Category Archives: A Story

#TBT: Goodbye, Mama. I love you.

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Mama and me

Going to miss her so very much.

I wrote this the day we buried Mama. It’s been eight years today since she died . I still miss her. Rob is holding on as best he can.

I’m sorry if this is some of my worst writing ever in this blog, but I hope y’all will excuse me since I buried Mama today.

She finally succumbed to complications from COPD Monday night, March 25, 2013 at around 10:30 PM. Budge and I were holding her right hand and my cousin Rhonda who was like a daughter to Mama was holding her left hand when she passed from this world into the next. We buried her next to Papa John in a pale, almost translucent pink casket. We didn’t have a viewing and we only had graveside services. That is how Mama wanted it and since I am her only next of kin, only son, power of attorney, and executor of her will, no one was going to have me do anything differently. I didn’t even have her embalmed because her body was in such poor condition. Fletch — Alan Fletcher — the owner of Fletcher’s Funeral Home in Fountain Inn, agreed with me about not having her embalmed. He said she wouldn’t look right and there wasn’t much he could do. I’m glad, because that’s not how I want to remember her.

I managed to preach her funeral myself, which is what she wanted me to do. I really didn’t have any choice because all the other ministers who knew and loved Mama are in such poor health themselves it would have been hard for them to do it. I read the 23rd Psalm and spoke about the Easter story since Easter is Sunday. I talked about how Mama loved Jesus and how she was ready to go to her Heavenly home. I read a letter a friend of hers had emailed me all the way from Las Vegas. Of course, at the funeral, I transplanted Las Vegas from Nevada to California, but Budge and Deuce caught the mistake in time for me to smooth it over. I had the mortician put a copy of the letter in the casket with her.

Rob — my beloved stepdad — is taking Mama’s loss incredibly hard. They were together for almost 20 years, which was three times longer than she was married to my dad. Thankfully, he’s had family and dear, dear friends rally around him the last few days. I know he has a very long road ahead of him. As much as I don’t want to admit this, I’m actually afraid Rob may grieve himself to the grave with Mama. I know he misses her that much.

For me, the grief has been unpredictably breaking across me in waves. I broke down in the hospital right before she died when it was just Budge and I alone with her as she was fading fast. Since then, I’ve had a meltdown per day, except for today. I’ve actually been happy all day, even during the funeral because it was a picture perfect crisp Spring day. I know the happiness isn’t permanent. I have some dark nights to look forward to, I’m sure. I also have a lot of responsibilities to attend to that will give me ample cause to fall to my knees and wail a gut wrenching sob from my heart for nearly an hour as I’ve done twice already. I’m trying to keep in mind this is all normal and I don’t have to be Superman. I’ve just lost Mama — my best friend, my oldest friend, my main cheerleader . . . it’s normal and okay for me to be bereft, but it doesn’t make it prettier or easier.

Reunited Monday, 3-25-13.

Reunited Monday, 3-25-13.

I’m also having to contend with guilt as well. Several times I’ve heard a voice inside me I recognize as my old friend The Black Dog whispering, you could have done more! You should have done more! Why didn’t you move in with her? Why didn’t you bring her to live with you? Why were you not with her more? Why were you reading or eating or playing a stupid computer game instead of sitting beside her in her recliner holding her hand? Why didn’t you cook meals for her? Why did you leave her alone? Didn’t you know she was lonely? Didn’t you know she was hungry? On and on and on this voice spits vitriol and accusation at me and it’s been pretty much nonstop for the last 72 hours.

Of course, there’ve been other voices as well and these have been from the outside. People have told me time and again how proud they are of me for following through with Mama’s wishes and for being strong enough to preach her funeral. I’ve had several people tell me of conversations they’ve had with Mama when she told them how proud she was of me and how thankful she was to have a good son. I’ve had nurses tell me this week of the numerous people they’ve seen die all alone even though family was available.

In the end, I have to decide which voice or voices to listen to. I will say this, though, when I have been at the heartwrenching depths of despair, when I have been sobbing uncontrollably, even in the dark hours at Mama’s deathbed, I’ve found one deep, deep well of strength and comfort — God’s written word. The only thing that has been able to pull me out of the waves of grief that have wracked me with sobs and crushed my soul with emotional pain too great to bear has been reading from the Bible. I’ve read out loud and silently to myself and every time, I’ve found balm in Gilead. For that I am thankful.

I am also thankful for 42 years with the most wonderful mother a boy could want. I am going to miss her tremendously and I’m not even going to try fighting that battle, but I cannot let losing her destroy me and break me in the way losing Papa John broke Mama. I must carry on and if it means I have to limp because I’ve lost one of the major muscles I’ve stood on for all these years, then that is what I have to do. Mama is gone from me, but she is never going to be forgotten.

I love y’all. Sincerely, Me.

Thoughts on 50

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I turned 50 years old last month. I knew I wanted to write about it but, honestly, it’s taken me a while to process the fact I’ve ridden this rock around the Sun fifty times. I guess many people could say this, but if you had known me in my teenage and early twenties years you’d probably be surprised I made it this far. Up until 25 I didn’t lead a lifestyle conducive to growing old. I drank as much as I could in high school and swam in bourbon at college. Of course, you can’t be young and drunk without participating in many somewhat sketchy activities so I had some close scrapes along the way. Then there was the underlying reason I was acting out so. I was struggling with undiagnosed anxiety, depression, and borderline personality disorder. Looking back, I guess it’s a wonder I managed as well as I did.

I met Budge when I was 25 though and on the cusp of turning my life around. She help complete the turn and she’s been helping me along for half my life now. I wish I could say it’s been all pixie dust and unicorns farting rainbows, but it hasn’t. Old dragons returned and got much worse after a time, but Budge has held my hand through it all. She says she always will.

But what of 50? How do I feel hitting the half-century mark? Physically? Not so good. Age has uncovered the physical consequences of doing some dumb stuff while I have plenty of normal wear and tear to boot. It’s like a man once said, “It ain’t the make of the car as much as it is the mileage.” I have to say this vehicle has not been garage kept either. My knees hurt a considerable bit. I know much of that pain is from working double hard to carry my fat bottom around for all these years. Except for about three years in my teens, I’ve never been accused of being svelte and my knees remind me of that now. Actually, I could be weeks from death and I wouldn’t know it. I haven’t seen a doctor since 2015. I should probably be on cholesterol and blood pressure meds at least and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if blood work showed me to be borderline diabetic or worse. It drives Budge crazy, but right now I prefer denial to cold, clinical facts.

Mentally I don’t feel so bad. I have the slight forgetfulness that comes as we get older. I’ve made two and sometimes three trips to a room to remember what it is I’m here for, but overall I have pretty good recall. I know all the important dates and the relevant information about my marriage – you know, first date, what I was wearing when we met, all the important stuff that will get a husband in hot water if he forgets. I don’t think I’ll be fulfilling my dream of going on Jeopardy! any time in the future now though. I still know the answers but my reflexes might not hold up against the younger generation. My mind has been my greatest friend and worst enemy in my life but it’s still mostly intact and I can’t be thankful enough for that. If dementia is in my future at least I’ve made it by the “early onset” point. I hope I’m spared that fate though because, as many things as I’d like to forget in my life, I can’t imagine much worse than forgetting my friends and loved ones. It’s one of my many greatest fears.

So what do I think about turning 50? Mostly I think I’m old. Now I know plenty of people who are over 50 and don’t seem touched by age. I’m not one of them. I’ve never been active much in my life and if you don’t use it, you lose it. I’m not one of these who is going to be competing in senior marathons or weightlifting competitions. I just feel settled. I’ve been home sitting on the shelf for all of my forties. I haven’t been in front of a class in over 15 years; haven’t been a librarian for ten. Maybe I should try to reinvent myself and do something different the second half of my life but I’ve been on the shelf so long I don’t really know where to start. I’ve heard people talk about late bloomers, so maybe I’m just an early flower dropper.

One thing I don’t feel is particularly wise. To me, 50 has always been the age a man starts being sought out for his opinion and advice on weighty matters. I don’t feel like I have much weighty experience. I can serve as an example of the wrong way to do many things with alcohol, pills, and especially money. I learned all those the hard way, and I would love to spare young people some of that heartache, but I don’t seem to have much of an audience. I think about Papa Wham. He was 50 when I was born and he’s probably the wisest man I’ve ever known. He did things though. He fought a war, ran his own business, and served as a church deacon several times. He had a deep well to draw from. Next to him, I feel like a puddle.

One thing I am more aware of now that I’m 50 is my own mortality. Men in my family don’t generally reach 80. It seems 74-77 is the sweet spot. Then a big heart attack comes to take them away. I know I’m a lot, lot closer to the finish line than I am the start. I wish I was leaving more of a legacy behind but leaving no children and getting out of the workforce early aren’t the best ways to ensure I’ll be fondly remembered.

So here I am at 50. I’ll have good company by year’s end since many of my friends turn 50 this year also. I’m just going to try looking ahead more than behind because that’s supposed to be where the good stuff is.

Love y’all, and keep your feet clean!

#TBT: They Touched the Face of God

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I originally published this five years ago. Today is the 35 anniversary of the disaster and, maybe it’s because I’ve not long turned 50, but looking back at these events seems different now.

I was a freshman at Laurens District 55 High School on a bright, bitterly cold day in 1986. My third period class, just before lunch, was Honors English I with Dr. King. She told us anyone who wanted to could go get their lunches and bring them back to eat in her classroom. She’d gotten a TV from the library and had it all set up to watch the Space Shuttle Challenger carry a civilian — a TEACHER — into space.

I remember the line I picked was more crowded than usual so I was later getting my lunch tray than some of my classmates. When I walked back into Dr. King’s classroom, all behind schedule, she was sitting at her desk with tears creeping down her cheeks and the handful of my friends who’d gotten there on time sat in stunned silence staring at the television set.

I walked closer and got to an angle where I could see the screen and close enough to hear the announcer. That’s when I saw the now infamous smoke plumes hanging in the azure Florida sky. The man on the news keep repeating something like, “It seems a serious malfunction has occurred with Challenger. We don’t know what has become of the crew.”

I remember the room being quieter than the grave . . . more silent than I thought I would ever hear a high school classroom become in my life. Unfortunately, I was wrong on that count because 15 years later, I was the one weeping silently on a day in early September as my normally rowdy first block English II class sat in stony and complete silence watching another pair of explosions play over and over again on a much newer television.

As a young teenager, I had no idea how to process the Challenger disaster. We didn’t know at the time, it would be later in the day when the crew cabin was located, that the entire crew was dead. I didn’t know what to do with such public death. To be honest, I hadn’t been exposed to much death at that age. All my grandparents were very much alive, as were a slew of beloved great-aunts and great-uncles and other extended family galore. I certainly couldn’t understand the magnitude of an event like this.

https://i2.wp.com/www.arlingtoncemetery.net/shuttle.jpg

I remember the rest of the day being subdued, which was always unusual in our public high school. I finished classes and wrestling practice then went Granny and Papa Wham’s house where a newfangled television network called CNN played footage of the explosion over and over. The three of us ate supper and both Granny and Papa talked about other times such a huge event had happened in their lives like the bombing of Pearl Harbor or the day FDR died. On the ride to Fountain Inn earlier in the afternoon, Mama told me she remembered exactly where she was (the gym at Gray Court Owings School) and what she was doing (playing four square) when the principal announced JFK had been assassinated.

Now I could join the adults. I had a touchstone event in my life, a “where were you when” moment. I wish that moment hadn’t come at the expense of seven lives. I remember that night watching President Reagan as he gave his speech and said,

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honoured us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.’

In the thirty years since that fateful January moment as a freshman in high school, I’ve been witness to other monumentally historic events. I lay in the floor, again at Granny and Papa’s, and watched the Berlin Wall fall. I saw the horrific events of 9-11-2001. Worse, I sat with eerie feelings of deja vu in 2003 watching the coverage of the Columbia shuttle disaster, but nothing hit me quite as hard as watching Challenger explode on tv seemingly thousands of times. I guess because it happened when I was young enough to still believe the world was a bright and good place and the shock of seeing that it wasn’t stuck with me the longest.

So, help me remember those seven brave men and women now thirty years gone and also remember I love y’all, and keep those feet clean.

I Survived 2020

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The end is almost in sight. Just two more days to go and we are through this godforsaken year. It wasn’t until this year I really learned to appreciate the old Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” This year has been interesting but for all the wrong reasons. It all started way back in January when Kobe Bryant died in that helicopter crash along with his daughter. Everyone should have seen that for the terrible omen it was, but we didn’t. We would regret it.

I have to be honest about COVID-19. Personally, it hasn’t affected me much at all on a day to day level. Once schools got cancelled in person and moved to virtual learning, Budge stayed home from March to August and that wasn’t a problem at all. Exactly the opposite, I wasn’t lonely for the entire spring. She was about to have a nervous breakdown because of the craziness with trying to move from in class to online, but I was thrilled to have her home.

It’s not like we go on tons of vacations or fly or anything the powers that be deem high risk. We stay around the house most of the time anyway so the quarantine didn’t bother us much. At first, I was concerned with toilet paper. That was the most hilarious thing of the whole year to me. Running out of food on the shelves I get. I even understood the Lysol wipes disappearing. Toilet paper though? We may not eat and we may all contract this dread disease but at least we’ll do it with clean bottoms! We got a line on some though and managed to stay supplied through the darkest days when all butt wipe seemed lost.

We cooked at home more just because it was easier than going for take out. I may have mentioned this here before, but Budge and I eat out A LOT. It’s just the two of us and somewhere along the lines we decided cooking and cleaning up afterward was an awful lot of work just to feed two people. So, restaurants became our friend. COVID put the kibosh on that pretty hard though. We’re heading back out now and we’re fortunate that the majority of places we love weathered the storm well. We didn’t lose any of our favorite eating places, but I know everyone can’t say the same thing.

The thing that’s bothered me the most about this whole pandemic is how polarizing it’s been. Everyone has sorted into camps. Believers vs. deniers. Maskers vs. non-maskers. Now we’ve got those who are anxious to get the new vaccine vs. those who have no intention of getting it. I’ve never seen such a divide in the country. I’m not stupid; I know a lot of it broke down along political lines, but I’m so worn out from politics I try not to think about that angle.

While we’re talking about that. Election years are always a pain to me. I despise political ads and the entire political process. In all my years, no elected official has made my life measurably easier or harder. I know that may not be the case for everyone. Anyway, I always figured election years were the worst and nothing would ever top them. I was wrong. How about a hotly, bitterly contested election that some people see as a referendum on the soul of the country? Sound dire enough? Okay, now let’s put it in the middle of the worst pandemic in a hundred years. 2020, the year that keeps on giving.

COVID screwed us all over. Every holiday after Memorial Day had some kind of backlash due to the virus. July 4th was a bust even if some people did get together and cause a few spikes in places. It was a long hard summer. Thanksgiving and Christmas are usually happy times when everyone can get together and things go great. Not this year.

But now it’s on to 2021 and I’m interested in seeing what will happen. Will the vaccine take hold and things slowly get back to normal? How will I handle turning 50 in a week? How will Budge and I celebrate 25 years of marriage? Lots of questions and those are just the ones closest to home. Only time will tell.

Love y’all and keep your feet clean and Happy New Year!

Veterans’ Day 2020

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At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the guns fell silent on the Western Front. The armistice ending The War to End All Wars went into effect. Thus was born Armistice Day which was celebrated up until World War Two proved war was alive and well. After World War Two, Armistice Day became a day to honor veterans of all branches and all conflicts, and the name was changed to Veterans’ Day. This day out of the year we celebrate our surviving veterans. Over the years, people have begun to celebrate the living and the dead on Veterans’ Day, but those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom are more properly honored on Memorial Day. It doesn’t really matter as long as honor is given to these brave men and women.

I live with a lot of regrets. I’ve made many poor choices in my life, but one of the ones that hurts me the most is that I never put on a uniform and joined the military. Many of the men in my family served with honor and distinction. I regret I have not joined their numbers. When I was in high school I had a dream of attending the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. I had the required grades and my SAT score was excellent, but what is enough to get one into a regular college is not good enough for the Naval Academy.

To get into the Academy, you have to be appointed. I didn’t understand politics enough at the time to know what to do in order to get an appointment from a congressman or senator. So I didn’t get into the Naval Academy and my senior year stayed on its downward trajectory.

I was aimless after graduation. I enrolled at a local community college, but it was like high school all over again. At the time though, I was working at Advance Auto Parts with a guy named Moose. Of course that wasn’t his given name, but it’s all anyone ever called him. Moose had been in the Marine Corps and he had stories galore. He didn’t want to get out when he did but he was injured and had no choice. Moose convinced me I should enlist in the Marine Corps. I talked to a recruiter and took the ASVAB. My score caused the recruiters eyes to light up. It looked like I was on my way to enlistment. Before I could join though, I had to attend MEPS, which was the Medical Examination and Processing Station. Things went wrong there.

See, when I was near the end of my tenth grade year, I was in a car wreck that put a jeep bumper made of wood deep into my left thigh. The injury got infected and swelled up into a huge hemotoma that had to be cut out. I didn’t affect my daily life much, but I had a divot on my left thigh that was about a centimeter deep. It was fine as long as I left it alone, but if I touched it wrong, pain would shoot through my leg and I’d almost vomit.

Well, guess what the examiner at Fort Jackson did as soon as he saw the scar? Yep, he stuck his finger right in the middle of it. I crumpled and he asked me if it hurt. I assured him it did. He said I would have to get it fixed before I could enlist because they couldn’t have a marine with a built in torture spot on his body. I didn’t know how to get it fixed and I was too stupid to ask, so that was the end of my shot at enlistment. Had I gone in, I probably would have fought in Operation Desert Storm.

So, I never got to wear the uniform. I regret it every time I see our soldiers on the news or see an enlistment ad on TV. Still, I am quick to thank all those who did join and have served so faithfully all these years and to them I say Happy Veterans’ Day!

Love y’all and keep those feet clean.

#TBT: 10 Years or a Lifetime? Some Nights I Don’t Know.

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I wrote this post on the tenth anniversary of my being fired from my beloved teaching job. Tomorrow is the eighteenth anniversary. I haven’t forgotten and it still hurts as much today as it did then.

I was on my way to being very chipper and upbeat this morning until I looked at the calendar and saw the date was October 23. I had almost forgotten . . . the key being ALMOST.

Ten years ago this afternoon, at 1:00 PM to be precise, life handed me the mother of all lemons. Actually, that’s a little too “cutesy.” The long story is ten years ago this morning I took one of the Magnificent 7, which is my euphemism for the seven events that radically changed my life for the worse. Each of the seven were hammer blows against my emotional well-being and each of the seven — in seven different ways — shattered me mentally and emotionally as easily as a cinder block dropped from a highway overpass will shatter a vehicle’s windshield and with about as much warning. Ten years ago today, following a short and slanderous hearing at 301 Camperdown Way, I was summarily and officially dismissed from my teaching post at Woodmont High School.

The short story is I was lied to and about, publicly humiliated, then fired from teaching. I’d been exiled from the one place where I’d normally felt safest, happiest, and strongest. For the first time in my life, I had been kicked out of school.

I plan to post all the documents I still have from the hearing and the aftermath. When I do, you can read them for yourselves. I don’t have the mental energy to type out that story here. (I never bothered. It wouldn’t matter anyway) I love this blog. It’s not much, but it’s mine and I’ve tried to steer clear of controversy and painful memories, but to deny the scars is to deny the events which caused them and any event that makes you seriously question whether or not you really want to go on living in a world where things like this can happen to you is much too important to be ignored.

I haven’t had many things happen to me that have affected me as much or as long as getting fired did. It was two years before I was able to get back into teaching for good and I wouldn’t have gotten a break then except my alma mater needed an English teacher and the assistant principal had been my Geometry teacher and the principal had student taught my senior class in something or other. They knew me personally so they didn’t really look at anything from “The File.”

It wasn’t the same though. For one thing, Thomas Wolfe was absolutely right when he said, “You can’t go home again.” Teaching in what had been my AP English classroom in my senior year forced me every day for 180 straight days to confront ANOTHER one of the Magnificent 7 so when a library job opened up one district over, I took it.

So, it’s been ten years and the pain is just as fresh in my mind now as it was then. I can still taste the metallic tang of pure adrenaline fueled fear in my mouth when I think about the hearing. I can still see the faces of the “witnesses.” More than anything though, I can still hear the thunderous silence of the people I had called friends and colleagues for almost nine years. I had helped these people in more ways than I can imagine. I’d tried to be there for them, but when I was strung up and dangling, none of them . . . NOT A SINGLE ONE bothered to vouch for my character.

I remember leaving the district office with Budge in tears and Mama in a rage like I hadn’t seen on her face since I was a third grader and Ray Bates’ mother (God rest her soul) grabbed me by the collar and shook me because I had finally stood up to Ray’s bullying. People have asked me if I was angry and I always tell them I was too concerned with keeping Mama and Budge from getting locked up to be angry. I just wanted to get home.

Thirty minutes after leaving the pillory, I went back to the school and to the room I’d called home for so long. It was a mess because the string of subs who had kept the class during my six weeks suspension while I awaited a hearing hadn’t been able to control my hellions or my brilliant AP History students. While I was gathering my things, the assistant principal who had been the main “detective / witch hunter” for my case came into the room and asked me “So how’d things go?” I still thank God and 300 mg of Effexor CR for not decking her in her smug little mouth right then. As it was, I snatched my posters from the wall, took a few folders from my filing cabinet, and collected my most prized belongings from my beautiful desk that my friend Brian Ashley had helped me restore five summers before , then I walked out.

I’ve never been back.

Now as a sorry excuse for a Christian, I do not believe in karma, but sometimes it is tempting when I consider this. None of the three students whose complaints against me triggered the whole debacle ever graduated from high school. The principal who threw me under the bus didn’t make it through the year herself but was dismissed in disgrace partly because parents complained to the district office about her attending home football games about “two and a half sheets to the wind” as we say in the country. The superintendent who was such a jerk over the entire thing was fired by the school board within a year, partly over allegations of misconduct with a couple of female principals and partly for just basically being an ass of the 33rd degree. Finally, the district lawyer who prosecuted my case was fired and arrested a few years later after a district computer technician found alleged child pornography on the computer in the lawyer’s office. The child porn charges were eventually dropped because no one could prove the boys were underage, but the computer crimes stuck and he may still go to jail.

Coincidence or karma? You decide.

Love y’all. Keep the faith and the feet clean.

Lasts

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On May 25, 1935, at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Babe Ruth hit a home run, As he trotted around the bases just as he had 713 times before, he didn’t know it then but it was the last home run of his career.

December 17, 1972, Eugene Cernan stepped off the Moon’s surface to prepare for the ride home. Three more missions to the Moon were planned, but NASA cancelled them unexpectedly. Cernan didn’t know at the time, but he would be the last man, for now at least, to stand on the Moon.

Lasts are mysterious things. Sometimes we see them from afar and plan for them with great ceremony. Those are the big Lasts: retirements, graduations, business closings, things like those. Other Lasts take us by surprise and other Lasts pass without our notice, until we look back.

My friends and I growing up had dirt bikes we rode everywhere from the time we were twelve or thirteen. We stayed with each other most of the time because it was easy to get together. Then Scott got a car. Slowly we put the dirt bikes away. I don’t even remember our last ride together. My bike was stolen when I was fifteen or so, but by then, I had my own car.

What I really want to say is we let things go by sometimes and we don’t even know it. How different would breakfast have been on September 11, 2001 for the thousands of people who were eating their last meals with their loved ones?

Mama and I never parted angry. The last words I said to her whenever I walked out the door were “I love you and I’ll see you in a little while.” I had it drummed into my head that no one is promised tomorrow. We might be here; we might not. My wife will tell you because she was standing there, the last words I ever said to my mama were, “I love you, and I’ll see you in a little while.”

Budge doesn’t leave the house without a kiss and an I love you even if she is just going up the road to a friend’s house because you never know what might happen. Around 25 years ago I spent the day with one of the best friends I’ve ever had. When the day was over, I gave her a big hug before I left to come home and we talked about doing it again soon. It wasn’t soon enough though — her cancer came back with a vengeance. I never saw her again. Just like that.

I worry because I see my daddy usually five times a year: Easter, Father’s Day, his birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I haven’t seen him this year since Christmas because of COVID-19. I talked to him for thirty seconds on the phone on his birthday. He and I do not have a good relationship. It’s very complicated but I know one day I’m going to get that call and it’s going to be too late to say all the unsaid things. I live with that fear every day. Two unbending wills always leads to tragedy.

So what I want you to do is think about lasts. If you need to make a call, make a call. If you need to get in the car and drive to someone’s house, do it. Get on an airplane if you have to, but say what needs to be said to who needs to hear it.

We aren’t promised tomorrow.

Love y’all and keep your feet clean.

#TBT: Boy, Was I Wrong

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https://grocerystorefeet.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/3167f-1450882930373.pngIt’s election time again and I wanted to rerun the post I wrote about Donald and Hillary. No one gave him a chance to beat Hillary and no one is giving him a chance to beat Biden. Time will tell, but I stand by what I said before; I miss the country I grew up in.

Several months ago now I wrote a post wherein I confidently, perhaps even arrogantly, prognosticated the results of the upcoming election for our next POTUS. Specifically, I stated categorically Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump had about as much chance of actually obtaining the respective Democratic and Republican nominations as the proverbial snowball in the proverbial Hell.

Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa.

Good old white haired Bernie made the Democratic side a whole lot closer run thing than he had any reason to believe he’d do. Ultimately, Hillary won out, but even in defeat, Bernie remains plucky, vowing to fight on until and during the Democratic National Convention later this year. I’m not certain how much influence over events he’ll ultimately have, but he will certainly keep things stirred up. It must be nice to have so much money you can keep on running a failed campaign just to be a pain in the other person’s ass. I think I like this guy.

On the other side of the aisle, I was CERTAIN “The Donald” would say something so outrageous, so over the top, people would castigate him, cut ties with him, and flee from him like the plague. Well, turns out I was right about two out of three. Trump has not disappointed in the area of issuing outlandish statements. So much insanity has spewed forth from his mouth it has lowered the collective IQ of the nation by at least ten points. He has said, and is still saying, things which would have torpedoed the candidacy of ANY other politician. Far from slowing him down, the more crass references he makes to his “male anatomy,” the more he issues personal name calling attacks on people he perceives as enemies, the STRONGER HE POLLS!

One by one, he sent the other candidates packing. Bush, Rubio, Cruz, and finally Kasich all ultimately bowed out before the force that is Hurricane Donald. None of them could touch him. Logic didn’t work, reasoned arguments didn’t work, and when several of them finally decided to fight fire with name-calling and personal attacking fire, they just sunk to His Hairness’s level and he crushed them with experience. Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee. We are in completely uncharted waters now, folks, and — as the old maps used to say — here there be dragons.

What concerns me most is how we got here as a country. Where did things take such a sharp turn that a man who says the things Trump says not only wins his party’s nomination, he wins it in spite of the party elite’s best efforts to stop him. Make no mistake, Trump has the Republican establishment soiling their collective britches. How can someone, in this error of unprecedented political correctness, say the things Trump says without walking anything back and forge ahead?

I think that’s where the rub lies. Trump is the political correctness giant slayer. He does and says what so many people WISH they and their leaders could and would say. He wants a wall to keep out the filthy raping, murdering Mexican masses (nevermind most undocumented aliens are some flavor of Asian extraction). He says we should take out the families and friends of terrorists, no matter what the cost to the nation in terms of world opinion. He basically has said, in not so many words, F*** world opinion of us.

In doing all he’s done and saying all he’s said, a sobering fact has emerged about our country. Not only is the middle class as an economic entity dying, but the middle moderate political view is also dying as well. America is split cleanly down the middle and — here’s where it’s scary — each side HATES the other side.

If you want to see just how polarized America is, read the comments section of any news article. You won’t find a middle ground. Reasoned, civil public discourse in the marketplace of ideas has given way to two camps with torches and pitchforks staring across an impassable gulf of ideology. Looking back through the history of our country, I can’t find a single time when sheer unadulterated hatred for the other political side is as great since the days leading up to the War Between the States. Like it or not, Americans hate each other.

Into that kind of charged atmosphere comes Trump and Hillary. Never have two candidates been more polar opposites in their views. Pick a wedge issue, any wedge issue: abortion, gun control, immigration . . . it doesn’t matter because the two have no common ground. If one is “pro X” you can bet the farm the other is VIOLENTLY “anti X.” Hillary has shown increasing signs of anger in her camp while Trump has full-scale melees break out whenever he has a rally. Two angry people are leading two increasingly angry factions.https://grocerystorefeet.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/eeaf9-howardbeale.jpg

Where is it going to lead us as a country? Well, I think the average person today is pissed off. To borrow the line from Network, everyone is “Mad as Hell and not going to take it anymore.” So what’s going to happen is either way this thing goes in November, the half that loses is going to be boiling over with anger. What’s that going to cost the country? I know some friends in the tinfoil hat crowd who are certain a repeat of 9/11 is bound to happen not long after the inauguration in January 2017 because it’s going to take something that awful to bring some semblance of unity to the country again.

I don’t know. I do know I miss the country I was born in and I’m not sure exactly what happened to her. I’m also sure of one other thing; regardless of who wins in November — Hillary or Donald — we will have a well-qualified person at the helm to pilot this rapidly speeding up handbag.

Love y’all. Keep those feet clean.

Of Spring Lizards

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It has been brutally hot here the last couple of weeks and the heat wave has me thinking of my childhood in the country and how I spent the long summer days back then. First of all, it is a myth that it “wasn’t as hot back then.” Ninety-five degrees is ninety-five degrees no matter what. Also, it’s always been humid as heck around here so it was just as blazing hot; the main difference was we were younger and didn’t care as much — well, I did because I was relatively as fat then as now and summer is a skinny kid’s game — and we didn’t have the choice of staying in the house and playing video games mainly because most video games hadn’t been invented yet so we had to get outside and get used to it and as an old proverb states, you can get used to anything.

So come early morning, we were up and moving outside. Lots of days in the summer, I stayed with the Willis brothers: Scott, Jamie, and later on Timothy. They had a stream of running water behind their house snaking its way through the woods and it was a young boy’s dream place to play. It was barely ankle deep in most places, except where we managed to dam it up enough to reach the awesome depth of mid-shin. The plan was to create a bona fide swimming hole but our materials and equipment did not match our enthusiasm.

We called it a creek, but that was actually stretching it. It was a good solid stream and throughout our childhoods it never ran dry. We would go down to it in our summer gear of shorts, t-shirts, and canvas Nikes and look to see what we could find. One of our favorite pastimes was to hunt for spring lizards.

Spring lizards are not reptiles as “lizard” might suggest. Spring lizard is what we called them. I couldn’t begin to guess what a scientist might call them. They were about as long as our childish index fingers, slim, with four legs and a tail and they looked like tiny lizards. I realize now they were some kind of salamander or newt or something else amphibian that enjoyed the water.

Hunting them went as follows. One would stand still in the stream in order to let the water clear. Then Scott would bend down and cup his hands around a likely rock in the water and wait for me to slowly pick the rock up trying desperately not to muddy the water. Scott would then close up his hands into a cup and if we’d guessed right, he’d be cupping a bit of sand, a splash of water, and a spring lizard!

That was the point where we would put the spring lizard in a quart mason jar filled with a couple of rocks and spring water so we could keep count of how many we caught in the day. We always let the first one go however because we always forgot the quart mason jar. Always. In our excitement to get to the stream, we left the jar sitting on the counter every time.

What followed the inevitable recognition of having left the jar was a sibling display that made me quite happy I was still an only child in those days. Scott was older than me by eleven months. Jaime was a couple of years younger than us both. As the youngest, of course, it was his responsibility to remember the jar and since he was the one who forgot it, he was the one who had to go back and get it. Unhappily and never voluntarily. Scott, as older brothers will, always used a threat of violence to goad Jaime into making the trek back to the house and get the jar while we waited.

In our latter years of hunting, the baby Wills brother, Timothy would join us at the insistence of Mrs. Jane, the boys’ mother. He was several years younger than us and slowed us down but he would cry if he was left behind. I remember when he accompanied us the first time and we, per usual, forgot the jar. Jaime smiled an evil smile when Scott looked at him and Jaime turned to Tim and informed him that, as the baby, it was now HIS responsibility to go back to the house and get the jar. Poor Jamie. He’d waited all his life to no longer be on the bottom of the brotherly totem pole and now was his chance except Timothy did something Jaime never would have done.

He sat down in the middle of the stream and started bawling like a baby!

Scott and Jaime both looked at him. They looked at me but all I could do was shrug because I knew what they both knew. Timothy was Mrs. Jane’s baby boy with all the baggage AND all the protections that went along with it. All three of us knew if we made him — somehow — go back to the house and get the jar looking all bedraggled from sitting in the stream and with a tearstreaked face, our lives would be forfeit to the crown.

I knew I wouldn’t escape either because even though I was TECHNICALLY company and by convention should have been immune to the consequences of brotherly spats, the actual truth was I ate more meals at the Willis house in the summer and slept more nights there than I did at my own. I was family in all but the blood and in point of fact, we were all something like third cousins once removed, so I didn’t even have that thin veneer shielding me from Mrs. Jane’s wrath.

So we got Timothy back on his feet and got his crying stopped. I think an ice cream sandwich may or may not have been promised to dry the final few tears. Scott, me, and Jamie looked at each other and gave a final shrug. After all these years of having to make the trek Jaime wasn’t about to budge and Scott didn’t blame him. Fair was fair. Timothy had cheated using baby sibling perogatives. So that day we didn’t keep the spring lizards we caught and we never forgot the jar again. Jaime made sure of it.

I don’t remember the last time we went hunting spring lizards. I guess we were tweens and had our motorcycles then so we could go more places and do more things than being confined to a yard. One day we went down to the stream not realizing it was the last time we would ever do it. Funny how life is like that.

I still remember hunting spring lizards as one of the few things I truly enjoyed doing outside when I was a child. Maybe it was the surroundings, maybe it was the activity, or maybe it was the company. I guess it could have been all three.

Love y’all and keep those feet clean!

PS. You may have noticed my last couple of posts have been sans pictures. WordPress changed the editor and I can’t for the life of me figure out how to insert pictures anymore! If any one can tell me how to do it, I’d be forever grateful.

Messages from Quarantine

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Things haven’t changed much here in the last month. One thing though that I’ve started wanting badly is to go to a movie! I just want to go to see a movie. I want to sit in the icy dark of the theater with my $40 bucket of popcorn and my drink that could float an aircraft carrier and spend two hours of pure escapism.

Not bloody likely I’m afraid. Our governor opened bowling alleys a few weeks ago but no word on movie theaters. Truthfully, I can’t imagine them opening theaters any time soon. Skipping lanes can get pretty good distancing in a bowling alley, but a movie theater is nothing more than a petri dish no matter how they stagger the seats. I wonder sometimes if they’ll ever open again. It seems that bleak at times.

We have ventured out to eat at three of our favorite restaurants. Each time we went at an off hour so the place was least crowded. Everyone is being careful, but it just spooks me. I hate to admit it but I feel safer with takeout and drive-thrus. It’s the masks. I just have this phobia of people wearing masks. It just is creepy to me.

Now I don’t have anything against orders to wear masks or people wanting to wear masks. I’ve never seen so much vitriol over anything as I have over these masks. People are downright unreasonable both ways when it comes to wearing them. Like so much during this pandemic the issue ends up politicized and that’s a real shame. Things are crazy enough as it is.

Our biggest wonder here is what’s going to happen with schools opening in the fall. Budge can’t talk about it for very long without getting a panic attack. The uncertainty is palpable. At the moment, the district has six possible plans to use for restarting in the fall. They could decide to use one of those plans, a combination of plans, or some other totally different plan altogether. It just comes to no one knows. At this point, it’s almost a guarantee though that some form of distance elearning is going to figure into the fall.

So that’s what’s going down around here. Hope it’s safe where you are. Take care, love y’all, and keep those feet clean!