bOATMy husband and I were very fortunate to have had the privilege of living in an apartment on the river for about 15 years. I intended to live there until I was 92 and went out with a toe tag. We had the ideal apartment.. right on the main dock with the canal at our back door. We could just jump in our boat and take off and go fishing whenever we were in the mood. We were very fortunate to have some wonderful neighbors and we made so many wonderful and interesting friends. Pete and Jane were our best friends and we would spend our evenings gathered on the dock talking, laughing and fishing. Weekends we would gather for a low country boil or we would hop in the boat and go look for gators or just cruise down the river gazing at the stars. Sometimes we would just cut the engine and drift with the tide and talk and laugh like crazy. Many times we would go to the Landing by boat and have dinner or go watch the fireworks on the holidays.

Even when the weather was cold, the dock was a favorite gathering spot. Someone would bring out a TV and we would set it up and watch the Jags play. We tailgated right there on the dock. I sure do miss those times and they are wonderful memories. We spent many weekends fishing with our nephews, Clayboy and E-III. Catching “reds” was our favorite thing. Sometimes we would fish all day, catch our limit for the boat, run out of food and drinks and we would head back home to reload and do it again. Unfortunately, most times the trip back out resulted in nothing. But there was a lot of camaraderie and we really had a lot of  good times. Sometimes it would be so hot that we would get in the water and tie a rope around ourselves so we wouldn’t get washed away because the St. Johns tide was so strong at times.

redWe had a special place we would fish on the St. Johns. We would come out of the Ortega River and head straight across the river to a spot that we could always identify because it had a red roof on the boat house and housed a boat called the “Capaloa”. We caught so many reds in that area and that was most always the first place we headed. That summer was referred to as the “Summer of our Dreams”. In the following years, we were never quite able to recapture it, but the memories linger and they are certainly happy ones.

2boat_0002Well, as it has been said, all dreams have to come to an end and our life as we knew it on the river, finally ended. The complex went condo and unfortunately we could not buy our unit. By that time, we had sold our last boat and it was time to move on. It was very sad as we watched our friends leave, one by one. It was very quiet and lonely.. no more laughter filling the night air… I think we were the last to leave of our group and for me it was a very sad day. So now we are in another apartment complex on the water, which is where we love to be … and life goes on. So now we fish at the Nassau Sound and Huguenot Park and we really enjoy it. Our grandson, Hunter, who is now 13, loves to fish and really enjoys going fishing with us.  We have spent many happy hours fishing in the sunshine and loving life and hope to continue to do so for many years to come.


imageWell, the past several weeks we have been concentrating on moving into our new apartment.  It has really been quite an experience.  It is the first move of my life where I had no responsibility and Jim did all of the work.  Bless his little heart.  He took care of all of the arrangements and the movers (I did do a little packing, but not much) and he did a most wonderful job.  I did help unpack and place the furniture but it wasn’t nearly as hard as our usual moves.  It was stress-free for me but not so much for him.  Since he has retired and has taken over all of the “wifely” duties, he has become acutely aware of the stress and responsiblities that women have borne over the years.  He often asks me “How did you do this all those years without any help.”  I always answered “Because it was what I was suppose to do.”

When we were young, our generation was taught that women had certain responsibilities as far as keeping house, raising the children, and just generally taking care of the family.  When Dad came home, his day ended.  My mother’s generation (for the most part) were stay-at-home moms.  But as we evolved it became necessary in order to financially survive, for both parents to work.  Not only did I take care of my family but I held a full-time job as well.  It was always the same every day.  Get up, get 3 children ready for school or day care, drop off at school or day care, work until 5, pick up chidren from day care or extended care, go home, start supper, help with homework, cook a full meal (back then we all sat down at the table together and no one left the table until everyone was done).  Fast food was unheard of in those days.  Dad would retire to the family room to watch TV and I would clean the kitchen.  We did not have a dishwasher then (just me).  Actually, I kinda liked washing the dishes.  I would sing my heart out.  I had the delusion that I sounded a lot like Dolly Parton.  LOL  It was kinda therapeutic and I would solve a lot of problems or sort things out as I was washing the dishes, plus the hot water always felt so soothing on my hands.  There was something satisfying about the squeaky cleanness of the dishes.

After dishes, it was up the stairs to help the children finish up their homework, get their baths, a bedtime story and then off to bed.  Up and down the stairs several times because someone had the “after dark crud” and could not sleep.    Pretty soon, I gave up on going upstairs and instead resort to yelling “Don’t make me come up there.   If I send your father up there you are going to be sorry.”  It’s funny how a man who was always laying on the couch could be such a forceful disciplinary tool when the children were not doing what I had told them to do a hundred times.  All it took was one time and then everything would quiet down and peace would descend. Now it is time to make lunches and make sure everyone has something clean to wear for the next day.  By the time I finish and take my shower, it is quite late and the hubby is already in bed.

It is after midnight and I am exhausted and then it seems I had just closed my eyes and it is 5:30 and I have to get up and start over again, make breakfast for the children, dress the children, find lost shoes, socks, school books, home work, you name it, it got lost.  My children always did their homework, I know that for a fact because I labored over it with them, but inevitably one of them would lose it between our house and the school.  And, of course, I would not find this out until I attended a parent/teacher conference and the teacher informed me that my child had failed to turn in his homework and that we needed to work on this. So after the day was over, we would all come home and do it all over again.  After the children got older, our nightly routine changed somewhat and included taking three children to either piano, dance, gymnastics, baseball, football, etc.  Sometimes we would have to split up and one would go to Jimmy’s game and the other to Mike’s game.  Debbie’s favorites were piano and gymnastics and that was usually my domain. And of course, with this change came the change of dinner time… fast food evolved, eating on the run and no one having the same schedule.  Now wasn’t that exciting… maybe not… but certainly exhausting.

Our daughter, Debbie, died in a tragic automobile accident when she was 16 and we miss her so much every day of our lives, but that is another story.  Our boys are adults now and our son, Jim Jr., is the father of 2 children and is married to Christina, who has a son, Kenny.   Mike is not married but enjoys his life very much and is very much involved in all family activities.  Our granddaughter, Autumn, is an adult now, having graduated from high school and out on her own now.  Our grandson, Kenny is 18 and will graduate June, 2015.  Our grandson, Hunter, is 13 years old now and he is a hoot.  We have had him around us since the day he was born and have a wonderful relationship with him.  I enjoy being around him so much and he cracks me up with his witicisms.  I will try to enjoy this phase,  because I am sure as he gets older this relationship will change also.

Our house is pretty quiet now and I get to bed at a reasonable time (some would say too reasonable).  I miss the hustle and bustle of raising a family and the advice I would give to anyone would be to enjoy it while it is happening.  Live in the moment, because it is fleeting, and it is gone before you know it.  I do know one thing, I certainly miss the moment.



imageThis is a word I never like to hear because it usually means there is trouble. My husband and I had just purchased a 45 foot house boat and had no experience with boats at all. We loved being on the water and having a boat just seemed like the perfect thing for us. We would often be fishing from shore and we would see a houseboat go by and we would longing say “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to buy a houseboat and live on it?” Little did we know what was ahead or what our boating experience would be.  When my husband and my nephew picked it up, the previous owner rode the boat with them and escorted them to the main river and the only thing he told them to remember was “red right return” which means keep the red buoy on your right returning to port. He put the boat close to the boat ramp and them jumped off and said “Good Luck”.

They were so excited and proceeded to the marina where we had arranged for a slip. Upon arriving at the slip, my husband put the boat into the slip slicker than a whistle only to discover a few minutes later that he was in the wrong slip. This is when things started turning interesting and when the “UH OH” word surfaced. When he started to pull into the correct slip, he went in too fast and proceeded to take the rails off the front of the boat. He bounced off the dock and the boat finally settled in and he got it under control. That cost a pretty penny to fix and was just the first of many “uh ohs” to come.

We had an apartment which for a while we continued to live in and we would spend the weekend on the boat. The first time we took it out on an excursion we were so excited. We started out on the first leg of our trip and my husband took the wrong tributary and within seconds we are aground. Luckily he backed off and we were ok. Our son and his wife and two of our nephews went with us and we spent the day in the St. Johns mostly anchored and fishing. Later in the day we noticed everyone heading back inland. The sky was darkening and it was apparent it was going to be stormy. We pulled anchor and started back to the marina. We had double gas tanks and my husband assured me that we had plenty of gas and that when one tank got low you just switched to the second tank… I think you can probably see where I am going with this. So we are cruising along in the middle of the channel of the St. Johns and my husband says “uh oh”. I asked what the problem was and he said we are out of gas. I said how can that be, we have two tanks. He said I think we need to flip a switch. I said… You think. So… they go to the back or should I say stern and check out the engine compartment and both tanks are empty.

There we are dead in the water right in the middle of the shipping channel. So we are trying to decide what to do and about that time we hear WHOOOOOOOO WHOOOOOOO and we look down river and headed straight for us is a super tanker. Well, I can tell you our hearts were beating. So… we started getting our life jackets on because we know that we are probably going to have to jump off this boat. I don’t know what I was thinking but I took my life jacket and was waving my arms in a crisscross manner at a passing boat… not knowing that this is the way you get help on the water. It was a small boat but it came right over and I yelled and they looked back and understood. They threw a rope and we attached it to the front cleat and the little boat started pulling. We looked back at the tanker and the crew was lined up on deck and I thought they were preparing to help us but was informed later that they were just there to watch the tanker hit the boat because the tanker always has the right of way.

The “little boat that could” got us back to the marina dropped us at the end of the T dock, threw back the line and took off. He didn’t even give us a chance to get his name, but I think he saved our lives that day. Well, you remember I mentioned that there was a storm brewing. Well, it was approaching quickly and we had to move our boat into the slip. They got gas and my husband proceeded to try to pull the boat around into the slip before the storm hit. Not having much experience, he kept trying to drive the boat like a car and it is very much different. He turned the corner and didn’t take a wide enough turn so he started to turn away and retry and the back of our boat hit the back of a $250,000 sail boat and I am standing on the dock watching this and I am speechless. Now my heart is going wild and I thought I was going to die. I kept waiting for the sailboat to go glub, glub, glub. My husband finally got the boat under control. and started into the slip and I could see that he was going to hit the sailboat again. The problem was that the steering has broken during the initial turn and now my husband had no control over the boat. He bounced off the back of the sailboat again and it popped our boat right into the slip. Meanwhile, all of the neighbors had come off their boats, we thought to help, but I am sure it was to protect their property.

Well, remember that storm I told you about earlier…. It arrived. My husband said we’ll just wait it out in the boat. So we all boarded the boat again and waited. In about a minute the rain started pelting down, the wind was blowing and the boat was bouncing around. It was really violent. I don’t know why, but we all put our life jackets on and packed into the head and waited. I don’t know why but we had all been taught that in a tornado, the bathroom is usually the safest place. It was roaring outside and it felt like the boat was lifted out of the water. We were all absolutely terrified. It seemed like an eternity but after about 10 minutes, it was over. We decided it was safe to leave the boat and we got off and looked around and there were boats upside down, the sailboat across from us had lost its mast and it landed on a catamaran. Another boat had been heaved up on a piling and had a hole in its keel. Other boats that were moored in the river were upside down. Needless to say, we were thinking how fortunate we were that none of us had been injured.

We managed to maneuver our way down the dock and the owner of the marina was at the end of the dock and said “I bet I know where you could buy a real cheap house boat right about now.” I couldn’t have agreed more at that time. Shortly after that, my husband and I took the Coast Guard course for boaters and the only thing we did right that day was waving the hands in a crisscross manner. The Coast Guard instructor got a big kick out of our story and used it to demonstrate what not to do, except for the criss-cross waving part.

2boat_0002We finally gave up our apartment and moved onto the houseboat full time. We also acquired an 18′ bow rider which we kept tied to the back of the houseboat which was nice for just going for a ride or even fishing. It was a lot of trouble to take the mother ship out. We learned a lot about boats and boating and we also learned a lot about ourselves. My husband went from a novice to quite an expert in boat repairs and parts. In self defense you have to know how to repair some of these things or it will eat you alive financially. We learned that nothing for a boat costs less then $100. The joke was that every day when I would come home from work, my husband would say, Honey, write Larry a check for $100. I finally told him that he needed to do some of these things himself if he wanted to be able to stay on this boat. We had a lot of really good times and a lot of scary times.

There are so many things that can go wrong.. storm in the middle of the night, cleat breaks loose, gotta get soaking wet and cold to fix it, but it has to be done, can’t wait til morning, west wind comes, water goes, no water under boat, can’t board boat. But on the other hand, visiting friends and family, beautiful summer nights, fishing off the stern, and sitting on the upstairs deck and watching the moon and stars.  Going to sleep at night with the gentle rock of the boat putting you to sleep and hearing the gentle waves lap against the boat.

We also met a lot of nice, interesting people. Boating people are very friendly and helpful people. We rescued many boaters during our adventures on the water and we were rescued several other times as well, but nothing as exciting and frightening as the first time. You never pass a stranded boater without offering help.

Well, after a while, I tired of not having a place to hang my “stuff”. You know, those things you have collected for years from different places and my husband and I had made a deal that when I felt I didn’t want to do it any more, we would move back into an apartment, which after 1-1/2 years we did. We kept the houseboat for a while but finally decided it was time for it to go. We finally sold the houseboat and kept the bow rider. You know they say there are two happy times in a boater’s life… when he buys the boat and… when he gets rid of it. I’m afraid I probably agree.

IHouseboatOur boat was suppose to be our retirement home, but we learned early on that boating is not for old people which within a few years we would be. It’s hard enough to keep your balance when you are young, but add the bouncing of the water and you are in trouble. It took me several months to get my sea legs and when I did I would go to work on the 21st floor of the building in which I worked and all day long my desk would sway.

bOATMy husband’s brother and his wife visited for a week and we were told that on the way home they stopped at a hotel and that even when they were seated on the john, everything was swaying back and forth. It takes some getting used to. Later we traded for a 18′ bass tracker pontoon boat which was really a lot of fun because we loved fishing. Then came the 24′ party barge which was a blast. We would gather up all our neighbors and go out at night and cruise looking for gators. You would be so surprised if you knew how many gators were on the shore of places where people ski and swim.

One thing you need to know about a pontoon boat, if you are in a hurry and need to get somewhere fast, this is not the boat for you. If you need to outrun a storm, this is not the boat for you, but that is another story for another day. On the weekends we would go to the landing with our friends and go to special events. Although that wasn’t my favorite part of boating because I hated going to the landing by boat at night. I was so afraid of having an accident.

I remember one night (when we were still living on the houseboat) we went to the landing for fireworks on the 19′ boat and we started back and there were so many boats that the river was like the tub of a washing machine. We plowed all the way back to the marina and that is a very uncomfortable position as it tends to put the nose of the boat up in the air and visibility is not very good, plus it was the darkest night I think I had ever seen. I promised God that if he got us back to the marina safely, I would never do that again, He got us back to the marina, but I did not keep my promise and we did do it again, again and again,  but each time it became less terrifying. There were many more “uh ohs” during our ownership of boats, but we also made some wonderful memories and when we look back on them, they make really good campfire stories.  Jim would still love to have a boat and we do still like to fish, but we are finding with advancing age and some of the limitations that come with it,  that probably is not a good idea.  So we sit on the shore at our apartment fishing and watch the boats go by and we say “Wouldn’t it be nice to buy a houseboat and live on it.”  Then we look at each other and laugh loud and long.

The moral of this story is “Be careful what you wish for, you may get it.”

And so the sun sets on another beautiful day on the water.



imageMy religious and spiritual upbringing began on my Mama’s lap at  Elmer Baptist Church in Statesboro, Georgia when I was 1 week old.  When I was born, my sister,  Gloria, was around 2 years old and she had  been sitting on Mama’s  lap  since  she was 1 week old.  So, when I was born, Gloria had to sit on the pew next to Mama and each and every week thereafter until I was around two years old, that is where you would find me,  on  Mama’s lap, at Elmer Baptist Church, or so I have been told.   When I was about 2, my brother Earl was born and I was then moved to the pew sitting next to my sister Gloria.  Then Judy usurped Earl and Joey usurped Judy.  My other 3 siblings, Luann, Stevie and Tommy,  were not born until we moved to Florida so they did not not get to experience our little country church or country living.  They really missed out on some great times and experiences.

As a child, I remember that church service was boring and more often than not, Gloria, Earl and I would fall asleep and end up laying down in the pew.  I remember waking up after the service and would discover on the way out that I had left my shoes under the pew. When we got a little older, we were told that was not acceptable behavior and was rude and disrespectful, so we had to stay awake and listen to what the pastor was saying.  Sometimes we would play a little game and we would each take a hymnal and we would pick an author and see how many songs he/she wrote.   As we grew older, we started doing more listening and praying and learning. We also started sitting with our friends and that was okay with Mama as long as we behaved and we were always under her watchful eye.

My sister, Gloria,  and I loved to sing and we sang often as we washed and dried the dishes at home. The pastor heard us singing in Training Union one  evening and asked if we would sing at Sunday Service and we agreed to do so.   I remember it so well and so does my sister Gloria. The song we sang was Blessed Redeemer.  We had a bad start and had to start over again and the preacher told everyone that he guessed he needed to put a pan of water and some dirty dishes in front of us to make us more comfortable.  I was so nervous that I thought I was going to be sick.   We learned Bible verses at a very early age.  I think the first one we learned was John 3:16,  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, so that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have ever lasting life”.

RubyIt is strange the things you remember as a child.  I remember when I was about 4, my brother, Charles Grady, was born and then died 3 days later.  I have never been able to determine the cause of his death but over the years heard many stories, none of which was ever verified.  Mama always blamed herself because she said she had asked Daddy to move a washtub and he never did, so like many of us impatient, independent women, she moved it herself.  She says when she moved it, she felt a muscle pull and she was convinced that somehow she had harmed the baby.  My parents had 9 children and he was the only one they had ever planned.  He was named after my Uncle Charles Peavey.  He and Aunt Lulu Mae, my Mama’s sister, had never been able to have children and they had bought all the things for him and for the nursery.  My Mama was not able to attend the funeral because she was still in the hospital.  I remember  the day of his funeral sitting in my Uncle Floyd’s Model T because I was not  allowed to go into the church.  I was scared because I didn’t know what was happening.  I saw them carry out a little coffin and go into the cemetery adjacent to the church and after a while my Daddy and aunt and uncle came back to the car.  I don’t know where Gloria and Earl were but we all ended back together at home.  We never got to see Charles Grady, but when we go back to Statesboro, I always visit his little grave.

Pretty soon, Mama came home from the hospital and life resumed. Mama was sad for a long time after that and she didn’t laugh or smile much.  Now, having lost a child of my own, I can understand her sorrow.  It takes you to a deep dark place you never want to go ever again and it takes a lot to climb out of that deep dark place and stay out.  Sometimes it feels like you are just hanging on by your fingertips and all you want to do is just give in to it and let the sorrow and despair take you.  But then your strength returns and believe me when I tell you that it takes real strength to bring yourself out of that dark pit of despair.  But with God’s help and the help of family and friends, it is possible.  Mama persevered and went on to have 5 more children who were all healthy and are still with us today.  Mama’s faith in God never wavered during all her ordeals.

I remember that my Daddy very seldom went to church.  He was a farmer and that was the only life he knew.  He was a very good father, a great farmer, hard worker and a wonderful man and took care of his family.   Although, he was a very self-conscience man, very unsure of himself and very insecure with a severe inferiority complex, which I am sure stemmed from his unfortunate childhood.  His mother died in childbirth when he was 2 years old and he had no relationship with his step-mother. All through his life, he longed for his mother until the day he died. He ultimately developed a drinking problem that plagued him for many years, much to the chagrin of my Mama.   Mama hated alcohol and when Daddy took a drink it was very upsetting to her and caused many a conflict between the two of them.  My Uncle Floyd use to make me so mad because he and Aunt Teeny would come to visit and Uncle Floyd would call Daddy “ole licker head”.  I really did not know at the time what it meant, I only knew that it was something that hurt Daddy very much.  It infuriated me and I was embarrassed for Daddy because when he would see my aunt and uncle coming up the lane, he disappeared and did not appear again until he was sure they had gone home.  He did not want to face the taunting and ridicule.  He was not a falling down drunk and never missed working and taking care of the farm.  It’s just that when he would take a drink on the weekend, he did not know when to stop.  Mama knew how to make him stop… feed him.  For some reason, when he ate, he no longer wanted to drink. I did not find out about the alcohol problem until my adulthood and it certainly explained a lot of mysteries from my childhood.image

I think one of the reasons Daddy did not like to go to church was because the pastor had embarrassed him in front of the entire congregation the first time he finally went to church, and I felt so bad and hurt for him.  Pastor had visited and asked Daddy to please come to church and, of course, Mama was always wanting him to go.  So he went this Sunday to church and at the beginning of the service the pastor called on Daddy to open the service in prayer.  I know my Daddy just about fainted from fright at the thought and he asked to be  excused and the pastor called on someone else.  I always thought the pastor did it on purpose to embarrass my Daddy and I never forgave him for that.  Even though I was still a child, I could see the look that came over my Daddy’s face and his embarrassment was plain to see.  I thought he should have been satisfied that he had gotten my Daddy to come to church.  Had he not asked my Daddy to pray, my Daddy might have come to church more but by embarrassing him, he just slammed the door on that and I don’t think Daddy ever went back to Elmer Baptist Church until later in life for funerals.   Praying is difficult sometimes even for devout Christians, so imagine what it was like for my Daddy to be thrust into the spotlight on his first visit to church. The outcome could have been so different if the pastor had just not expected so much of Daddy in that one visit to church.  Later in life, after we moved to Florida and the children had all grown up, Daddy regularly attended church with Mama until he passed away in 1994.  He was a very good man and I loved him very much.  Daddy was saved and had been baptized as a child so I know that he is in heaven and I pray that he has found the peace he sought all of his life and that he is reunited with his mother whose love and care he missed so much.

Going to church was the center of our lives.  Everything we did as children centered on the church.  Even when we were working in the fields, church was influential.  We worked long and hard and we were no different than other children.  Sometimes, we goofed off and did a lot of playing. We would be in the cotton field picking cotton and it was so hot you couldn’t spit.  So, we would have a prayer meeting in the field and Earl would get up on a crate and he would preach.  “The Lord is Good, the devil is bad”.  He was quite the preacher.  We also prayed as hard as we could for rain.  If it rained, that meant we did not have to work in the fields.  We would see dark clouds gathering in the distance and we would start praying “God let it rain, bring those rain clouds over here and pour down the rain”.  We would hear the thunder in the distance and we started laughing and one of us would say, “Well, the angels are rolling watermelons over the bridge.”  That’s what Mama and Daddy had always told us, so we believed them and it does make a pretty picture in your mind. I envisioned angels dressed in white with big fluffy wings dropping the watermelons and rolling them over an old wooden bridge, the kind of bridge that you would find in rural Georgia in the 1940s.  So we would look and listen and sometimes our prayers would be answered, sometimes not.  God works in his own time and way.  I know that the best sentence I ever heard as a child was when Daddy said, “I believe the rain has set in”.  Which we knew to mean it is going to rain for a while (hopefully several days).  When the rain had set in, we would languish in bed until 6 and then up and do our chores because the cows still needed to be milked, pigs slopped, and chickens fed.  The rest of the day we would play in the barn until Mama called us. When the morning came and the sun came out, we would grudgingly return to the fields to see what adventure was ahead of us for that day.


RubyThe most wonderful thing that can be said of a person after they have passed away, is that they lived a life that mattered and that they made a difference in the lives of others. My mother, Ruby Glisson, lived such a life and made such a difference in so many others lives. She did not find a cure for any disease, she didn’t write a best selling novel and she did not invent anything… she just mattered. She mattered to many people, both family and friends. She had an affinity for life and for children as was evidenced by her own nine children. She lost one child shortly after he was born but even in her sorrow, she continued her journey and her dedication to her family and to God. She was a Christian… a very proud Christian and was never afraid to profess her faith in God to anyone at any time. As she always said, I know where I came from, I know where I’ve been and I know where I’m going. She believed that she would be spending eternity in heaven. She was not afraid to die, but she loved living so much that she did not want to let go and she fought a very brave fight until she could no longer go on.

During the years, she told me two stories about having her own special guardian Angel. The first time the Angel appeared to her she was a child about 7 or 8. She said she woke up in the night and there was a glowing light at the foot of her bed and the Angel spoke to her and said “Don’t be afraid, you are a very special person and you will do good things.” Then the Angel disappeared. The next time the Angel appeared she was much older and she was having eye surgery. She said the Angel told her not to worry, everything would be okay. She said there was an aura of light around the doctor when he came in to talk to her and he told her she would be fine and she told him she already knew that. She felt the Angel was with her always. I truly believe the Angel was in Mama’s bedroom when she passed away and was there to take her to meet her Heavenly Father.

imageThe thing that mattered the most to Mama was her family. She loved her home and her garden and flowers. She taught Sunday school for many years and worked in the nursery at church. She loved working with children. She was proud of her family and her family was proud of her.

When Mama was a young girl, education was not stressed for women so she had never completed high school. She had always had a dream of getting her high school diploma and so at the age of 55 she returned to school and obtained it. She loved music and when she was 80 she started taking piano lessons and took the lessons for several years before her arthritis preventing her from continuing. She became pretty good at it too. Since I drove her to her lessons I started taking lessons too. She did much better than I did and I was so proud of her.

She also loved to sing and had a beautiful voice. She was always very happy natured and firm in her resolve. Besides raising her own eight children, she kept many other children who were disabled and they flourished under her care. She loved her children, their spouses, grandchildren and great grandchildren very much and baby sat and helped in raising many of her grandchildren. She took pride in every accomplishment of her children and grandchildren. They mattered to her and she mattered to them.  She had 11 siblings and she loved all of them very much (even though at times they agreed to disagree) and she was always there with a helping hand if needed. She also had many nieces and nephews who she loved dearly and who loved her back.

She had a wonderful sense of humor and even as she lay in the hospital she was often joking. After she came home from the hospital, my son, Jimmy, came to visit her and he walked into her room and said “Hey Grandma, how are you?” and she laughed and answered, “Well, you see where I am don’t you.” She could laugh at her misfortune and make you feel better just by being there.

On the last day of her life, most all of us were there and we knew that it was just a matter of time.  Hospice had been with us since we brought her home and I must say if it had not been for them, we would have been lost and we were so grateful. Also, her granddaughter, Julie, who was studying to become a nurse was there and that was of great comfort to Mama.  The last conversation I had with her, she opened her eyes and smiled and said in a very concerned voice, “Janie, what happened to me?”  I explained that she had been very ill and that she had been ill for several weeks and in the hospital and then rehab and then back to the hospital and she was home, and she said, “Well, am I going to be able to overcome it?”  And I told her, “Well, we are certainly going to try.”   Shortly thereafter, Mama passed away.  She often said she did not want to die in a cold hospital or nursing home so she did have comfort in knowing that she was at home in her bedroom when she died which is what she always wanted.  My sister, Gloria, and I were convinced that if we could get her home, we could nurse her back to health but, it soon became apparent to us, that was not going to happen.

She was loving, faithful, true and courageous.  She was the foundation of our family and she was always there for you no matter what.  I know there were times when I did not like to hear what she had to say, but that was mainly because it was the truth and as they say, “the truth hurts.”

Mama was very much loved. I think of her often and I miss her love and her presence every single day.  “Her tombstone reads, “Well Done My Good and Faithful Servant” and I think that is truly befitting.  Rest in peace Mama.  Love and kisses.  Janie


Today for some reason, I have been thinking a great deal about my childhood and one thing in particular. I just happened to drive by an area that was being developed and noticed the tree stumps and roots jutting from the earth and it brought back a powerful memory from my childhood… a place… A place that I had actually tried to erase from my memory because to me it was such an arduous time and certainly not a place that I was particularly fond of. But alas, the memory remained. This particular place was what we as children referred to as the “root patch”. Of couse, this is not what it actually was but that’s what we kids called it. In actuality it was referred to by our parents and other adults as “new ground”. This is an area filled with trees and brush and was to be cleared to make new fields to plant new crops. After it was bulldozed the debris had to be manually removed and, unfortunately, that was a job that fell to the children. Of course most of the time Mama and Daddy would be by our side helping but my sister, Gloria, and I have often theorized that the reason farmers had children was to raise their own farm hands so that they did not have to pay the help. Maybe true… maybe not… but I had always hoped deep down inside that love had something to do with it too. Any way… as hard as we worked, I always felt loved.

We spent our days during this period picking up the roots and piling them up into a pile and then they were burned. It seemed that as fast as we removed the roots, ten more replaced them. It was like the land was producing roots and the more roots you removed, the more that came back, and I guess that is why we called it the root patch. It was not a chore we looked forward to and more often than not, we would become distracted, especially if Mama and Daddy weren’t with us. We’d wander off into the woods and find a grape vine or plum tree and crawl up into the branches and eat grapes or plums until our teeth were as sharp as razors. When we were tired of eating we would swing through the branches on the vines and pretend we were Tarzan, Jane or Sheba of the Jungle. It was lots of fun until Mama and Daddy discovered that we weren’t getting much done. Eventually, the root patch got cleared… I don’t really know how… but it did and when it did, I can remember being so happy that I did not have to return to that place again. Little did I know that I would return to that place again and again to pick cotton, harvest peanuts and pick tobacco as these were the crops that replaced the roots. Certainly more profitable crops than roots, but hard work nevertheless.

And, of course, thinking about the root patch evokes other memories. Once such memory involved a bull. Getting back to the root patch you had to go through many other fields and gates and over fences. I remember this one day my older sister, Gloria, and my younger brother, Earl, and I were headed to the root patch. There was a bull in one of the pastures we had to go through and we were feeling mischeivious and decided that we needed some excitement and we would have us a bull fight. We had seen pictures and had read about how the toreadors did the bull fights and how if you waved something red in front of a bull, he would charge. So.. and my memory is a little fuzzy on this part… I think it was Earl, had on a red shirt so he took it off and was prancing around pretending he was a bull fighter and he started running around taunting this bull. He ran around a little and then he piffed the bull off. Now the word piffed is a word I made up. It means you’re a little bit pissed and a little bit miffed, but the word piffed doesn’t sound as bad as pissed. Well, anyway, he piffed the bull off and the bull kinda snorted and came at him and we all started running and the last thing I saw was Earl diving over the fence just in time to escape the horns of the bull. Thank God, the top of the fence did not have barbed wire or he would have been missing half his belly skin. It kinda taught us a lesson. If you don’t know how to bull fight, don’t mess with the bull. After that, we gave the bull some latitude and avoided his domain as we made our way back to the root patch to begin another fruitless (or that’s the way we saw it) day of hard labor.

When the work day was over and the sun would start to go down, we would begin the long trek home… avoiding the bull by the way… through the fields, over the fences and down the dirt roads, stopping along the way to pick up an unusual rock or pick some blackberries from the bush on the fence. We walked everywhere and as we were walking, the sun slowly going down, we would see and hear the most awesome sights and sounds… I can still hear and see them now… the whippoorwill singing, the lightning bugs glowing and the frogs croaking for rain and the sun turning red as it was setting on the horizon. These were the sights and sounds of a long hot southern summer day finally coming to an end for a child.


AAA-JanieI guess as you get older, you think about your childhood more and it seems to me that those memories are more vivid now than ever. I can just imagine what was going through my mother’s mind as she entered her 91st year of life and passed away shortly thereafter. She couldn’t seem to remember that I visited over the weekend or that I called her the previous night, but she remembered things from her younger days as if they happened yesterday. She remembered things that I did or said and I, quite frankly, didn’t remember them at all. If I don’t remember them, did they really happen? According to Mama, yes, they most certainly did. She remembered all the little things I did as a child such as bringing her a bouquet of yellow flowers and singing to her. That is why it saddened my heart when she failed to call me on my birthday in 2011 because this was the first time in my adult life I did not receive a telephone call from Mama singing Happy Birthday to me in her happy melodious voice. I guess she forgot and I did not have the heart to tell her she had forgotten. I guess this is what happens in your 91st year… you remember memories from your own childhood, but sometimes not your children. Most of the time she remembered but sometimes needed a little nudge to get the memory to flicker. My childhood was a pretty happy childhood as I look back on it. It certainly was not easy, but I guess it wasn’t suppose to be or so I was told. It made me the character I am today (and some would say that I am a real character).

Me-Daddy-StoopWe grew up on a farm in Statesboro, Georgia and that was all my parents knew was farming. At one time we owned a farm but most of the time we share cropped. We were part of a large family. Mama and Daddy had 8 children living and we were taught at a very early age about hard work. During the 40’s and 50’s living in rural Georgia was like living in a time warp. Not that it was bad, it was just different. When I tell my friends about it, they always say that sounds like you grew up with my great-grandmother and it makes me chuckle. We worked hard all week and every Saturday, we went into town and went to the movie. At that time there were 2 theatres in town. You could see a double feature, a serial and cartoon for $.10 cents The feature movies were most always, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Lash Larue, Tim Holt, The Durango Kid and Tom Mix. We even saw Tim Holt and his blazing six guns in person at the State Theater. We were all so excited. He was up on the stage and drew his guns from his holster and fired them (blanks), but it sounded so real to me. I remember how my heart raced. He was my hero for a long time. My favorite serials were Captain Video and Flash Gordon. The serials always ended with someone going off a cliff in a car or falling out of an airplane without a parachute, or something like that and we had to wait until the next week to find out if the hero died and, of course, he was always saved at the last minute. We lived for Saturdays. Some Saturdays, we would make the trip by horse and wagon to Wallace Brown’s store. We would have a dime each and would be able to get an ice cream cone, and all sorts of candy for a dime. Now, a dime won’t even cover part of the tax. It was such a treat because Mama would buy store bought bread (light bread as we called it) and hot dogs. These were things we very seldom had to eat and we considered them as special treats. Sometimes, if we were really fortunate, we would get a soda pop, which was the ultimate treat for all of us.

On Sunday, we always went to church in the morning and then the rest of the day we did nothing. It was the Lord’s day and it was made for resting. Then at the end of the day we went back to church for training union. We went to church on Monday night for RAs and GAs and on Wednesday night for prayer meeting. Our lives revolved around the church and its activities. Elmer Baptist Church will always have special meaning to me. That is where I found the Lord and I was baptized in Uncle Floyd’s pond. I think I was 8 or 9 at the time. I have been back to Elmer on several occassions, mostly for funerals. My little brother, Charles Grady, is buried in the graveyard beside the church and so is my little cousin, Carolyn, my Aunt Sula and Uncle Lawton, and my Aunt Teeny and Uncle Floyd, just to name a few.

Living conditions on the farm were stark as we had no running water, just a well in the backyard. There was no electricity and light was supplied by kerosene lanterns. We milked our own cows and made our own butter. We had a garden and canned and preserved all our fruits and vegetables. Mama cooked on a wood stove and I have to say she made some of the best food I have ever tasted… everything from scratch. She and my Aunt Sula were the best cooks in Georgia. Biscuits that would melt in your mouth and fried chicken nobody could rival.

I still recall with great clarity the day Mama made me go out and pick out a chicken for Sunday dinner and kill it and bring it back into the house for her to prepare. I had never done this before, but I had seen Mama do it a thousand times. I went to the yard and caught a chicken and, of course, the usual way they were killed is to wring their necks. It was not as easy as it had appeared when Mama did it. I started throwing the chicken up and down and round and round and the chicken was squawking but wasn’t dead. I think I snapped the neck part way (if there is such a thing) and I started crying because I had never inflicted harm on anyone or anything before and it was not a good feeling. I started screaming and threw the chicken to the ground. The chicken proceeded to zig zag around the yard like it was drunk. I guess that is where the expression “running around like a chicken with its head chopped off” came from. Mama heard me crying and screaming and came out and put the poor chicken out of his misery. I couldn’t even eat that chicken at dinner, (no McDonalds back then) all I could think about was its little chicken face looking up at me and how much pain I had inflicted on it. That feeling however finally went away and soon I was back to eating chicken.

There was no central air or heat, just the natural elements and a fireplace. I can remember waking up on a cold Georgia morning and we would discuss who was going to get up and build the fire in the fireplace in our bedroom. At that time, Gloria and I shared a bedroom. You know, come to think of it, I have never had a bedroom of my own. I went from sharing with Gloria for most of my childhood, then with Judy for a short period of time and then I got married and I have shared a bedroom with Jim for a little over 54  years now. But, I digress. I can still remember the coldness of the winter and gathering around the stove to keep warm and then warming up the feather bed before jumping into it at night. Oh how wonderful it was… to snuggle down into the down and fall asleep.

Morning always came too quickly and once the fires were built everyone was up and about getting ready to catch the bus for school. In the Winter, we didn’t miss school very often but the Spring and Fall were very different. We were kept home a lot to bring in the crops. Picking cotton, hoeing, picking and stringing tobacco and harvesting peanuts and other crops. Last week, I found one of my report cards from elementary school and one of the entries said “Janie is an excellent student, but she needs to attend school more regularly.” I can remember standing out in the field on a school day watching the school bus go by and waving to my friends.

Fall and early Winter were also times to stock up on meats for the winter months. The weather had to be a certain temperature in order to butcher. I will never forget the gruesome sight of “butcher day”. All of the aunts, uncles and cousins would gather and it was a social event. From what I can remember, the men would shoot the pigs in the head, then dip the bodies one by one into a vat of scalding water (to remove the hair, I guess) and then they hang them up on a hook with a pulley and would cut them from beginning to end and then start cutting the poor creatures up into parts.

The first time I saw the way sausage was made, I almost barfed. Now this next part is from a child’s memory so it may or may not be totally true, but its how I remember it. In the old days, for those of you who do not know, they took the intestines out and cleaned them up and used them for casings and then they would grind the byproducts up with a meat grinder while attaching the intestines to the mouth of the grinder and filling up the intestines with the ground substance. After filling up a certain amount, you give the intestines a twist and.. viola.. you have a sausage link and you just keep going and you have a long string of continuous links. I guess that may be why I don’t particularly care for sausage.

Most of the meat would be hung in the smoke house to cure and then be used during the lean winter months. We also make cracklins, chitlins, etc. Bet you thought these things didn’t really exist. But they do. The South is famous for its ability to take what most would consider non-useable portions of the animal and turn them into regional delicacies. Pig’s feet, hog jowls, ham hocks, cracklin’s, and chitlin’s are all part of Southern tradition . I personally will not eat these things, especially chitlins. Chitlins are basically boiled pig guts, at least that is what I remember and they stink. Cracklins are fat with a little bit of pig skin attached and when you are cooking them they produce a lot of excess fat. The cracklins were cooked in lard in Mama’s big black cast iron wash pot which sat in the middle of the back yard. It was about 15 or 20 gallons in size. Mama washed clothes in that pot, made soap in that pot and made cane syrup in that pot plus a whole bunch of other things. Come hog-killing time, they cooked cracklins in it. Now the thing I remember about cracklins is that they never did them in the house because, it didn’t smell very good, it made the house hotter than blazes and I remember Daddy saying if you weren’t careful you could burn the house down. I remember eating cracklins but I don’t remember particularly liking them. Cracklins are similar to what most of you know as “pork rinds”. Since I became an adult, I have not chosen to eat a cracklin.

Which leads me to another southern dish… turnips. I hate turnips. We always had turnips when I was growing up. Mama cooked them all the time and was always trying to give me them to me as an adult to eat or take them home to my family. I tell her Mama, I do not like turnips and she says well, you ate them all the time when you were growing up. And I tell her, that is because you made me eat them.. and that was what was to eat (again no McDonalds). In my childhood, you ate what was cooked and if you didn’t like it you either ate it or went without. Picky eaters did not exist in our family … it was not allowed.

I never will forget that weekend Jim and I went up to visit our relatives in Statesboro and stayed with Aunt Teeny and Uncle Floyd. Aunt Teeny fixed a breakfast fit for a king.. scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, biscuits, gravy, grits… Jim ate and ate. He told Aunt Teeny that those were the best scrambled eggs he had ever had. Whereupon she told him that the secret ingredient was pig brains. I thought Jim was going to upchuck right then and there. Somehow he managed to keep it together but he made sure he never ate them again. Even though they tasted good, I guess he could not get passed the mental image of what pig brains might look like.

One thing that made life on the farm tolerable was family. Especially our cousins. Even though we all worked very hard, we had a lot of fun times too. We spent many times running through the corn fields playing tag, spent time playing tin can alley, hide n seek in the barn and just so many happy memories there. Getting together on a warm summer night and eating boiled peanuts and drinking sweet tea under the mulberry tree in the back yard with the lightening bugs floating in the night air. We spent a lot of time chasing lightening bugs and putting them in jars with holes in the lids and putting them next to our beds at night, only to wake in the morning to find they had died. We decided not to capture them anymore. This is one of my most favorite memories.  Sure wish I could do that right now. My fondest dream would be to be a child again and to just let the burdens of the world be carried by someone else, preferably an adult with a sense of humor, intelligence and a good general knowledge of how to navigate this big old ball, we call the World.