The sky was brilliant blue. Not the sorta kinda blue that you see in a big city, but the blue of open spaces. Not a cloud in the sky. Not even the feathery trail of a jet five miles high hurrying people across the country.
I was in a place I’ve been many times. Off to the right were evaluated concrete slabs for “dinner on the ground” on fourth Sundays when people come to the Primitive Baptist church sitting 25 yards away. No doubt mama’s sister, Aunt Lela Mae, had plopped down a huge bowl of her chicken and dumplings on one of those slabs. After all, she was the best maker of chicken and dumplings in the whole universe.
And both of my grandmothers, the one we called “Big Mama” and the one who was just “Grandma” had set out bowls of butter beans or fresh creamed corn or fried okra.
A small sign on the fence told one and all that they could send donations to a McKenzie Post Office box to help with upkeep on the cemetery lying just beyond. From time to time I have chipped in.
Why shouldn’t I? Because here is the final resting place of many with whom I share DNA. All four of my grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins of all sorts. My Lee great grandfather, James Kenyard. (His father, James Madison, never came home from the Civil War and no one knows where he is buried. James Madison’s father, William Greenberry, is buried a few miles away at South Butler cemetery in McKenzie.)
I remember trips to this same spot as a boy. At that time many of the graves were simply mounds of earth. Some decorated with colored glass. Some with mussel shells that stood on towers of sand that were not eroded when July thunderstorms came along. One was fenced with a roof over it. Over time, the roof came down and the shells were replaced by granite, or sometimes concrete.
Unlatching the gate, I entered this sacred ground. There were daddy’s mother and father, one of his brothers and a sister who lived less than two months. There were mother’s parents, buried in the same plot as my grandfather’s twin brother and his wife. Uncle Earl Bennett who ran a grocery store in McKenzie and loved life. Great uncles and aunts whom I vaguely remember and second cousins.
An usually chill April wind came out of the west as I did what I always do–wish I knew more about my people. Oh how I would love to ask them questions today. About the times they lived in, about going to church and plowing a mule and surviving the Great Depression. Would love to swap stories with them.
Sure, I talked to my grand parents. But it was the talk of a child and the questions were about childhood things, not penetrating questions that help you to truly look into someone’s life and sometimes their soul.
The church and cemetery are on a spit of Covington County sandy soil, about a stone’s throw from the Butler County line to the north and maybe two miles to Conecuh County to the west. And as places go, most would consider it insignificant. But just as southerners cling to their sense of place, I cling to here and the memories it shared with me under a brilliant blue sky.
As I was about to leave the house this afternoon, I realized I did not have my phone (a very old flip phone model) and checked in my “office” where I thought I left it. Nope. Then the dining room table, shuffling the papers that clutter it. Nope. Then kitchen. Nope. My bedroom. Came up empty again.
So I started the routine again. Office, dining room table, kitchen, bedroom. And this time I checked to see if it was in the console of my car. Now I am agitated at how I could manage to lose it. No way it just up and walked off.
Clearly I needed help. If it was in the house and I heard it ring, I should be able to find it. Suddenly the thought occurred to me that since I sat at my computer for hours on end, I would turn to email.
Quickly I dashed off a note to several friends saying, “I have lost my damn phone. Can you call me at 334-787-0410?”
Then I waited to see if someone would come to my rescue. Sure enough, I heard it ringing in a few minutes and followed the sound. There it was on the floor in my bedroom in a pile of dirty clothes. The caller was longtime friend, John Hansen. As soon as I answered, he said, “It is now official that we are old men.” I corrected him by saying that I’ve known that for several years.
As some of you know, I am prone to wear overalls, I suppose in acknowledgement of who I am and where I come from. There is a pocket on the front of the bib where my phone fits handily. And when I bend over, also slides out easily. Obviously that is what happened.
And thanks to others who called later. It’s comforting to know that there is goodness in the hearts of some, even when it is a matter so trivial.
So now I wait for my next dumb blunder.
Like most deep-friend southern boys, I like sweet iced tea. Like it a lot. Never one for coffee, I have gulped down gallons and gallons of sweet tea, morning, noon and night. A nectar of the Gods so to speak. Regardless the weather outside, nothing beats a tall glass of sweet tea with plenty of ice.
But the recent diagnosis of being diabetic has brought this delight to a screeching halt. And it has now been more than three weeks since my last glass. Now it is water with lemon. Water with lemon. More water and more lemon.
Even a night ago when I stopped by a BBQ shack to get some ribs it was water with lemon. Just did not seem American. At least American south of the Mason-Dixon line.
I have eaten so much lettuce in the last three weeks I may soon have a bushy tail. Pecan pie? forget it. Chocolate pie? Nope. Off limits. And just a few nipples of corn bread with my peas and greens.
When I was in the hospital a few days ago, one of the meals had cabbage. About 70 years ago when I was in kindergarten, we had cabbage for lunch. We also had chocolate pudding for dessert. I ate the cabbage, got sick, and missed the pudding. The hospital cabbage was the first I’d eaten since then.
So today I am at one of my favorite meat and three places here in Montgomery. One of their sides was cabbage. What the heck, I ordered it. Now I know that I have not missed anything for 70 years and will not order it again until perhaps 70 years from now.
Adjusting my diet is not easy. But I am trying. And no doubt missing the mark by a long way. But I prick my finger each morning and check my blood sugar. Was 113 this morning. Then shoot up with insulin every night. Have been to see two doctors since my episode. Both have been satisfied with how I’m doing.
Definitely need to walk more. Bought a new pair of walking shoes and have climbed on my tread mill a few times. My dear friend, Martha Peek, who retired last summer as superintendent in Mobile County, has lost 40 pounds since then. She looks great. Walking three miles a day has played a big part of her transformation. About every day or so she emails me the same question: DID YOU WALK TODAY?
I got the perfect response to her question from a 4th grader at Bear Elementary here in town. She said I should get a dog and name it “Five Miles.” Then I can tell Martha that I walk five miles every day.
And who knows, after I walk Five Miles I might sneak a glass of sweet tea. With plenty of ice.
Since my car is 20 years old, I am never too surprised when I have to take it to the shop. So why am I bewildered when my body–which is 56 years older than my car–needs the oil changed and brakes redone?
Still I am.
I’d not been at the top of my game for several weeks. I was rapidly becoming Rip Van Winkle. I could begin a nap before I ended the one I was taking. So Monday I found my little blood pressure device, put some new batteries in it and clicked it on. 91/55 got my attention and I headed for a doc in the box I’ve used before,.
I hardly hit the door before they called an ambulance and sent me down the street to Baptist East emergency room. At one point I counted 10 people gathered around me talking excitedly about my heart rate, what little there was. About this time I got the sense that this was about more than just getting my oil changed.
Long story made short, I am now home with more holes in me from taking blood than a pin cushion. The end of every finger has been pricked for blood to find out my blood sugar level. My blood sugar tends to go from high to higher and I’m thinking that sweet iced tea is in my rear view mirror
I’m reading about living with diabetes and figuring that morning trips to Hardee’s for a sausage and biscuit and small coke are just “precious memories.” No doubt I am about to discover that there are entire sections of a grocery store that I never knew existed. Something says that late night runs to Krispy Kreme are no longer part of my travel plans.
I deeply appreciate all those who sent good wishes and prayers. They are deeply appreciated.
And for those who may have some tips on dealing with this new future, love to hear from you. firstname.lastname@example.org
This afternoon I go to the mailbox and lo and behold, there is a well-wrapped box from Texas with two pint jars of whole fig preserves inside.
Like a kid at Christmas, I tore into the package with great anticipation.
And then–discovered that Santa did not bring me the ball glove I wanted so badly. I was distraught as I tasted the first one. It missed the mark by a long way. The figs are the biggest I have ever seen. Like the size of golf balls. But lot more just mush that sweetness. Of course I did not have any of mama’s biscuits to shove one into, so I plumped two of them down on a piece of bread, folded the bread over the figs and chomped down.
The results were the same. Bland. Little taste at all. And I spent $20 for two jars and shipping.
My ball glove became a pair of pajamas.
However, ever the optimist when it comes to food, back to the internet I went. Four more jars are now on the way. Two from Columbiana, AL and two from South Carolina.
That’s another $50. But this time it is do or die. Either I find a supplier of figs I’m looking for–or I’m off to Dairy Queen for a banana split.
In this crazy, hyper active wired world of today, we encounter a tsunami of information each day, way too much of which reminds us of what a mess we deal with all the time.
A constant barrage of bad, depressing news. (And I admit that I do my own share of passing along such info on these pages.)
It is way too easy to forget to smile and laugh and forget that none of us are getting out of here alive so we should enjoy the ride while it lasts.
Which brings me to the point of this little post. Here is the audio of a cell phone call from a guy on his way to work who witnesses four older ladies in a fender bender and their response.
It is ABSOOLUTELY one of the funniest things I have ever heard. If you don’t laugh along with me as you listen, check your pulse.