Tag Archives: People

Of Tragedy and Old Friends

Standard

I stopped by Kentucky Grilled Chicken (?!?!?) today for a three honey BBQ snacker snack at lunchtime. I was done with the tater wedges and halfway through my second snacker when an old friend showed up in the KFC (KGC . . . KGB . . . ???). Now when I say “old friend”, this chicka is quite possibly my second oldest friend in the world. She and I literally have known each other from right near the cradle. We went through twelve years of grade school and K5 together. I distinctly remember talking her out of playing with the toy kitchen set in Miss Coggins’ room so she would come play in the sandbox with me. Birthday parties, McDonald’s parties, swimming dates. We go way back.

For the purpose of this story, her name will be Nadia. First, I don’t want her real name plastered all over the Internet because she’s a private person and second, I didn’t go to school with anyone named Nadia at any time that I can remember, so people won’t be running to the old yearbooks (as if they cared) to see who I’m talking about.

Nadia was one of my first kindergarten crushes. I thought she was beautiful with china blue eyes and long snowy blond hair, but even more, she was cute and funny. She was a lot like me. Her parents were the first couple in my dinky little home town to get divorced after mine broke the ice. It wasn’t much of a loss for the family since her dad was, as Papa used to put it, “not worth the powder it would take to blow his brains out.” Still, not much ever seemed to get her down. She was the middle child of three, then the second oldest of four when her mother got a bit of a surprise when Nadia and I were beginning sixth grade. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the only surprise Nadia’s family would get that year.

Nadia was the most graceful gymnast I knew in my short life. She was athletic all around — great runner, champion swimmer, etc. — but her true gift lay on the floor exercise platform. I still recall our sixth grade talent show when she did her floor routine and absolutely floored everyone else. Her dream was the Olympics. She had her sights set on Los Angeles and 1984 and none of us, young or old, doubted her ability or commitment. We joked in math class about how much tickets to LA would cost. Our closest airport wasn’t even equipped for that kind of trip then. Nadia had big dreams and we all dreamed with her. Somewhere boxed up I’ve got a wallet sized picture of her in her leotard with her rhythm hoop. She’s smiling that spotlight smile and looks for all the world like she was posing on the podium getting the gold medal.

If iPods had been around in 1982, I don’t doubt for a minute she’d have made LA. Nadia, her mother, her mother’s best friend, and Nadia’s three sisters, including the baby, were on their way home in a car driven by Nadia’s oldest sister, who had just gotten her permit. The cassette they were listening to reached the end and automatically ejected. It came out of the player and fell to the floor beneath the sister’s feet. When her sister glanced down to mark where it fell, the car was in the beginning of a curve and drifted into the path of a fully loaded gravel truck  from the local quarry.

The Highway Patrol statement said there were no skid marks visible from either vehicle. Neither driver had touched a brake pedal. The truck was stopped by climbing atop the car and sliding several hundred feet until both vehicles went into the ditch. The truck driver was physically unscathed and everyone, including Nadia, have always maintained there was nothing humanly possible he could have done to avoid the collision. In any event, I heard the accident drove him to the bottle. Whether that is true or not, I can’t say. You’ll hear anything in a small town.

What is a fact is Nadia’s Olympic dream ended in a tangle of sheet metal and diesel fuel. Her spine was severed right below her belly button. She would never walk again. Her mother, the friend, oldest sister, and the baby, who wasn’t in a car seat because she didn’t have to be in those days, all died at the scene. Nadia’s next sister, seated at impact between the friend and Nadia, walked away with a cut over her left eye that required five stitches.

I don’t know many well adjusted grown men and women who could have withstood a tragedy of that magnitude with all mental flags flying, but Nadia seemed to. I don’t pretend to know what nightmares have ridden roughshod through her dreams these last thirty years, but I know she took to her wheelchair like the proverbial duck to water. After some therapy, she was riding rings around her grandmother and grandfather’s home. She even came back to school and finished the year.

In those pre-Americans with Disabilities Act days, our beloved principal and several of the more “handy” fathers came to the school several days over the winter break and built ramps to every place they could imagine Nadia wanting to go. She was given a key to the faculty bathroom because it was the only restroom in the school large enough to accommodate her and her wheelchair. One of her trusted friends would always accompany her in case she fell making the transition from chair to commode and back. That’s how we did it back then. We took care of each other.

Nadia was the first handicapped person I knew up close and personal. She could have been the poster child for how to deal with the biggest poop sandwich I’ve ever seen handed to one person in one lifetime. She was, and still is, a survivor. She and I graduated the same night and I lost track of her for some time. Then I started running into her at local stores and such. She was still pretty as ever. In time’s due course, she married a very kind and decent man. He was with her today. They have four children and the oldest was graduating tonight, just as his mother and I did these twenty years gone.

So I told y’all Nadia’s story to tell you, and myself, this little tidbit — it could ALWAYS be worse. What’s more, when it GETS worse, it’s up to you how to handle it. If anyone in this world has ever had a right to end up hooked on drugs or completely depressed or suicidal, Nadia was that person. That wasn’t how she rolled, pun intended, though. One dream and most of her family had died, but the woman I saw today still had a head held high and her china blue eyes still sparkled. The snow blond hair had some grey streaks, but mine does as well and my life has been a cakewalk compared to Nadia’s. So don’t take anything for granted folks. Life moves at the speed of love and it moves by very fast. Nadia is moving right along with it. She’s been an inspiration to me for going on thirty years now. I hope her story inspires some of y’all as well.

So, love y’all bunches and now that summer’s here, when y’all come in from chasing fireflies, don’t forget to wash your feet! 🙂

What Does Pelosi Know About This?

Standard

Okay, so Friday, The Reason I Get Up In The Morning and our adopted 30 year old girl child wanted to go to the local Vietnamese Embassy nail parlor to have that quintessential rite of womanhood relaxation — the pedicure. I, being the manly man, stayed in the car with my iPod and played Solitaire — that quintessential rite of manhood relaxation.

Well, the days are beginning to heat up here in the South after a particularly wonderful spell of unseasonably cool and non-humid weather and the Midnight Blue of the Santa Fe began to draw a mite too much heat for my comfort. So, when the sweat rivulets began to form, I struck my flag in surrender and went into the nail parlor where it was cooler.

Once I recovered from the assault on my nose from whatever noxious and probably toxic chemicals were venting into the air, I settled down on a pagoda armed chair and went back to my Solitaire game. I looked up every now and again just to maintain an air of situational awareness and the last time I looked up, my two female charges were head to head with the diminutive owner of the business. Once glance in my direction and I knew the day was about to take a turn for the strange.

Sure enough, the ladies had bought me a pedicure. Now I could have stood my ground and battled for my manly rights to grocery store feet and lack of daintiness, but it was two and a half against me and I just didn’t have the energy to mount the necessary defense. So, in the name of science (at least that’s what I told myself) I mounted the raised platform and sank into the depths of a surprisingly large and comfortable Naugahyde recliner with a foot basin at the bottom. No sooner had I settled in than said basin began filling with fizzy blue water. This piqued my interested because the fizzy blue water was exactly the shade of fizzy blue water that Granny Wham went to great lengths to keep my feet — and other body parts — out of when I was younger. Of course, that water had been contained in a basin of a different material and makeup, thus the difference. Still, the cognitive dissonance was there.

Once the basin was filled and the water jets were jetting, a tiny, tiny, tiny ageless but seemingly young and definitely dainty Asian lady came up to me, smiled at me and, by pointing, made me to understand I was to put my feet into the fizzy blue water. I did so. Then I sat marinating my prized grocery store feet in fizzy blue water for ten minutes.

At the end of the aforementioned marinating time, the aforementioned animated doll came up and seated herself on a stool at my feet. Then she opened a drawer next to the basin. This drawer was filled with a variety of implements that I had not seen since the final torture scene of Braveheart. My apprehension grew, fueled not only by the sight of the drawer of horrors, but also by some nagging thought that I should remember something that was gnawing at the fringes of my consciousness. This seemed singularly important, but no matter how hard I tried, I could not bring the memory to recall.

So, somewhat confused over my nagging memory, I put myself into the hands of the dainty picture at my feet. She again smiled sweetly and touched my right calf in a manner that I assumed, correctly it turned out, meant, “please take this huge beef shank out of the fizzy blue water and place it on the stand in front of the basin.” I complied and she picked up some metal and plastic tool closely resembling a piece of two by four with sixteen penny nailed studded throughout it. Budge told me it was a callous file. In any event, the precious lady at my feet grasped the “file” in one hand and clamped down on my right foot in a grip of iron. It was at that moment I remembered what my brain had been trying to tell me for the last twenty minutes.

The bottoms of my feet are ungodly ticklish.

For as long as I can remember, anyone wanting to torment me who could manage to contain my size and adrenaline would grasp my ankle and proceed to run fingers or a feather or anything lightly over the sole of my foot. I would explode into paroxysms of laughter and involuntary spasms of jerking and kicking. As a child, it was the favorite pastime of my beloved Uncle Larry to hold me off the ground dangling upside down by one foot while he tickled said foot and watched me turn blue. Once, however, he made the mistake of doing this not knowing I’d eaten a half-gallon of Rocky Road ice cream right before he arrived. Granny Wham and Aunt Cathy were none too happy at the resulting inverted geyser. But I digress.

The foot therapist’s touch immediately triggered the old reactions and it was only at the last second and only by brute force that I managed not to unleash a front kick that would have no doubt propelled my attendant through the air and probably the far wall. For the next fifteen minutes, thirty if one counts the repeat performance on the left foot, I fought back insane laughter and jerky twitches of my poor assaulted feet. To make matters worse, my beloved and our girl child sat next to me visibly shaking as they tried to contain their laughter.

Finally, it was over, or so I thought. She released my feet into the fizzy blue water and I took a breath for the first time in nearly half an hour. Then she turned to her assistant and said something in the melodious sing song that is the Vietnamese language. I soon found out that her words loosely translated into, “Please bring me two asbestos bags of molten lava to help soften and rejuvenate this poor sap’s feet.” Of course, I didn’t know at the time that the beautiful amber liquid in the plastic bags the assistant brought was the temperature of the Sun’s corona. So, I unthinkingly and meekly put both feet into the bags . . . and watched through tears as my toenails melted off. As the “paraffin” hardened like so much basalt around my poor feet, I thought of how I was going to crawl to the car and, once I reached home, I’d have to rename the blog “Granny Beads and Grocery Store Ankle Stumps”.

Then, as quickly as the whole process began, it was over. The bags were removed from my feet, my calves were massaged with fragrant lotion, and my torturess was remarking how much she’d enjoyed working me since I was a “big man, like [her] husband.” I thanked her and told her that was wonderful and the intimate contact we had enjoyed with her at my feet made us husband and wife in several cultures, but irony doesn’t translate well.

So, we paid our bill and I walked out to the car on callous free feet as far from grocery store grime as the day I was born. In retrospect, the feeling was delicious and I can totally see how ladies become addicted to the experience. Perhaps next time, I’ll go for the hot stone massage . . . we’ll just have to be very clear on our definitions of “hot.”

Until then, wash your feet in fizzy blue water!

Love y’all 🙂