Uncle Cabe had the back bedroom. I felt safe there along with my sister, Patricia, who was almost five years old. My cousins Linda and Carol sometimes came too – they were four years old. They wanted to play and win like the big kids, but when that loud counting started – they became overwhelmed and ran to Uncle Cabe’s room too.

To my surprise one day, Uncle Cabe said, “Hurry Diane, open the wardrobe. Get in girls! Quickly! Get in before they stop counting!” They crawled in and then Uncle Cabe said, “Now Diane, close the door and move away from it!”

I did exactly what he told me. I slammed the door shut and ran to the far side of his bed out of the boy’s normal pathway and stood next to his radio – just in time. Here they came!

“Where are those girls? Are they in here?”

Uncle Cabe was suddenly cool and said, “I don’t see anybody, but Diane, and she’s not playing. She’s little. Don’t tag her.”

They circled around again, “Did the girls come in here?”

Uncle Cabe again answered coolly, “I don’t see anyone except for Diane, and she’s not playing. Did you look under the bed?”

“Not there either,” they shouted and ran through the dining room and out through the kitchen, back porch and down the back steps heading for the backyard. You could hear them hooting and hollering all the way.

“Diane! Open the wardrobe and let ‘em out! Hurry!”

I obeyed Uncle Cabe and ran over and opened the door.

Uncle Cabe was almost shouting, “Run girls, run! Double back and go out the front door! If you hurry, you can beat ‘em! Go! Go!”

The girls tumbled out one by one and hit the floor running as fast as their legs could carry them!

“Diane, close the door! So they won’t discover your hiding place!”

I did exactly what Uncle Cabe said and closed the door. I then ran out onto the front porch and stood near PaPa Story for further protection. I watched the three girls run to the mimosa tree all about the same time as the boys.

Caleb with a few of his nieces and nephews; also his father and step-mother.

Caleb with a handful of his nieces and nephews; also his father and step-mother.

PaPa Story was shocked by what he saw; he jumped to his feet and stretched his neck out to get a closer look. He got so excited and laughed so hard that he had a breathing spell. Quickly he took out his pocket asthma whistle and took a few deep breaths while sitting back down in his rocker. When he had recovered, with his first breath he declared the winners. PaPa Story had his “say.”

Patricia Story

Patricia Story

“It was close! But Petunia (Patricia) was the first one there and then Carol, and then Linda! Boys, they beat you fair and square!”

We played that game many times with Uncle Cabe. I don’t ever remember beating the boys again, but the playing field was leveled with the use of the wardrobe. Uncle Cabe kept our secret and loved playing the game with us. I remember his coolness and then sudden laughter.

One day, the laughter stopped and Uncle Cabe was no longer bedridden. His name can be found etched on a stone marker at the Pleasant Hill Baptist Church cemetery next to his mother.

Caleb Edward Story’s name is also forever etched in our hearts. Some of his brothers and sisters have lovingly borrowed his name. Sarah Story Graves has a son, Roy Edward and a grandson, Charles Edward. Robert Story has a son, Charles Edward. Miriam Story Sexton has a great-grandson, Caleb Parker. Thomas Story has a grandson, Jonathan Edward and a great-grandson, Jonathan Caleb.

Caleb Edward Story was a special person who knew how to make winners out of unlikely contenders, and he was very kind. I know, because I was there.

Caleb Edward Story b. October 24, 1918, d. December 7, 1952.

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