Robert

THEY WERE OUR NEW NEIGHBORS, out tending their garden, when we stopped to introduce ourselves and ask about the ‘neighborhood’.  They appeared at least ten years older than us and they were. The garden surely started out straight-rowed and had evolved into a crowd of plants and weeds. They were dressed in what can only be described as ‘raggedy’ clothes and shoes, hard-used, but still sturdy enough for their needs. They were pleasant enough, but busy, and we didn’t stop long.  As we drove past their place, we could see patches of gardens anywhere there was a plot of ground. Their house was centered [hard to determine its age] amid outbuildings, equipment and tall bamboo, with the sound of running water reaching us as we drove by.

We were to enjoy the friendship of these neighbors all the time we lived ‘just down the road’. They had two sons, two daughters-in-law, six grandchildren and they were landowners, landlords and much more than we had judged by first impressions. And, they were old school.

We gardened, we chickened, and we shared. They GARDENED, advised and shared. It was a mutual arrangement.

Why would I write about them in LOVESTORIESANDLIFE? Mostly because of his delight in telling about marrying his bride some 60 plus years before. Mostly because he was not so retiring as you would first guess and he loved to visit;  about machinery, about gardening, about local political leanings, about his projects, about his youth. I suppose we all reach that point, when we spend a lot of energy or just plain delight in recalling our younger days. Not that they were spectacular or even happy, but they allow us to choose the good or interesting parts and share them again before they lapse into the dimmest recesses where recall is lost.

He had been a self-employed man most of his life and had worked with heavy machinery, road graders, that sort of thing. He had worked with men who thought they were big shots and I can imagine their surprise to find he wasn’t the backwoods boy or man they thought they were dealing with. He earned the respect of many and he and his wife were well known and appreciated.

They were old school family too. Their oldest son worked the same as he was brought up; same machinery, same work ethic, same long hours and his two boys were coming up the same. It was a delight to meet kids with manners and respect for their grandparents and parents.

Robert’s family ethics and love were never more apparent than when the oldest grandson graduated high school with plans to attend diesel mechanics school in Ohio. This is a boy who had never been away from home without family and family made the commitment that this boy would not graduate under a load of debt. Everyone was required and glad to participate in the expense of schooling and room n board to see him through. Not only that, but the boy himself understood their sacrifice and did his part as well. He schooled full time and worked at a truck dealership 30 to 40 hours a week. He was an asset the dealership was proud of as well.

It is a love story. all its own, to know they raised a boy after their own hearts; his work ethic matching that of his parents and grandparents. The boy actually knowing in his heart how they loved and supported him and he was selflessly willing and glad to acknowledge their part in his life. Makes my heart swell just writing about their family dynamics. Would that we all aspire to their example?

Robert liked to tell of his wedding day. Wish I had asked more questions about finding his bride and how he asked her to be his wife, but the days are gone and he remembers the important stuff….like being married on a North Georgia Winter day in January and it being such an important day, he took his soap and towel in the early morning down to the river to bathe…..for his young bride and all the life they had before them.

TODAY I WAS 16 AGAIN

I was 16 with no chores. I was 16 with no homework. I was 16 and not worried about being popular. I was 16 without a dress code or parental control. I was 16 with the freedom of my own vehicle and free to be 16 as long as I chose. It was nostalgic and thoroughly enjoyable and I might just do it again soon.

It started quite innocently and not on purpose. Out running errands, I noticed it was close to lunchtime. I had been cooped up through some dreary winter weather and decided I needed a decent burger and fries. It happens that Franklin, NC has a 50s style diner called the Motor Co Grill, the perfect burger joint of choice. They seat you and every time before, I have either sat on the diner side or on the patio where dogs are welcomed with a water dish and their own menu.

Today I was seated on the counter side. This side had red topped chrome swivel stools at the counter, a black ‘n white checkered floor, booths, tables, lots of neon and 50s signs just like back-in-the-day. Wayyyy back.  The decor set the stage, but the music was the key. Playing was a “Real Oldies channel” from a long distance or internet option, out of Milwaukee.
As I was handed a menu, the speakers released HOLD ME by Mel Carter. I couldn’t read the menu for the music. I didn’t need it anyway. Next came LONESOME TOWN crooned by Ricky Nelson. Only burger, fries and a shake could possibly go with this scene. Frankie Valley, I LOVE YOU BABY, the Four Seasons, HEY HEY PAULA – one right after the next. I was 16 again.

My waiter was a clean cut guy, maybe 20. I asked, when he brought my shake, if he tired of hearing this “old” music every work day. He surprised me. He said “I’ve been listening for 4 years and I like it. It sounds innocent to me.”  You know, he is a wise and perceptive young man.

Rock ‘n roll, bobby socks and saddle shoes, the Twist, the Stroll, Bandstand, Elvis, The Beatles, The Everly Brothers; it was all a terribly innocent era. Roy Orbison, Chubby Checkers, The Beach Boys, Petula Clark, The Supremes; they each tic a memory.  Weren’t we lucky!

We were  the last generation of  innocents. Could it be why we find in-your-face subjects, policies and 2019 drama so jarring? We aren’t naive, but having had an age of innocence, we think everyone is entitled to the same?

It was certainly a heartwarming day. I couldn’t help feeling youthful having my lunch and loving the music.

 

DONALD, My Stepdad

My folks, Bruce and Gilberta were married for 25 plus years with a family of four children.  They were kids when they married, about 20 and 19, I think. My Dad died of lung cancer at the young age of 46.

After some time, my Mom, a working woman with a lifetime before her, began to date occasionally. We kids sometimes liked her choices and sometimes not. Hardly mattered, she was always her own person. She broached no other opinions that did not mesh with her own, especially from her kids who could hardly be smarter than their adult Mother.

After the last child graduated high school, Mom settled in a home near her job and found interests among her co-workers and others she began to meet. A few temporary men, on casual dates, came and went. Then came Donald.

Donald lived at home with his Mom….really. Donald was about the same age my Dad would have been and they met at a dance class. Donald had not gone to the dance class eagerly. He had gone because his Mother thought he should and at the request of a lady friend who had tried and was still trying to entice Donald to the alter. Donald never liked making decisions [he is 91 now and still prefers someone else make his decisions – I have acquiesced], but the single decision he did make and stick to, was NOT MARRYING EVER.

Donald’s lady friend encountered a big problem at the dance lessons and that problem had a name – Gilberta.  Gilberta was into dancing [she taught me in our living room as a young teen], she loved the big band era and she insisted on the man leading. [It is the only time and place, she ever let that happen.] Donald never wanted to lead and Gilberta insisted, on the dance floor, that he should and their romance blossomed. It blossomed on their terms. She had made an unfortunate mistake in briefly marrying a guy a few years after Dad died. It ended poorly and she was quick to get Dad’s name back and erase those ‘frivolous’ few months out of her life. Therefore she had no plans to ever marry again.

Donald was sticking to his first and only life decision also, but dancing was an entirely different decision, already made. They danced at lessons.  They partied with the crowd. They watched movies. She cooked – he was an expert at eating.  Mom showed concern for Donald’s Mom and Donald’s Mom finally gave up the idea of having grandchildren, and Mom was quick to loan hers out to them both.

Donald was great at playing the grandfather figure. Mom had my two kids for grands, but my siblings dutifully came through during the Donald years and he was Grampy Don to five little ones as they came along. He was present at all the family get-togethers, the holidays and the summer vacations around Mom’s pool.  Donald [and Mom,too] loved garage sales and shopped those grandkids with delight. Donald would show up for late breakfast at Moms. He lived across town and he was and still is a “Man of Routine”. He would go do something, come back after lunch or for lunch and hardly ever missed supper with Gilberta. Truth to tell, he had a razor at Mom’s, but we never mentioned that.  They were dancing and life buddies, partners in every sense, till death did part them.

Gilberta, the inveterate smoker, even after her first husband died from them, suffered and died from lung cancer too, in 2002. She and Donald had about the same lifetime, on their terms, as she had with our Dad.

Donald is 91 this year and Donald is still missing his partner. He has his routine. Of course, his Mom is long gone, but he still lives in the same house he bought her in the 70’s. Donald has never missed a meal and he tries to fund the Illinois lottery single-handedly.

I live in Georgia, but I have never missed a visit to Donald, every trip home, since we moved. He has had some health issues, been in rehab at the nursing home and he spent a brief and unbearable visit to assisted living. He wanted to be home. And he wanted someone to decide he could be at home. So Donald, after all this time, got a step-daughter. We both agreed, I was the logical choice and he had never had one. [I knew my Dad wouldn’t mind. It had been 40 years since I had a Dad.] Time being of the essence, when the doctors and nurses had info I needed to know, saying I was his step-daughter paved the way…..everywhere.

When Donald hated the assisted living apartment and wanted to go home, I just hadn’t the heart to send him back to the ‘squalor’, as I described it to him. His house was a snapshot of 1970 something, when he bought the house for his Mom and him.  While Donald was surviving the assisted living, I threw out all his furniture, his drapes, the carpeting, the kitchen floor linoleum. I threw out piles of shoes, clothes, jackets and all the accumulation of an old bachelor without his partner to keep him up-to-date.

I bought him new used furniture. I had new tile and carpeting installed, cheap but serviceable and I made him pay the flooring bill. I bought new curtains and bedding and bathroom stuff. I found a wonderful lady that I knew who would clean regularly and keep his house ‘up’. I found him a companion, Buddy, the cat. Donald was adamant that he didn’t want or need a cat. I was adamant that Donald needed someone to look after and it had to be easy on him to do. Since Donald didn’t make decisions, I, being Gilberta’s daughter, won that round. Guess who LOVESSSS BUDDY? They are a pair!

Donald got to leave the assisted living. He lives at home with Buddy, follows his routine; Shannon’s restaurant, lottery tickets, groceries, every day. He loves his ‘new’ house. It stays clean. He watches a lot of TV and often donates money to Jimmy Swaggert. When I groaned a little about that, he said he thought it was a good idea to grease the palms, because he wanted to be sure when he died that he could dance again with my Mom.

As long as my trips home to check on Donald continue, I am still doing  something  for my Mom. When Donald leaves this earth, I expect the spotlight will be on that single couple out on the dance floor.

I love you Donald.

The Innocence of Love

The BEST true life story i have ever heard. It is F U N N N N Y and heartwarming and reminds me we were all innocent once. I am omitting any names, but it is TRUE.

Once there was a young married couple with a baby on the way and their lives were fresh and exciting with new love and happiness.  He worked at a factory on second shift, and was sleeping soundly, while his young wife was at the laundromat one morning. As she took his clean work clothes from the washing machine, she found several rubbers in the tub. Now this young woman, 7 months pregnant, in a heartbeat, is feeling her world crumble. The realization that her perfect and happy life …….isn’t, has broken her heart and she finds herself sobbing as she finishes her laundry chores.

She arrives home angry, and still crying, she wakes him with the evidence in her outstretched hand, tears streaming, hardly able to speak.  Now he is barely awake with an almost hysterical and sobbing wife confronting him, while trying to figure out what is happening.   She sobs and stutters out, how could you, and with our baby, and i thought, all the while shoving these rubbers in his face. As he begins to see what she sees, he starts to explain, that’s not the case, i hurt my finger at work and the nurse gave me those, they are finger protectors. He’s doing his best to console her.  As she begins to calm down,  he says, I’m  pretty angry with YOU right now though.  She’s still sputtering a bit, but asks why he’s mad at her and he says “because you think they would FIT”.

BEST STORY EVER!

STARTING MY BLOG lovestoriesandlife.com

Once upon a time, back in the day, long, long ago…..you get the idea….a blog was actually a “traveling letter”. In the days of pioneers and explorers, on land and sea, you might move away from home to seek fame or fortune or 40 acres, never to see your loved ones, left behind, ever again. Thus a traveling letter was the answer to loneliness and keeping in touch.

You would write a long letter of news about your journey or new home place, back to Mother and Father and the 22 siblings you left behind. Mother would read your 6 chapters, by candle light to the gathered crowd. Next morning, she would add a chapter about home and mail it off, by mule, to Sister Sarah, 60 miles away. Sister Sarah would have been 58 and a second time widow with a small brood of 13 children.  She would read the latest news and add her juicy gossip about Neighbor Ned and his “young” bride.  After writing her heart out in 16 pages, the letter got boxed, wrapped and tied with butcher paper and string and handed off to the neighbors heading south to homestead in the vicinity of 47 year old Grandma Davis and 89 year old Grandpa Davis. They lived behind Cousin Jimmy Joe, in a ramshackle cabin leftover from settlement days.

At the family reunion, on Sunday, the box was unveiled and read to a crowd of close relatives numbering 74. All the wives who had cooked for the last 5 days in preparation for the reunion, set out an abundance of foodstuffs, while the men and children watched the corn grow. Following clean-up and getting 34 of the children down for naps, the wives were able to each add a dozen pages to the traveling letter, as they all had that extra time on their hands before heading home to milk the cows, who would be waiting.  Lastly that day, the letter was reboxed and labeled to be sent back to me, by nail keg, on the next pony express.

In those early days of leisure and pioneering, that, dear folks of today, was a “blog”.

Well, in a nutshell, in 2019, things have changed. We have Alexa to answer mundane questions, and remember a recipe and help with homework. We have machines that do everything for us, brush our teeth and floors, walk us and chop for us and lead us not into temptation. Whoa, I wandered off the track, there.  We also have the new and improved version of a “blog”.

Not quite so simple as grabbing paper and pencil stub, but be assured by the internet masses, that it is close. In five minutes or five hours, or a fairly generous five days, you can have a world-wide blog full of words, ideas, and nonsense for the masses.

Simple? Absolutely! Everyone can build their own site. Take me, I did it! Do not be alarmed when I say that easy just doesn’t cover it. In 12 days, I took a bottle of Viagra to stay up all night, drank 8 cases of Pepsi for the caffeine freedom, bathed once at 3:20 AM to rehydrate, and produced the LOVESTORIESANDLIFE bonanza you have before you on $784 worth of computer repair and software updates.

What if I just send you a letter and you send it to your Mom and she sends it to Mary and………