Tag Archives: Randomness

Of Tragedy and Old Friends


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! 🙂

Midweek Drama!


It never ceases to amaze me just exactly what people put each other through. I look around and see all these folks eating at each other and tearing each other down and more often than not, the worst perps are the ones who claim to love each other the most. I’ve always maintained that if your family cannot drive you insane, you cannot be driven insane. Here’s my case in point about the painfulness of love.

I went to eat with Mama today at the Waffle House. After I had my waffle, hashbrowns, and Diet Coke, I headed back to the house. It was 9:30ish. I pulled into the neighborhood and was greeted by an interesting parade. A woman, looking around mid twenties, was booking it at a power walk pace up towards the main road. She had a small girl-child on her right hip and was clutching the hand of a slightly older girl-child in her left hand. This wee one had to jog to keep up with the woman’s frantic pace. To make the image even more surreal, a small dog — possibly a chihuahua or a Jack Russell — was cavorting madly around the two walkers’ feet, yapping its head off the whole time. The woman had what I can only describe as a maniacal look on her face. She was all wild-eyed and her hair was a disheveled mop atop her head. We made eye contact briefly and she looked possessed by some hidden insanity.

Twenty five yards or so back of her was a swarthy complected guy with a buzz cut, muscle shirt, and tattoos on his right bicep and right and left forearms. He had two clear plastic bags full of stuff thrown over his left shoulder and was obviously trying to catch the diminutive Amazonian who had just gotten to the entrance of the subdivision. His pace was steadier and slower than hers and he seemed to be patiently following.

I went by, pulled into my driveway, sat there for about fifteen seconds, then backed out to go see what I could do to help the situation. To anyone out there who may be contemplating a similar move, may I respectfully request that you refrain from doing so. I am a professional nutcase and have absolutely no idea what I am doing in cases like these, but I am driven by some inner Saint Bernard spirit to help — even against my better judgment. Just remember that of all the dangerous situations law enforcement officers find themselves in, the one they fear the most is a domestic disturbance call. Anything can happen.

So I pull back through the neighborhood and take a left. The woman is still nearly running on up ahead and the guy is still patiently plodding along after her. I pull up alongside him, roll down the window and ask “Dude, you need some help with something?” He turns and smiles wearily and says, “No thanks.” I jerk my head towards the woman and say, “Y’all in a fight or something?” He nods and I nod and drive on up the road. He doesn’t need my help. Things are well in hand. I pass the woman, who is now trying to flag down ANY passing vehicle, and pull through the local Stop and Steal to make a u-turn and head back to the house.

Up ahead, the woman has stopped a green Toyota Corolla and hurled both children AND Spike into the car. Now, both of those girls should have been in car seats, but I sensed that was the least of the issue at the moment. I could see the woman inside gesticulating wildly at the driver who stepped on the gas. The guy then stepped in front of the car. Luckily, she screeched to a halt in front of him and went to turn around him. He shifted to stay in front of the vehicle. At this point, the Tony Stewart wannabe driving the car throws it into reverse and comes barrelling back towards ME. I perform some sort of vehicular ballet to avoid being made road pizza as the Corolla executes a J-turn that would make a highway patrolman proud and zooms away.

I look over at the guy who has walked into the driveway of a shutdown business and dropped his physical burden. From the look on his face, though, what he’s carrying inside is much heavier than what he’s got in those two sacks. I pull over and roll the window down again and call out, “NOW do you need some help?!” He gives me a weary smile and brings the bags over. I give him a quick lesson in how to open the passenger door of a Honda Element and he’s inside and we’re all good, considering.

“So, ” I start, “where can I take you to regroup?” He smiles again and asks me if I can take him to the end of this particular road. Well, I’m not taking medicine and I don’t have a watch to stand, so I pull out and head towards where he points. I don’t say anything so he starts. Here’s the gist of the story.  He’s 27 from Puerto Rico via New Jersey (talk about a stranger in a strange land), out of work, and as he puts it, “having a really bad Wednesday.” Wild woman is 25 and is his children’s mother. The girl she was carrying was released from the hospital on Monday after a bout of pneumonia that nearly killed her. She still has a PIC line in her chest and as my passenger put it she’s “supposed to be on the way to the doctor right NOW for a followup”

One of the bags contained several dozen packages that I recognized as nebulizer packets for breathing treatments. The other sack held the machine, wrapped in a quilt. Anyway, the mother is supposed to be taking medicine for her “head” because she “goes a little loco sometimes,” but she’s “stubborn and won’t take it like she’s supposed to so she gets like this.” She had gotten into an altercation with her grandmother, whom the couple was staying with, that ended with her shoving the grandmother down, throwing a chair throught the sliding glass door, and storming out with the children. He said, “I’m just trying to get to her because my daughter has to have one of these treatments every 90 minutes and she’s due for the next one right now.”

I just listened. I’ve seen this before and I know what happens when a person who’s supposed to be taking anti-psychotics or anti-depressants doesn’t follow the prescribed regieme. A bad situation actually gets worsened by what was supposed to improve it. I told him that, in my opinion, following her was useless at this point and what he needed to do was get somewhere safe with people he could rely on and form a plan. He agreed and twenty minutes and a life story later, I dropped him off at what he described as his aunt’s home. I asked him what he was going to do and he told me of his intention to call his sister to come pick him up and the two of them would go find the mother and the children (and Spike too, I hope).

As he left, I gave him a $20 bill and said, “Take this so you can buy your sister’s gas. It’ll keep her in a little better mood while y’all are hunting.” He took the money reluctantly and thanked me over and over again. I told him not to worry about it, just find his daughter and take care of her.

I told Budge about it and she reminded me I was going to get shot one day pulling stunts like that. I told her I knew but when that time came to remember that I didn’t want to be buried in a suit and I wanted to wear my favorite pair of lime green Crocs.

So that was my Wednesday morning. Maybe what I did was crazy, getting in the middle of a “domestic dispute.” Still, I figure we are all traveling together on this little blue marble in space. We have to help one another out if we’re gonna make it. So wash your feet, y’all, and be good to each other.