Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Truckstop Turkey

Thanksgiving is past but I did want to drop a word here about my wonderful friends who invited me into not just their homes, but also their hearts, as there were several.

One friend, like me, has very little family or contact with the family she has left, invited me to travel to West Texas and join her father, 92, and her for the holiday.

This was such a good idea. I love it when she shares her father. She did this last Father's day as well. He is sharp as a tack, independent and as healthy as any retired WWII pilot his age. He has stopped driving and when he loses his hearing aid it is like watching Laura and Hardy, for those of us from that era, when father and daughter attempt to converse. Sometimes I think he likes pushing her buttons, sometimes I think they are just too much alike. The Jury's out on that one.

Being let into a part of someone's very private life, like this, is such a gift for those of us who tend to peek into our rearview mirrors a little too much at the life that passed us by.

There was the expected holiday dispute about what time to go eat, since we were not going to cook for three. He said mid morning, she said too early, I could have eaten both times but was a passenger so I only observed.

When we finally made it to the resteraunt, the line was out the door and into the parking lot. I am 30+ years younger than Jack and I could not have stood in that line.

Not too discouraged, the father and daughter talked (argued) about where to try and how to get there, which road was best, the fastest, the closest. We ended up in a tiny town near theirs at a small truck stop. It was tiny when one thinks of the major names, such as the supersized truckstops, that line highways coast to coast.

This small truckstop had a buffet that tasted so good I thought angels came down and cooked for us, also I was really hungry so that canned cranberry sause was tasty! We loaded up our plates in a short, fast moving line around the food, like a well choregraphed dance.

It was only after I sat and began to look around that I realized there were many "Larry the Cable Guy" look alikes with sleeves ripped off flannel button up shirts and the waitresses were right out of the 50's, many may have been born in the 50's. Almost half the patrons had ink peaking out at us the other half were like us, older with no children. There were only a few children, most were working, getting from A to B and there were some like us, looking for a good meal and all of us seemed to be enjoying life.

I took in the smell of turkey and cigarettes and realized, it was perfect. Women came in after just waking, not even bothering to brush their hair and as I looked beside us, the ladies were in their Sunday best. A perfectly eclectic truckstop Thanksgiving!

That day I could not have been more at home, more at peace with where I found myself and more at ease with where life sat me down and said, "Breath, relax, enjoy, and accept the love offered by caring friends."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Another Holiday, More Life Change

Although in recent holidays past I had little contact with my mother, I knew she was alive, or I guessed she was alive, and that gave me some comfort.

I always assumed everyone's life was like mine, full of the roller coaster rides of pain, joy, disappointments and celebrations. As I talked about my life to friends, I was always amazed that they rarely had the same sort of life. Some had similar challenges, all had their own hurdles to jump, but the jaws on their desks were a clue that maybe my life stories were either more forth coming and I needed a better filter when I shared or maybe my life really was a bit more crazy than most.

The past several Thanksgivings I have spent alone, mostly by choice.

I had invitations to go to other families meals but it seemed an invasion on their traditions. They made their memories long before they met me and with my baggage, I didn't want to insert the memory of that "poor lonely lady" into their tradtion. Even without saying a word, just a smile and "thank you for inviting me", the very fact I was there alone indicated a problems in my current family life. This didn't belong in a happy family situation.

It made more sense to me to send my little guy with his dad, who has lots of family that gathers for the Thanksgiving Feast, to make memories like I had from my childhood.

I chose to sit with my snuggy, remote and TV dinner or go to a movie, imposing on no one. In Austin, the Alamo Draft House offeres Thanksgiving meals on real plates with real forks that clink all through the movie with offerings of the traditional feast. I decided this was going to be my new tradtion, as it usually was also my birthday celebration. It wasn't bad. It was actually kinda nice to sit with a group of other people, to my way of thinking, who were mostly alone like me, and share a meal in the dark with them while watching a B grade re-release.

This year, it feels like the last of my family that helped solidify the traditions from my childhood is gone.

Mom, although robbed of her memories by Alzheimer's almost a decade ago, played a huge role in my bigger than life recall of how I became the person I am today. Not so big of a life that I could brag about my accomplishments but I became a survivor, much like her. I have never given up and stage right holds my alternative plan if the current one fails.

This Thanksgiving will be spent with a friend and her 95 year old father. They will be my family this year. Separate, we would each be alone. The three of us a family we will make, at least this year. I may have a new memory each year and I have decided that is okay. There is nothing wrong with change, if I can embrass the changes. At my age, I better learn to embrass change or I will only be fighting with myself, Mother Nature is not going to lose this battle, never has, never will.

This year I am thankful God gave me the mother I had. If I had any other mother, I would be such a different person. Heaven forbid, I could have been boring!

A flip of the cosmic coin on whether I would be a better or worse person but not worth spending more than this sentence thinking about. For all the pain, all the joy, all the love, teaching me to never give up by example, for all the challenges offered by my mother, I am truly grateful and Mom, I love you, always and until forever.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

My Mom Died

Faithful readers. Thank you for not giving up on checking my site. I have gotten many private e-mail from you asking when is the next post.

It is on it's way but will have to come in it's own time.

I just went to the depths of hell and demon spawn had to be delt with just to get my mother buried. Now I didn't know these were demon spawn, I thought they were loving and caring family who cared more for our mother than they did a dollar. I was wrong.

In memorandum, this is for my mother and I will be back with more stories in the future.

One of the last times I was in Arkansas to see my mom, it was 13 months after my father passed away. My favorite moment from that visit will live with me forever.

I was talking to Mom about something of no consequence standing by the cooking island in her kitchen area when suddenly and unexpectedly, she took it upon herself to abruptly walk into my arms when I was in mid-sentence. She wrapped her arms around my waist and put her head on my chest. Once I got past my shock, I slowly rested my head on top of hers then softly draped my arms around her thin shoulders. We stood in silence and swayed, as if to the same music although none was playing as we held each other.

I traveled back to when I was about 9 years old. She would be singing and dancing in the tiny kitchen on Carolyn Street in Jacksonville. I might have had my head in the refrigerator or just passing through to the back door when she would catch me off guard and gather me in her arms to sneak in a quick, tight hug that might end with her swinging me around and telling me she loved me then releasing me only after leaving a very slobbery kiss on my face.

It had been decades since I had thought about this mom from the 1950’s. Then on this day, for no particular reason, Mom chose to remind me of that singing and dancing mom, to send me her own brand of love as she did when I was a child.

Mom still hadn’t said a word and the warm hug seemed to last into the next day. I was filled with joy at her surprise embrace, even if she couldn’t swing me. It truly was a peace that passes understanding and I felt happiness that only a poet could explain. As we stood in her kitchen, light filtered through the curtained window over the sink and it felt like we were in God’s spotlight, suspended in this moment in time, just the two of us.

Just as abruptly, Mom took a small step back and looked up at my face. I was kinda hoping for that slobbery kiss from my childhood but instead, her eyes squinted and she leaned in closer, slowly taking me in from head to toe. She took another step back and finally asked, “Are you taller?” I stifled a startled laugh, trying not to break the peaceful moment we had together and gently told her, “Mom, you have shrunk. I am still 5’ 5”.”

She backed up another step, looked me up and down again from a few more steps away, then stepped in close as if to hug me again but her arms did not surround me, instead, as her toes touched my toes, her hair touched the bottom of my chin. She used her flattened hand and ran it from the top of her hair forward to the tip of my chin, all the while checking my feet, frequently asking, “you’re not on your tip toes are you?”

I smiled. Clearly the tender moment we shared was lost on her at that point and it was okay for me to smile, as long as she didn’t see the smile. She said defiantly with her spine straight and her own chin in the air, “No, you have grown because I am 5’ 5”, always have been, always will be! You have grown.”

That was the last word on the issue. It didn’t matter, I was still warm from her hug and admired her spunk. I told her I must have grown if she has always been 5’ 5”. Satisfied with her declaration and my agreement, she turned on her heels and went off to another part of the house looking for her puppy who was always right at her feet when not on her lap.

That moment with my mom has sustained me. I have relived that moment every time I felt I needed her. She was right there with me, arms around me, holding me, loving me. It never fails to make me smile, it never fails to make me cry. It was a wonderful gift that reminded me she was a strong woman who never lost her loving and kind heart. I loved her never ending and into forever and I will never forget that she was right that day we shared one last embrace between a mother and daughter.

She didn’t shrink. I was the child, she was the mother. Even if she wasn’t exactly 5’ 5” any longer, her feisty spirit made up for any inches age may have taken.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A No Pants Kinda Day, Outhouse Mishap

Have you ever wanted to go into the office and just go the whole day not wearing any pants?

For those of you who work at home, this does not apply, you can do this any time.

Those of us who are rebels at heart but have to conform to maintain income, pay bills, keep a roof over our heads, put gas in the car, bla, bla, bla ..... we must head into the office. Whether that office is a bus barn where we park our car then climb into a yellow school bus for the morning or a government office building, we must leave our homes and travel to our jobs.

Now you may be asking yourselves, what in the world does this have to do with outhouses?? I will get there eventually.

I was a pretty lucky kid. We only had an outhouse at the lake cabin and didn't have to live there, so we didn't have to use it every single day or night every single day of the year.

Some of my friends were not that lucky. They had no choice and this was very simply, the life they lived, the life they knew, the life they accepted and respected.

When I would spend the night with a friend who had no indoor plumbing, I apprecitated the fact that someone in their family was thoughtful enough to put an actual toliet set above the hole cut out for the waste to fall, even if 20 degrees outside and wrapped in a quilt, that seat was a welcome sight. As a girl, I could manage to sit on the seat still wrapped in the quilt to warm it some until I was about to burst then I would yank the quilt, do my business and run back to the house.

For those of you who are not familiar, an outhouse has to be moved frequently, has to be as far away from the water well as possible and although it certainly would be easier to get to if it was right next to the house, would you really want human waste that close to where you spent most of your time? Also, an outhouse has no electricity, at least the ones I used had no electricity. Flashlights hung by the back door to help lead the way to the outhouse and at least in the winter, there wasn't the need to search every corner, high and low, for snakes, spiders, or some other critter that might decide to make a home for the night in the shelter, especially if it was about to rain.

No matter the time of year, girls, I don't know about the men, but girls had to be careful to keep their pants off the floor of the outhouse. This required some skill if wrapped in a thick quilt because you wouldn't want the quilt to hit the floor either. If there were men about, they didn't worry much about making it to the outhouse, the world became their outhouse, unless they had serious business to do, at which point, they were not too neat. You get the picture.

At work on the day I am speaking of, decades after my last use of an outhouse, I had become accustom to "dropping trowe", just letting my pants hit the floor without worry. That day, I needed to worry. There was a leak in a joint behind the toilet and my pants were accommodating enough to soak up all the water I didn't see at the base of the toilet.

So, there I sat, for most of the day, behind my desk in my office with my pants off. I had a jacket around my waist and my pants drapped over a drawer with a DO NOT DISTURB note tapped to my door. Of course everyone had to knock and ask, why is there a DND on your door? Lucky for me, and them, I have a desk with a privacy front!

I tied it together, the outhouse and my no pants kinda day. It was a new experience for me and my pants eventually dried but oh my goodness. I do check the floor of the bathroom now, every single trip, just like the outhouses from my youth.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Walking Away is Not Always Letting Go

I started a massive clean out of my house in preparation for selling the old hag. I am sure at some point, decades ago, she was a beautiful young girl of a home. Like all of us who chose not to get plastic surgery, or more accurate, could not afford plastic surgery, her roof is a little saggy, the doors and windows don't open like they used to and floor boards are not fitting properly any longer.

Like any other person in the world, I want something better. I mean, I am hitting my back nine and is this really the last place I want to see as I take my final breath. Ah, no way man.

So my brain starts clicking. I can get social security early if I chose a place that is more affordable to live and with my small, very small, retirement check, I can get a smaller, newer gal to move into that I simply love!!

Great plan but there are a million and one steps inbetween the make my head spin.

First is getting rid of decades of crap that have somehow found a home in, well, my home! Why in the world did I get all this "stuff"?? I don't all this stuff, I don't use all this stuff and I certainly have no where to store all this stuff.

It's only logical that I box it and bag it then donate it, since I hate yard sales. My first load was quite an achievement. At least 15 bags and 10 boxes of crap I didn't need and was ready to offer to a charity to help someone who surely could use the mountains of cloths I have not worn in years, the book I read years ago and holiday decorations that had been long replaced with shiny new ones.

I loaded as much as I could into the back of my HHR (a long story how I went from my double cab pick up to the little HHR). It was piled so high I couldn't see out the rearview mirror but that was okay, having driven a pickup that towed a little RV I was used to using the side mirrors more than the over head center one anyway.

That was alover 2 months ago and guess what..... I am still driving around with my crap in the back of my HHR. What is wrong with me?? I have more to load at home, more to pack up and I can't seem to drive to Goodwill or Salvation Army? They both have a circle that is has someone who unloads the bags and boxes, it couldn't be easier. That just leaves one answer. I am having trouble letting go of my "stuff", much like the Steve Martin moive when they go bandrupt and his wife says, "I don't mind losing all the money. I don't want to lose all the stuff."

Okay, I have to suck it up because I want to move to the gulf coast and I am not going to get there with all that clutter. Something in me in refusing to let go. A film crew was at my home last October (another story) and asked if I thought I was becomming a horder and why did I hold onto so many things. It popped out of my mouth before I could even think about what I was saying on film. "I think I hang onto to so many things because I have lose so much in my life." In the year since I have thought, hanging onto these things has not brought back one single thing I lost in the past, it really is time to let go.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Waiting to Get Better at Waiting

I am talking about tables, in resteraunts, dives, or pancake houses.

When I was going to college I tried my hand at waiting tables.

Some things I learned....

How to cut a pie so all the pieces were the same. I can't believe I didn't know
this simple trick. Maybe because if I was the first, or even the 2nd person to
get to a pie during a holiday, my piece took up most of my plate if it wasn't
pre-cut. But I learned a neat trick, wish I could show you here, can't but I can
tell you. Cut it in half, spin the pie plate, cut in half again. Spin the plate,
cut perfectly down two of the slices, turn the pie plate, make the perfect cut
again. I may have been the last person on the planet to learn this trick but you woulda
thought I had discovered gravity I was so excited.

Somehow, I never got the pieces quite exact. I never claimed to be an artist and
my boss didn't have the patience to wait for me get better. Fired.

The other thing I learned as a waitress. How to pour coffee. Now I had been pouring
coffee longer than I had been rolling my Papaw's cigarettes. How silly was it to have
to be taught how to pour a cup of coffee?? There is a trick to it when there are 20
people glaring at me shaking their cups in the air or tapping the empty cup on the table so loudly I thought it would break. To prevent an accidental burn, yes, it would still be accidental, I would never want to hurt someone even if they were rude to me, I had to learn to pour the coffee toward the back of the cup, never tanking my eyes off the rim while asking if they wanted cream, to leave enough room. The danger came when the customer wanted to hold their cup, refused to set it down even if I asked very polite while sweat poured down my face and dripped between my shoulder blades. I was terrified of hurting someone so I never quite filled a cup and always seemed so busy pouring, we always ran out of coffee and it only took about 10 seconds for a pot to burn. Fired.

I learned people are rude to total strangers who are trying their best to give them them a pleasant experience for their hard earned money. I learned that after a long
night of running from the burning kitchen of screaming men to the front area where someone may be celebrating an anniversary, a birthday or just their monthly evening out, I was lost. I tried to keep a smile on my face and remember which planet was I really on? I learned that three men could have no shame as they left a tip of one penny each for steak dinners, served by a near tears teenage waitress in training as they laughed at my shock, yes, they waited to watch my reaction, cruel or bad upbringing?

I learned I felt such guilt and shame at not keeping everyone happy, of not doing at last an okay job, if not a perfect job. TV made this look easy. I was fired from there also.

All in all, my waiting to get better at waiting tables would have taken much too long. It was not in future to the next "Flo", to chat and tell my regular customers to "Kiss my grits"... She had confidence and spunk, knowing they admired her skill, they would be back. They would leave more than a 3 cent tip.

That was almost 40 years ago. It's a good thing I got my degree. I would have never have made it in the service industry and I am still in awe of their skill. I pay close attention and am amazed at their comfort level, the banter, the social part of a very demanding job and I always tip at the very least, 25% because they earn it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Daddy Stopped by Today

I saw something this morning that took me back to the early 1950's and could recall how my dad smelled. It was the smell he had as a young father, not the aftershave of the professional he became in his late 30's. My dad had odd jobs when I was very young, pumping gas at a local service station and worked for the City water treatment plant. It was those early days that my love for my father's devotion to us kids was established and never waivered until the day he died. I knew without a doubt that dad would love each and every one of us kids until the day he died. When he worked at these jobs, he would smell of gasoline and chemicals from the treatment plant. Not unpleasant, burned into my brain and helped me picture when he walked up to the house after work and us younger kids would run out to greet him, each racing to get the lint out of his belly button.

Dad was not affectionant in a traditional way, not a lot of holding, hugging, any of that kind of coddling but he coddled in other ways, had his own brand of nurturning.

I think he learned by the time his forth child was born how to do this a little better. He was older and it was about 14 years after the first one showed up. There is a picture of my dad rocking my brother, David, when David was a young toddler and dad was singing to him. I remember the singing because I was there, I took the picture. It was such a tender moment in such a turbulent home that I knew if I didn't capture it, I might not recall those sweet times.

Dad was never rough, he just seemed a little lost as to what to do with us kids. I am sure that is why he deferred almost all of the discipline to my mother and seemed to magically vanish during times of high conflict or violence by my mom. As far as I know, dad never laid a hand on any of us kids, certainly not me. He would take off his belt when he was angry, place it in a circle in front of his chest, face stern then snap it to where it made a loud "POP" that echoed in the house or he would say, "Don't make me take my belt off," then would promptly begin to rattle the buckle but it wouldn't come off most of the time for the "popping" exhibition.

Dad seemed to smile all the time which was odd because his dad rarely smiled. My Uncle Bill and Uncle Tex also told me Papaw was harsh with his punishment to all the kids, 5 boys. He would make them hold onto a hitching post and whip them until they bled. Papaw never laid a hand on any of the grandkids either. Maybe as adults, the sons all warned him?

Dad nurtured by singing, smiling and growing things. We had a tiny house in the 1950's but as he furthered his education, our homes grew in size as did the lots until he bought the 35 acres in the Ozarks. He worked a garden with a tractor. This is not what made me think of him this morning. On the nurturning side, yes, gardens need a lot of time, love, and attention to grow. He did his best to do the same for his children. The thing I recall being out of bounds for dad was he grew the delicate flower, African Violet. They were all over the house when I was an adult and went home, I was amazed at their delicate beauty. These tempermental flowers take a lot of attention and just right care to flower. They all flowered.

About 2 months ago, I bought one on a whim. Knew it would die from my brown thumb. This morning, it was all leaves to heaven and blooms were peeking at me. Daddy. It was all I could think of, daddy stopped by to say hello. Dad died in May 2004, much too young from a much too harsh cancer. I miss you daddy and thanks for stopping by to check in on me.