Tag Archives: Mama

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!!!!

Happy Birthday #60, Mama!

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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.

They Say It Never Rains In Upstate South Carolina

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Actually, what “they” say is, “Seems it never rains in Southern California.” Still, I think it’s apropos, especially considering the rest of the chorus of that Albert Hammond one-hit wonder goes

Seems I’ve often heard that kind of talk before
It never rains in California
But girl, don’t they warn ya
It pours man it pours

Well the last three weeks, it has POURED. Literally and metaphorically. I’m talking frog-strangling, log-floating, fish-choking deluges of biblical proportions and at the moment, Father Noah is awol and they’s nary an Ark in sight. I mean, I’ve been through some rough patches in my life. It happens to us all. I understand that. The Bible says the Lord makes it rain on the just and the unjust alike. We all take our turn in the barrel as the old crude joke punchline says. Here lately though, I think I’m getting my rain and someone else’s monsoon to boot.

Let me give you, my beloved readers, a quick rundown on the last three weeks around Chez Wham.

  1. I lost or misplaced or had my iPod stolen. It was old, but it was mine and it had all my iUni podcasts on it.
  2. Budge’s pool, or as I like to call it “that godforsaken swamp in my backyard,” has eaten chemicals like I eat wintergreen Lifesavers. I hate that pool.
  3. Daddy had to go to Charleston to have a heart cath because his last nuclear stress test wasn’t what it should have been. Turns out he has a touch of heart damage at the bottom of his heart so he’s going to have to add some heart medicine to his daily regime.
  4. My nephew, Mason, had a horrendous allergic reaction to an antibiotic he was taking and for three days, Nick and Sissy though they were going to have to hospitalize him. He was head to toe red welts. He’s better now, but it was terrifying.
  5. Mama’s home healthcare nurse sat her down and explained that her C.O.P.D. has reached the terminal stages. She’s not going down without a fight, but I’m afraid most of the fight has gone out of her. I’m looking at life without my Mama sooner instead of later.
  6. Budge has been gone for two weeks this summer in the midst of all this mess going on and anyone who knows me KNOWS how well I do when I don’t have my Budge around to moderate my moods for me.
  7. Our DSL and phone lines had to be replaced because they were slowly giving up the ghost. Some people might say home internet is frivolous; those people are not teachers.
  8. The pastor on staff at church whom I was always closest to and would have turned to in the midst of all this mess was dismissed from the staff for good cause. To quote Forrest, “and that’s all I’m gonna say about that.”
  9.  I got a surprise from the IRS in the form of a tax bill to cover a mistake I made two years ago. Uncle Sam wants about $3000 of “his” money back. People in Hell want ice water, too. One more payment a month.
  10. Three of four tires on my beloved Honda Element have picked up nails or screws in the shoulders beyond the range of the tire company’s ability to safely patch them. The fourth tire was already patched. I don’t have road hazard protection on them. Lately, I’ve been riding around with an air compressor in the back.
  11. The back porch at the Ancestral Manse (Mama’s house) caught on fire and burned 1/4 of the structure. It’s now unsafe to walk on, much less get Mama’s wheelchair up or down. Estimated cost to replace? Somewhere in the $1K to $3.5K range depending on lumber costs.
  12. JUST LAST NIGHT, I was washing clothes and the sink and both tubs started gurgling like a demon had possessed them. I went in our bathroom to see what was wrong and met an inch of water standing in the floor with more coming from the porcelain throne. It was all thick with lint and suds. Septic tank’s full after 16 years. Cost to get it pumped? At LEAST $350. Might as well be three million.

Now I didn’t tell you all that to get pity and I don’t want anything from anyone. I just had to get all this off my chest or I was going to explode. I’m a talker and sometimes I just feel better getting everything out. Kind of like squeezing a boil.  It has LITERALLY been from one thing to another this entire summer. Like I said before, poop happens. I know everybody’s got troubles. I also know that misery loves company and, sweet brothers and sisters, I could use some company right along now.

Still love y’all and try to keep those feet clean!

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

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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!

My Only Worries of Being Childless

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"Empty Cradle" by CoryMarchand

My post on how awkward it can be when you’re the only childless couple really garnered a lot of folks attention. I don’t get many comments as a rule, and that post picked up several. With that in mind, I want to do a follow-up on my views of being childless and explain a thing or two in a little more detail.

Sometimes I wish Budge and I would have had children one way or another. Having seen how happy Mason has made Daddy as a grandpa, I would like for Mama to have had a blood grandchild of her own. Now she’s a surrogate grandmother to many, many children of my various cousins and assorted other kin, but I know a child of mine and Budge’s would have made her even more overjoyed. Of course, with her COPD robbing her of vitality, she wouldn’t be able to do much with the baby, but hopefully, having that baby would make her sitting confined to a chair that much easier to bear.

Mostly, I’d just like to know what kind of father I would have made. I’ve always wanted a little girl, but Budge said I’d end up in jail or a mental hospital with a nervous breakdown once she became a teenager. I don’t know about that. I’m not worried about my hypothetical daughter. I know she’d be an angel. What I’d be worried about is her finding ME when I was between 15 and 19.

I was the boy all the parents loved because I was so respectful and attentive to not only their daughter, but also them. I guess I’d have had to set the boy down and tell him, “Son, I don’t like you and I don’t want to like you. You don’t have to make small talk with me about my hobbies or sports or anything of that sort. I know your kind and I know what you want really, really badly and I realize nothing I can do will change that. But, son, you need to know one thing. There’s a well in out in the country where I grew up. It’s deep and hard to get to. If I catch you impinging on my daughter’s honor, they’ll never find you.” Well, maybe Budge is right.

The main reason I worry about us being childless, however, IS Budge. See, I’ve got maybe thirty or thirty-five years left before one of the Wham heart attacks takes me on to see Jesus . . . I hope. We don’t have much family in any event, and I’m worried sick about leaving Budge back here alone. I don’t want her to get old alone. I don’t even want her to EAT alone now! People used to laugh at me because whenever I would have a wrestling match or something of the sort and wouldn’t be able to eat supper with Budge, I’d always call one of her friends and ask her to take Budge to supper and I’d pay. I can’t stand the thoughts of her eating alone.

I remember visiting Granny Wham when she was in Martha Franks Retirement Home. Some of the ladies there had outlived all their family. They literally had no one to come visit them or make sure they were being treated well. I get so upset I start crying and get sick to my stomach when I think about my beloved Budge sitting at a table alone knowing no one is going to come visit on special days like Christmas and her birthday.

SHE tells me I’m being silly, but that’s the biggest worry I have since we have no children. I want her taken care of, but I know that if the world stands long enough, I’ll probably go to the grave before she does. Of course, if she goes before me, the funeral home may as well hold the hearse at the house because I’ll probably be along shortly from grief. It will be difficult for me to go on without Mama, but life without Mama AND my Budge is just too much to bear!

Have a good weekend, y’all!

Love y’all and keep your feet clean and warm during this cold snap!

Food Fight

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This is a pretty long post, but stick with it, thanks!

Yesterday was Budge’s first day on her medically supervised six-week weight loss plan. This isn’t the first time she’s attempted to lose weight, but it is the first time she’s gone to this careful extent. My job is to fix the shakes and provide moral support and encouragement. I plan to eat a bigger lunch and forgo supper to avoid cooking and eating in front of her and hopefully that will make this easier on her. I don’t trust diets like this, but she is under an excellent doctor’s care AND — more importantly — she’s promised me this is for HER not ME or anyone else. She’s my Budge no matter what she weighs and that’s all that matters, but her mama fought the battle of the bulge her entire life before dying at 46 of complications from pancreatitis and a final stroke. With 46 looming large in life’s windshield, Budge told me she didn’t want to go out that way so I told her do what she had to do and I’d have her back.

Needless to say, I’m insanely, stupefyingly proud of her.

With Budge starting this diet, many people are pressuring on me to join her and want to know why I’m so resistant to adopting “the healthy lifestyle.” As I’ve mentioned before, I am not a small man. I am slightly south of six feet tall and slightly north of 350 pounds. I believe the medical term is “morbidly obese.” I prefer the much cuter sounding euphemism of “as big around as I am tall.”

Lately, my glib put-off has been “I’m going for the heart attack before the diabetes has a chance to get me.” That statement is anchored in a grain of truth. The men on Daddy’s side of the family die of massive coronaries. Granny Matt had ten children who lived and that included six sons. Of the six, five died at 78 or slightly before of the aforementioned coronary. Uncle Jack was the lone dissenter, but that’s another story for another time. Daddy had HIS first heart attack about nine or ten years ago. Many of Daddy’s male blood related first cousins have already had one or more heart attacks or have perished from the sudden squeezing of the chest.

On the other side of my family tree lurk diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. More of Mama’s kin than I can count have fallen victim to “The Sugar” and the lucky ones died quickly. The unlucky ones left the world a piece at a time. Many dodged diabetes only to succumb to Alzheimer’s and left the world not knowing themselves or their closest loved ones. I have no intention of going out like that if at all possible. Given the choice between slow piecemeal death and quick heart exploding death, my decision is clear.

As I said, that is my somewhat humorous glib smart-ass answer. The pure and simple truth is, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, not so pure and definitely not simple. Fact is, obesity and I are old and bitter foes and after many bloody engagements fraught with pain, sadness, and disappointment, I have bowed to the stronger will and chosen not to fight my weight anymore.

See the oh-so-pinchable legs?

I was BORN fat. I weighed 10 lbs and 5 ozs the day I came into the world and I was born hungry. The story is I slurped down an 8 oz bottle in two minutes and started crying for more. After 8 more ounces, I was still hungry so the nurse asked Mama what she wanted done and Mama, probably glimpsing the future, told her to go ahead and get me full. I was over 14 lbs by the time I came home from the hospital with rolls of fat on my thighs that my beloved great-Aunt Pearl delighted in lovingly pinching and patting.

I never looked back.

I think I topped 100 pounds by fifth grade. I may be off a year, but I do know that all my clothes came with the “HUSKY” label. I suppose that was the clothier’s way of trying to salvage the self-esteem of  a fat pre-teen. From almost the start, the family was worried about my weight. I was placed on a few diets by Dr. Monroe, our long-time family physician, but they all required keeping track of calories and such. I wasn’t clear on the concept of “serving size” or “portion control” so I figured a bowl of cereal was “one serving” of “180 calories” when a true serving size was 3/4 of a cup of cereal meaning my punch bowl of Cocoa Crisps with whole milk actually contained about SIX servings.

One of the greatest ironies of my saga with obesity lies in how Granny Wham tried to help me lose weight. She was THE most concerned of all my family, Mama included, when it came to my being — in her words — “a little too heavy.” She would constantly admonish me about eating too much at supper or cutting myself too big a slice of pound cake (Granny Wham made the greatest pound cake this side of paradise), but at the same time, SHE was the one asking me if I’d had enough to eat and did I want more chicken or rice with gravy or roast beef or whatever delicious dish she or Papa had prepared that night. It was like living in rehab with a drug pusher!

God bless her precious heart, it was confusing as all get out when I was a child, but looking back, I understand a little better. Granny couldn’t stand to see me fat but she couldn’t stand to see me sad either and not getting enough of that wonderful food would always make me sad so the doting grandmother in her usually won out over the concerned for my health responsible adult and I’d get another piece of pound cake . . . with ice cream on top . . . and Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup . . . and Cool Whip. You get the idea.

All through elementary school and junior high, I just got bigger. Of course I got picked on and bullied because of being

Mama LOVED to dress me in horizontal stripes. Michelin Man anyone?

fat. I was called “fatty,” “lard-butt,” “two-ton,” and — my all time favorite — “The Great White Marshmallow.” I tried to shrug off the barbs as much as I could. I was dealing with other stuff. Unfortunately, one of my earliest and most cherished coping mechanisms was “escapism eating.” I’d get to Granny and Papa’s after a day at school enduring the shark tank of junior high, grab a book and a bag of Oreo cookies and go hide in the yard until supper. That kind of emotional eating did wonders for my waistline.

That’s the way things rocked on pretty much until my first year of high school. I was a nonathletic 225 pound blob when I went out for wrestling to try to get a date with Kim Robertson. The date never materialized, but I fell in love with wrestling, even if I was getting creamed twice a week at heavyweight. Funny thing is, the more I wrestled, the smaller I got. Who knew?

Then, right after wrestling season, I got braces to fix my crazy teeth. Now, I didn’t get the cute little “invisible brackets” glued to my teeth. I got the full monty of railroad track bands all over my mouth. My head, jaws, and mouth hurt so much that I couldn’t eat. I did good if I could sip some Cream of Chicken soup through a straw. I endured that pain for two months and when summer came and my teeth had finally moved enough for the agony to ease up some a funny thing happened. I looked in the mirror and a skinny kid was staring out at me.

Junior year of HS. This was the best it ever got. Skinny AND hair.

For 24 blessed months — a brief, shining moment — I was svelte. I dropped from 225 to 160. I could shop in the regular men’s section for the first time in my life. My inseam was actually longer than my waistline was round. My acne cleared about the same time and another odd thing happened. Without all the lard in the way, girls began to notice my crystal blue eyes and thick strong blond hair. Oh, and the straight white teeth — shout out to what made it all possible! It seemed like overnight I was being favorably compared to guys like Rick Mathews, our class’s resident Adonis, who played football and wrestled the weight class right above me. I was actually kind of a big deal.

Of course it went straight to my head and turned me into the exact kind of insufferable douche I’d always hated. Not to worry though. As Pony Boy is fond of reciting, “Nothing gold can stay.” Senior year came. My foibles and mistakes caught up with me. My head started filling up with thoughts and voices I couldn’t fight back. I was entering the worst depression I’d ever encountered and starting what was to become a desperate lifelong battle with my mind and emotions — but I didn’t know it. I had no idea what the hell was going on.

The final straw came when wrestling season started and the weight classes had changed. The 167 class was gone. I was now in Adonis’ weight class and Adonis was a better wrestler than I had a prayer of being.  When our 154 pounder went down early in the season with a blown out knee, everyone looked at me to cut the 15 pounds, take that spot, and make us an even greater team. I took a shot at it. God knows I tried, but the more water I drank and the harder I exercised, the bigger I got. It seemed I gained instead of losing. So I became a senior riding the bench when I should have been a captain. I gave up the fight.

I went into a headlong spiral and started drinking whenever I could, but mostly, I started eating whatever I wanted to again. It’s not like I had to keep my weight down anymore anyway. I was a three-year letter-man in wrestling. The only year I didn’t letter was my senior year.

But I’m not still bitter or anything. I’m just saying.

In college, I skipped the freshman fifteen and traded it for the freshman 50. I went from a 34 waist as a high school sophomore to a 40 waist as a college sophomore. I’d look in the mirror in disgust and I’d go on the fat wagon for a week. I’d work out every day down in Fike Hall gym. I took up tae-kwan-do. It helped a little, but in the end, the weight always won.

I was to be skinny and handsome one final time in my life. It would come after college and brought about a similar “senior year type” downward spiral with nearly identically disastrous personal results. A sordid, sad tale — for another time.

I’d started gaining back my weight from that episode when I met Budge. She married me fluffy and has stayed with me fat. I can’t thank her enough for that. These days, from time to time, I’ll contemplate hitting the fat wagon again and trying to get healthier. I don’t keep chips and dip or things of that nature in the house — fleeing temptation and all — but I watch too much Paula Deen and cook like her too much as well.

I gave up pill popping, driving fast cars, hanging out with my Five Favorite Uncles, and chasing crazy women. I started taking meds to try to quiet the cacophony in my head. All of that draws heavily from my well of willpower. For Budge and Mama’s sake, I have to concentrate my energy on what’s going to make me the most endurable. Losing weight, no matter how important I know it is, would take reserves I don’t have.

Fairly recent picture with a good view of the booth-busting belly.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s not like I revel in being fat. I haven’t bought clothes in over two years because I can’t stand the disappointment of the fitting room. I’m reminded of what, to quote from Full Metal Jacket, “a disgusting, flabtastic piece of fatbody filth” I am every time I try to sit in a restaurant booth and have to ask for a table because of my size. It isn’t like this is a high-ho bunch of fun because it ain’t. I just have to pick my battles and this is one I know the outcome of all too well.

Dr. Lopez — my primary care physician — stays on me about losing. He WANTS me to lose down to 200 lbs. I haven’t seen 200 lbs since my junior year of high school. That’s a little over 150 lbs. THAT IS A PERSON! THE MAN WANTS ME TO LOSE A PERSON. He can’t understand how a former wrestler and wrestling coach who knows so much about nutrition and exercise can be so blase’ about dropping the 10% body fat that produces measurable health benefits. Unfortunately, he also doesn’t understand something else — nothing good has ever come of me being skinny.

Sorry for the book length post.   Keep those feet clean, okay?

Love y’all.

Shannon and the Orange Lipstick

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My Apologies to Mr. Johnson and Harold

I have stated on several occasions that I grew up in a ’68 model 15 x 50 single wide trailer with no heat and no central air conditioning. This is not completely accurate. I spent my most memorable and formative years, until I finished college, in the aforementioned dwelling that Mama and I lovingly referred to as “The Little Barn.” Strictly speaking, however, my earliest home was a 1970 model 15 x 50 single wide trailer WITH heat, but still no central air. We lived there from the time I was brought home from the hospital until I was 8. Then we moved into a double wide and then we began what I’ve always referred to as mine and Mama’s “Nomadic Period.”

For today, though, I’m concerned with that first trailer and my early childhood. When I was small (well, small being relative. I’ve always been on the plus size side) I enjoyed three things above all else: eating Purina Puppy Chow Puppy Food, “painting” on the inside of the cabinet doors with Mama’s cosmetics, and climbing. This particular incident involves the latter two pastimes.

I spent hours with Mama’s late ’60s version of a Caboodle laid out in front of me using her eye shadow make up as pastel paints and her rouge brushes as my paint brush. This being the early ’70s, my palette ran to the vibrant blues and pastel browns common on the eyelids of women in those days. Mama wasn’t extremely happy with the way I tended to use up her stuff, but it wasn’t terribly destructive and in my pre-literate days, it was the best way to keep me quiet short of Sesame Street and Mama didn’t like me watching much TV.

One particular color, unfortunately, was always off limits to me and, consequently, NEVER left within my chubby little hand’s reach. I’m speaking of Mama’s orange lipstick. This was one of those colors that ONLY came out in the ’70s (thank God) and has never been seen since (ibid). Now when I say it was orange, I don’t mean burnt orange or Tennessee orange or even my beloved Clemson orange. This was closer to International Hunter’s DayGlo Orange.

It was bright.

I was totally fascinated with the dazzling hue and the smooth oily consistency and Mama, knowing this, kept the verboten lipstick tube in  her pocketbook (“purse” for the yankees in the crowd) into which I was forbidden to reach on pain of my life . . . at least that’s what she told me and, though she’d never raised a hand to me in anger, I wasn’t interested in pressing my youthful luck.

But it sure was bright orange.

So, on the fateful day in question, Mama and I had lain down for a nap in the “cool room” — our name for the master bedroom where the sole window unit A/C was located to help Daddy sleep when he came home from 3rd shift at the glass plant. This day, however, Daddy was working 2nd shift and wouldn’t be home for quite a while.

Under these conditions, something Mama never expected happened. She slept longer than I did. Mama ALWAYS woke up before me.

Not today.

Now I tottered down the hall, closing the bedroom door behind me to conserve the coolness for Mama, and made my way to the kitchen. As God is my witness, my only intention when I got up was to get my glass of Bosco laced milk from the fridge and finish drinking it as I sat at the table thumbing through my Little Golden Book copy of “The Pokey Little Puppy.” That’s how it all started, until I saw Mama’s pocketbook sitting OPEN on the table.

Now I’d like to say I wrestled with my conscience and did the whole angel / devil on the shoulder spiel, but I’d be grossly misrepresenting myself. I was too young for such moral quandaries. I simply looked down the hall to make sure Mama was still in the bedroom before reaching in and snatching out THE ORANGE LIPSTICK TUBE!!

Man, it was ORANGE.

Well, this was way too special an occasion for just painting on a cabinet door. Nope, this required a canvas as close to the Sistine Chapel ceiling as could be found in rural Upstate South Carolina in the early ’70s. I chose to make a mural.

Did I mention the lipstick was orange AND I loved to climb?

Nebulous plan in head and lipstick in hand, I went to the kitchen sink at the farthest end of the house and clambered up onto the counter. Then, I uncapped my ill-gotten booty and, reaching as far as my chubby little legs could push up my chubby little arms, I drew an orange line from the ceiling down the middle of the wall between the two small windows. Then, I ran the line across the sink’s middle divider, across the countertop, and, jumping down, straight down the center of the sink cabinet.

I was so pleased with the beautiful orange line that I decided to extend it, so, dropping to my knees, I crawled backwards across the kitchen linoleum leaving a flourescent trail in my wake. I was careful not to bear down too hard because I wanted the color to last and so far, I was doing quite well.

From the kitchen, my orange lipstick and I extended our line across the dining room linoleum and stopped at the edge of the living room. Had I stopped at that point, things might have been different, but I looked behind me and there lay a vast, virgin floor of genuine 1970s vintage Powder Blue Extra Long Shag Carpet.

I felt the blue could use an accent color, and so the line ran on. I made a nice curlicues in the middle of the floor and, never picking up my color, zigzagged my way to the hall. I was halfway down the hall making lovely swirly orange shapes when I heard the bedroom door open.

Mama isn’t her best when she first wakes up. Never has been.

Now I should point out that neither Mama nor Daddy has ever spanked me despite my needing it more than once. I have my Granny Wham to thank for a lot of that. Today, though, it was Granny Wham’s sister, my Aunt Mary, who was my savior. Aunt Mary lived a football field away from us and kept her doors and windows closed against the heat.

She still heard every word Mama said clearly as a bell in cool mountain air.

She hurried out to the house and found me in the floor at Mama’s feet, orange lipstick in hand, and Mama’s face rapidly turning to match that shade. It didn’t take Aunt Mary long to size up the situation, especially after she noted the bright orange highway running from the kitchen ceiling to where I sat.

She rushed in and scooped me up saying, “Um, Lawana, hon, why don’t I take Shannon out to the house and feed him supper while you work on this? I’ll bring him back when Frankie gets home.” Because of Aunt Mary’s quick action (may God rest her soul) I am still here with you today.

That carpet was Mama’s favorite thing about the entire trailer. She worked for a week trying to leech the orange from the powder blue fibers with no success. A month later, she made Daddy rip the whole thing up and put linoleum throughout the entire house.

Even then, though, Mama knew a day would come when she’d miss that orange stripe so somewhere in one of her keepsake boxes is a hand sized square of Powder Blue Extra Long Shag carpet with a blaze orange stripe right down the middle and from that day to the day I left home, Mama never slept longer than me again.

Love y’all and keep those feet clean!

A Toy Never Played With . . .

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I was looking through the weekly sales ads yesterday afternoon and making out my shopping plan for the coming week when I stopped at the Toys ‘R Us spread. Right on the front was one of the most elusive creatures I’ve ever encountered . . . a for real Play-Doh Playset.

I, like so many of my generation, love Play-Doh for its comprehensive sensory buffet. It feels wonderful squishing between our fingers. The colors (except the baby poo yellow) are vibrant and alive. Of course, most of all, is the SMELL. Nothing on the planet smells like Play-Doh. It is one of the most distinctive smells known. In one of those polls “they” always talk about but no one ever really sees, Play-Doh was supposedly the most recognizable smell among Westerners. Okay, I’ll go with it.

Now, I can’t verify any of this information. Everything I know about the wonder toy that is Play-Doh has been gathered third and fourth hand over many years of ardent and tiresome research. The reason I lack any empirical evidence on the toy of the gods is quite simple — I, nor any of my friends, have ever managed to hold a ball of Play-Doh long enough to form any lasting opinions.

As a child, I craved the Play-Doh sets I saw on Saturday morning cartoons. The Holy Grail for me was that dude that you stuffed the Play-Doh in his bottom and pushed a lever and strings of the stuff came out of his head as “hair” and you could cut it!! Unlike my cousin Josie’s Barbie dolls, apparently this “hair” could “grow” back after I scalped the plastic skull with a plastic razor. Alas, I was never to find out.

My mother is a saint. Growing up, she doted on me like a chosen lamb. She did, however, have one fault that threatened to slip a wedge into our relationship. She adamantly refused to allow me to have or receive as a gift ANY Play-Doh. In this stance, she was not alone. NONE of the mothers of my circle of friends would even think of entertaining the thought of allowing this dreaded substance into their houses.

No amount of reasoning could sway them. The stuff was non-toxic and biodegradable. Didn’t matter.

It provided hours of creative fun. Didn’t care.

No, Play-Doh was banned from my childhood for one simple reason.

Carpet.

My mother was convinced that any Play-Doh she allowed past her picket line into the house would inevitably be slurped into the powder blue shag (it was the ’70s, get off me) she was so proud of. Mama LOVED her carpet, even after I took a tube of bright orange lipstick . . . well, let’s leave that story for another time. Mama loved her carpet. Therefore, I was not allowed to play with Play-Doh. Every one of my friends got the same story, “you can’t have Play-Doh because it’ll get all in the carpet!!” My childhood passed never getting to enjoy the sweet fragrance of petroleum distillates on my hands all because of carpet.

I was not alone in my misery, however, as Budge related to me her trials and tribulations upon getting a nice 4-pack of Play-Doh for a birthday. Her mother relented and let her play with it . . . provided she sat at the table, which was over a linoleum floor and covered by three layers of newspaper. NEWSPAPER! Has anyone ever seen what happens to Play-Doh that comes in contact with newsprint? It’s not pretty.

It seems nothing has changed over the decades either. I was tending my next door neighbor’s house last week while they were all on vacation. The only child of the family is a wildly intelligent little boy who loves to play with blocks and trains and everything else. When I was scooping out some dog feed, however, I noticed — high on a shelf in the utility room — a Play-Doh Play Factory. It had a sticky note on it from the little fella’s mom to his dad that said,

“Don’t let Carson have this because he’ll get it on the carpet!”

Some things never change 😦

What about any of my two readers out there? What were your experiences with Play-Doh? Did you get to make the little hamburgers with the slice of cheese on top and the molded bun? Let me know in the comments if you got to have “hours of educational creative fun!”

Til then, love y’all and wash those feet!

It All Changes

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It is an eye-opening moment the day you discover your parents are real people. You actually didn’t appear in a cabbage patch, but YOUR PARENTS had . . . sex!  Ewww. You realize that a time existed when you were not the center of their universe and life did not revolve around getting you to practice on time or refereeing sibling shouting matches. Something happens and you see through the parental veneer to the man or woman responsible for giving you life. They do something “normal” and it makes you realize that, “My parents are actually PEOPLE.” It marks a transition from parent as abject object of worship to parent as person who loves me but still has issues of his or her own. A bitter divorce will bring this particular realization about real quick and in some more of a hurry. Sometimes it’s simple; sometimes . . . it’s a bit more complex. No matter how it happens though, your relationship with your parents is never the same.

It is a heart-warming moment the day your parents treat you as an equal. Maybe Dad offers you a beer or Mom doesn’t ask you to leave the room when the gossip topics get R to X rated. Whatever the case, you know when it happens. It’s a subtle shift in how they look at you and how they treat you. You’re not just their child anymore, you’re a member of the club of adults. To use an image from the “olden days,” it was when you were allowed to be heard and not just seen. Sometimes, some truly glorious times, you end up having not just a parent but an incredible friend who already knows all your stories because they were at the center of so many of them. No matter how it happens though, your relationship with your parents is never the same.

It is a gut-wrenching moment the day your role switches with your parent. Mama wants your advice or asks if you will, “just handle this.” Maybe Dad can’t go all day in the yard and you need to come over and take care of trimming the holly bushes. Often, it around the time the folks don’t insist on everyone coming “home” for the holidays but instead let “one of the children host this year.” Sometimes, you catch a grimace of pain or come in unannounced and find Mama taking a breathing treatment you didn’t know she needed. Sooner or later, you’ll taste the hideous, coppery tang of fear when you realize that this once invincible tower of strength and safety is beginning to crumble. Instead of drying your tears when you skinned your knee, you you dry their tears when they can’t quite remember the recipe for your favorite cake. We laugh and joke during the good times about how our parents had better be good to us because we are going to pick out their nursing home one day. The joke isn’t quite as funny when the day actually comes that you have to leave them and when you look at the expression on their faces and they tears in their eyes, you know EXACTLY how they felt looking at you on your first day of school. Unfortunately, a big yellow bus isn’t going to bring them home to milk and cookies and maybe a nap or a game before homework and supper time. In place of the big yellow bus will be a long black limousine and you will have a new standard of loneliness to measure things against in your life. No matter how it happens though, your relationship with your parents is never the same.

Once the changes start, your relationship with your parents is never the same.

Love y’all and don’t forget to wash your feet.