Tag Archives: Mama

Two Years

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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.

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TEOTWAWKI . . . Redux

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https://i2.wp.com/cdn.gretawire.foxnewsinsider.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/billy-graham.jpg

People might not agree with him, but I’ve never heard anyone call him anything but a good man.

I have a confession to make. Actually, I’ve made it before, but I’ve picked up a lot of followers since then and recent events plus the date have brought this heavily to my mind once again. Some of y’all that I’ve picked up will read this and dismiss me as kooky and probably never read anything I write again. Well, it’s seventeen months from an event I lived my life believing would never occur, so I’ve got to get this off my chest and I guess the chips will fall where they may.

Until October 16, 2006, I was completely, unshakably convinced I would never die — honestly, hand to Heaven, absolutely no joke.

Not only was I certain I would never die, I was JUST as certain Mama, Papa John, and many of my believing friends and family would never taste death either. Standing in front of Papa John’s casket in a driving rain on October 18, 2006 but a huge crack in my uncrackable faith; standing in front of my Mama’s casket on a beautiful, crisp spring morning seventeen months ago shattered it altogether. I am mortal, Budge is mortal, and all my friends I never expected to see buried are mortal.

The reason for my crystal clarity on the matter of my de facto immortality is twofold and one of those reasons I am not prepared to discuss, and may never discuss here or anywhere else, but the second suffices — Mama raised me believing and expecting the Rapture of the Church. Quite simply, Papa, Mama, and I were never going to die because we — and all other believers — were going to be taken up bodily to Heaven to ride out the coming Great Tribulation before our return with Jesus Christ as part of Heaven’s army at the climactic moment of the Battle of Armageddon. I wasn’t going to die. I was going to watch Jesus deal a death-blow to the Antichrist and usher in the Millennial Reign of Christ on Earth.

At one time, I was just as unshakably certain of this as I am now that the Sun will rise in the east and set in the west tomorrow. That is to say, I took it as a matter of course. I couldn’t get my mind around how anyone WOULDN’T believe Jesus was going to take His Church at any second. Then the massively successful Left Behind series of 16 novels came out and all of a sudden, people were talking about what I had believed for certain all my life on Oprah and the Today Show with Katie Couric. The Last Days were the hottest topic of conversation around for a while. Those books closely mirror what I learned as a child and what my own Bible study convinced me of further as an adult.

This series is pretty close to the doctrine I learned growing up.

Then Papa died. Then Mama died. I wasn’t crystal clear on ANYTHING anymore, much less the imminent return of Jesus. Those were black, black days and their shadow and chill haven’t completely left me even now. Some days even now, it’s all I can do to hold on to ANY faith in anything.

I didn’t think about the Rapture anymore. The church I attend now does not stress or teach on the Last Days because our two teaching pastors are diametrically opposed to each other in their views on eschatology (fancy word for “study of the last thing). Good, conservative thinking, Bible-believing Christian people have several opinions on the matter. It’s a big deal and when I was younger, I studied it religiously (no pun intended). I devoured every book on end times I could find and believe me, there’s a lot written. Then, I just stopped because it didn’t seem important anymore with Papa, and especially Mama, dead.

This evening, however, Budge found and read an article to me with the headline “Billy Graham Sounds Alarm for Second Coming.” That got my attention because Reverend Billy Graham is the real deal. The man is 95 years old; he’s been preaching crusades across the world for over SEVENTY YEARS — and his televised crusades were the ONLY thing Papa Wham would switch a Braves game for — in all that time no one has dug up the first speck of dirt on him and don’t think they haven’t tried. No women, no drug use, no money schemes, NOTHING. Seventy years and he’s squeaky clean.

The article took me aback because in all the years I’ve listened to Dr. Graham speak and preach, I’ve never known him to weigh in on End Times. I figured he probably had solid beliefs, but his message was always more about getting people saved than about a heavy theological topic like eschatology. He never mentions it in either of his biographies or in any other writing I can find he’s done. So what? Well, he’s 95 and preachers with that many miles on them don’t usually start making up stuff. If HE is seeing clear signs of the end of days enough that he wants to go on record about it, maybe it’s time to look around a little.

I’m going to set this plane down now by saying I know this isn’t one of my better pieces, but quite honestly, looking at current events and reading the Bible and listening to what other people are saying . . . well, I can’t help but wonder. Most of the major end time prophecies and theories revolve around the Middle East, specifically Israel. In fact, a great many prophecy scholars point to May 15, 1948 as the moment the End Time clock started ticking — Israel, after 2000 years of wandering, became a nation again and with the way Syria is going . . . and Russia (yes, I know Russia isn’t in the Middle East, but Google “Gog and Magog) and things just start looking, I don’t know . . . plausible?

Anyway, I Love y’all, and keep those feet clean!

 

 

One Year Down and Life to Go

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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.

 

Freefallin’

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im-falling

It’s not the fall;
It’s the sudden stop at the bottom.

I get a sick feeling when life goes well for more than a day or two at a stretch. I see good times as a pair of steel shoes resting on the ground and as the good days stretch out, one shoe sits while the other begins to rise and gain size; the longer the good stretch lasts, the higher and heavier the shoe gets, right up to the point when the next crisis strikes and “the other shoe drops” — literally screams down at 9.80665m/sec² — thus the higher and heavier it’s gotten (ie. the longer and better the stretch of life has been) the more destruction it causes when it hits ground.

Things have been going entirely too well lately and the other shoe had gotten much too far and fat for my liking. Even though I know it’s just a construct of my imagination, I still picture it up there — waiting, looming — and I cringe as the days pile up without incident because what goes up is going to come down and the farther up it goes, the worse it’s going to be. Well, my small group leader ended the waiting and ruined supper by announcing after four great years together, our group will cease to exist come May. That sound you hear is the wind whistling through the eyelets of a gargantuan steel Air Jordan streaking earthward like the comet that killed the dinosaurs.

As I sat staring into my empty plate like a poor dumb T-Rex on the prehistoric Yucatan Peninsula all I could think of was, “It’s happening AGAIN.” What is happening again is my abandonment mechanism is going off. If you don’t suffer from abandonment issues, get on your knees right now and thank Jesus, Buddha, Ganesha, or Shiva (or Darwin for the atheists in the crowd) because of all the agonies of Borderline Personality Disorder, the one I would least wish on anyone (except Hitler, Stalin, or Mao — you know, the only three people going to Hell) is Abandonment Issues.

When I was five, Mama and Daddy started having “trouble.” By the time I was seven, they had separated; by eight, divorced. I see Daddy’s blue stepside Chevy truck driving off and me waving desperately from the front porch of the trailer as clearly today as almost forty years ago. Two key things I’ve learned at great financial and emotional cost in seven years of therapy are 1) children with single digit ages have limited ability to process emotional nuances that cause adults problems and 2) when you experience a devastating trauma at a young age, a part of you emotionally never gets any older. So, while the 43-year-old man I am knows Daddy and Mama had issues and it was best they divorce, the seven-year old still inside me just sees daddies aren’t supposed to leave, but Daddy left ME. I want to be crystal clear about something right now — this is not a “beat up Daddy” post. This is a “why I am what I am” post and the fact is, Mama and Daddy’s divorce planted the seed of abandonment in my seven-year old soul and, dear God, has it grown over the years.

For several years after the divorce, I could not stand for Mama to leave me as she might decided not to return too. I tolerated her going to work to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table only because I got to stay with my beloved Papa and Granny Wham. Otherwise, if Mama wasn’t at work and I wasn’t at school, I was welded to her hip. Naturally, this caused some problems. I smothered the life out of Mama. My mother was a drop dead gorgeous woman and she was single again at 25, but she couldn’t date because I would throw a royal fit if she left me at night. I remember one time in particular, several women she worked with begged her to go to Myrtle Beach with them for a long weekend and she finally agreed, but she knew how I’d take it so she didn’t tell me. Instead, I went to Granny and Papa’s as usual but instead of getting up at midnight to go home, I woke up on Saturday morning next to Papa Wham.

To put it mildly (and seriously, I’m not even going into the details) I FLIPPED THE HELL OUT! I screamed, cried, and thrashed but most of all, I kept repeating over and over, “She left me, she left me . . . ” I was so distraught I made myself vomit from crying and screaming. It scared Granny to death. It didn’t do me a lot of good either, especially because I had no idea where Mama was, when she was coming back, but most of all what was wrong with me. I literally COULD NOT calm down. Mama never went anywhere again without me. I sucked a huge portion of life out of my precious Mama because I couldn’t bear for her to leave me.

Through the years, that feeling of being abandoned has flared up with angry intensity on more occasions than I’d care to admit. When I was in sixth grade, the first little girl I ever had a crush on moved. That would be tough on lots of kids. I was sick in bed for a week. When I was a junior in high school, the first girl I ever was truly, madly in love with went out with another boy. Wreck. Later, when we were seniors, we went through another rough patch and ended up calling it quits for good when she said, and I’ll never forget it, “I’ve got some good news and some bad news for you and the good news is IT’S NOT YOURS now I guess you know the bad news too.” That one was the first time I ever made out a bona fide suicide plan and would have carried it out if Duane Craddock had not defied his parents to come to my house and take me to Amy Mims’ house at midnight so the two of them could talk me down off the ledge so to speak.

I’ve got more, but this post has already run over my 1000 word target so I’m going to wrap this one up. Maybe, if enough of you decide you’d like to hear the rest of the story, I’ll do a part two about how abandonment issues have pretty much crippled my life for years now.

In any event, know that I love y’all and keep those feet clean!

First You Say It, Then You Do It

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wheels-falling-offI almost died Christmas Eve, and I’m told it would have put a damper on the holidays.

Christmas Eve fell on a Tuesday so, like every Tuesday, I went to Clinton to National Health Care to check on Granny Ima and see if she would let me clean and polish her nails. Now Mama and I used to go to Columbia to spend every Christmas Eve with Granny when I was a child so in some ways, I found the whole trip ironic. Granny was happy and she smiled and said a few words, which was the best Christmas present she could give me, but she didn’t want her nails messed with, so I sat and talked to her until her CNA came to get her for lunch. Then, I kissed her goodbye, got in my truck, and headed home to get ready to go to Rob’s for Christmas Eve supper.

I bought my 1994 Ford F-150 with a little of Mama’s insurance money so it’s extremely special to me.  Anyway, as I was leaving Clinton on State 308, I called my great-Aunt Pearl (Ima’s oldest sister) to apprise her of Granny’s condition and state of mind. We were talking as I merged onto I-385 and when I gave the old girl some gas, I felt a pronounced thump. I told Aunt Pearl I’d have to call her back, hung up and concentrated on the sound.

It was an intermittent noise, which is aggravating to diagnose, and I’m not an accomplished mechanic, but I was pretty convinced it was a universal joint needing replacing or maybe an exhaust hanger had popped loose when a woman in a PT Cruiser had tapped me in the rear end in downtown Clinton that morning. I sped up to 85 mph and the noise went away. I gently applied the brakes and the noise didn’t come back. So I turned the radio back up, passed a few slow-moving cars, and continued on my way.

When I went under the State Road 92 bridge, the thump became a clunk. I had tons of ideas running through my head and all of them centered on how I was going to pay to fix whatever u-joint or exhaust hanger needed attention. I also considered the motor might be going and just about cried. I call her “Mama’s Final Gift” and I’ve become seriously attached, but all the gauges read okay so I kept on and the sound stopped eventually.

I exited I-385 and turned left onto State Highway 418 about 23 miles later and when I hit 60 mph, the noise came back. I was almost home though, so I just started the “c’mon, baby, hold together” Han Solo talk. Then, quite literally, the wheels fell off the apple cart. I slowed down to a crawl to turn right onto the road to home and saw a tire and wheel pass me. My brain had just enough time to register the thought of “that’s strange; someone’s wheel is rolling down the road,” before the left front end of the truck slammed into the pavement and the truck jolted up and down with enough force to knock my head smartly on the roof of the cab. Then an awful grinding noise filled the air and I realized the wheel in question was mine. I drove on the brake rotor about ten yards until my brain finally got the message to my foot that it was still pressing the gas instead of the brake and I stopped. Then, it hit me.

My wheel fell off my truck!

I just lost my freaking wheel!

I followed my first instinct when something crazy like that happens to me and started to call Mama, realizing just in time my long distance plan wasn’t quite that good. So I switched gears and called Budge six times and she didn’t answer the phone. It didn’t bother me though; I think I was still in shock because, you know — wheel fell off and all. In fact, some primitive part of my brain still functioning correctly posed a very good question: what was Budge supposed to do if I DID talk to her? Raise the truck with telekinesis? Realizing I had not, in fact, married Carrie White, I called Rob, my stepdad, just as he was pulling into the yard from work. I explained my predicament and he said to sit tight, he’d get Baby Huey (my 6’6″, 375 lbs “baby” stepbrother Travis) and he’d be right on.

By then, Budge had finished her shower and called me back. I think all she heard was “wheel fell off.” Ten minutes later she found me sitting on the lowered tailgate of my truck having spoken to a few friends I’d called just to pass the time. It was while sitting there calmly drinking a bottle of water the reality and gravity of the situation. The noise I’d heard coming out of Clinton was the wheel wobbling as one or more lug nuts decided to take a vacation. The second noise was the exodus of even more of these vital little hunks of metal. The terrible vibration I felt on the off ramp and 418 was the wheel wobbling on the studs devoid of attachments.

I started to shake a little. As slow as I was going as I turned onto the road, the wheel leaving still caused a bad jolt. Now, imagine for a moment: What would have happened if that same wheel had flown off while I was on I-385? wheel

I KNOW what would have happened because I’ve seen it happen during NASCAR races. The rotor would have dug into the asphalt, Newton’s First Law of Motion would have taken over and I’d have started either flipping end over end or doing some sweet barrel rolls down the highway. Since I wasn’t wearing my seat belt (they are under the seat cover) I’d have been ejected through the shattered windshield or the shattered side window, the truck would have hit me or the care behind would have run me over, I would have died on Christmas Eve 2013 and that would have sucked.

I don’t know why the wheel stayed on until I was going slow enough to survive the results. I know a lot of people would call it a neat coincidence. I don’t. See, as I was putting the wheel back on the truck, I asked myself why the lug holes in the rim were threaded while the studs were smooth. That’s when I realized the rim had ridden on the studs long enough to smooth them out while cutting threads into the rim. That’s not all; when I borrowed a lug nut from the other wheels, I discovered every lug nut was loose. Y’all skeptics think what you want and call me whatever you please, but I think Jesus and Mama were watching out for me one more time and I’m certainly thankful they were.

Love y’all and hope the new year is off to a great start! Keep those feet clean!

Giving Thanks in 2013

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thanksgiving-eventAnyone who reads GB&GSF regularly knows this holiday season is incredibly difficult for me. It’s hard to believe it’s our first Thanksgiving without Mama. Mama loved to cook and she loved to eat, but the last few years, she hadn’t been able to do either. Still, instead of dwelling on the pain, I’m going to get through the day by following the advice attributed to one of one of the wisest men I’ve ever read — Dr. Seuss — who said, “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.” With that in mind, instead of spending the day in tears heartbroken because Mama is gone, I’m going to give thanks for the 42 Thanksgivings I was blessed to spend with her. I’m thankful for all the Thanksgiving dinners Mama cooked and when she got tired of cooking, I’m thankful for all the cooks and waitresses at Ryan’s Family Restaurant and Cracker Barrel for giving some of their holiday to wait on us and feed us.

I’m thankful for all the Thanksgiving suppers my Granny Wham made for us over the years she was with us. I’m thankful for all the times I listened to Papa Wham as he bowed his head to say the grace I still remember to this day, “Father please pardon us for all of our sins and we thank you for these and all our other many blessings in Christ’s name, amen.”

I’m thankful for my family and friends still with me. I’ve lost many of them over the years and I figure to lose many more before it’s my turn to journey across Jordan. In just a few hours, I’ll be thankful to sit down at a table FULL of food prepared by my loving “second wife” Laura and other members of her (and by adoption and extension, my) family. I’m thankful for Laura herself and her precious real husband, Cameron and my ersatz nephew Jacob.

I’m also thankful for my beloved Budge and the 17 Thanksgivings she has endured me and my sometimes stormy moods around the holidays. I could never have guessed a simple Hummer ride up a washboard mountain road would turn out to be the beginning of a much longer and sometimes stranger trip.

I’m thankful for all the men and women whose duties won’t allow them to spend a quiet day with their families — our soldiers, sailors, and airmen stationed here and across the world providing safety and security for our nation and many other nations across the globe. Also, I’m thankful for our doctors, nurses, and medical technicians who are staffing our hospitals ready to treat the various injuries and illnesses a day of overeating, overexertion, and — sometimes — overexposure to family can bring.

Finally, I’m thankful that one day I’ll get to rejoin Mama and my other loved ones around another table at a marriage supper and I’m thankful for the One who made that possible by His sacrifice that redeemed Mama, Granny, Papa, Budge, me, and so many millions more down the centuries. Our world was in a mess and without any hope, but Jesus came and by His sacrifice, set right everything Adam screwed up. I know not everyone who reads my blog believes Jesus even existed, much less lived and died to save a doomed humanity, but . . . well, He did and my life is living proof as anyone who knew me “back when” can attest to.

I’m also thankful for all of you who read my blog and who’ve encouraged me over the years. Remember I love all y’all and keep those feet clean as you “gobble til you wobble” today!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Five Months On

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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

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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.

Goodbye, Mama. I love you.

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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!

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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!!!!