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The real, calm, nice, less pissy post…

Posted in Crazy Wisdom on Monday, September 13, 2004 at 1:25 pm by flerly.

I’ll just say it. I’m not looking forward to my family reunion because I’ve been having flashbacks of a certain relative of mine who has chronic foot-in-mouth disease, and who has managed to punctuate my life with horrifyingly embarrassing memories, despite how infrequently I see him. Circa age 13, Pizza Hut: Don’t you ever wash your face? How does one girl have so much acne? You should get mom to buy you some vitamins or something, and you probably shouldn’t be eating this greasy pizza. Circa age 14, his condo, Florida, after he’s forced me from just reading/sunbathing to get into the pool: I’ve never seen anyone wear makeup into a pool. It’s washing right off, you know, and it just makes that acne look worse now. You should go wash your face, the sun might clear that up some. Circa age 15, some steakhouse in Jacksonville where, after hearing us chatting, the server has just asked me where I’m from: You can take the girl out of Tennessee, but you can’t take the Tennessee out of the girl. I’d forgotten how funny southern accents could be.

There are so many more… He is also the one who gave me my favorite comment about how at least mom has five kids to explain where she got her figure. So over the last month, in my mild — back of my mind — sort of stress I had added “must try to look better for the reunion,” being very aware that last time I saw him, it was Dad’s funeral, and I was actually thinner and quite tan from where I’d been vegging out by going to a tanning bed in preparation for the trip to Hawaii I was supposed to take the next month. So, Saturday trying on clothes with the notion of going out mall browsing, was the last straw. Decided to send the boys out, have some alone time in the house for a good cry, a very painful workout video, and a nice hot bath to recoup some sanity.

So yesterday, JamesT suggested we finally take that drive to his grandparents old homestead in Alabama that he’s been going on about, and it being a beautiful day, we did it. Just the two of us was nice, non-interstate roads were nice, the small-town scenery was nice…. I went on and on about strange lawn ornaments and mixed-up styles in the houses. We ran into an area that had “Steve’s Barbershop and Stylist” in the building next to “Steve’s Television and Appliance Repair” which led us to ponder whether the area was populated with Steves, whether Steve was some sort of Jack-of-all-trades, or perhaps whether Steve was just some loanshark who helped people start businesses and forced them to name them after him. We also passed many a small country church, but our favorite church sign was “Git ‘R Done with the Lord.”

The old homestead of his grandparents, after so many years removed in his memories, was less than JT expected, I know. We stopped to talk to the “new” owner, who mentioned proudly how he had replaced that old stained-cedar siding with durable vinyl and replaced out the old windows which used to fog up as if the place had been a real fixer-upper when he got it, while we could clearly see that house currently looks like a train wreck of weeds and lawn junk. He went on to proudly tells us of his prize winning chickens, which were both filling a long row of coops and prancing all over the yard, and about his friend (who was helping him take water out to the coops) who had just hit the Fantasy 5 lotto for the second time. It was surreal news in that these were the cliche country bumpkins every comedian talks about that win the lottery. It was good to hear that money didn’t change them, since after hearing the news of their winnings, they still deemed to go outside, shirtless in their Bermuda shorts, to water the prize winning chickens just like all the normal folks, even though he could have been taking it easy recovering from his bout of wasp stings around his eyes from going into the old shed for something the day prior. But, money or no, when your eyes unswell enough to open up and see, the chickens still need water.

Of course, even with the changes for the worse to house that James’ grandfather had built himself, it was still the shining jewel on a run down road of neglected houses and trailers, that could have been abandoned, with their welcoming chainlink fences, overgrown dirt driveways and “No Trespassing” signs. If one were ever want to reclaim that peaceful retreat, you’d pretty much have to buy up that lot and most of the surrounding ones, just to clean the place up. Walking out on the old dock was peaceful, and made me think immediately of both the infrequent times at the houseboat as a kid and of the lake house my brother Wayne is trying so hard to move into. The whole trip made me really wish we had some land to build our own house, and appreciate how hard it is going to be to find a peaceful retreat within living distance of a city with decent jobs.

Afterwards, we made the trip on up to the Chattanooga area to visit with the family. A short compulsory visit to JT’s dad’s was just long enough to cause us both to have a massive headache and reinforce both of our desires to never be parents. This time, though, it wasn’t so much Noah’s behavior as dealing with Kathy, the ubermom, who wanted us to watch the videos she had shot of one of Noah’s worship sessions (where he danced on stage with some other kids to some modern Christian tunes) and of his very first soccer game (where they don’t keep score and every kid gets a chance to play every position). Neither of these would have been so bad, actually, if Kathy would learn to not zoom in on Noah’s face and try to follow only him around. You have no concept of what is going on around him, i.e.. the whole line of kids dancing on a stage, and as for soccer… motion sickness ensues when you are forced to watch all the shots of blurred grass as she frantically panned around looking for Noah or the ball or anything while she is at maximum zoom. Finally, I suggested to her, “You should pan out some to get an overall shot of what is going on,” to which she replied, “But I wanted to see Noah’s face.” Oh, yeah. Of course. We’re so happy you got that shot of him picking his nose when he got some freetime while playing goalie.

Finally, we made it to JT’s mom’s house, saw her and Dwight and the grandparents. They were moderately interested that we had made the trip to their old house, but having made a visit not too long ago themselves, had already seen it’s current condition. You can certainly see a bit of nostalgia for the “good old days” of when the grandkids were young and they were younger, but like it always does, time goes by and things change. Like I tried to tell JamesT last night, you can’t go back and you can’t be too sad that you can’t. Instead, you need to be happy that you had the wonderful times to remember and be thankful that your grandparents are still around to visit. It is always hard to visit people and see how much older they seem that they were in your memories, and to sit around and dwell on the illnesses that come with age. Everytime I go to visit mom, I remind her how lucky she is that she is so healthy and able to get around and do all that she does, even if it is all work around her house. She always tells me of visiting her family and their ailments and how all they do is sit around and pine about things they can’t do any longer, then I remind her that she is perfectly able to do lots of things and chooses not to, so I don’t expect to be listening to her whining about any “lost youth” anytime soon.

I think I went through a phase where all I wanted was mom to stay in that house and for nothing to ever change from the childhood that I remember there, but now I think I realize that Dad isn’t in that house, he’s in my memories. And mom shouldn’t be tied to that house when she deserves to be living the fullest life she can while she is healthy and able. I do love that house, and I do have a zillion memories of things that have happened there, things I watched Dad build, things I helped him build, and things Mom and I have done without him, but I can’t imagine a future where JamesT and I could ever be living in that house, in that neighborhood, at all.

For my mom, and for his grandparents, I think we have to stop dwelling on the past and the times that can’t be recaptured. The healthiest thing to do is to make sure that we and they are living the life they have now and not being bogged down by nostalgia.


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