A Mexican Among Anglo-Saxons (The Story of Theodore)

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©2011 Robert C Burnham

A brother.  Many of us have one.  Some of us have several.  Those of you, who do not have a brother, have missed something special.  I have two but this is the tale of the weirdest one, Teddy.  We are a Scottish/Irish family and my siblings and I grew up in the picturesque anglo-saxon town of Mexico, Maine.  All of us grew up there and as expected received good anglo-saxon names.  Until 1956.

During the spring of fifty-six, Father Andre Theodore was on loan to our local catholic church from the diocese of Mexico City, Mexico.  It was the day following St Patrick’s Day and Father Theodore was outside St Theresa’s Holy Trinity Church tending to a patch of wildflowers that the church had been blessed with.  His attention on the flowers was interrupted by the flight path of a bright orange Chevrolet as it left Roxbury Road, jumped the curb and was now looking to land on St Theresa’s non-existing runway, bringing it dangerously close to the wildflowers and one now-wildeyed Mexican padre.  At the wheel was my dad; who it turns out was not quite the jack-of-all-trades the local townsfolk had come to view him as.  Seems the chink in his armor was a less than perfect knowledge and lack of experience in the act of childbirth.  Sitting next to this would-be pilot of Chevrolet avionics was my very Irish mother, who had allow her water to burst three damn weeks early.  Irish women have such tormenting nerves.

As the Chevy-turned-airplane came to rest on the tarmac, my father looked up to see his salvation running straight for him in the guise of an aging but still agile bearded little priest, still carrying a hoe.  Folks, trust me, you cannot make this stuff up.  Somehow, managing to relinquish the hoe to my dad, “here sir, hold this”, the good Father managed to get my mama into the backseat of the Chevy, and I might add, being the only man to ever have done so.
Turns out, in his very first attempt, father Theodore proved a natural at child-birthing.  By the time the ambulance arrived, the baby was out, the cord was severed, the priest was shirtless (hey he had to wrap the baby in something) and the mama was serenely holding her newborn.  Dad?  Well, dad was sort of still standing off to the side discussing Detroit aerodynamics with the hoe.  He was alright after a while, although I think the Chevy needed re-aligning.

The next day, Father Theodore brought a vase of the St Theresa’s wildflowers up to the hospital for my mom and her new baby boy.  And without warning, my mom forgot whatever good, anglo-saxon name she had picked out for my darling brother and introduced him to the padre as little Theodore Andre Burnham.  The story goes that my dad pretty much fainted straight away.  The second thing she told the Father that day was that, at thirty-six, this was it, she had three now and was not having any more babies.  She vowed!  Then, seven years later, cussing at fate, she delivered me into this world.  One shouldn’t make vows one cannot keep.

From the day he was named after a Mexican priest, my brother ‘Teddy’ has never been quite right.  At twelve, he had a budding marijuana garden growing out back, informing my mother that it was a “science project”.  At fifteen, he hypnotized his friend Jake (again, folks, you cannot make this stuff up) and had him do a chicken dance on the front lawn – naked!  We were soon asked to move.  At forty-something, he dropped out of the world for six months and done a solo thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.  We were living in South Carolina at the time and he simply referred to the endeavor as ‘walking home’.  When I dropped him at the trailhead, he weighed roughly 140 lbs, carrying a backpack that weighed 60 lbs.  When he walked out of the woods in Maine into my Aunt’s front lawn he weighed 88 lbs.  The backpack?  Well, what backpack?  To this day I think he ate it.

Below is my little tribute to my brother ‘Teddy’ and his earthly wanderings.  I do know where he is today.  He is in the backwoods of Carolina practicing what he refers to as the ‘white Wiccan’ arts.  He is in the backwoods of Carolina tending to his 200-strong marijuana patch and his five dogs.  But for many years of my life, I didn’t really know where he was, just catching glimpses of him once in awhile, every few years or so.  I so love my brother ‘Teddy’; and folks, you really can’t make stuff like this up.  He’s just an old hippie…

I DON’T KNOW WHERE TEDDY IS
©ROBERT C BURNHAM

I DON’T KNOW WHERE TEDDY IS
HE’S GONE WITH THE BOYS AGAIN
DRINKING & SMOKING AND TELLING JOKES
HIS LIFE WILL HAVE NO END
I DON’T KNOW WHERE TEDDY WENT
HE WALKED OUT THE DOOR ALONE
NOT IN SEARCH OF FAME OR FORTUNE
JUST A CHANCE TO GO GET STONED

MAYBE THE MEXICAN GIRLS CAN TELL ME
THEY WERE THE LAST TO SEE HIM I HEAR
ALL DRESSED UP WITH NO PLACE TO GO
GOING FAR AWAY BUT STAYING NEAR

I DON’T KNOW WHERE TEDDY IS
BUT TELL ME IF YOU CAN
DID YOU PASS HIM BY, DURING YOUR RIDE
DO YOU THINK HE’S COMING BACK AGAIN?
I DON’T KNOW WHERE TEDDY IS
EVEN WHEN HE’S AT HOME
HE HAS A THOUSAND HIDING PLACES
WITHIN HIS MIND ALONE

MAYBE HE’S IN BANGLA DESH
GETTING CLOSE TO BOB DYLAN’S SIDE
OR HANGING WITH JOHN LENNON’S GHOST
ON A MAGICAL MYSTERY RIDE
HE USED TO VISIT JERRY GARCIA
IN HIS WORLD OF PSYCHEDELIC RED
TRUCKING ALONG WITH CASEY’S TRAIN
PARTYING WITH THE DEAD

I DON’T KNOW WHERE TEDDY IS
BUT IF YOU SEE HIM SAY HELLO
AND TELL HIM THAT I AM HAPPY
TO KNOW THAT I CAN CALL HIM ‘BRO’.

DO YOU KNOW WHERE TEDDY IS?

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