Category Archives: Birthdays

2015 Day 19: Happy Birthday Mom!

Today was my Mother’s birthday. If she had lived until today, she would have been 90 years old.  Unfortunately, she lived the last years of her life with Alzheimer’s.  It is a terrible disease because it slowly kills you.  It takes away your ability to think, read, play with your grandchildren, dress yourself and connect words into sentences.  You die a little every day.  You say good-bye a thousand times.

The one thing that my Mom said she never wanted to happen to her was the one thing she had.  She never wanted to have Alzheimer’s.  She knew what it could do.  I was her guardian and primary caregiver for about 12 years.  It hurt to see her become dependent.  She had always been the “I can do that myself” person.  So today I am going to take you down some of the paths we traveled together.  First remember that this is a progressive disease. So what she did one month or a few months would then go away.  Forever.

My parents had been divorced many years.  So Mom was alone.  She was a quite lady. She would never do anything that might cause others to look at her.  But  Alzheimer’s took care of that!  We would be eating out at the Dwarf House-one of her favorite places to go-when a heavy person walked by. Mom would say something like “Does she know how fat she is?” Cringe.  Somehow her voice carried further when she made comments like that.  And trust me, she noticed every person who was large.  I had to just move on. There was no point in correcting her because it did no good.  Move on.

The other thing that Mom did that was totally unlike her former self was to notice men.  She really had a “thing” for men with silver hair.  Her favorite phrase was “That is one fine looking man!”  Yikes.  Y’all this was my Mother who was saying this.  She never approached a man but she sure could  comment on their handsomeness! This phrase lasted a lot longer than the “fat” stage!

Conversations became easier when I figured out how to talk to her.  I would just chat about what she was wearing or the trees (she had another thing for trees) and she would talk.  After we exhausted that topic, we would sit quietly for a few minutes and then she would ask the same question and we would talk again about the same thing.  And again.  And again.  And again.  I discovered that elaborating on the topic gave us something new to say and made our conversations last a little longer.  Every conversation was new to her.   She would ask about her neighbor at home-if I had seen her.  I always said yes and talked about her cooking.  Mom would nod and smile and then we would be silent for a few minutes.  Then she would ask again about her neighbor.  You don’t fuss-you just go with it.

Mom had never had her nails done. NEVER.  She was not a girlie person.  So I did her nails and she really liked that.  She could not understand how they became colored but she really liked that.  I had her hair done. I had it colored. I had her get a permanent.  She loved those girlie things. Then that was gone, too. We stopped painting the nails because she thought something was wrong with her nails and tried to pick them off.  Moving on again to another stage…..

I can never remember my Mom saying an “ugly” word.  Well, we went through that stage, too.  The first time it happened was at dinner one night.  One of the table members touched her rice and she swore at the lady and then decked her.  She had to eat alone for a bit after that.  She would become aggressive and swore like a sailor.  And she was strong! She could knock you right down.  Fortunately, that stage was short.

As you read, you are thinking that this was a pretty grim post.  Yes it is.  But we spend probably five or six years in these stages. You learn to just go with it.  You smile.  You hug. You smile some more. You hug.  Sometimes you just hold hands and watch television or watch the trees sway in the breeze. I learned a lot during this time.  And I learned to sometimes just watch the world go by and enjoy the moment.

Love you Mom!

2015 Day 15: Happy Birthday Coffy

Hobart Carter Coffman was my father in law.  He was kind, funny, a hard worker, an awesome cook and loved his grandchildren beyond words.  Heaven is a better place with him there.

When I first met Coffy, he was fishing on the dock at the trailer.  The trailer was the summer home that he and Charlotte, my mother in law, escaped to every year.  It was heavily wooded and cool during the hottest of summer days.  And the lake was a stone’s throw away.  I had never dated anyone who had a home at the lake and I thought it was the best idea in the world.  Who wouldn’t like to live  right beside that huge lake filled with clear water that allowed you to swim ANY TIME you wanted? It was perfect!

While Coffy was fishing on the dock, Charlotte was inside making her “famous” potato salad.  It was the kind of potato salad that someone in the South might call—Slap your Momma potato salad.  I know that sounds awful but it MEANS that it is SO GOOD that NO ONE can describe it! What Charlotte did was teach ME to make it.  To this day, I am asked to bring potato salad to everything.  I never bring home a bowl with anything left. NEVER.

Later Charlotte and Coffy retired and  built a permanent house on the lake and my children LOVED to go spend a week with them.  Shoot. I loved to go spend any time with them. Charlotte knew everything about the family and told the funniest stories.  Coffy was an amazing gardener and cook.   He always sat at the head of the table. My daughter sat at one side and my son at the other.  He would start the dish passing after Grace.  He always dipped out the food for my children.  He would do David first. He would say, “David, would you like some broccoli?”  David would say, “No Granddaddy.”  Coffy would put a spoonful on his plate anyway. You see Coffy grew that broccoli and you always ate everything that he grew whether you liked it or not!  Then he would say, “Shell, would you like some broccoli” and she would reply,”Yes Granddaddy. Just a little.” So he put a little on her plate. It took David a little while to catch on to what to say.  Then Coffy would pick up the next bowl of homegrown veggies and it would start the same way.  It was hilarious to watch.

Shell loved to follow her granddaddy around in his enormous garden.  She would be sitting right beside him doing whatever he was doing.  David on the other hand, would be inside cleaning under the supervision of Charlotte.  He did not like to garden in the sun! Both of them got to go fishing with Coffy.  They loved being able to get in the boat with their Granddaddy and go fishing.

Whenever we left their house, Coffy always sent something home with us.  He had an extra refrigerator in his carport room.  It was really a frig that had once been inside the kitchen. Coffy never got rid of a single thing that still had use in it.  The top of the frig was filled with glass bottles of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.  He recycled the bottles, of course.  He never offered me one. I never saw him even tipsy. Never.  The rest of the frig was filled with veggies that he had not canned or frozen yet.  He would immediately begin filling a grocery bag with veggies to take home.  He was also a fisherman and we brought home the best fillets frozen in washed milk cartons and water.  How I wish I had his hush puppy knowledge!

Because of Coffy, I became a backyard gardener, too.  I learned to make sausage gravy from Coffy.  I learned to cook rabbit because he grew those, too.  I can still see him on his porch with a smile on his face, hugging my children and then me.  He taught me a LOT about being a grandparent. About having a kind voice. About being patient.  And he never even realized that he was doing that.  I miss him still.  But the lessons he taught me—-well they are with me still.  Love you Coffy.

2015 Day 8: The Pickle Girl

I have always had a taste for some very specific foods.  My Nannie taught me the wonder of fresh corn, butter beans, cucumber salad and hot tea with a little milk.  My neighbor taught me the goodness of freshly fried okra.  Oh my! I can taste that right now.  My Dad taught me the wonder of an unusual food-dill pickles.  He was a pickle man.  His favorite was a brand that was described as genuine dills.  Not kosher.  Not spicy.  Not those little gherkins.  Not sweet.  He was a dill pickle man from the top of his head to his feet.  His favorite snack was a chilled dill pickle that he would carefully cut into fat slices and a small stack of soda crackers.  He would eat a slice and then eat a cracker.  What can we say-he was a precise creature of habit. He also had his OWN jar of pickles.  No one ate from his jar.  Ever.

From the time I was a little girl, I loved pickles, too.  Sometimes Dad would give me a smaller slice to enjoy.  I loved them.  So my Mom started to buy two jars of pickles.  Because I was not as picky as Dad, she would frequently purchase a different kind of dill pickle.  Sometimes she would buy slices because they were on sale.  Sometimes she bought kosher ones.  Sometimes she bought whole dills.  I was fine with anything she bought.  To me a pickle is a pickle. If they were those thin slices, I would fill a coffee cup with slices to munch on as a snack.  Or I might fill a cup with slices to eat with a sandwich.  My Mom even sent  pickles in my lunch.  That was hard because they were juicy and would leak.  My lunchbox always smelled like pickles.

When I turned 8 years old, we had a family party for my birthday.  I liked that the best.  My Mom would always get a cake from Pat-A-Cake Bakery.  It was a white layer cake with confectioners sugar icing and lots of roses on top.  That was my favorite cake.  After dinner, I would open presents from my parents and grandparents.  Then we would have cake. Yum! That year, I opened a card from my Nannie.  She always sent me money for books.  Yay!  And my Grandma would sent me a card with money, too.  More books!  I don’t remember what my Mom did for me because my Dad’s present just blew me away.  It was a BIG box.  And heavy. I could not imagine what it was.  When I got the paper off, I found a huge GALLON jar of dill pickles! We all laughed and laughed about the pickles.  I was happy as a clam.  I had a ton of pickles to eat ALL BY MYSELF!!!

Happy Birthday to ME!  The Official Pickle Birthday Girl!

Day 26: And Who Really Has the Last Word?

Many years ago, when I first started teaching school, I was blessed to work with some wonderful experienced teachers. The start of the year was rocky. I started teaching fourth grade. But the numbers didn’t work out for four fourth grades and after ten days, I was transferred to a fifth grade position at the same school. I was blessed that I didn’t have to change rooms. But I had a super speeded up intro to fifth grade. As new kid on the block, I ended up with the lowest math group but an average reading group. After many initial worries about my math students, I found that it was a perfect place for me. The group was small and they would do anything for popcorn. So we worked hard for four days and on the fifth did testing, played games and had popcorn. They thought we were playing cards or bingo.  But aha, we were practicing our basic skills. I was pretty sneaky!

That year, the fourth and fifth grade team was in a separate building on the campus and  we were very helpful and supportive of each other.  I lost my grandmother that year and they were so wonderful to me. Then the husband of one of the fifth grade teachers died very suddenly and unexpectedly. We were all shocked. He was so young to us although he was probably in his late fifties. We became her extended family during this time. As her birthday approached-the first one without her wonderful husband, we decided to give her a surprise birthday party. We knew we had to do something crazy because it would be sad for her. So we decided that the theme would be Wonder Woman!  And each of us would give her something funny from within our building that would relate to teachers. We all also agreed to not tell each other what we were doing.

The day of the party arrived.  We had a Wonder Woman  cake.  We had wrapped gifts. Although we all had been inventive and used schoolroom items, one teacher earned a gold start for excellence.  Before I tell you more about this special gift, I need to give you a little info on our principal. This was his first year as principal and he was funny. But man, he had a thing for his name stamp. I was a principal for many years and a name stamp is so important. Every report card is to be signed with the name of the principal.  Well, right away, you can see that no man or woman in their right mind says- “Hey-bring me your report cards and I will sign them all.”  Who wants to sign their name over 600 time? Not me. So I had a stamp made and it stayed locked up in the vault at school.  This man’s stamp stayed locked in his drawer and no one could check it out without getting it directly from the principal. If you borrowed it, you had only so long before he was calling to see if you were done. He was a bit obsessed with his stamp and who had it. It became a joke to all us teachers.

So when Mrs S opened that gift bag, she looked a little startled as she bulled out a roll of toilet tissue. It looked brand new.  Perfect.  Pristine. She smiled and look at it oddly until she noticed in the middle of the first sheet of toilet tissue was stamped ” Charles B.Melcome”-the principal’s name. Then she began to unroll the roll and saw that every single sheet of toliet tissue was stamped with  the principal’s name.  The teacher quietly said-“I think you know how to use my gift”. We laughed and laughed.  And then we laughed some more!

I am sure she knew how to use this special gift.

Day 17: Happy Birthday Mom!

Today is October 19, 2014.  It is also my Mother’s birthday. My Mom was adopted. She never talked with me about it. In fact, my grandmother-Nannie-was the one who eventually told me.  My Mom never wondered about her birth mother.  Her adoption sounds like something from a news story – “Infant girl left in basket at doorstep of local family”.   Because, you see-that is what happened. She deeply loved her parents and her kin folks. I never knew my Grandpa. He died before I was born.  His name was Roy and he was an electrician.

scan0802

This is a picture of my Mom as a teenager. She is seated with my Nannie, three of my aunts and cousin J. Don’t you love how they do their hair?

My Mom grew up in a tough time. She had a paper route to earn some extra cash. She won a bike the first summer for adding the most new customers.   She loved dogs-cockers were her favorite. They were always named Lady. When she entered high school, she started working at a photographic studio in town. Eventually she started doing touchups for the studio. She was very talented with photography.  She had great baby pictures of me!

scan0797

Then she met a boy from Kansas who was attending Georgia Military Academy. He was all alone  His father had died when he 18 months old  His mother remarried and moved to Illinois with her new husband and children. Fortunately his father had set aside money for him to attend GMC when he became a 9th grader. I have no idea how they actually met. I have often wondered but that opportunity for questions is forever gone.

When Dad was drafted, they got married.  My mother continued to live at home with her mother until Dad came back.  I was born in Milledgeville, Georgia and 9 years later my redheaded sister made her appearance in our family.

I would love to say that we lived happily ever after. But we did not. My parents divorced when I was in my twenties. But I can say with absolute certainty that my parents loved both of us enormously and were proud of our accomplishments. They were always there when we needed them.

scan0498Mom was a great baby holder! A was just a little chunk of cuteness in this picture.

I love you and miss you, Mom!