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A lot of life has happened on our deck

5 mins read

By Scott Graber

Many years ago — perhaps 1980 — Roy Gray knocked on the door one morning saying, “You need a deck.”

“Yes,” I sleepily replied, “One day my wife and I intend to add-on some kind of wooden extension off the dining room.”

“That day is today,” he said.

And before the sun set on that Saturday, Roy and I had poured footings and were well on our way to a 20-by-27-foot platform, canopied by a grove of huge magnolia trees.

It is Saturday, 40 years later, and I’m sitting on that deck in Port Royal. It is wooden, light colored 2x4s revealing recent repairs. There are also four Adirondack chairs and two planters with intensely green holly ferns. All of which have been silent witness to thousands of conversations.

Some of these conversations were painful, many were celebratory, almost all of them alcohol assisted. But painfully or painlessly, this deck took us from our enclosed, climate-controlled, white-painted rooms and projected our small family into the humid, febrile, parasite-rich Lowcountry out of doors.

This morning that deck is empty, conversation-free, a Southeasterly breeze providing the only soundtrack. As I sit with my Eight O’clock (French Roast) coffee, my memory takes me back to fundraisers (Governor Hodges); birthdays (vocals provided by the incomparable Jan Spencer); and dance parties that came with trophies for cutest couple, best hair and best breath.

When my wife and I got to town in the 1970s, there was an older generation still living — mostly on the Point. They had seen the Depression and World War II and had come back and founded banks, law firms and businesses. And these older folks mixed easily with a younger cohort made up of Marine Corps pilots, young doctors and newly minted lawyers.

Willie Scheper would tell stories about his bank; Leroy Keyserling would talk about financing the first shrimp boats to operate out of Beaufort. The young pilots, not to be outdone, would talk about flying through flack just above Hanoi.

This was a time before reliable television in Beaufort — we got a weak signal from Savannah. It was a time when there were just a couple of restaurants, bars or places to congregate. It was a time when long, night-time conversations were considered first-rate entertainment.

But what sticks in my mind about this particular deck were the small, one-on-one conversations with excited friends who had just won office; or devastated friends who had just lost a father; or a son tentatively handing me his report card.

I also remember late nights when my wife and I were just home from parties and reluctant to go to bed. We would sit in the darkness and recount the conversations, evaluate the Beef Wellington, mimic the voices of those who would be having a very rough morning after a long night of vodka and cranberry juice.

Our deck, now empty, is also testimony to the fact that we are a gregarious people who need constant contact with other people. We are a species that loves storytelling. mimicry, pantomime and give and take with an edge to it. Yes, we love to listen — at least for a while. But we love to perform when its our turn.

I miss this congregating, this storytelling, this face-to-face connection that I have always taken for granted. I also miss the fact that I can’t hug anyone anymore. Although I was an Army brat I grew up “southern” — I grew up hugging my cousins, grandparents and my kinfolk. (As far as they were concerned a handshake was an insult.)

Scott Graber is a lawyer, novelist, veteran columnist and longtime resident of Port Royal. Email Scott at cscottgraber@gmail.com.

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