My Dee Dee

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I wanna tell you about My Dee Dee: she does amazing things. Now my siblings and cousins might would argue that she is not my Dee Dee but I will leave them to that delusion. I will tell you about her if you have a moment to listen.

She does amazing things. She can take a pillowcase full of fabric scraps and create a quilt that people fight to own. She picks enough pecans to provide everyone with their own hand addressed, paper grocery bag wrapped box every year. Although after 9-11, I will admit that I am amazed that some of them arrived at their destination and not on some airport tarmac as a suspicious package. She picks and cans enough figs to keep my dad in a yearly supply of breakfast biscuit toppings and to make Greek men long for their yards full of trees along the Aegean Sea. She picks blackberries and beans and peas; all the while ignoring snakes clamped to her hand. She worries about purses and ID’s on the way to the hospital for poisonous snakebites. (The hospital might not treat her without it)

She traveled 12 plus hours every year in the end of October to visit me for a month. My parents and siblings I suspect thought she was coming to see them too, but I knew the truth. After a trip that might take her through Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, Birmingham, Atlanta or any other southern city on her way north, she would arrive to share stories of the trip with me. She could tell me about the history of the person that rode next to her: their hopes, dreams, fears and family secrets. She was amazing and friendly enough that they shared. She would tell me of the crazed bus drivers, the drunken passengers that were put off the bus and a simpler more trusting time when Greyhound picked up hitchhikers and dropped you at your driveway.

She would tell me stories of a Papaw I never remembered. How I yelled for him when they would not let me play with his radio after his passing. She told me of Ambrose, Uncle AJ, Bully, Butch, Jimmy Ray and Aunt Cora Lee, who lived all the way in Boston (and sent me cancelled stamps). Her stories would grow bigger and more details would be added over the years. I suppose that if I live to tell the same stories for 90 years, I will wish to make them a bit different and more exciting with each new telling also.

She taught me that scrambled eggs weren’t dry lumps of curdled egg in a skillet but creamy, soft melt in your mouth delights. Better still, she taught me how to make them. She taught me that the best hot cocoa would never come from a package but from a brown box, some sugar, milk, and a saucepan. The girl with the cute smile at Starbucks comes close with her steamed milk and chocolate syrup, but her 20 something years are not enough to have perfected it yet. I wish I had been a better cooking class student. My gravy still tastes like cooked flour and some warm bacon grease.

One of the most amazing things she would do was walk. However, not just any walk. She would rise early before anyone else and head out and pull the sun above the horizon and begin it on its journey across the sky. The Greeks and Romans had Apollo and his chariot; I had my Dee Dee. I like to believe there was more to those walks than exercise. I believe there was companionship and comfort. The gospel song says:

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

I believe that as Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden, Barney and Georgia walked with Him in the early mornings.

Selfishly, I wish My Dee Dee would keep doing amazing things. I wish doctors used words like miracle and unexplained to describe her in a few weeks. But like I said that is selfishness. I am like Cora Lee, I don’t want to see her die and I sure don’t want to be around to see her lowered in the ground. But I know she has told the girls that the first thing she will do is look up their dad. How could I selfishly deny a reunion 40 years in the making to save myself some tears or postpone a freedom from pain and struggle to bypass temporary discomfort.

I have said before that the greatest gift of a father to a son is a good name. The second greatest is to choose a wonderful companion that is amazing enough to pass on the strength, passion and love to honor that name.

My Dee Dee is just that amazing.

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Raindrops3 by jwill9311
Raindrops3, a photo by jwill9311 on Flickr.

Forrest’s Mom

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When My sister passed away of leukemia at the age of 9, I was under the impression that losing someone older would be easier. There would be the comfort that they had lived a full life. But with my grandmother given 3 months to live, I am finding that I was wrong. Cancer sucks regardless of the age o the victim. Any death that is bought about prematurely is a great loss. I think of the self-inflicted cancers: throat, lung and gum. Brought on by smoking and chewing tobacco products. Now I am aware that asbestos and other elements unknown to the victim also cause these cancers, but smoking still remains the number one preventable cause of death in America. Or perhaps it is obesity. Either way, it is something that we do to ourselves. But some cancers aren’t so predictable.

Persons can eat healthy and exercise and still become sick. Whether it is a toxin or a genetic cause, there is some outside factor. There is something beyond us that causes our own body to turn against itself and begin unregulated cell growth. In a rather simplistic definition. The cells divide, grow wildly and invade nearby parts of the body. It is a reminder to us of our smallness in the face of disease. We have made progress  against polio, malaria and even AIDS, but cancer continues to stymie us. We have learned correlations and causalities but still we for the most part we simply treat symptoms and ease pain in too many instances. There are some places that we made progress. Remission rates are high for some cancers. We have tamed some cancers to treatable, minor events in people’s lives. But for the most part, it is winning. Advancing and continuing to taunt us.

That’s why I think Forrest’s mom wasn’t completely honest. Life is really like a box of chocolates, half of it isn’t worth experiencing, But it is that nugget of chocolate covered cashew that makes digging through the slimy-centered lumps. Over the next few months, I will hope to share a few of those cashews clusters about my grandmother.