Tag Archives: pain

Goodbye, Mama. I love you.

Standard
Mama and me

Going to miss her so very much.

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

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

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

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

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

Reunited Monday, 3-25-13.

Reunited Monday, 3-25-13.

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

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

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

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

I love y’all. Sincerely, Me.

 

Dear Lord The Pain, The Horror, The String!

Standard

A nice, plush, well-appointed torture chamber.

I had to go to the dentist today. I’ve been putting this visit off because prior to Budge signing us up for State Dental Plus insurance, cleanings alone were almost $100 out of pocket. Now I’d like pretty, pearly whites as much as the next person, but from a purely economic standpoint, dirty teeth bite and chew just as well as sparklingly pristine ones.

Aside from the money, though, I also am a wimp when it comes to CHOOSING to undergo infliction of large amounts of pain. If I get hurt, I’ll deal with it, but I don’t go looking to feel something unpleasant. I knew I was in for a world of agony too because my long-time favorite dental hygienist left the practice I patronize to start a restaurant with her husband. Now Patty was a jewel. She was sweet and kind and tender. She dealt lovingly with my poor neglected mouth. I knew that her replacement — sight unseen — was bound to be much harsher.

I was absolutely right, but more on that later.

I started off my visit being lulled into a false sense of safety and comfort by the little dental hygienist’s assistant. She did the x-rays with the thing you bite down on as it slices the roof of your mouth. Then she polished my teeth. Maybe some of you like that freshly polished feeling, but to me the polisher head sounds too much like that godawful drill they use. Added to the unpleasant aural experience is the wonderful sensation of nails on a chalkboard you get from the feel of the pumice paste touching your teeth. I’ve tried many times to explain that I don’t want my teeth polished, but it is to no avail.

Before going on too far, I have to relate how the whole polishing experience was preceded by a wonderfully refreshing awkward turtle moment. Now, for those who are new to the site and me, I was born without a filter between my brain and my mouth. You never have to wonder about what I’m thinking because if you’ll just give me a few minutes, I’ll tell you. Added to that lack of filter is a wonderfully complex OCD disorder (which really should be CDO to be correct) that makes me want to “fix” whatever is off in my environment and we have the makings of a really nice train wreck.

See, what had happened was while I was getting my x-rays done, the little assistant hygienist was in very close proximity to me. It was during my left upper x-ray that I noticed she had a large stray string somehow caught perfectly in the extreme upper part of her cleavage. This is where the OCD kicks in. (Don’t worry, I’m a little off in the noggin but I’m not a big enough fool to go fishing for an item like that myself.) Now Budge has always told me I am honor bound to tell her if anything she is wearing makes her look foolish, fat, etc. Thanks to my lack of a filter, this has never been a problem. Using Budge’s admonishment as my base, I surmised that no woman would want to go around with a stray string caught in her cleavage. Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out a delicate way to advise her of the situation. Now most people would have just leaned back and let it go but remember — no filter and OCD.

So, I tried subtlety. I said, “Hon, if you were wearing a long string of pearls, they would have a string caught in them.” She looked at me like she’d just watched me beam down from a spaceship. Well, I tried subtlety and, as usual, it didn’t work so I just used the direct approach with, “Okay, there’s no delicate way to put this and we are both about to turn beet red, but you have a rather sizable string stuck in the upper reaches of your cleavage. I noticed it during the x-rays.” Upon quick examination, she realized I wasn’t just making this up. Of course, the beige string stood out prominantly against the bright red flush now enveloping her (and my) face and neck. Luckily, she is not only a good sport, but we’ve known each other many years now. I even warned her during my last visit when she told me she was moving her boyfriend in with her that she was making a big mistake — you know, free milk and cows and such. Turns out, I was right, but that’s another story.

Nothing on this chart looks very pleasant, does it?

Anyway, she finished up her portion of my cleaning with a maroon glow and I saw her motion in the hygienist. So this was my beloved Patty’s replacement? She was about five foot nothing and just as slightly built as she could be. I felt a wave of relief. After all, how bad could such a delicate creature hurt me?

Turns out, pretty damn bad.

Let me put it this way, had I been a POW subjected to what this little terror did to me, she would be on trial for violations of the Geneva Convention at the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. Instead, I had to pay for the whole ordeal with blood and money.

Her name was Maria, but I swear it should have been Ilsa or Helga or something more befitting her powers of pain brokering. I was at the mercy of a miniature Tomas de Torquemada in baby blue scrubs. She poked. She scraped. She sawed. At one point, I swear she had both tiny hands in my mouth and it felt like she was trying to extract my poor uvula through my sinuses. What she was actually trying to do was dislodge a particularly stubborn piece of plaque from a back molar. When the offending bit finally gave way, it sailed out of my mouth and landed right in my left eye. I’ve seen meteorites smaller than the rock she got out of me.

After she’d finished with the “light stuff,” this modern day Brunhilda informed me that I needed the “special treatment.” Turns out this treatment is a machine that pressurizes water into a needle-fine jet that exits a vibrating tip. Supposedly, it makes plaque removal a breeze. I have no idea if it actually does what it’s designed for, but I can vouch that it puts out enough liquid to make you feel like you’re being waterboarded at Gitmo by Darth Vader. When I told her, eyes filling with tears, that I would give her the location of the secret Rebel base, she laughed and said, “Oh you big baby, it’s just water.” Of course it’s just water . . . water . . . the same stuff that cuts steel in some modern fabricating plants oh yeah and carved out that big hole in the Arizona desert called The Grand Canyon.

That’s when she started to get cutesy with me. She said, “You know, some people look forward to coming to have their teeth cleaned!” I quickly replied, “Yes, and those same people probably have a homemade BDSM dungeon in their basement and think being hung upside down is fun, too.” She laughed. Manically. Then she reached for the roll of razor wire she was passing off as dental floss and finished up my cleaning. Once she was satisfied that I was bleeding freely enough from every spot of exposed gum tissue, the Marquess de Sade told me to relax while she got Dr. Leigh.

My favorite dentist ever, Dr. Leigh Ledford!

Finally, salvation.

Dr. Leigh is as gentle as her hygienists are brutal. She just pats you on the cheek with a nice reassuringly cool hand and rubs your jaws. I’ve always told her if she ever wanted to give up dentistry, she could make a mint as a masseuse. She completed her evaluation and pronounced me in fine shape. Then she told me not to wait two years next time and her trained torturer wouldn’t have to treat me so horribly.

Don’t have to tell me twice; I go back in six months!

So, if y’all need a good dentist in Upstate South Cackalacky, make sure you check out Hillcrest Family Dentistry. Yes, the hygienists are dangerous, but they do an excellent job and having your face rubbed by Dr. Leigh is worth the price of admission all by itself. Just tell’em I sent you. Oh, and tell “String” I said hello.

Til next time, love y’all and keep your feet clean.

Oh yeah, and FLOSS!

Woolly Bully, Woolly . . . Boom!

Standard

Not mine, but a very accurate representation! Color's perfect, but the wheels are wrong.

When I was 15 years old, Daddy sold his boat and bought me a 1979 Mustang Ghia. Aunt Cathy called and told me to get up to Granny and Papa’s as soon as I could. I was afraid something was wrong because I really wasn’t expecting Aunt Cathy to be at Granny and Papa’s. I told Mama she hustled me out to the car and up the road we went in a pouring down rain. I should have suspected something because Mama was acting entirely too calm for anything to be gravely amiss.

We turned onto Weathers Circle, and I saw Daddy’s black Chevy truck, Papa’s slate blue Comet station wagon, Granny’s blue Ford LTD, Cathy’s gold Oldsmobile, and a white Mustang.  We pulled in and I tore into the house expecting to find everything in a state of panic with Granny or Papa on the floor and Daddy or Cathy huddled over them. Instead, everyone was sitting down smiling. I was so confused. Then Daddy said, “So, boy, how do you like your car?”

Okay, I may have been second in my class of 399, but I could be a mite slow on the uptake.

I asked him, “What car?”

He said, “The Mustang you passed on your way in here.”

Epiphany! I turned to see Mama smiling too. She HAD known. She and Daddy talked and she’d agreed to pay my insurance if Daddy bought the car. I couldn’t stop shaking as I walked to the driveway oblivious to the fact that I was getting wet. It could have been raining flaming camel dung and I wouldn’t have noticed. This white, four wheeled goddess was my car. I had just vaulted to the tiptop of the pecking order among my friends. All the other first cars I’d seen were rattletrap jalopies one good pothole away from the junkyard while I had a barely used Mustang with the carpet still damp from the car lot detailing job.

I got behind the wheel as Aunt Cathy climbed in the passenger seat. Daddy passed me the keys with two words and a smile, “Be careful.” That moment was the happiest I’ve ever seen Daddy. He looked childishly happy and since I wasn’t used to him or Mama looking happy it shocked me a little. I never saw Daddy happier until the day Nick tossed a bib embroidered with “Grandpa” in Daddy’s lap thereby announcing Mason’s imminent arrival.

I recovered and took Cathy around the block for the first ride in MY new car. Then Mama. Then Granny. I offered to take Daddy and Papa but they politely declined. I hugged Daddy and thanked him, but not nearly enough.

That first evening, I showed her off to my buddies then took her over to see my 15 year old girlfriend. She ooohhed and aaahhhed satisfactorily as her father, who didn’t much like me anyway, stared with murderous intent at me AND the car. All he said (growled actually) was, “Not til she’s sixteen” before going back into the house.

I don’t know if I’ve ever been happier before or since. I got a boss new stereo and tuned the engine just right. If I wasn’t driving her, I was waxing her. I probably changed the oil six times in the time she was mine. We had a way to go without begging a ride. Five months later, my girl turned sixteen, and we went on our first date. She was supposed to be home by ten; we pulled in the driveway at 9:45. I was terrified of her father.

Put it in fast forward for about ten months to early Tuesday afternoon, late July.

I was headed home via Fountain Inn, windows down, Sam Sham and the Pharaohs belting out “Woolly Bully” on the stereo when it occurred to me I should go see Granny and Papa.

FI is a three red light town. I was coming up on the first and saw it was red. Right then, things went all to hell.

My buddy Robby once told me I was the most intelligent person he’d ever known, but I didn’t have sense enough to get out of a rainstorm. Approaching the light, I thought, with perfect clarity, “Oh dear, I must turn left to go back to Granny and Papa’s. I cannot turn left on a red light. What shall I do? Ah ha, I see the next light is green. I can turn left on a green light and go back to Granny and Papa’s. That is what I shall do! I am so smart!”

Anybody spot the flaw in that little plan?

As the Pharaohs reached the final climactic “Woolly Bulllllyyyy” chorus, I once again proved Robby right by sailing through the red light into the path of an old decrepit jeep. I remember it happening in slow motion, looking out the window at the approaching jeep and thinking, “This is gonna hurt!”

It did.

The jeep took me in the driver’s door and knocked me across the console (cool guys don’t wear seat belts) into the passenger’s seat amidst a maelstrom of glass and metal. It seemed eerily quiet for a few seconds, then the world became one huge conglomerate of noise. I leaned up and opened the passenger door of my shattered goddess and walked towards a nearby street lamp. It had a nice wide, inviting base and seemed like a fine place to sit and reflect on what I should do next. The driver of the jeep, which was unscratched save a broken wooden bumper (that’s foreshadowing folks), walked over and said, “Man, are you okay?” I nodded.

Just then, Mr. Wofford Woods appeared in my field of vision. He and Granny Wham worked in the store connected to the street light I was now leaning against. Thankfully she was off on Tuesdays. My reflective period abruptly ended; I moved to action.

Reaching up, I took  Wofford by the jacket lapels and, with what little authority I could put into my sixteen year old crackling voice, said, “Wofford, DO NOT call Mama. I repeat DO. NOT. CALL. MY. MOTHER., and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DO NOT call Granny.” Then, for the first and, to now, last time in my life, I uttered, “You call Laurens Glass Plant and GET. MY. DADDY!!”

Wofford nodded, strode off, and promptly ignored every word. I realized this when, about seven minutes after I lost sight of him, a light blue ’78 Ford LTD jumped the curb and skidded to a stop in a nova of dust, grass clumps, and broken sprinkler heads. Granny Wham leaped from the car and I knew instantly she’d be taken unawares whilst getting ready to go out because she had on her best slacks but was wrapped in her rattiest housecoat, (If you’re not from the South, you might not know what a housecoat is, but it’s ok), her curlers still in her head, AND a generous amount of pink Oil of Olay she missed with the washrag in the excitement on her face.

I made a mental note to kill Wofford.

Granny was still in her prime in those days — nary a bit bowed with age, infirmity, or indecision. She would have happily fought (and probably killed) a raging tyrannosaurus bare-handed had she felt one of her own was in danger. She hugged me to her in all out mother hen mode and started asking questions. Many, many questions I lacked the ability to answer.  I managed to reach up and gently put my finger to her lips to quiet her and ask, “Where is Papa?” She replied, indignantly, “Frank was shaving and had half his face done and refused to wash his face off and come with me before he finished! He just said, ‘Mama, he can’t be hurt very badly since he had sense enough to tell Wofford not to call you’ and went back to shaving.” Inside, I wept for Papa because Granny calling him “Frank” instead of “Daddy” was the equivalent of her or Mama using my full, three word name.

Soon after, Mama made a similar curb jumping entrance. Luckily, she had been about to go to work on second shift at the textile plant so she was fully dressed. Then the ambulance arrived and Mama talked Granny into going home to get Papa . . . and finish dressing, while Mama rode with me in the ambulance.

We got to the hospital despite nearly wrecking the ambulance and they took me into ER. Remember the wooden jeep bumper? It’s important now. The charge nurse took a pair of scissors and began to cut my jeans off. I was wearing the only pair of Guess jeans I have ever owned. They cost $50 in 1986 money. I was proud of those jeans, so I screamed out, “Don’t do that! My Ima (my other grandmother) can get any stain out of anything!”

So, the nurse said, in the tone of someone who knows something YOU do not know, “Okay, sir, go ahead and take your pants off.” Turns out, what she knew that I didn’t was I had a six inch long, four inch wide sliver of  jeep bumper sticking out of my left leg. As I pushed my pants down, I found the rest of the piece of wood — jammed against my left femur. My hand pushed the wood, the wood scraped down the bone, and I snatched the scissors away from the nurse and cut my jeans of.

I’d gotten X-rayed and scheduled to have a doctor look at me when Daddy opened the curtain, walked in and said, “Looks like I sold my boat for nothing.”

At the time, I was livid that he could speak to me like that with the day I was having. I was pissed. Ten years later, I found out Daddy had driven from Laurens at bat-out-of-hell speeds unaware if I was alive or dead. Then, when he walked into the ER, Granny Wham grabbed him and said, without fanfare or word of how I was doing, “The car is totaled and he HAS to have a car!!.” So Daddy was as mad at her as I was mad at him basically for the same reason. Wish I’d know that then.

Mama took me home about an hour later.  Two days later, Papa Wham took me to the junk yard where my goddess had been laid to rest to recover a few things. I was going to get my stereo, but when I saw the console, I gave up that idea. I started school on crutches the next week. I was out of work for three weeks and my girlfriend cheated on me with one of my co-workers. To this day, I have a massive scar on my left thigh that is all grody and sunken in. Still hurts like crap sometimes too. In my mind, I deserve it for killing my snow white goddess.

Looking back, I’m pretty sure I’ve never been as happy as I was for those ten months. I’ve had other cars. Some of them were awesome, but you never forget your first.

I guess Robert Frost said it best, “Nothing gold can stay.”

Of course, Dallas would say, “Stay gold, Pony Boy!”

All of you, stay golden too.

Love y’all and make sure to wash your feet!