Mama, Is That God? Close Son: He Was Robert E. Lee


My favorite story of my brother’s childhood happened at the Buckingham Inn, in – wait for it – wait for it –

Buckingham, Virginia. 1973.

Robert was always a bit sharper than his sister (duh), but I was still sucking on a bottle, pointing at strangers, and dropping my toys to aggravate my mother (oh, that must have been fun!) when Robert did the famous story.

A huge portrait of Robert E. Lee was over my father’s head as they ate. The old inn served as an antique gallery, restaurant, etc and Robert just stared at the vision in front of him. The portrait was huge – the gentleman in his famous grey, Confederate uniform, appearing dashing and ready to defend his Virginia – and not the future Robert E. Lee of 1865 with tired eyes and homeless from his wife’s Arlington.

“Daddy,” he pointed at the painting.

“I’m eating,” my father informed him.

“Mama,” he pointed at the painting.

“What Robert?” my mother sighed, bending to pick up my toy yet again and smacked my hand as I giggled.

“Is that GOD?”

My father thought for a long moment, himself a great scholar and son of the South, and responded, “To some, Robert, he was.”

My mother cocked an eyebrow, “And just how do you think you got your name? You were named after him.”

“I have God’s name?” my brother brightened, and pointed to Robert E. Lee and yelled to the entire world, “I was named after GOD! And there he is!”

My mother buried her hands into her face. My father couldn’t stop laughing. Numerous Sons of Confederate Veterans rushed to the table to sign the Hendricks kid up on the spot (okay, but one SCV member did talk to my father a week later when he heard the story). And my brother went down in history for the best Hendricks story of all time.

And I?

Kept dropping my toys for my mother to pick up and poured my drink over the head of the boy named for a god.

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