UNCOMMON PARENTS This is the story and not a complete story about my father, Walter Laurent Carter II. Born in Alexandria, Louisiana, December 9, 1917. Sitting here today I remembered for a moment while looking at a travel documentary about the Emerald Isle, how found my father was of St. Patrick and also St. Francis of Assisi. Neither one of them had anything in common outside of sainthood that I know about, but I know he was enthralled by both of them and remained so throughout his life which spanned an awesome 83 years. Sixty of those years he was married to my Mother, Della Pete, born in New Iberia, Louisiana, March 1, 1916, which happened to be a leap year. I am most influenced by my father because I spent most of my time the seventeen years I was at home with him and from him I learned to be most of who I am today. They had hoped for a boy when I was born. There was just no room for another girl after the great Princess Juanita had been born three years earlier. They had no idea that there was a possibility that the next child may be a girl also, so much so until they had only picked boys names and when I was born they were at a loss for words and for names. I still wonder what they had been smoking. Anyway, Can you believe they had planned to name me Andrea Bernard Carter so that my Initials would be ABC. Parents are funny huh? Thank God he was reading a novel and the heroinâ€™s name was Gwendolyn, so that is how I got my name. if he had been reading Moby Dick I would be in real trouble. Most of our days and evenings were spent in the garage across the street around the corner form our home in Galveston, Texas. When my parents met in Galveston before their marriage, my father had been a Mason. His father and the men of his family all had been but with my Motherâ€™s great influence and her belief in Catholicism convinced him to change his philosophy about life and join her in the Catholic Church. I am sure he did it reluctantly but he was a people pleaser and was always swayed by my motherâ€™s decisions for our life, regardless to whether he liked it or not. Some of the fond things I remember and stories about my father was that he was a veteran of World War II and acted as a MP and worked at Ft. Crockett in Galveston. Every Sunday was his day off and he would bring the German prisoners from the forth home with him for dinner every week. My mother hated it but he insisted that they needed a home cooked meal so she relented and had them for dinner every week. This is where he learned the German language and became quite fluent. I can imagine that it was a requirement since his post was with the prisoners. Daddy had been in Galveston since he was 15 years old. He came there seeking his Mother who had moved there shortly after his birth. (8 months) During those days Galveston was the port and not Houston as it is now so all vessels form foreign lands came there to deposit their cargo. He grew up and in fact we grew up in a very diverse community and he had friends from all walks of life. Even after converting to Catholicism he never ever missed a Jewish holiday and I can still remember him sending cards to all of his friends and celebrating their holidays along with them. This is where I got my love for bagels and lox. I still love it today, and I am 66 years old now. When I was born he was working for Samuel Cigar Co. as a salesman and distributed Cigars,
cigarettes and all kinds of tobacco products to retail outlets and he also filled vending machines wherever they were on the Island. The house was also filled with all of these things and this is where and how I learned to smoke as a very early age. I modeled his behavior in all things and as soon as he put his lit cigarette in any ashtray in the house, even in diapers I would follow behind him and take them and put them in my mouth. He thought it was cute but my mother thought it was horrid and I received many whippings for getting caught doing it. Thus making me want to do it even more, you know how good forbidden things are. My father never complained about anything, you could never see his worry regret or have sorrow about anything, he just smoked his way through it, just as I do, and you would never see him sweat. The only person who ever unnerved Daddy was his Father, Papa. Papa was a very small, green eyed caramel skinned man with a head full of wavy light brown hair. He could not have been taller than 5 feet and weighed no more than 90 pounds, but he could put the fear of God into my father and make him dance the jig. Papa was actually my Grandmother’s brother, he and his wife Clara reared my father after Octavia, my grandmother left for Galveston. She was 14 at the time and the real Grandfather’s name was C.J. James, District Attorney for the city of Gary, Indiana. They reared Daddy and Rosalie, who was Clara’s sisters daughter and better known to the world as my aunt Baby. Baby was my grandmother’s nickname and soon to be taken over by Rosalie, why I still do not know, unless back then the youngest of the family was always called Baby. In that case I am Baby also. Baby lived with Uncle Sam and his wife Aunt Mary, one of her brothers; she had many they came from a large family. Uncle Sam and Aunt Mary had what was then called a rooming house, it was a large house with four one bedroom apartments downstairs and four upstairs. This sufficed the three of them for income. Once my Daddy converted to Catholicism, he embraced it wholeheartedly. He became an Usher in the church and took part in every activity and soon became a lecturer, reading from the Missal in parts of the regular Sunday Mass. He joined the Knights of St. Peter Calvier, The Holy Name Society and so many other religious organizations until I cannot name them all. He finally in his last days became a 4thdegree Knight and was decorated by one of the popes for his exemplary service to the Church. I’m still looking for that big Diamond ring they gave him for that, it seemed to disappear in thin air once he passed away. He also sat on the Board of the Boys and Girls club in town and received many awards for service there also. He was always in the daily newspaper for something or another. Once his Godfather, Old man Clouser died, he took over his position as assistant to the mayor of Galveston for Senior Citizens and Disabled affairs. We tried diligently to get a street named after him but we were unsuccessful. He certainly deserved it. You know Daddy was an avid reader and I can recall when I was still in Diapers him reading Edgar Allen Poe, (even though Shakespeare was his favorite) to me and teaching me to memorize the lines from the Raven. I had it down pat by the time I went to Kindergarten at four years old. My mother changed my birth certificate so that I would not be too far behind Nita in school and she could get both of us out of the house at once. Back in those days no one really checked. We went to the Catholic Boarding School Holy Rosary but we did not board in. There was no need as we lived in town. Daddy went to Central High in Galveston which is also Nita’s and my Alma Mata. He attended Prairie View A & M and pledge Alpha Kappa Alpha. He never went over although because that year there was a razzing incident where a student was killed on the railroad tracks and the razzing was other Greek activities was discontinued. H
majored in History with the hopes of teaching one day, but that day sadly never came for him. He was a true Historian and chronicled everything he could get his hands on that was of any interest to him. He documented and kept meticulous records about many things. Nita took that trail, I never did, I think it was a bit too detailed for my nonstop energy Nothing Mama could do or say could convince him to ever spank Nita or I. Once he tried when we decided to clean the house in their absence and poured water, detergent, and Ajax cleanser all over the kitchen floor. He tried but as soon as he got started with me over his knee, he broke down crying and said I looked too much like his Mother for him to hit me. After that incident Mama never tried to convince him to spank us again. I think he was more relieved than we were. He actually had the softest heart and could not hurt a fly. Mama was the disciplinarian. She doled out the punishment, rules and regulations of the house and the life we were supposed to live and rarely gave any praise or affection. But she truly was the most generous person I ever knew. She donated in cash to each and every organization she could find and everyone in the family always came to her for personal loans and she never turned anyone down. I don’t know where and how she got the money but for her it was an unlimited supply. She worked tirelessly for the church as well and found all of her peace and esteem in the fact that she was Mrs. W.L. Cater II. She took care of all of us and kept us on the straight and narrow and treated Daddy just like one of her children. They called each other Mama and Daddy and once when we were on vacation in California visiting Aunt Baby one of the children in the family asked if that was his Mother also, all he could say was yes. And so my mates must call me Mama and I call them Daddy and they told us the reason why they did this is to keep Nita and I calling them that instead of calling them by their name. It would be disrespectful if we did. Since Uncle Sam had been in invalid from his shooting accident (jumping over the fence of another man’s house after a long afternoon’s visit with that man’s wife). Daddy used to do most things for him from shave him daily, to run all of his errands and take care of his banking business. Daddy got so good at it until before long any of the parishioners at the church that became shut-ins, Daddy did the same thing for them, getting Mama to prepare meals for them especially on holidays. I delivered many of them for and along with him. He was a true humanitarian. He got not credit for meals on wheels but he should have. Another stellar attribute he had was his fondness for gardening. First of all he knew the names of every shrub and tree and anything that had foliage on it and I never knew how that occurred, never thought to ask him. He found great joy in gardening and grew the most beautiful roses pink and sterling silver roses for us and most of our neighbors. Mama always thought that he should cut their grass as well but that is where he drew the line. They had many spirited arguments about that. In their older years he grew fresh vegetables in the back yard where his new garage was and Mama ate only from his garden. He was always so proud of the fact that he never used pesticides and herbicides and would save his cigar ashes for his garden. Exactly what effect it has I cannot remember.
With time Mama became Diabetic, she contracted Parkinson’s disease, Congestive Heart Disease and then on top of all of that had a very bad burn accident that advance her Parkinson’s to it late stages and she lost her ability to walk. Daddy nursed her hand and foot until he came down with Congestive Heart Disease himself and took sick one day and lasted about one month after that. His Sunset was on Monday April 24, 2000 at UTMB in Galveston.
This is the Poem he left to be added to his Obituary, You know he had everything prepared ahead of time.
I am Not There “Do not stand at my grave and weep. I am not there, I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow. I am the diamond glint on the snow. I am the sunlight on ripened grain, I am the gentle autumn’s rain. When you awaken in the morning’s hush. I am the winds uplifting rush. Of quiet birds in circled flight. I am the soft star that shines at night. Do not stand at my grave and cry, I am not there, I did not die. Author Unknown
I thank Almighty God for blessing me with such wonderful parents.