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DICKEY FAMILY FINDS SPECIAL MEETING PLACE
By David Williams
September 16, 2004
LONG CREEK — Family reunions are common in Oconee County, but Thursday’s gathering of the three children of author James Dickey on a rock overlooking the Bull Sluice rapid on the Chattooga River may be one of the most uncommon family gatherings ever in the county.
It was Mr. Dickey’s novel and later the movie "Deliverance" that brought national and world acclaim to the wild and scenic river and to Oconee County, which had no whitewater rafting companies when the film finished shooting in 1971....
Links to sites devoted to James Dickey:
Latest James Dickey publications:
A collection of articles in the Free Times of Columbia SC:
Kevin's work as one of America's leading interventional radiologists is well reported in medical journals, but less accessible on the open Web. Fortunately there are a few articles that explain his work to the general public, including one on aneurysms.
Bronwen's column in Newsweek, March 1997:
HE CAUGHT THE DREAM
MY FATHER WAS MY MENTOR AND THE DOMINANT FORCE IN MY LIFE. I GRIEVE FOR HIM
And if the earthly has
Say to the silent, "I am
To the running water,
say "I am." -- Rainer Maria Rilke
MY FATHER ALWAYS SAID THAT WHEN it comes to writing, write what you want to
say. The questioning, the changing, the editing ... that all comes later.
"Use the freedom," he said. I have just watched my father die. His life,
which was reduced in the end to pulses on a dusty screen, has ended. And, if
I can find the strength, this is what I want to say.
You could say that the day had been a tough one. As much as the grieving
family tried to prepare me, I was horrified by what I saw waiting at the
hospital. I did not recognize the man before me. That man was not talkative
and vibrant. That man was not determined and strong. That man had given up.
And, perhaps, it was time to. He was nothing more than a pained skeleton,
and his chest heaved as though every breath was a last valiant effort. His
fingers were purple from lack of oxygen, though it was being forced into his
lungs in liters. My father was not physically recognizable, but his essence
was still strong in the room. His books were strategically arranged nearby,
and he still wore two watches, his Citizen Wingman and his Ironman
Triathlon. Funny, he always had to be on time.
I can't remember exactly what I said to him- I think I was talking about
boys and school and other trivia-but I remember him looking up at me through
all the tubes and the plastic with tears in his eyes. He did not have the
strength to cry, but I think he knew it would be the last time we saw each
other. All I could do was burst into tears and flee from the room. Here was
the man that changed my diapers, made me peanut-butter sandwiches (with the
crusts cut off), showed me how to throw knives and to shoot a bow, read me
poetry, stayed up with me all night when I was sick, taught me to play
chess, came to all my recitals, braided my hair, watched movies with me,
checked my homework ... and he was dying. Dying. And where was the pride in
his death? Where was the glory in being the human part of an oxygen tank?
I forced myself to stop the tears and returned to the room. I sat down in
the chair beside his bed and held his hand, which was covered in a mix of
blood and Betadine from the IVs. "Come on, Dad," I tried to say with a
smile. "I need you, OK?" And what he said, the last words he ever said to
me, were "I've always needed you." God, I loved my father. I squeezed his
hand and told him that I loved him, and he nodded. Weary and dazed, I left
the hospital with the hope that he would just hold on through the night, but
I was awakened at 11:18 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 19, with the news that my father
had died. In a way, it was a relief. I didn't want him to hurt anymore. He
should have been paddling down some wild river in a canoe, or playing
bluegrass ballads on his guitar, or tapping away at a typewriter, not
straining for breath in some sterile hospital room. I got dressed and drove
to the hospital with no tears, and I saw that the door to his room was
partially open. Seeing the person you love more than anything in the world
dead is one of those lose-lose situations. I figured I either would see him
that last time and have that image burned into my memory forever, or I would
always wonder and wish I had. My father told me never to look at him dead,
and I should have listened. It was the most horrible thing I have ever seen.
I never thought there could be such a dramatic difference in a person who is
very ill and one who's dead, but the difference was incredible. The lights
were off, and there was an eerie backlight behind the bed. My father... My
father's body was 'propped up, but his head had fallen back and his mouth
was open. He looked like he was in pain. A lot of pain. Did I have to see
him gasping for air the last time I ever saw him? I screamed. I didn't know
what else to do. I just stood there in hysterics. The only person with me
was my brother, Kevin. He didn't know what to do, either. We were both kind
of floating around in a sea of turmoil and pain. I am still in that sea.
There are islands of normality and "okay-ness," but the existence of the
islands does not destroy the existence of the water.
There was no time for grieving that week. There was too much to do. Funeral
and memorial-service arrangements, cleaning out the house (which we had to
sell), appraising most of the big items in the house (which we had to sell),
changing locks so our house wouldn't get looted, those sorts of things. And
then we had to deal with all the fans and the sycophants. I don't remember
when I really did grieve. I think I do every day, because every day I am
overwhelmed with ire fact that I will never see him, talk to him, ask him
questions or listen to the answers again. He was my mentor and the dominant
force in my life.
So I am left with memories of greatness. Not the greatness of the writer but
the greatness of the father and the teacher. One time in the class he
taught, my father was reading his poem "Good-bye to Big Daddy," about the
death of football player Big Daddy Lipscomb, and this big ox-headed football
player in the class started bawling in the middle of the reading. The class
was dismissed, and my dad just went over to this guy and held him while he
wept like a child, saying, "It's all right, Big Boy; it's gonna be OK." That
is the kind of teacher James Dickey was. There are no words for the kind of
father he was.
A few of his favorite quotes echo through my mind like steps down an empty
hallway. "Live blindly and upon the hour" from a sonnet by Trumbull
Stickney; "None of them knew the color of the sky," the opening line of
Stephen Crane's "The Open Boat"; "Catch thou the dream in flight," and a
line referring to someone's eyes that were,''somewhat strangely more than
I will live blindly and upon the hour. I will catch the dream in flight,
though I do not know the color of the sky. And my father's eyes, though they
will not see my graduation, my marriage or my children, will always be
somewhat strangely more than blue.
DICKEY, 15, is the daughter of the poet and novelist James Dickey, who died
this year at the age of 75.
Links to Tom Dickey
Our old house in Leesburg, which now seems to be a conference center:
And still more family ...
More on James Dickey
Reviewer: Earl R. Bradley from USA
I was Jim's pilot in WWII and was astounded by some of his "recollections", but, then, does an auther have to (or should he) tell the truth? His job is creating images.