Category Archives: Mama

Two Years

Standard

Just ignore the fat kid with the stupid grinny smile, but see what I mean about Mama's hair? Why would you cover that up?

It’s nine months until Christmas and two years since my little Mama left me in this foreign country by myself (inside joke).

I’ve learned a few things.

First, the second year is harder than the first. All during the first year, people are rooting for you. Everyone realizes its the “first” Christmas, “first” Mother’s Day, etc. so you get lots of support at those times. What’s more, YOU are more prepared. You see the date on the calendar and start mentally psyching yourself up to face the impending sadness.

In the second year, the sadness enters stealth mode. The initial shock has worn off and, whether you want it to or not, life keeps going so you have to start trying to adjust; you take your mind off the calendar for just a bit and when you turn back around, it’s some important date and the grief hits you in the gut like a serious sucker punch.

I’ve learned Nietzsche was wrong. What doesn’t kill you doesn’t necessarily make you stronger; it just doesn’t kill you and keeps on hurting like Hell, but the world HAS to go on. I still wake up some days wondering how in a universe ruled by a benevolent God does the Sun have the audacity to shine on an Earth that my Mama no longer walks upon? But it does. It has to; we just don’t have to like it and it can somehow seem diminished.

I don’t think I’ve cried enough for her and that bothers me because I’m one of those strange people who equates the violence of my emotions with the depth of love I have for a person. The fact I can still function like a normal human (with a very liberal definition of “normal”) instead of being reduced to a jibbering heap huddled in a corner has surprised several people closest to me . . . myself not least of all. That worries me because if I’m not actively mourning her, does it mean I didn’t love her and don’t miss her as much as I thought I did? Intellectually, I can see the falsity of the statement, but grief and emotion are seldom intellectual.

I know one reason I can keep moving is I have no regrets where Mama is concerned. I know that sounds completely unbelievable, but it’s true. Mama and I kept very short accounts where the other was concerned. If we had a fight . . . and we often did, especially in my teenage years . . . we never parted ways angry. The last words I said to her each night before bed and the first words I said to her every morning were the same, “Mama, I love you.” When the time came to preach her funeral, I didn’t have to apologize for anything. We’d cleared those accounts up long ago.

It makes it bearable, but it’s far from easy. I had too much love as a child and a young person. Mama doted on me. I had all four grandparents and four of eight great-grandparents. That’s a tremendous amount of warmth and love to pour over one person and I don’t think I took it for granted, but I never imagined what life would be without it.

Now I don’t have to imagine. All I have left is Granny Ima and I have to look after her — like I promised Mama I would — rather than she looking after me. I wasn’t prepared for the loss of so much love in such a relatively small amount of time, but I am thankful I had it while I did.

I miss Mama as much today as I did when I stood by her closed casket two years ago; I just manage most days to hide it a little better. I don’t know how I’ll spend today. I know I’ll remember her, but I do that every day. I just don’t know.

And so it goes.

Love y’all. Keep those feet clean, and hug your mothers; they get gone too soon.

Advertisements

One Year Down and Life to Go

Standard

20130825_111222I don’t know how I can hurt this much and not die. I’ve asked psychiatrists, psychologists, and internalists, but none of them can give me an answer. So I go on.

A year ago this evening, Mama died. Death did what no psychotic girlfriend, no commitment-shy boyfriend, no divorce or distance could do — split up Mama and me. Despite my protestations, my howlings to the deaf heavens, and my insistence that surely some fundamental law of the universe has been violated, the world still turns; the Sun comes up and it goes down. Life goes on whether I want it to or not because, as a midwestern singer so eloquently put it thirty years and three name changes ago, “Oh yeah, life goes on long after the thrill of living is gone.”

The grief is mine to shoulder alone now. My beloved psychiatrist warned me people — even closest friends — generally give a person three weeks to a month of good, quality support before life intervenes. After that, it’s just you, four walls, and memories. Oh, and “firsts” lots and lots of firsts — first white carnation Mother’s Day, first Thanksgiving without her, first Christmas without her, and probably the worst for me . . . my first birthday without getting a call at 6:19 AM telling me she loved me and wishing me Happy Birthday.

I swear to Buddha I will projectile vomit upon the next person — well-meaning or no — who tells me “time heals all wounds.” I’m here to say it doesn’t or if it does, a year is nowhere near enough time. While I’m on the subject, I’d also like to go back in time and cold-cock one idiotic Prussian philosopher by the name of Friedrich Nietzsche right square in his gloriously mustachioed mouth. If you don’t know, he’s the moron who penned the sadistic little phrase “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Bullpucky. Mama’s dying may not have killed me, but it damn sure hasn’t made me stronger.

I wish I could say more, but even though people have told me I am good with words, I just don’t have the vocabulary to explain the abject loneliness I feel every morning I wake up and remember Mama’s not with me (and please, if you are my friend or just want me to think of you as a decent human being, spare me the “she’s always with you in spirit” drivel. “Spirit hugs” if they even exist, are about as useless as a milk bucket under a bull.) I can’t describe the emotional crash I get every time something tremendously noteworthy – to me at least – happens and I immediately pull out my phone to call Mama and tell her . . . only to realize I’ve deleted her contact information just so I won’t do such a stupid thing.

My reality is, Mama’s dead and that’s thrown all my puzzle pieces into the air in disarray and one year later, I’m afraid I don’t have the emotional strength to even start looking for the edge pieces.

And so it goes.

Love you all, love you Mama; I still miss you.

 

Five Months On

Standard

Mama’s buried next to Papa up on that hill.

Today is five months since Mama left this world. To give you an update, I’m making it better than I thought I would, but I can’t tell you why really. I also can’t tell you with any certainty which stage Kübler-Ross’s grief model I’m in right now because it varies among anger, depression, and acceptance on a daily basis. Notice I left out two — bargaining and denial; I did so on purpose because I checked those off the night I watched Mama die. I was in the room holding her right hand when she stopped the hideous “guppy breathing” and went on to what I fervently hope (and on my best days, believe) was the Beulah Land she longed for and a reunion with Papa she had dreamed about.

Denial. I’m not going to sit around and say, “Oh, she’s not dead.” No lie is as pernicious and detrimental as the one we tell ourselves. That’s one reason I refused to have a traditional “Southern funeral” viewing. Mama didn’t want it and I’ll be damned if I was going to stand next to her corpse and listen to people who hadn’t darkened her door in all the years she’d been sick blather on about “how good she looks” and “she seems to be sleeping.” No she doesn’t you lunatic, she SEEMS to be dead. Nope, wasn’t having it. When I walked out of that hospital room at midnight between March 25 and 26, I wasn’t in denial. Mama was dead. To make CERTAIN I don’t slip into denial, I tell myself every morning first thing when I wake up, “Mama is dead; she’s buried at Cannon’s; you did her funeral.” Then I get out of bed. Denial is a river in Egypt as far as I’m concerned.

As for bargaining, I’m not the best Christian in the world and some days one could make the case I’m not a Christian at all, but whatever I am, I know enough to God doesn’t bargain and God’s the only one who could change this particular situation. I don’t have anything to bargain with since it’s all His anyway and I’ve already given up the vices most people use as bargaining chips due to age, infirmity, or fear of Budge’s wrath. If God wanted her alive, she’d still be alive — it really is just that simple. If I heard Mama say it once, I heard her say it a thousand times, quoting Hebrews 9:27, “for it is appointed unto men once to die and after this, the Judgement.” God has the advantage of house rules and the Golden Rule; He owns the house so he makes the rules AND He has all the gold, so He makes those rules as well. I’m glad He does, personally, because if I were in charge, I’d mess this place up something awful.

So that leaves anger, depression, and acceptance. All I can say is it depends on the day. Some days are ruled by anger and those are the days I’m the biggest pain in everyone’s collective ass. I’m angry at Mama for leaving me in this foreign country by myself (inside joke between her and me), I’m angry at God for not healing her or keeping her from dying, and if I get through that package of rage by lunchtime, I’ll spend the rest of the day completely pissed off at myself for being such a big, blubbering baby about the whole thing and acting like I’m the only person in the world who’s ever lost a close loved one. On those days, I basically have what a friend of mine used to call “a bad case of red-ass at the world.” Of course, it doesn’t do a lick of good, but I can’t help it sometimes.

I prefer anger to depression though. Depression sucks rocks. I know lots of people, including my former denomination, don’t really thing depression is a “real thing.” It’s something we should just be able to get over or get through and if you can’t, then you aren’t praying hard enough or you secretly enjoy the depression and attention. Yep, that’s me. I just love feeling like I’m going to die for no physical reason; I simply long to sit on the floor and rock in the dark when it is a gloriously beautiful day outside. I have some pretty bad days and I’d hate to think how bad those days would get if I didn’t have my meds. Here’s an idea for anyone who doesn’t think depression and emotional disorders are real — I’ll go off my meds for about two weeks and have Budge drop me off at your house and stay for a month. Then we’ll see who needs meds.

On the best days though, I dwell in acceptance of the fact Mama is gone and not coming back. It’s not the best kind of acceptance where I can say I’ve truly found peace with Mama’s death. It’s more of the realization I’ve been thrust into a new stage of life whether or not I felt ready. It’s not in the Bible, but I’ve heard it repeated all my life that God will never put more on you than you can bear. All I can say to that is sometimes I think He has a much higher opinion of my carrying capacity than I have of myself. For me, the acceptance is more like a quote from the excellent and underrated Western, Barbarosa which has Willie Nelson as the title character speak what I’ve taken as my philosophy of coping with losing Mama:

what cannot be remedied must be endured

Love y’all, say a prayer for me, and keep those feet clean.

 

Speak Softly and Carry a Frying Pan

Standard

As I face my first Mother’s Day without Mama, I thought I’d tell y’all one of my favorite stories ever about me and Mama. I have been known to embellish my tales, but this one is the absolute truth.

I was sixteen and as a byproduct of such a sage and wizened age, I knew everything about everything and if you didn’t believe me, all you had to do was ask. Mama was 34 — a year younger than my Budge is right now. We were living in “The Little Barn,” which was our name for the 1960-something vintage trailer we called home for several years. It pretty much was a barn, no central heat . . . no heat at all in the back of the house where my room was . . . and no central air, just a window unit mounted in the wall in the living room. The carpet was hand-me-down from my aunt after she’d changed rugs at her place. It was a sight for sore eyes and it rocked like a sailboat in a hurricane when the wind blew, but it was home.

This is what I cut grass with .  .  .  no lie.

This is what I cut grass with . . . no lie.

Anyway, this particular day was a Thursday right around this time of year. I remember it well because the grass needed to be cut and that was my job. I never particularly looked forward to cutting our grass because my instrument for mowing our 3/4 acre lot was a 19 inch bladed push mower and it was decidedly not self-propelled. This was also in the days before wonder drugs like Claritin, Zyrtec, and Allegra had been invented. I’ve chronicled my battle with hay fever before in these pages so I won’t go into great detail now, but suffice it to say by the time I finished cutting all that volunteer fescue with my Fisher-Price toy lawnmower, I could either endure the rest of the day sneezing and itching or take two Benadryl capsules and slip into a coma. But I digress.

It was a Thursday and I had three things propelling me towards my doom: my new ’79 Mustang, a newly upgraded drivers license, and daylight. A few years later at Clemson University, weekends always started on Thursdays, but a young man tearing out the door after supper on what was still a school night then was severely frowned upon in Mama’s household.

I had one hand on the doorknob with visions of picking up Robby and just wandering around the countryside telling lies, going a little too fast around curves, listening to loud music, and hoping to catch a glimpse of that elusive creature — the beautiful teenage girl. Mama was washing the dishes from supper and at that moment, she was cleaning out the 12″ cast iron frying pan (or skillet to you yankees among my limited readership) she’d used to fry my favorite breaded okra with earlier in the evening. She had just placed that hunk of pig iron on the stove eye where it lived when she noticed me still in “school clothes” and fixing to walk out the door. She turned back to the sink and as she did, she asked me a question — a simple question really — that would change my estimation of Mama for the rest of my life. She said, “Son, where are you going?”

I could have answered with any number of phrases, the absolute truth being best, that I was going to get Robby, put a few hard Community Cash earned dollars worth of gas in the car and drive around wasting time and daylight. That’s all I had to say and the evening would have simply progressed on. Unfortunately, I was sixteen and a boy. I also possessed one of the smartest mouths in three counties and I had a delightful talent for opening it at the wrong time and letting it say the wrong thing. Tonight, my smart mouth shoved my much less bulky good sense out of the way and blurted one word, “OUT!”

Mama paused in her dishwashing and visibly tensed, but she almost immediately went back to the suds in the sink and her back asked me a second innocuous question, “Okay, and when do you plan on being back?” Once I let my mouth off its rather long chain, it had a tendency to overdo things so I missed the chance to have a pleasant evening when I replied with yet another one word answer, “LATER!”

Again, Mama tensed up. I learned later on that weekend that I had just used the same intonation, phrasing, and even voice patterns my Daddy used when he and Mama were dating and later on when they were still married and he was off to do some mischief. Mama HATED that “Out; Later” nonsense coming from Daddy. She didn’t like it any better coming from me, but what happened next is what sealed my fate. She had again started washing the dishes and softly, without turning around, she said, “That’s funny, son. Now really, where are you going and when do you plan on being back? It’s a school night.”

Gentle reader, have you ever had an out of body experience where you have seemed to stand beside yourself as you did something unbelievably stupid and your astral self is screaming at your physical self “Danger, Will Robinson! Danger, Will Robinson!” But your physical self just plowed right on through that big red mental STOP sign up ahead? Well, that’s how I felt when I spoke next.

I was sixteen and basically grown — in my own eyes — and I had a car Daddy had bought me so Mama had no business telling ME — A MAN — where to go, do, and be back. As Daddy had famously told her himself on more than one occasion “No damn woman is going to tell me what to do.” So, I spoke again and very nearly paid for my words with my life when I said, loudly with all the confidence of a teenage boy who feels ten feet tall and bulletproof, “IT’S NONE OF YOUR (horrible expletive I’d never used in front of Mama deleted) BUSINESS WHERE I’M GOING OR WHEN (second horrible never used in Mama’s presence expletive deleted) I PLAN TO BE BACK! I’M A GROWN MAN!”

In the right hands, deadly weapon.

In the right hands, deadly weapon.

As God whom I serve is my witness, I didn’t know that little woman could move that fast. In one smooth, swift motion, she pivoted on her left foot, snatched up that cast iron frying pan in her right hand, and stepped and threw a sidearm cookware fastball that would have made Kent Tekulve blush with shame it was so perfect. I never saw it coming until it was too late to do anything about it. That heavy hunk of iron spun a few times between me and Mama and — mercifully — struck me right in the solar plexus with the lip instead of the handle. If the pan had rotated another half turn, we wouldn’t be having this conversation because I’d have been skewered by an iron handle.

The force of the blow staggered me backwards and I caught my knees on the arm of the sofa, lost my balance, and sprawled backwards, arms flailing, to land flat on my back after cracking my skull on the coffee table on the way down. As I lay there in a dazed stupor with my head and chest throbbing in my feet still twitching in the air on the sofa cushion like a mosquito on a date with DDT, I heard the refrigerator door open, something get removed, and footsteps coming towards me. Before I could clear my head at all, Mama slung the contents of the ice water pitcher all over my face and upper body, causing me to sit up and split my forehead on the bottom of the coffee table as I rose.

As I sat spluttering and breathless, Mama put her face millimeters away from mine, which was good because my eyes were having trouble focusing, and said very quietly and carefully, “You will never speak to me in that manner again; do you understand?” I could only nod my most vehement, impassioned assent. Then she said, “When you get your breath back, you get up, change clothes, and go cut the grass, yes?”

My pride was soaked and my head and chest were pained but that skinny bundle of good sense had whipped and hog-tied my smart mouth for a change so all I could croak was, “Yes, ma’am,” as Mama nodded and walked off.

I love her still and God knows I miss her.

Love y’all as well, keep those feet clean, and as you honor or remember your own mothers this Sunday, if you’d say a prayer for me, I’d certainly appreciate it.

Three Weeks On

Standard

Image = Open GraveI hope everyone will forgive me for not posting very regularly this month. I’ve been somewhat distracted. Today is three since Mama died. That phrase is such a sledgehammer — Mama died . . . my mama is dead. This is not a drill; she’s not down at her house sitting in her recliner with Bitsy and Rocky on her lap and Scruffy at her feet. No. She is lying in a casket within a concrete vault beneath six feet of Carolina clay just a few inches from Papa John.

I didn’t have Mama embalmed. We buried her so quickly there was no requirement to do so and the mortician, who has helped me plan now a total of six funerals, said her skin was so thin and ravaged by years of Prednisone that embalming her would be difficult and probably wouldn’t look right. So I didn’t embalm her.

Embalming has historically served two purposes. First, it enabled people killed some distance from home to be preserved long enough to get them back home for a viewing. The other purpose is more important I think. An embalmed person is a dead person. Fear of live burial was a very real horror for humans down the years. Someone might go into a catatonic stupor only to wake up in a coffin under the earth at which point he or she would either die of a burst heart from panic or slowly suffocate.

Embalming does away with that worry because draining all the blood from a body and replacing it with a cocktail of chemicals including formaldehyde is a one hundred percent guarantee the body that goes into the grave has definitively shaken off this mortal coil.

As I said, I didn’t have Mama embalmed. As a result, I’ve woken up in a sweat a time or two over the last three weeks full of cold, boiling panic that Mama wasn’t dead and woke up in her casket after the funeral and started screaming for me to come help her, but I didn’t hear her so I didn’t go to her. I read Poe’s “The Premature Burial” in an attempt to overload the image in my mind sort of like hyperactive children are given the stimulant Ritalin to speed them up where they can slow down.

It didn’t work and that became a nightmare.

So, it’s been three weeks. On the outside, I seem to have everything together. On the inside, most days and most hours of the days, I actually am managing better than I expected to. More often than I want to admit, though, the thought “Mama is dead” will cross my mind and it will sear into my soul like a white-hot rod of iron and even though I rationally realize the pain is only in my mind, it has brought me to my knees clutching my chest more than once. Every time the pain passes, I can’t help but marvel at the fact I am still alive. If the emotions were actually to turn to physical pain, I’m certain the agony would be fatal.

No one can possibly hurt so badly and not die, and at times I have honestly thought dying would be an excellent idea if only to ease this pain wracking me down into the depths of my soul and psyche. By God’s grace, however, I haven’t died yet. I’ve sat with my head in my hands or plopped down on the floor to just sit and stare at nothing. Eventually though, the pain passes and I stand up and feebly attempt to stumble on because even though I want to lie down and give in to the grief until it kills me and I can join Mama, I cannot; I have responsibilities to others that must be seen and Mama would be disappointed in me if I shirked my duty.

I can say this though, I now understand what the samurai poem means when it says, “Death is light as a feather; duty as heavy as a mountain.”

Easter Means Even More This Year

Standard

12097112-jesus-resurrectionOne of the last things I told Mama before she lapsed into unconsciousness from which she would not awaken in this world was, “Mama, I’m not sure Heaven has special holidays, but if they do, I bet Easter is a huge one and you are going to be home in time for Easter, Mama.” At her funeral, I shared with everyone the hope of Easter and as Christians, Easter is our hope. Baby Jesus lying in a manger may be sentimental and precious to everyone, but the power and glory of the Gospel is not in Christmas, but in Easter.

Christmas doesn’t bother people all that much either. After all, thousands of people are born every second. The earth has over seven billion people on it and they were all born. Atheists and agnostics find it humorous that Christians believe a Child could be born of a virgin, but since they like to get gifts as well, Christmas gets a pass. Over time, it’s even become increasingly secularized.

Whereas a birth doesn’t cause much consternation, a death — now that’s a problem, but not an insurmountable one. People die in droves each moment; it’s not that hard to wrap a brain around. So Good Friday brings more good-natured ribbing from unbelievers who can’t fathom anyone willing to die as hideous a death as crucifixion in order to save the world from something as banal as “sin.” It doesn’t bother the scientific types that someone deluded enough to call Himself the Son of God died on a cross twenty centuries ago.

Easter doesn’t let anyone off the hook that easily. Now the unbelievers begin to rage and howl and use what Granny Wham would call “ugly language” if she were still with us. Easter takes that virgin born Child from Christmas who was killed on the Cross around 33 Good Fridays later and puts Him in a borrowed tomb THEN we Christians have the unmitigated gall to claim that three days later, that Good Friday Crucified, Virgin Born Christmas Child actually ROSE FROM THE DEAD.

I cannot and will not repeat the crudities I’ve seen written in comment threads all over the internet if someone made the audacious mistake of claiming Jesus was Resurrected and now lives and will return and reign. A favorite among lower class trolls is to refer to Him as “Zombie Jesus” and accompany the words with all sorts of offal remarks.

I try to stay calm and turn the other keyboard because I know something they won’t admit — Jesus did rise from the dead on that first Easter morning and I’m dead level certain of it because Christianity survived 2000 years for me to become a convert. Lies and mythmaking could possibly have kept a fake Messiah’s message going for a few years, maybe even some decades. Some false religions, as long as they are tolerant, can survive centuries.

But a religion that demands you base the safety of your immortal soul on the absolute fact a dead man rose from the dead? If that’s a lie, that movement is going to die off as soon as all the gullible people in Jerusalem who didn’t take the time to stop by an empty tomb die themselves. If Christianity is false, it is the greatest, most consistent, and most elaborately testified to hoax in history and from what I’ve seen of humanity, it is much easier for me to believe Jesus rose from the dead than to believe a bunch of humans, no matter how intelligent, could ever come up with something remotely resembling Christianity.

My Mama is dead to this world, but because He lives, so does she and because of that reality, I am not in the fetal position sobbing and thrashing about. I am looking forward to seeing her again one day . . . maybe soon.

Maranatha!

Love y’all!

Goodbye, Mama. I love you.

Standard
Mama and me

Going to miss her so very much.

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.

 

We Are NOT That Broke Yet!

Standard
Friends don't let friends wipe with dollar store toilet paper.

Friends don’t let friends wipe with dollar store toilet paper.

I went down to check on Mama recently. She’s been suffering for a good while now with C.O.P.D. and if God is not merciful to her, it will eventually take her from me. I try to keep watch over her and I’m thankful for the hospice organization and my wonderful step-dad for helping me. Now before you go getting bummed out, this post is only tangentially connected to Mama’s health.

Anyway, while I was at Mama’s the salad from the night before and the large bowl of Raisin Bran from earlier in the morning both decided to end their tour of my colon. I told Mama I had to go see a man about a dog then grabbed my phone to have something to pass the time because I figured this might take a bit. The phone was my undoing because I was so focused on pulling up Angry Birds I forgot to check the toilet paper. Big mistake. Now you’re probably thinking the roll was empty, leaving me stranded. Actually, that would have been a better scenario than the one confronting me as I finished my lengthy constitutional because had the roll been empty I could have called Mama from the bathroom and asked her to bring me some paper towels using her scooter chair. No, the holder was full. Unfortunately, it was full of the worst substance known to man.

Dollar store toilet paper!

Now long time readers know I am a restroom connoisseur. Were I to become wealthy enough to build my dream home, I already have the bathroom completely planned out. Budge can design everything else. My exquisite taste in all things water closet related extends to toilet paper as well. At home, having a septic tank keeps me anchored to the pedestrian but adequate Scott Tissue, but I do have a couple of rolls of White Cloud Ultra Soft stashed away for those “occasions” when my stomach has risen up in rebellion and constant use of the facilities begs for something more tender than Scott 500 grit special. When the economy and civilization collapse, it won’t be lack of food, water, or power that does me in; it will be the dearth of bathroom facilities and the end of manufactured toilet paper.

Wonderful but frivolous luxury.

Wonderful but frivolous luxury.

Sadly, the fake dollar store toilet paper ended up in Mama’s bathroom because her illness necessitated turning the shopping over to my step-dad. Now I won’t lie. Money is very tight at our two households. Budge and I have been helping Mama pay her bills for over a year now. Rob, my step-dad, knows this so he’s always trying to cut corners and save wherever he can, which is perfectly reasonable since we are more or less broke. However, as bad as it may be, we are NOT dollar-store-toilet-paper-level broke yet. We can’t necessarily afford luxury like Charmin or Quilted Northern, but we can certainly afford some Scott Tissue. Granted, Scotts isn’t the softest on one’s bottom but at least it is absorbent enough to do the job while being strong enough to not have to wrap a hand in half a roll just to keep the wiping fingers from bursting through mid-stroke.

I don’t know what dollar store toilet paper is made of. Based on its absorbancy, I would guess wax paper, but wax paper is many orders of magnitude stronger than dollar store TP, and that’s where this stuff really starts to wreak. Apparently, dollar store TP is woven from unicorn farts, angel burps, or something else comparably rare and insubstantial. As a general rule, I shouldn’t be able to read a newspaper through a ply of decent TP, but laying a sheet of dollar store rubbish on the funny pages doesn’t even dull the colors much. At the risk of sounding a bit gross, if this stuff is all you’ve got, you’re better off just bare-handing it and cutting out the middle man, so to speak. Dollar store TP is really that bad.

The bare-a$$ed minimum acceptable TP. (see what I did there?)

The bare-a$$ed minimum acceptable TP. (see what I did there?)

To make matters worse, this  “paper,” which is so useless in its intended hygienic function because of its lack of strength and absorbancy in the hand turns into some sort of uber-wadded concrete blob once you drop it in the toilet. It might not take poop off a goose, but two or three handfuls of this stuff will clog up a toilet tighter than the Chihuahua that ate a whole cheese and peanut butter sandwich. Plunging only makes the stuff multiply like some sort of soggy, stinky Hydra. Dollar store TP truly is a mystery substance.

In any event I managed to finish up and get myself reasonably ready to reenter the world so I went in to Mama and begged her to have Rob stop buying dollar store TP. She reiterated what I already knew — he was just trying to save us money. My reply was simple and heartfelt. Buy REAL toilet paper and I’ll give up cable and internet or cut us down to one car to make up the difference. It’s like I told Mama and I’m saying it again to y’all, I’m a simple man. I don’t have many needs. All I ask for to make me happy is decent A/C in the summertime to keep my fat butt cool and some good quality TP to keep the same fat butt clean. Is that too much to ask? When the day comes we can’t afford at LEAST some Scott Tissue, it’ll be time for me to start paying close attention to Breaking Bad reruns.

Love y’all! Keep those feet clean . . . and all the other parts as well!

The Holy Grail of TP! It has THREE PLYS and Shea Butter!!!!

The Holy Grail of TP! It has THREE PLYS and Shea Butter!!!!

Happy Birthday #60, Mama!

Standard
Me and Mama when I was in 5th Grade.

Me and Mama when I was in 5th Grade.

Today has been my beloved Mama’s sixtieth birthday. She completed her sixth decade in spite of fighting a terrible battle with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD that saw her hospitalized for two weeks with two bouts that left her very near death’s door. More than once, I thought I was going to lose her.

Anyone who has known me more than an hour will know how much Mama means to me. She has been the one guiding star and constant throughout my life. Some people take being called a “mama’s boy” as an insult, but I’ve worn it as a badge of pride all my days.

One facet of our relationship that’s made our bond so strong is for many years at many times, we were all each other had. Mama and Daddy separated when I was five and finalized the divorce when I was eight. Today, people don’t think much about divorces but at that time (1977) in such a small town, I was the only one of my friends who entered kindergarten with divorced parents. Of course, by the time we graduated high school, several of my friends joined me on the Split Up Family Express, and I found out later I’d gone to school with other divorced kids, but I didn’t know any of them as friends so it wasn’t a great help to me.

The divorce was hard — way hard — on Mama. People didn’t know nearly as much about depression and its effects in those days as they do now. I have an early memory of sitting on her lap with her sobbing uncontrollably and I put my hands up to her face and said, “I’ll take care of you, Mommy.” Today, 35 years later, when she has an anxiety attack and starts smothering, I still put my — now much bigger — hands around her face and say, “I’ll take care of you, Mommy.”

What a lot of people don’t understand about Mama and me is how much I’ve felt her sacrifice throughout my life. In the picture of us on this page, I’m in 5th grade so Mama would’ve been about 28, which isn’t too old to start over by any scale and as you can plainly see, she was a beautiful woman. She had numerous suitors vying for her affection, but she always brought me out immediately in the conversation and any man who balked hit the bricks. She had more than one man of wealth who would have loved to marry her and make her life much simpler and easy, but she always put me before herself and my happiness before hers so she never took that risk. Security was one of the wonderful gifts Mama gave me.

Of all the things Mama gave me, though, the greatest was her faith. Mama gave her life to the Lord when I was barely three and it guides her still. I have a crystal clear memory of being six years old. It was summer. We were in the first trailer Daddy and Mama had bought and put on the homeplace in Gray Court where Mama still lives. I was playing in the floor in the living room putting together Lego blocks and I heard Mama crying in her bedroom down the hall. Like I always did when I heard Mama crying, I went to be beside her, but when I got to her bedroom door something made me stop. Mama was kneeling at the foot of the bed with her head resting on an open bible, sobbing. Through the tears, I could make out one sentence over and over, “I can’t raise him alone; You have to help me. He belongs to You, not me.”

Folks, I’ll be as honest as I know how. I’ve done a multitude of things I won’t mention. I’ve been a terrible person. I’ve been drunk, high, and stoned out of my mind. I’ve hurt people and been hurt myself, but no matter where I’ve been; what I’ve been through, or what I’ve done, I’ve never been able to get that scene out of my mind. More than anything else in this entire messed up life of mine, the reason I believe there is a God, a man called Jesus, and a place called Heaven is they’ve lived in my mother’s eyes since I was three years old.

One day, maybe sooner, maybe later, I’ll stand beside a pink casket over an empty grave next to Papa John’s in Cannon Memorial Gardens. I’ll read the 23 Psalm and the 31st Chapter of Proverbs before I say a prayer for Mama’s soul, and while I am completely certain my heart will be broken into shards t0o many and too fine to number, I’ll have the knowledge that I will see her again. Until then, however, I’ll cherish every moment with her.

I love her. She’s my Mama.

Love all of you, too! Keep those feet clean.

I Hope That Was A Great Hamburger, Mr. Magoo!!

Standard

This car has similar crash damage to the Impala Mama was driving. If the car hadn't been so big . . .

Car wrecks loom large in my family history. I told y’all the story of how my beautiful first car was destroyed in a wreck, and that was far from the worst wreck to touch my loved ones. When Mama was 17, she was in a head on collision that very nearly killed her, which means I wouldn’t be here either. All she remembers about the wreck is pulling out of the gas station in Gray Court. The next thing she remembers is waking up in Hillcrest Hospital some two days later. Her left leg was shattered and her right arm was broken in several places in addition to various other cuts and bruises. Looking at pictures of the car, I don’t see how she survived, especially given she wasn’t wearing a seat belt and this was way before air bags in cars.

She had to be torched out of the car. One note that is a little funny now, but was gruesome back then involved Mama’s head. See, in her younger years, Mama wore a lot of wigs. Given the jaw dropping beauty of Mama’s naturally long blonde hair, I have no idea why she’d ever want to cover it up with fake nylon hair, but apparently it was “the style.” In any event, she was wearing a particularly realistic looking wig on the day of her wreck and the force of the impact threw her head backwards and the wig fell off in the back seat. Her cousin, who was a rookie SC Highway Patrolman at the time, was the first to arrive on the scene and the first thing he saw was that wig lying on the floor of the car’s back seat. It was covered in blood and from the angle, he couldn’t see Mama in the front seat so he surmised she had been decapitated. Unfortunately, he’d just eaten lunch at the Ranch Road Steakhouse.

Just ignore the fat kid with the stupid grinny smile, but see what I mean about Mama's hair? Why would you cover that up?

The double chili Ranch Burger didn’t stay down.

So, I told you all that to tell you about today. This morning just about saw the end of one GS Feet and Mama Feet as well. We had been to NHC in Clinton to visit with Granny and make sure she was being treated to suit Mama, which she wasn’t, but that’s a story for another time. Since Mama needed to stop by the vet’s office to pick up some flea medicine for Bitsy and Rocky, I drove us through Laurens instead of taking the highway like we normally do. That almost became the last detour I ever took.

Driving anywhere with Mama is an adventure. Ever since “the wreck” as we call it, she has been terrified of cars. Of course, if I’d nearly died, been in a coma for a few days, and then had to spend the next year in a body cast and the year after that learning how to walk again, I might be a little nervous about motor vehicles myself, so I’ve gotten used to Mama’s quirks in the passenger’s seat. She stays tensed up and she stomps her foot on an imaginary brake pedal whenever she thinks we need to stop — which is a lot more than I think we need to stop.

So, we were be-bopping along the main drag through Laurens and Mama had already stomped a hollow in the Element’s right front floor mat. I slowed down just a bit and asked Mama if she’d like a drink from the McDonald’s up ahead. Even though she said no, that moment of reducing speed — and a healthy dose of Divine Intervention — probably saved our lives because just as we neared the restaurant’s entrance, the Buick in front of us in the left lane decided he needed a Big Mac or some fries RIGHT NOW and simply turned in to the parking lot FROM THE LEFT LANE!

Hope your food was cold you stupid bag of monkey boogers!! Where'd you learn to drive? Clown school?

No turn signal. Not even a brake light tap. Nothing. One minute Mama and I are riding along talking and the next minute my life is flashing before my eyes as the Element’s anti-lock brakes went to work stopping us on a dime. All I could see was a windshield full of green four-door. I stood on the brakes and shot out my right arm to hold Mama back, just like she has done to me on countless occasions over the years. Truthfully, I didn’t think I’d get us stopped in time because it all happened in an instant.

We managed to avoid the collision though and I was so stunned I didn’t even think to lay down on the horn. Mama was quiet for about two seconds before she started screaming at the driver of the Buick — now in the drive thru lane — and beating her right hand on the door in an attempt to get out of the still moving Element and rip the offending driver a brand new rear orifice. Mama, as a rule, doesn’t swear, but in this particular instance, she was so angry she was stuttering trying to think of a church approved word to call the driver. I was just happy we made it.

So all’s well that ends well. The driver was an idiot, of course, but that’s how fast your life can end. Mama has a nice bruise on her hand from pounding the door (all the Prednisone she must take makes it easy for her to bruise) and it took the rest of the ride home for her to calm down enough to breathe as well as she could . . . which ain’t real good. Upon reflection, if that had been the time for my ticket to get punched, I could think of worse ways to go than a car wreck next to Mama, but that certainly would leave Budge in a mess so I’m glad everything worked out!

So be careful on the roads, folks. Hug each other before you drive off and never leave one another if you’re angry. You never know if it could be the last time you see one another alive!

Love y’all and keep those feet clean so you’ll look nice if you have a wreck!