Thursday, March 31, 2011

Times, they are a-changin'

For the past few months my life has been steadily changing. In January I was a stay at home mom who didn't really do anything besides take care of the kids and try to keep the house clean. It had been my life for 6 years.

Most people would think the life of a stay at home parent is bliss. It's not. At least for me it wasn't. It was boring. It was aggravating. It felt like I was living someone else's life. I sat here and I dreamt of the day that everything would change. I didn't care how it changed really, just that it did. I didn't want to be a stay at home mom. I didn't want to stay home all day and watch Dora the Explorer re-runs. I didn't want to listen to my kids fight every waking minute. I didn't want it.

Maybe you think that makes me a bad mom, but at this point, I really don't care what anyone else thinks of me. I know I'm a good mom, I'm just a tired one. A mom that isn't cut out to be June Cleaver. A mom that has to have something in her life that makes her feel like she has a purpose. Sure, you could say that raising kids is a purpose, but I want another purpose too. Kids grow up. Eventually that role would be over when they became more independent and they didn't want mom around as often anymore. My oldest is pretty self sufficient already. My middle one is too when he wants to be. My youngest is almost there. He wants to be independent, but he hasn't quite mastered the finer points of it yet.

In 14 years, if things had stayed the same, I would have no identity. My kids would be grown and hopefully out of the house spreading their own wings. And I'd be the stay at home mom with no kids to stay at home with. I refuse to be that person; That pitiful mother who doesn't know what to do with herself once the kids move away.

Another point here is that there isn't enough Valium in all the world for me to be able to handle this stay at home thing a moment longer. There aren't enough anti-depressants in all the world for it either. I am the type of person who needs something outside of family, outside of kids. I'm not a touchy-feely person and my personal bubble needs to stay intact at least 50% of the day. Sure I cuddle and love on my kids, but when they're attached to me 24/7 I start to lose it. I've spent 7 years trying to keep some small part of myself from losing it completely. I barely got out alive.

To go along with that non-touchy-feely thing, I'm not a commitment kinda gal apparently. I've been married for 7 years and it's been a battle in patience and endurance for me. Maybe I just haven't met that one guy for me yet (if one such person exists and believe me, I have no desire to go looking), but once the newness wears off I'm over it. I married for all of the wrong reasons, so that probably doesn't help things either and yes, it is all my fault.

I married my husband for security. I wasn't attracted to him in the way I should have been. He wasn't overly attractive, but he was good looking enough. His personality was so different from the type I would ever be interested in, as were his interests. I married him because he had always kept a steady job, he was dependable, he didn't do drugs, he didn't drink, he wasn't a video game addict, and he was dumb enough to ask me. He was, what I imagined at the time, the perfect father for my oldest son. He was what my son needed and by God I was going to get him.

Seven years later and I'm at the end of my rope. I was so wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. I thought that I could (happily enough) be with him for the rest of my life. I thought that it would be tolerable. I thought I could pretend to have feelings I didn't have. I thought everything would be alright. I thought that the friendship we had would be enough. It wasn't. Everything I thought was so totally and completely thrown right back in my face over the course of our marriage and I realized how much of an idiot I truly was all along.

So, in late February/Early March he finally started putting the pieces together. He finally allowed himself to see how miserable I was and how miserable I was making him. He finally started asking questions. So one night in February (or March) he heard the truth for the first time. The truth that I had for so long wanted to tell him, but wasn't quite ready to really tell yet. I mean, my youngest is only going to be 4 in May. If I'm lucky he'll get into pre-school, but if I'm not...you see why I waited for so long. I didn't see how I could be a single mom, keep a job, go back to school, and all of that with a child not in school yet.

Now I guess it's all just going to have to work itself out however it may because regardless of my youngest's age, it's happening. It's like hearing those words before you've found a good hiding place "Ready or not, here I come!"

It's a scary place to be in, but at the same time it is so very freeing. I don't have that trapped feeling as badly anymore. Now I'm just impatient. At the moment, we're still living together and it's hard most days. We don't hate each other, but the static is there. There's an elephant in the room and it's breathing all the air. We're both suffocating.

I started classes in March to get my CNA certification. My test date is May 25th. It seems so far away. Like the future is just teasing me. I spent years putting in applications with nothing coming from them except a waste of paper and time. Do I want to be a CNA? No, not really. But I know that there will always be a job available for me out there after this class. It may not be a job I like, but it'll be a job that pays the bills until I can continue my education and get something better. It's the only viable option available to me at this time. The only way I'm getting out of this house. It's the life raft I'm clinging to desperately while I wait for something more substantial.

So yeah, my life is changing. But none if it feels like a bad change to me. I will be free and won't have to live this lie anymore. I'll eventually find my identity again. My husband will hopefully find someone who truly loves him because he is actually a great guy. My kids hopefully won't be horribly scarred from the experience and won't spend their entire adult lives in therapy. And somehow, someway I'm going to make this work because it's going to feel so damn good to be free!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Unfriendable

Sometimes I wonder if some integral part inside of me is broken.

I was looking through a friend's Facebook photo album today and all of a sudden the realization came back to me. No, it didn't hit me for the first time as I've wondered this about myself many times before for several different reasons, but it did hit me nonetheless.

As I sit here talking to friends I've never met about the pros and cons of different alcohol and the statistics behind beer consumption there are people out there in their 20's, 30's, 40's, etc who are still best friends with their group from high school...some of them have even been friends since Kindergarten.

I'm in no way saying that my friendships are any less valid and I'll be the first to admit that I love the friends I've found in the past 5 years and I'm closer to them than I ever was with any of my high school friends. But I can't help but feel that small...well huge really...that huge tug from the envious green eyed monster inside of me.

To be honest, I don't really know what I'm envious about. That they've found a way to stay close after so many years or that they have a large group of friends they can see whenever they want to.

I had a blast hanging out with my friends in high school, but after high school I lost touch with every single one of them. After my oldest was born it was hard to find time for friendships and all of a sudden I had nothing in common with them anymore. I didn't worry about it. It was what it was.

I got to hang out with a few of my closest high school friends not long ago and that was awesome! We had a blast laughing, reminiscing, and getting to know each other again. The group of friends that I got to see had stayed close with each other over the years. I was the one that had to do the relearning, but it was nice. I enjoyed it and I want to be able to do it more often.

With that said, I have a wonderful group of friends that I've grown very close to over the past 4 or 5 years. They're from all over the globe, but most of them are in the States, though different states than I reside in. There's Alabama, California, Finland, Germany, North Carolina, Florida, Louisiana...the list goes on and on. I have five super close friends and I've only gotten to meet one of them.

Is it strange to have such close friends I've never met or is it more of a sign of the age we're in? I wouldn't trade these five best friends for all the rice in China or all the gold in Fort Knox (I should probably say China again instead of Fort Knox, huh?), but dang it, I'd really like to be able to actually see them and hang out with them from time to time. I've only ever even heard two of their voices. I went years without knowing what one of them even looked like. Is this strange?

I find myself yearning for something that I can't have. But at the same time I wonder if I even truly want it. I guess I'm scared. It's easier this way. It's less scary. What if those five girls were living closer to me, would we still get along if we saw each other so often? Would we grow to resent each other or feel that one was a burden or some other negative emotion that would, in the end, ruin the friendship?

It seems that all my life my friendships have been like a changing of the guard. I find myself displaced, then picked back up again by a new group of friends. I believe I've touched on this in a previous post, but I'll say it again. My friends from elementary school all found new groups of friends in middle school and my friends from middle school all found new groups of friends in high school. It seemed for every new school, even though I went with the same people, I had a new group of friends.

Am I unfriendable? I find I ask myself this often. Well actually if I want to be completely honest I actually ask myself if I'm unlovable. Is there something about me that drives people away? That makes them lose interest? That leaves something to be desired? I don't know, but it seems apparent.

I don't look down upon myself. I don't think I'm that bad really. I have confidence, but I'm not cocky or conceited. I know I am a good friend. I go out of my way to help my friends however they need me. Is the truth then, that I attract people who will use me? I'm not talking about my friends I've found on Facebook, as I know they've never used me for anything. They've never asked anything of me that they wouldn't be happy to give back to me tenfold should I need it. An ear, a shoulder, a virtual hug, advice, a laugh...that kind of thing, that's the kind of friendships I've made on Facebook.

At the same time, I don't think any of my school friends were "users" either. I think they genuinely cared about me as I did them. So what went wrong? I have no idea.

So I guess I find myself, yet again for probably the millionth time, wondering...always wondering what is so wrong with me that I can't seem to keep a friend that I actually get to see face to face.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I'm an animal person


As the poorly named title to this one states: I am indeed an animal person. I have a soft spot in my heart for those cute little critters with four legs and a tail. I can't help it. I'm afraid it's in my blood, genetics and all. To be honest, I think I like animals a lot better than I like people.

Why? Well, here's a few reasons: Animals won't talk about you behind your back. Animals don't drown you in drama. You'll never have to worry about an animal not paying you back that $20 you let them borrow last week. Most animals are content to be quiet and sleep so you can actually hear yourself think. They're low maintenance; food, water, bathroom, love...that's really all they ask for. They won't ask for a new car when they're 16. You won't have to send them to college. You won't have to get to know their boy/girlfriends. When they misbehave it's legal to spray them in the face with water or lock them in the bathroom. They don't hog the remote control. They won't run up your cell phone bill. You don't have to give them a bedtime, they go willingly. You don't have to worry about what to feed them, they're happy with whatever's in the bag.

In essence, pets are much easier to deal with and get along with than people. You don't have to work at it to make a dog love you, they just do. You want kids? Get a cat. They're bi-polar from the get go. They're anti-social one minute and all up in your face the next. On second thought, if you want kids you should get a dog first. If you want the most true to life personality of a toddler, get a German Shepherd or a Lab. By the time those kids you were gonna have would be teenagers, that dog might have calmed down a bit. This is where the cat comes in. Cats are angsty and needy all at once. Typical teenage behavior, no?

So you've got your elderly dog and your angsty cat, what are you supposed to get when those kids you didn't have would be going off to college or starting their own families? Get some fish. They only need you at feeding time and change the water time. The rest of the time you can enjoy looking at them. In other words, if they were those adult children, they'd call you when they needed more money, a place to stay, or a babysitter. And you'd get to enjoy looking at the pictures they post to Facebook of how much fun they're having now that they've left you with an empty nest.

See what I'm saying? Pets are easier all around. Cheaper too.

So, about those pets and being an animal person...on Tuesday I had to take the pup and both cats to the vet. The cats were getting declawed (picture my carpet and furniture doing the Hallelujah chorus) and the dog was getting spayed. When any type of surgery like that is done, they keep the animals overnight...this totally sucks.

So Tuesday night, there I am laying in bed feeling extremely lonely. On a normal night I have a cat laying beside me by the edge of the bed, a dog on my other side, and the other cat curled around my feet. Tuesday night I had nothing but the emptiness of cold sheets. Yep, I had nightmares all night long. I don't remember what happened in these nightmares, but I do remember my animals weren't in them and they royally sucked and I kept waking up gasping for breath, heart racing, sweat pouring, and not a single animal to pet on while I calmed down.

I don't normally have nightmares. Heck, I don't normally even remember dreaming when I wake up, but Tuesday night it's like all those nightmares that the animals have kept at bay came after me with a vengeance.

True, I wasn't completely alone in the house. My two older kids were asleep in their room. The leopard geckos were doing whatever they do in their cages, and the fish were doing their thing in their tank. But the fact is, the bed was empty. A king size bed is never meant to be empty. Ever. Hubby works at night and the animals are more than happy to take up the extra room in the bed for him...but they weren't there.

I hope you learned something in this post, as I know I have. Next time any of the animals need surgery, I'm spending the night at the Vet's office in the kennel.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Reconnecting

You know what I think is the funny thing about growing up? Things change. Yes, this will be personal, will probably embarrass me, and will reveal some names.

Yes, I know that sometimes that's a bad thing, but right now I'm talking about those good things. The good things like reconnecting with someone you went to high school with. Maybe it's someone that you weren't even close friends with, but now that you're older you can see through all of the high school drama and intrigue to see the real person.

In high school, outside of my close friends, I really only thought I knew my peers. When really all I knew was their shell.

For instance, I knew that Andrew Nance was by far the best looking guy I'd ever laid eyes on. I had a crush on him from the first day I saw him in my 8th grade band class when he came in from the high school to help us with percussion. On that day, I was thanking my Maker for my decision to switch from trumpet to percussion in 6th grade. It was bliss being on the drum line with him, but I always felt like a total fool around him. But, you know, I didn't really know him. He always seemed so out of my league and mysterious. I never took the time or found the courage to delve any deeper into his personality. I was fully content just to be in his presence and look at him all period. Still to this day I wonder if he ever knew I had a crush on him or if he just thought I was some weird chick who acted like an idiot when he was around.

Speaking of the band, people think that it's just for geeks, but let me tell you they're wrong. You will never see as many naked people all in one place as the band room before a game. And there were some really hot guys and some really pretty girls in the band, and they weren't shallow either. They were quirky, fun, loud, and each had an electric personality. Now, back to the topic of this post.

I also knew that Cassie Farmer had the best hair EVER and I would have traded a kidney to have it. Miranda West always had the prettiest eyes and I always loved her clothes, I wanted to be her. Rachel DeVore could play the piano like nobody's business and she had the sweetest soul and prettiest smile. I despised Andy Stringfield but only because I was completely and totally jealous of him, not because he was a bad guy, actually he was a great guy, but he could sing his heart out, he could play the piano, and he got the quads his Freshman year when I'd begged for them and was older, the quads were really the pebble that knocked the whole mountain down.

You notice the pattern here? I wonder if every high schooler has a jealous heart. I liked these people, even if I didn't admit it, but I was so envious of them or so star struck that I never took the time to truly get to know them. There were also so many guys who I crushed on (but not as hard as Andrew or for as long) but never got up the nerve to even think about talking to them.

It's been almost 10 years since what would have been my Senior year. In that time I think we've all done a lot of growing. I know I have. My husband hates Facebook, but I have to admit it's a lifeline for me. I've reconnected with so many high school friends, realized that even some of my best friends in high school want nothing to do with me now, gotten to know people I went to high school with (but wasn't really friends with) better, and met some of the most awesome people ever that I now consider to be my best friends even though they all live miles (and sometimes even oceans) away from me.

I guess what I'm getting at is that everyone changes. Some for better, some for worse, some for reasons they can't control, but everyone changes and grows in some way during the long years trying to really reach adulthood after high school.

I'm 26 and I still feel like there's so much more growing to do, but I hope I'm on the right track. I found my first grey hairs the other day. My youngest son will be starting school next year. I'll be going back to school next year. I'm learning to step outside of my comfort zone and make that first leap. I've always been outgoing and friendly, but those high school hurdles are sometimes hard to cross.

Who would have thought that the funny guy who I thought was gonna kill me (a practical joke that was hilarious after I learned it was a joke) would become an even closer friend 10 years after high school was over? Who would have thought that I'd have anything in common with and actually really enjoy chatting with the mysterious and admittedly hot artistic guy that everyone of the girls in school admired from afar? Who would have thought that I'd lose all of my best friends after high school, only to get to know them all over again?

Reconnecting is pretty awesome. Seems we do a lot of that through life. As we all change and grow at different rates and different times we move in and out of each other's lives as the years pass. We learn what's important and who is important. We learn to cherish our true friends and dismiss the others. You know what, I wonder, if I live to be a hundred will I still feel like I'm learning something and growing everyday? I don't think life would have much meaning if there wasn't always some new revelation taking place. I hope that I continue to learn and grow for as long as I live so life will never feel empty and stale, even if I don't make it to a hundred. And I hope that there's always new and old friends to meet along the way (and I so totally don't mean I want Alzheimer's or dementia so everyone is new to me). With those thoughts laid out on paper (or screen as the case may be), I think I can finally get my brain to rest so I can get some sleep.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Snow Days and Sunshine


I remember when I was little and in school myself how wonderful it was to hear the news broadcaster tell me that my school was closed because of snow.

As a young girl in elementary school I got giddy thinking of all the fun I'd have sledding, making snowmen, and tossing myself down in the fluffy white stuff to make snow angels. It didn't matter if it was below freezing and my chin was frozen so I couldn't talk without a lisp, I was in heaven. And let's face it, a frozen chin and numb fingers are much better than math any day, right?

As an adolescent in middle school I viewed snow days a bit differently. I still loved to play outside in the snow, but now I didn't like the cold part, or the wet part for that matter, that came with the snow. And besides, as a preteen I was too "cool" to play outside, at least where anyone could see me. So as a preteen snow days meant lazy days curled up on the couch with the remote control and the phone.

As a teenager in my first years of high school snow days meant freedom. I could sleep until noon, or later, if I wished. I didn't have to worry about Latin or Algebra homework that wasn't yet completed. I could be lazy or go hang out with my friends. It was too cold and nasty outside, in the mindset of a teenager, to even think of venturing further than my friend's car and the warmth and good times it promised.

When I was almost 17 years old I had my first child. It was the last month of my Junior year in high school. I had had my license for less than a year, I hadn't even mastered Algebra, and life had changed dramatically.

That summer I didn't even think of snow days. I wondered what in the Sam Hell I had gotten myself into. Freedom wasn't in my vocabulary anymore. I had taken freedom and run with it, then tripped over it, and wound up in quite a mess within a year. That summer I started to mature into an adult, though a reluctant one.

I went back to work four weeks after I had my son. I was a waitress at a local restaurant. I loved the people I worked with, but the pay was very meager. In the eyes of the Child Labor Law I was an emancipated teen so I was able to work the hours of an adult. Autumn came back around with its falling leaves and brisk winds warning of colder temperatures, but still snow days were very far from my mind.

In fact, I wasn't even thinking about going back for my Senior year in high school. Due to being on homebound education at the end of the last school year I had failed Chemistry and English. I needed four credits of English to graduate and I couldn't take both English classes in the same year. On top of that, I was mortified that I had failed my favorite subject, the one I was best at, and I didn't want to be in a Junior English class. So I decided to drop out.

Truancy is the word they use when you decide to just not go to school. Apparently, it is against the law. Luckily, I had begun to take GED exit-option classes through my high school before the Truancy police started sniffing at us. When the court date came around I presented the judge with my completed GED. I immediately started attending the local community college and continued working.

Winter came as it always does. With it I'm sure there were snow days, but snow days no longer applied to me. It didn't matter if it was snowing, I had to work. My life was work, school, home. I didn't have friends anymore. I didn't go out. I worked and I studied and I tried to care for a colicky baby. I was 17.

Before you think I did this all alone, let me correct you. My momma took care of my oldest son while I was at work or school. I worked from 4pm-2am and went to school from 8am-12pm. I will admit that she did most of the mothering during that time because she was the one there to take care of him. I was determined to provide for my child. I didn't want to be a burden on my family. I didn't want to disappoint them again. I also wanted to try to provide a better life than a high school drop out could for my child. During this time, I didn't know who I was.

I got laid off and had to find another job. I couldn't find anything that would work with my school schedule, so I dropped out of college after only two months.

The years blurred together. There was sunshine, there was rain, and there were snow days. My son was old enough now that snow days meant something again. They didn't mean a day out of school anymore. Instead they meant dragging that old sled back out of the garage and playing with him. Seeing the happiness in his eyes when he discovered the joys of a fresh snowfall. Again, the frozen chin and the numb fingers meant nothing. The huge grin on that 2 year old's face meant the world.

I met a wonderful man and got married when my oldest son was 3 years old. My son walked me down the aisle. My parents gave me away. Life began anew.

Fast forward to the present. I now have three boys. My oldest is 9, my middle one is 5, and my youngest is 3. We've moved a hundred miles away from our hometown and family. My husband adopted my oldest son a few years ago and now he carries the same last name as the rest of us. My husband has never treated him any differently, he loves him as his own blood. My son, in turn, loves my husband as his own blood and calls him Daddy. My oldest son has something that most kids don't. He has two mommas and two daddies that love him to the moon.

My two older sons are in school now and get to experience snow days. We don't live in the country anymore, but in an apartment complex, so snow days never equal as much fun. But still, they're there to be had. Snow days again mean no school and that makes most kids happy. The same feelings that I had as a child. The promise of a day for themselves, the joy of playing in that cold wet stuff, and the relief of not having to conjugate verbs or work out long division. The ability to choose how to spend the day.

Today they got out of school early. They've had a lot of snow days this year, to the point that my oldest is sick of them, but still I think they're magical even if I'm as tired of the snow days as he is. Again I find the snow more of a bother than a joy, but I can still remember how awesome it was as a child to hear those freeing words. I wonder though, how will they feel this summer when they have to make up those days? Only time will tell.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Time to Laugh and a Time to Cry


You know the old clich├ęs that seem to follow you around wherever you go? The ones like 'If you're down, the only place left to look is up', or 'Everything happens for a reason', or my personal favorite 'You don't know what you have until it's gone'. For every life event, there seems to be some saying that someone along the way tells you repeatedly, usually it's more than one somebody.

Well, personally I really do hate those old sayings. They feel so empty when someone says them to me and I try very hard to avoid saying them to others, but there comes a time where you just have to admit that as corny and hollow as they sound...they're true.

On November 12, 2010 my Granddaddy passed away and I'm here to tell you that you really don't realize how good you've got it until you don't have it anymore. I'm going to try to start at the beginning, but I'm pretty scatterbrained, so chances are I'll be running around in circles more often than going in a straight line.



The Beginning
I don't know when my grandparents met and I don't know how, though I really regret not finding out about that while sitting on Granddaddy's knee while I was growing up. The beginning of the story, as I know it, goes a little something like this:

My Granddaddy, Kenneth Allred, was in World War II. More specifically, he was in the Navy. Seeing as I wasn't around back then, I'm going by what I've heard here so bear with me. While he was serving our great country overseas Meredith Bowman sent him a package. Now I don't know how long they'd known each other prior to this or if they were sweethearts before the war, but I'm telling you from the beginning as I know it.

So, while my Granddaddy was serving in the Navy, my Grandmother sent him a package. In this package was a New Testament bible with a metal cover, a picture, and a letter. The picture was a high school picture of my Grandmother with a white flower in her dark hair. The letter was my Granddaddy's introduction to God, as well as sentiments from her I imagine. I don't know since I wasn't there, but in my mind that's the package that started it all. My Granddaddy's faith in God and the beginning of what would start the family that I was born in.

The story goes that when my Granddaddy got that package he said "I've got to get back home and marry that girl." And that's exactly what he did. What happened between then and when I came around 40 years later, I don't really know. I've heard stories from my Granddaddy (and others) about his childhood, early married life, his time in the war, and the things that made him HIM. But to be honest, the details are sketchy as my memory is foggy and it saddens me to no end to think of all the things I've forgotten about him.

I don't know how many jobs my Granddaddy had or how many he started from scratch. I know he was about as hard working as anyone could be. He was one of those people that believed that a man's success isn't set. That with the right work ethic and the right dedication, you could do anything you set your mind to...and far exceed anyone's expectations. He practiced what he preached here.

I know he was a contractor, an insurance salesman, he installed tile (I'm not sure what job title that would be), and he was a self named 'gopher'. He was never idle, even in retirement. But enough about what I don't know the full details on, let me tell you about the man that I knew.



The Man I Knew
My Granddaddy was a prankster, a comedian, a musician, a teacher, a storyteller, a cheerleader, a thinker, a builder, and an anchor.

He had the best lap. When you sat in it and leaned back or curled up, you fit just perfect against his full belly. It was my favorite spot to sit and watch TV, "help" him work a crossword, listen to stories, or just because. I loved listening to him breathing in and out and the beating of his heart. What I loved even more was hearing his booming voice through his chest when my ear was pressed up against it.

He told the best stories. He could make a story so real, you felt like you were inside it. He told true ones, somewhat true ones, and flat out exaggerated ones, but they were all good enough that you wanted to hear them again and again. I can't remember a single story now, but I remember how much I loved hearing them.

This is my story of the man I knew. My Grandmother, Dad, Aunt and Uncle, sister, and cousins have their own stories. They might have some of the same ones I have and they might have some different ones, but this one's the way I saw it.


The Shed Monster
Granddaddy had this shed where he kept his lawnmower and other yard work type stuff. It sat at the base of a small hill, so the back of it was even with the ground on top of the hill and the front was about 4 feet off the ground at the base of the hill. The back of it had a door, the front just an opening where a door would go. He liked to tease us grandkids and this was one of his favorite ways. He told us a tale that there was a monster that lived in that shed. He'd put a $20 on the floor of the shed where the opening in the front was and dare us to go get it. Of course, this was always at night when it was dark and we're country folk surrounded by trees and nature. So here we all were, knowing the monster wasn't real but scared out of our minds anyway, trying to sneak up to the lip of the shed and grab that $20 bill. When we got about a foot from the shed we'd hear this awful ROAR and stuff being shaken about. So we'd all turn tail and run as fast as our legs would carry us back into the house...

Little did we know that Granddaddy had thought ahead. He'd flipped the breaker in the house so none of the lights were on and the switches wouldn't work. So here we are, out of breath, adrenaline pumping, no lights, and scared out of our wits trying to find a place to hide. We'd hear another huge ROAR followed by our screams of adrenaline induced terror and then all the lights would come back to life.

I never did figure out how Granddaddy could beat us to the shed and then beat us back inside again, but he did it and it's one of the memories all the grandkids still carry close to our hearts.



Walking to Church
My Grandmother, being a woman and all, took a lot longer to get ready for church than my Granddaddy or I did. I spent the night with them most Saturdays so they could take me to church with them. I grew up in that church; from the nursery to the youth choir. Well, like I was saying, my Grandmother took a lot longer to get ready than we did, so just about every Sunday Granddaddy and I would start walking towards the church and Grandmother would pick us up after she was ready. Then we'd drive the rest of the way. The drive was never the important part, the walk was where it was at.

We'd set out, hand in hand, along the winding road just enjoying each other's company. "Look there, Tweety. You see that wasp nest up there in that tree? That nest tells you..." I can't remember now what the height of a wasp nest in a tree tells me. If it was that it would be a bad winter, a warm winter, a rainy season...I just can't remember. I hate not being able to remember. "You see that tree, Tweety? That's a Red Oak tree. You can tell by the leaves. See 'em?" He'd pull a leaf off. "Now you see that tree right there? That's a White Oak tree. You see how the leaves are different?" And he'd pull another leaf off to compare them. I can't remember which tree is which now either. But I guess the point is that I do remember experiencing that with him, I have those memories even if I don't remember the lessons.

The Fawn
I don't remember how old I was, maybe 8 or 9, I guess. But one day Granddaddy and I were driving down the road and we spotted a fawn standing next to its dead mother. The mother had been hit by a car and I guess the fawn just didn't know what to do without her. Somehow Granddaddy was able to get the fawn and he brought it home.

We went to the store and got the fawn a bottle to eat with and a collar to wear. I got to pick the bottle and chose one with Baby Taz on it from the Baby Looney Tunes. Granddaddy put the collar on the fawn so people would know not to kill it I guess. We bottle fed that little fawn for quite awhile. I don't remember when it was ready to go back out in the wild, but that was just the coolest thing to me. Getting to pet and feed a baby deer isn't something most kids can say they've gotten to do.

What gets me now is the fact that Granddaddy went to all the trouble in the first place. Did he do it because he felt bad for the baby, like I did? Or was it because I felt bad for the baby deer and he wanted to nurture that compassionate part in me? Either way, Granddaddy put his heart in it and we kept that little deer till it was big enough to handle life on its own. I wonder if it still came around my grandparents' house after we'd released it. I'll have to ask the next time I talk to Grandmother.


The Climbing Tree
Right in the corner of their yard stood the best climbing tree. It wasn't too tall or too short, it was just right for short little legs. It had so many different perches in it that my cousin Holly and I would spend hours just sitting in it and giggling like girls do. I'm not sure what type of tree it is. Yes, it's still standing, but the best perches have since been cut.

The tree had a split trunk and Granddaddy was worried that the big limb coming out (the best perch of all) was causing that side of the trunk to pull away from its brother. And since we were grown and weren't so much into climbing trees anymore, I'm betting he was tired of having to duck under it to mow. So the preferred perch was cut off, but the memories of that tree and the countless hours sitting in it remain.


There was another tree in his yard that still stands that he put a swing in for us. It was a regular old homemade kind, with rope attaching a wooden board seat to the tree limb. I couldn't tell you how many hours of my youth was spent in that old swing with Granddaddy or Grandmother pushing me. Granddaddy always pushed higher than Grandmother. I guess he knew we were resilient little monkeys, whereas Grandmother worried we fall and break our necks.

A few years ago when I went up for Thanksgiving or Christmas no one was parked under that tree. The rope from the swing had cut into the limb and weakened it. So Granddaddy was worried that it would fall on someone's car. I don't know if the limb finally fell or if he cut it down, but it's not there anymore.


The Airport and Flying
Granddaddy went down to the airport about every day to "loaf" around. He was buddies with the owner. The airport isn't the type you imagine. There were no commercial jets or security checkpoints. This was a small airport designed for smaller planes. As many times as I was at that airport, I only remember seeing an actual jet one time. It was a private jet with lots of windows and I thought it was pretty neat, but not as neat as seeing all the single prop planes in the hangar.

There was other stuff at the airport that filled my time besides just the planes. There was sand everywhere to play in, flowers to pick, and cracks in the pavement filled with tar. I loved all of that, especially the cracks with the tar. They were nice to look at and when you pushed your finger into them they were squishy.

Granddaddy loved to fly and I loved to fly with him. The airport was its own playground. The only people there was the owner Bill, his son Jeff, my Granddaddy, and me. So there were lots of places to explore and no one to bother you. I loved walking out in the hangar, which is where Jeff usually was, and just staring at all the planes housed there. Most were single prop engines with wings just high enough for me to be able to walk under without ducking if I walked in the right spot.

I loved running my hand over the wings and feeling the different parts of it and watching how they worked. Jeff was always patient and would answer my questions and handle my intrusions with grace and a smile.

I'd beg Granddaddy if we could fly today. He'd always sit a spell and act like he was thinking about it. I think he would have said yes every time without hesitation, but he wanted to see my anticipation grow. There's nothing like being up in the air like that.

Before we'd even get in, Granddaddy would walk around the plane and look at it really close. Then when we were in the cabin filled with all these controls that always confused me, he'd start looking at them. A twist here, a flip there, a tap tap tap on another and he was satisfied. Out to the runway we went.

I've never been in a jet and I don't know if you've ever been in a plane...so I don't know if the feeling is similar. But being in a plane, you've got the front row seat with the best view and when you were in that plane with my Granddaddy, you also had the best companion and pilot along for the ride. The rush of heading down the runway, picking up speed for takeoff. The feeling of leaving your stomach behind as the plane left the ground. The feeling of complete freedom at being up in the air with no one else around. The giggles, the joy, and yes even the fear...they were all wonderful. There's nothing in the world that compares to that feeling.

Granddaddy even taught me how to keep the plane in the air and use the radio. He taught me some of the lingo and some other basics about flying. His reasoning, even then, was that "Now Tweety, I don't like taking you up there by myself anymore. You've got to learn a bit of what to do in case something happens to me while we're up there." Of course, nothing ever happened to him while we were up there, but he always liked to be prepared and to make sure we were prepared too. I never did get the hang of landing the plane, but he had faith in me.

Driving at the Airport
I can credit Granddaddy with most of my driving instruction, and the fact that I no longer get car sick. It began with me sitting in his lap and helping him steer. As I got older (not to mention taller) he began to let me drive with him in the passenger seat. He had the same reasoning here as when we were up in the air. If something happened to him while we were out, he wanted to be sure I could get him to the hospital and I wouldn't panic. You have to think, this was a time before cell phones.

My formal driving instruction was done at the airport. Like I said, it wasn't a busy place. And there was lots of room to practice. Driving down the runway, backing up in the taxiways, parallel parking between some cones...it was all there to be had, and to be taught. He used what was there to its fullest and I might be biased, but I think he did a pretty good job.

On my 16th birthday Granddaddy took me to get my license, knowing I'd pass. I did. I hope he was proud.



The Holidays
Every Christmas, Thanksgiving, and birthday was spent, in part, at Granddaddy's house. So many people crammed into such a small house, but it was always worth it. Granddaddy loved good food and good company, as did we all.

At 1 o'clock it was time to eat! If you were running late, well your food was going to be cold and you'd better not complain if there wasn't any green beans left. Punctuality was important to Granddaddy, but with this it was more about his belly button gnawing at his backbone.

Grandmother would always point out that someone wasn't there yet and Granddaddy always had something funny, yet serious, to say about it. It was 1 o'clock. We were starting anyway. Granddaddy would say the blessing and thank God for just about everything that you can thank God for then we'd all say Amen, but Grandmother always had more to add. It used to be funny to me, but now I see it a little differently. I used to snicker about how she'd go on and on.

It's still funny, but it also has a bit more meaning to me now. Well, Grandmother would go on and on and on and we'd all still have our heads bowed waiting for her to finish. She'd still be going when Granddaddy would chime in with something like this really quickly in one breath "Yes Lord. Thank you for all that too and everything else. Jesus name, Amen." It wasn't that he wasn't thankful or was being disrespectful. It was that once Grandmother got going we'd be there until 2 o'clock praying and God knew we were thankful.


The Last Days
The last days were hard, but not as hard for me as I imagined they would be. I had it in my mind that Granddaddy was 86 years old. He'd been in WWII. He's married his sweetheart. He'd raised 3 kids, a passel of grandkids, and another passel of great grandkids. He'd lived his life to the fullest that it could have been lived. He was always doing something. He was always active.

So in those last days, I felt sorry for him. He was always so independent and active and now he couldn't be. I thought it would be better for it all to be over with than for him to have to live without the things he loved. I thought it would be better for it to end quickly than for him to suffer like he was.

I still feel that way, but it's tempered with my own selfishness now. I admit I thought he'd live forever. He didn't seem 86 to me. He still acted like he was in his 30's. I knew he was going to die, but somehow somewhere I still thought he'd live forever.

I called as often as I could to talk to him and see how he was feeling. I got to visit one time in the last days and he was sleeping peacefully. I cried then. I stopped at their church after I left and knelt by the sanctuary doors and cried some more and prayed my heart out to God. I had just woken up when I got the phone call that he'd passed away. I didn't cry. It still wasn't real. I knew he was gone, but somewhere inside me I guess refused to accept it as truth. I spoke to my sister and my dad a few times after he passed and before the funeral and I still didn't cry. It still wasn't real. I was happy he was gone because he wasn't suffering anymore, but what I had failed to let me mind think about was the fact that I'd never see him again on this earth.

On November 12th my Granddaddy went home to be with our Lord. The day before, Veteran's day, my middle son had a field trip to the aquarium. They were holding a Veteran's service outside and I stayed for that. I cried at that service. I cried when I shook a Sailor's hand and told him about my Granddaddy. I cried when he pulled me into a hug and told me "Thank your Granddaddy for me. He paved the way for us. If it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have what we have now to fight for. Thank him for me. Thank him for all of us." I had Granddaddy in my heart at that service and I'd like to think he experienced it with me because I never got to thank him like that Sailor had asked me to.

On November 18th it became real. The day started with rushing, even though I'd gotten up especially early to not have to rush, it was still going to be rushed. I had to get ready, pick up flowers at the local florist, pick up 3 irises at a florist in another town on the way, put those flowers in the arrangement, drop off my oldest son with his step-mom, and get to the funeral home to see Granddaddy one last time. I was late. I cried.

The service was held in my Grandparents' church, so I was rushing to get to the funeral home before they moved him. I was late by a few minutes and all the speeding and hazard lights in the world couldn't have gotten me there faster, believe me I tried. They opened the casket back up for me and I gazed at him one last time and had them close it so they wouldn't be late.

The casket was draped with an American flag and his favorite cap sat atop it. The cap said he was a World War II Veteran, which he was very proud of. At the church they had a slideshow playing on the screens on the wall. I cried and cried and cried. They had pictures set up showing glimpses of his life. I cried. My Grandmother was being so gracious and cheerful, as always. I cried. I hid in the bathroom and cried. I hid in the anteroom and cried. I found my sister and cried. I cried so hard that I was hitch crying.

They started the service and the preacher used Granddaddy's metal bound bible and I cried. They talked about his life and I cried. They told his jokes and I cried. They read people's favorite memories off of strips of paper and I cried. They sang songs and I cried. I cried when I saw someone else cry. There was a tear flood and it was coming from me. The dam had been broken and I didn't know how to mend it.

We drove to the cemetery and my cousin Holly rode with me. We laughed and held back our tears. At the cemetery they gave him full military honors complete with a bugler playing Taps. I cried. The honor guard saluted his casket and I cried. They presented my Grandmother the flag and I cried. The service was over. My cousin David rode with me back to the church and we laughed and caught up with each other. We hadn't really spoken in years, so that was nice and I didn't cry. I cried when I hugged everyone goodbye. I cried all the way to the van.

Up until yesterday I've cried. I won't say there were no tears yesterday or today, because there's were, but they never made it past my eyes. Looking at the pictures is hard. It brings me joy and it brings me misery. I guess they'd call that bittersweet.



Now
Last night I started writing this post. I know it is long, but there are also so many things I still didn't say. I miss him terribly. I have regrets, but I think we all have regrets in times like these. In the end, I have to cherish the time I did have with him and be thankful for it. My heart wouldn't hurt so badly if I didn't have all of the wonderful memories inside me, but I wouldn't trade the memories to get rid of the pain.

Yesterday my sister called and told me that my Grandmother is going to host Thanksgiving as her house, like always, and that it's covered dish. I didn't expect her to do Thanksgiving this year, but I will go. I can't not go. What if this is HER last one? My fear is how hard it will be. I love going to their house, but this time...this time someone will be missing. Someone will be missing and that will be the hardest part.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Gearing up for the Fourth

Here in the South, and I assume across my Nation, people are gearing up to celebrate Independence Day. The fireworks stands are in full swing. You see them dotting the highways like fleas on a dog's hind quarters. Convenience stores are raking in the cash on beer sales. Wal-Mart is happy about how many steaks, coolers, and grills are flying off their shelves. The lake is filled with boats towing people skiing and tubing. And everyone is excited about having a long weekend off from work.

So what does Independence Day actually mean? By the way most people celebrate it you'd think it was merely another excuse to party and get drunk. And I guess that is what it has turned into to a lot of people, just another excuse to party and take time off work. But for others, it is much more.

My granddaddy is a Navy veteran. He fought alongside many other brave men in World War II who never got to come home. He witnessed one of the last great eras in our country. Yes, we were at war, but there was something special about that time. The folks at home supported our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines. Our men knew that what they were doing was right. They didn't need to question if it was worth it. They knew the cost of freedom. My granddaddy knew the cost of freedom, and I can only imagine how high that price was just to him. I know it was higher than I can imagine to our nation as a whole. How many sons, brothers, fathers, husbands...never got to come home...the cost was high, but it was for a great and noble cause.

I also wonder, how many of those service men would be rolling in their graves right now (were it possible) just seeing what has become of our patriotism, our drive, our pride! I tell you, I'd much rather had been my granddaddy fighting the Germans and Japanese in World War II than to be someone fighting in our current war. At least my granddaddy had support from his family, he had the love of his country, he was fighting evil men...

Is Osama Bin Laden any less evil than Adolf Hitler? Is our country, nay our WORLD, in any less danger now than it was then? No, it isn't. It is a different danger, but it is still an act against the freedom so many of us take for granted. I want to be free, no. I NEED to be free! I don't want to feel entitled to this freedom or anything else. I know there is a price, there is always a price. There are so many service men and women out there RIGHT NOW paying that price. Why? Because they feel passionately about it. They feel it is the right thing to do. They feel that helping to rid the world of evil men and their ideas is worth more than their own life. And they're right.

How many times have each of us thought that we'd die for someone? "I'd die for my children." Well then why is it so hard to support our men and women who ARE fighting and some of them dying for their children, their parents, their siblings, their spouses, their childhood friends? Instead, as a country, we say "No, the cost is too great." I ask you, how high will the price be to turn a blind eye?

On this Independence Day weekend, I hope you do more than set off fireworks and drink beer. I hope you take the time to reflect on the price that has been paid (and is continuing to be paid) so that you can have a weekend to drink and set off fireworks with your family and friends. I ask that each and every one of my fellow citizens take the time to remember, take the time to appreciate, and take the time to thank God that there are men and women out there who still remember the cost of freedom and are willing to pay it.