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rainbowThe Bible says in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.  [1] To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: [2] A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; [3] A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; [4] A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; [5] A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; [6] A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; [7] A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; [8] A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

1) I have been reflecting on the seasons of my own life lately and I have come to some conclusions.  This is my own interpretation of these verses and they are in very simplistic terms and I in no way claim to be an expert on the Bible and hope that whoever reads this understands that.  Someone else may have a totally different interpretation.  These were verses that Mama loved and she passed that on to me.

2) A time to be born.  We have no control over when we are born.  We have no control over what gender we will be, what kind of family we are born into or where we will be born.  We are born when, what, where and who God chooses us to be.  These are all things that are in God’s hands and on his timetable.  As of this writing, I have not yet died and hope not to for many years.  I do not fear death, I only know that I love life as complicated as it might be sometimes,  and I am not ready to give us this life just yet.  I know that we don’t get to choose when it will happen, only God knows that.  I have planted many seeds some of which never came to fruition, but many have and I have reaped their many blessings; my husband, my children, my grandchildren, my entire family, my husband’s entire family and the many friends I have made over the years.  They have all been blessings in my life.  My life abounds in blessings.  My basket is full.

3)  A time to kill… I have never killed anyone or anything, unless you count the bugs I have squished beneath my feet and the chicken whose neck I partially wrung.  Mama had to finish the job because I was hysterical.  I have never forgotten that little chicken and it gave me the most awful feeling which I have never forgotten.  I have never been able to understand how one can do that.  I understand that many die in battle and killing for whatever reason started when Cain slew Abel. There have been many occasions when I have healed from some physical ailment or from some type of emotional hurt.  I have been broken down and I have been built up again to come back stronger.

4) I have cried many tears both in absolute sorrow and happiness. I have mourned the death of my first born child, Debbie, but I danced joyfully at my son’s wedding.

5) A time to cast stones and a time to gather stones could probably be interpreted in many ways.  To me, it sort of reminds me of the root patch from my childhood.  The ground would be plowed and we would remove the roots and stones and when they were all cleared and the ground was cultivated, my Daddy would sow the seeds and then we would harvest the crop.  I have embraced life and a certain way of living and all that it has offered me and I have refrained from embracing things or people who try to influence my life in the wrong way.

6) I have gotten many things, some that I really wanted and needed and others which I thought I wanted or needed but really found that I had no use for.  I have also lost many things, some valued, some not. There have been many times when I felt I had lost my way but I found my way back to where I needed to be.  It could also be about letting go of something that is holding you back or pulling you down.

7) I have been torn by emotions and I have been mended and restored. There are times when I held my tongue because I knew if I spoke it would do irreparable damage.  But there were also times when I spoke and it was well received.

8) I have loved much and I have hated little.  Hate is a powerful, destructive emotion.  I have watched it destroy people, families and friendships.  I can’t really say I have never really hated anyone.  It is an easy word to say but can be powerful when it hits your heart.  I do remember telling my mother that I hated her when I was a teen, but I didn’t mean it.  I also remember my daughter telling me she hated me when she was in her teens, but she told me she didn’t mean it.  It is an easy word to roll from the tongue when you are angry and frustrated. There are many people and things I dislike but do not hate.

As for war, it seems it has been around in some shape or form since Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden.  Through the years the faces, countries, uniforms and weapons have changed, but the objective is the same.  There is so much destruction of property, loss of many lives and the total ruination of countries, and at times it is hard to understand and see what purpose it serves.  It seems that when war is over, things are no different than before in some instances and that it was all for nothing.  Our losses seem much greater than any gains we had imagined. This Country had always defended Freedom.  We have always stepped in when our allies were in trouble and we have sent our young men and women into battle and many have given the supreme sacrifice…  their lives… or in some cases their limbs, and their minds.  They come back home having witnessed and heard things that we only see in movies.  To us it is make believe and we can’t comprehend the enormity of it all.  The human brain is just not programmed for the violence and atrocities of war.  That is why it is so difficult for me to comprehend the newest threat against our freedoms,,, and that is ISIS.  they seem to have no regard for human life.  But, how can we expect that they will when they have no regard for their own lives, the lives of their children and women.  It is a badge of honor for them to give their lives for their cause.

And the final, PEACE.  Will we ever be able to achieve it?  I certainly hope that will happen, but we have many obstacles to overcome before we do.  There have been times of peace during my peacelifetime, but they do not seem to last.   All we can do is keep living a good life,  helping our fellow man, teaching our children the difference between right and wrong and leading them by example.  If everyone did this, perhaps someday we could have peace. I don’t imagine this will happen, but I pray that it does and will hope and pray that my small contribution will help to facilitate that.  All I ask is that God bestow his blessings on everyone and that each of us strive to be the best that we can be.


imageI met Jim Conrad in September, 1960 at Skateland Skating Rink in Jacksonville, Florida.  Skating was my passion and my friends and I spent most of our time at the rink, mostly weekends.  I had graduated from high school and was working as a medical secretary at Prudential Insurance.  One night this guy skated up to me and said he wanted me to introduce him to my friend, Peggy.  I skated over to Peggy and told her this guy wanted to meet her and she said she wasn’t interested.  So I skated back over and told him and he skated off.  A little later during the Florida Reel, the whistle blew and there he was again.  We skated for a minute and he noticed my engagement ring and we talked until the whistle blew and he moved on.

The next week we met again and we sat and talked for a while.  He told me he was from Salem, Ohio, in the Navy and was stationed at Cecil Field and had just gotten back from a med cruise.  We kept seeing each other at the skating rink and after about 3 weeks, one night he asked if he could take me home and I said yes.  I had decided that I was attracted to him in a way I could not explain.  It was the first time I had doubted my engagement. On the way home, we went the long way home and we stopped at a red light and he kissed me.  I had never been kissed like that and it was like all the bells went off.  We must have kissed a thousand times that night trying to catch every red light we could.  It was then that I determined that I was not in love with my fiancé and that I would have to break the engagement.  In the meantime, Jim got transferred to Key West, Florida and we began a long distance romance.  We decided to get married and we met with some resistance from my family, but in the end, everything worked out.  Jim’ s parents came down from Ohio for the wedding and I remember how scary it was to meet them. In November, 1960, Jim and I were married and we began a lifelong adventure, starting in Key West, Florida.

We left on the honeymoon to Key West right after the wedding and this was also where we would be living.  We have a good chuckle about it now because it took us 3 days to get there because every time the sun would get in our eyes, we would get a motel room.   When we first arrived in Key West, we got a little apartment in town. We had an upstairs apartment with a pullout bed in the living room and a bathroom so small it was hard to sit down and close the door. The biggest room was the kitchen/dining area with jalousied windows on all sides.  It was a very pleasant room.  The thing we liked most about the apartment was the balcony.  For entertainment we would sit on the balcony and guess what kind of car would come around the corner next.  There was a little store across the street and we would get ice cream at night when we were sitting on the balcony.  We sat there sometimes for hours just talking.

We applied for Navy housing and after about 3 months it came through.  We moved into a 2 bedroom duplex, which was an old Quonset hut divided into 2 apartments.  The Quonset huts were old and roach infested.  It was a daily battle between us and the roaches, but in the end we won.  We made a lot of friends on base and had a lot of fun.  About that same time, I became sick with a UTI and the doctor told me that I was pregnant.  We was surprised to say the least, as this was not anything we had talked about.  The next six months were miserable for me.  I was nauseated all the time and the mere smell of food would set it off.  I often wondered why they called it morning sickness because I was sick it seemed 24 hours a day.  Time passed and I grew bigger each day, the morning sickness went away at about 8 months, but the heat was still oppressive.  Finally one day my water broke and Jim rushed me to the hospital.  He was so afraid the baby would come in the car and we would not make it to the hospital in time.  28 hours later, our first child was born.  It was a case of hurry up and wait.

imageDeborah Marie Conrad was born on July 30, 1961 in Key West, Florida at the U.S. Naval Hospital to 2 people who were barely through being babies themselves. Jim and I were barely 18 when we fell madly in love and got married. What is so ironic about this is that my plans had never included having children. Having grown up with 4 brothers and 3 sisters almost all of whom were younger than me, I had my fill of taking care of, diapering and feeding children and had no intentions of ever having any of my own. Unfortunately, caring for ones siblings does not prepare you for caring for your own child that you will be responsible for 24/7, 7 days a week. I loved all of my siblings but I did not hold total responsibility for them, and sometimes I resented having been thrust into the caretaker responsibility. There is a lot more to raising children than changing a diaper or feeding them.

We made some wonderful friends in Key West, people from all over the country.  They were all Navy people and all had their own stories. The one thing we all had in common was… poverty.  We were all in the same boat.  At the end of the month everyone would be out of food and money and we would all take what was in our cupboards and make what we could and then put it on the community table and have a feast.  We also would cram as many people into a car that would fit and go to the drive in movie because it was a dollar a carload.  I hate to admit it, but sometimes people even got in the trunk.  Not a good idea.  We also played a lot of cards, canasta , pinochle, 500 and euchre.  We usually had 2 tables of 4 and we would start playing around 8 in the evening, we would put all the children to bed, and we would play all night.  When you are young, nothing is impossible.

We remained in Key West until 1962, at which time Jim’s tour in the Navy was to be complete.  Unfortunately his tour was extended because of the Cuban crisis in 1962.  Debbie and I returned to Jacksonville, Florida and I got an apartment and then Jim was discharged after a few months and we settled into civilian life.  Jim got a job at General Foods in Jacksonville, and I got a job as a secretary. We bought a cute little house and settled into life.  Mama kept Debbie while we worked and she loved being with Grandma and Grandpa, but she was always happy to see us when we picked her up.  Grandma would take her shopping and she would take her hand and say “Hurry up Grandma, I have to show you something.”  She became very close to Grandma and Grandpa Glisson.

When Debbie was about 4, Jim decided he wanted to return to Ohio where he was raised and he went to Ohio ahead of Debbie and me to get a job.  His brother lived in Columbus so he stayed with his brother.  We stayed behind to sell the house and tie up loose ends.  The house was sold and we stayed with my parents while Jim arranged for an apartment in Columbus.  Debbie and I left Jacksonville in 1965 and took the train to Ohio.  I was terrified to be on my own with this precious little child who was depending on me to take care of her.  I had never traveled any further north than my hometown in Statesboro, Georgia.  Thank goodness she was too young to know how scared and afraid I was, she just trusted me to take care of her. Unbeknownst to me, I was pregnant with our second child at the time.  Needless to say, I barfed all the way to Ohio.  Had it not been for the kindness of a young sailor in our car, I don’t know how I would have managed.  He took care of Debbie and watched her for me and she had no idea what was going on.  She loved the train ride, me… not so much.  I always said if I had to return to Florida, I would walk before taking the train.  That’s how bad it was.

The trip lasted an eternity and it seemed that the train stopped at every little podunk town between Florida, and Ohio.  It took several days and we pulled into Columbus, Ohio late in the evening and I did not know where to go or what to do.  I looked out into the mass of people and finally saw Jim’s face and it was like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders.  Debbie was happy to see Daddy and so was I.  We got our bags and made our way to the car and started to our new home, pulling over several times so I could barf.

The next few weeks were a blur to me as I continued to be ill.  I was finally able to see a doctor and he advised that I was pregnant.  It seemed to me that pregnancy always occurred at the most inopportune times when you were the least prepared and were financially unsound.  Of course it has often been said that if you waited until you could afford children, you would never have them.

After being in Columbus for 2 months, Jim decided he wanted to return to Salem, Ohio, where he had grown up.  We stayed with a childhood friend for a couple of weeks and then rented a house across from the park.   Jim found a job at Electric Furnace as an overhead crane operator.  Meanwhile, I continued to be sick with the baby due in March, 1966.  I was so homesick for my family that I thought I would never be happy in this place.  The first winter I thought I would freeze to death.  This southern blood was so thin and so were my clothes.  We were not up to this kind of cold.  Through Jim’s work, we made friends and also reconnected with some of Jim’s friends from childhood.   Debbie and I began learning our way around town and learned the best places to shop.  We were shopping one day in November and we looked out the window and it was snowing. Neither of us had ever seen snow and it was so exciting for both of us. We were holding hands and dancing around and the other shoppers thought we were nuts.  After you live up north for a while, you learn to dislike the snow and cold.  It took a while for me but after falling on my backside so many times out in the snow, I began to have a dislike for it.  And, don’t get me started about driving in it.  I could write a book about my driving experiences and mishaps in the snow.  But, not Debbie, she loved it.  Snow is beautiful until the world wakes up and starts moving around in it and it becomes gray slush.

Salem, Ohio is a very nice little town that I grew to love so much and made so many dear friends. James Frederic Conrad, Jr., was born March 19, 1966, and Debbie was completely taken with him.  She loved being his big sister and helped me out so much.  Pretty soon, Debbie started kindergarten and she was a really smart child.  She did well and continued to prosper and grow.  The years pass quickly and on September 5, 1968, Michael Andrew Conrad, was born.  He was welcomed by his sister and brother and life continued for our little family.  I got a job in a law firm in Salem and continued working there until we were transferred in 1978.  The children grew and soon Debbie was a teenager, with all the little troubles that come with that. She went to her first dance with her boyfriend, Jim, and looked so beautiful in her dress.  She had her heart broken several times and she broke several hearts herself and managed to survive it all.

She was not a perfect child and I remember there were times when we did not get along.  One such memory I have was standing in the kitchen with her having an argument about something I would not let her do, and she looked me straight in the eye and said “I hate your guts.” In a flash my hand was out and as I heard the crack of my hand meet her face, I was suddenly in my Mama’s kitchen and we were having the same argument.  I looked Mama straight in the eye and I said, “I hate your guts” and in a flash, Mama’s hand was out and as her hand met my face, I saw the hurt in her eyes.  I stormed into my room and cried and waited for Mama to come in and tell me she was sorry for slapping me and so I could tell her I did not hate her.  Mama never came into my room and I never told her I didn’t hate her and I cried myself to sleep.  We never ever talked about it and the next day and ever day until I reached adulthood, we acted as if nothing had happened.  I was able to express to Mama later how much I loved and respected her.

Debbie stormed into her room and slammed the door and I could hear her crying.  I waited for a while and composed myself and decided I could not just leave it the way Mama and I had left it.  So I knocked on her door and went in.  She was laying on her bed sobbing and I knelt down beside her and stroked her hair and told her how sorry I was that I had slapped her face.  She put her arms around me and said she didn’t really hate me that she had just been angry.  We talked for a while and then hugged and kissed and then said goodnight. Unlike the night I cried myself to sleep, this night I was able to sleep really well.

James-ConradFamilyIn 1976, we bought a nice house in the country and the children loved it.  Jim had changed jobs and had entered the retail business with Fisher Big Wheel. It meant changing schools and communities but everyone did fine.  The kids were involved in so many activities, the boys in baseball and football and Debbie in gymnastics, piano and dance.  Debbie also volunteered as a candy stripper at the Salem Hospital.  She decided she wanted to go into radiology when she graduated so she attended the Vocational School to become an X-ray technician. She really loved it and made many friends.  Her best friend was Jeannine Render and they were so close and spent a lot of time together, sleepovers, movies and other activities.  Debbie was a junior in high school and went to the junior senior prom with her boyfriend, Donnie.  She was so beautiful and really nervous but after Donnie came to pick her up, she was more relaxed and they had a wonderful time.  I told her about the first prom I went to and how I was so nervous I had to leave the dance floor and rush to the ladies room and barf.  That seemed to make her more at ease.  She thought it was funny.

Debbie loved animals and she had a German shepherd who she named Sugar.  Sugar got her name because she ate a whole pan of brownies when we left her at home by herself.  I thought chocolate was bad for dogs, but other than a lot of pooping, she seemed to have no ill effects from it.  Sugar loved being outside and she would come home with rabbits and one day, much to our dismay, she had an encounter with a skunk.  That was one battle she did not win and we didn’t discover it until she came into the house. It took a lot of tomato juice to eliminate the smell and we had to keep her tied outside for a few days.  That was when we decided she would have to be put on a leash chain so she could not leave the yard.  She always slept in Debbie’s room and Debbie really missed her.  Soon the smell dissipated and she was allowed back in the house.

imageOn Monday, May 27, 1978, it was the Memorial Day holiday and we attended a picnic with friends and we all had a wonderful time. Swimming, playing ball and eating lots of good food and visiting with good friends.  We came home so tired and got everything ready for school and work the next day.  Tuesday, May 28, 1978, the actual Memorial Day, was just like any other day.  The boys got ready for school and caught the bus.  Debbie got ready for school and she looked so cute.  She was wearing a pink tee shirt and Gloria Vanderbilt jeans and pink tennis shoes.  She caught her bus and Jim and I went our respective ways to our jobs.  I had lunch with a couple of friends, Bonnie Clark and Dorothy Hendricks, at a local restaurant. We were sitting there eating and all of a sudden the most horrible feeling came over me and I thought I was going to cry.  They asked me what was wrong and I couldn’t explain the feelings I was overcome with.

We finished lunch and I went back to the office and everyone was still out.  After a few minutes, the phone rang and it was someone asking for Mrs. Conrad.  I answered this is she.  The woman said you need to go to the hospital, your daughter has been in an accident.  I asked if Debbie was okay and they replied that they didn’t have any details I just needed to go to the hospital.  I couldn’t understand how she could be in an accident because she was suppose to be in school.  I jumped into my car all the while praying that everything would be ok and that maybe she had a broken arm or leg.  Meanwhile, Jim had also been called but it took him longer to get there because he was in another town.   I got to the hospital and went into the ER and told the nurse who I was and everyone in the ER froze and looked at me.  I could tell by the way they looked at me that everything was not okay.  She put her arm around me and said come with me and led me into a room and asked me to have a seat.

In a few minutes the door opened and a man who I knew to be the county coroner stepped in and sat down.  He started talking to me about my daughter and that she had red hair.  My heart soared because I knew they had made mistake because my daughter had dark brown hair.  I said that’s not my daughter.  My daughter does not have red hair.  As quickly as my heart soared, it plummeted to earth when he said your daughter has dark brown hair and was wearing a pink tee shirt and jeans.  I thought my heart was going to explode and then he said I am very sorry to have to tell you this, but your daughter died in an automobile accident this morning.  At that moment, time stood still and the sound that came out of my mouth was a sound that came from the depths of my soul and in that moment, I wanted to die.  I have never felt such devastation as I did that day and I pray to God I never feel that way again.  They kept trying to sedate me and I kept refusing.  I wanted to be able to know what I was doing and what was going on.  Jim arrived at that time and he knew as soon as he saw me that Debbie was gone.  He was devastated but he kept his composure somewhat because I had definitely lost mine.  I managed to call my office and spoke to my friend, Karen Elsner, and told her and within minutes, she was by my side.  Meanwhile, other friends and family arrived and identification was made and then there was nothing left to do but go home and the funeral director would come out to our house so we could make the arrangements.  We got into our car and drove home in silence and we looked at each other and said what are we suppose to do now?

imageWe also learned that Debbie’s best friend, Jeannine, had died in the crash.  We had totally forgotten that Debbie’s class was having a hands-on day at the hospital.  They were suppose to go on a bus but some of them went in cars.  Jeannine has just gotten her drivers license a couple of weeks before and her parents let her drive to school that day and unbeknownst to us,  Debbie was allowed to ride with her.  We had signed a permission slip but not for riding in a car.  They were coming into town on a narrow, paved 2 lanned country road with low shoulders.  Due to her inexperience, Jeannine kept going off the side of the road and according to the people in the car behind them, did this several times.  The last time she over corrected and lost control of the car and went into the on-coming lane and hit a semi-truck head on.  Needless to say, we were told that both girls died on impact.  I later learned from the accident report that Debbie took her last breath in the arms of an Ohio State Trooper.  I was actually relieved to read this because I knew then that she had not been alone when she died and I thank that person for holding her in his arms her last minutes on this earth.

The news spread throughout the community and a kind neighbor went to the school to pick the boys up to make sure they didn’t hear about the accident from someone else.  The neighbor brought them home and we sat them down and told them what had happened.  They really did not grasp the situation and I don’t think they knew what to do either.  Jimmy was 10 and Mike was 8.  They were bewildered.  The next few days were a blur and the task of calling our families and telling them was very difficult.  My mother was told and she collapsed.  She had taken care of Debbie in the early years and every summer after she was 8, Debbie flew to Florida to spend the Summers with Aunt Gloria and Uncle Carl and Grandma and Grandpa Glisson.  They were very close and corresponded regularly.

Now it’s time to make funeral arrangements.  It is very ironic that the week before, Jim had gone to St. Petersburg with his mother and father to his grandfather’s funeral.  He came home and said that Grampy had been cremated and they had a memorial service and how touching it was.  Debbie piped up and said  ” when I die, I want to be cremated too.”  We certainly had never expected to be the ones to fulfill her wishes.  She was suppose to bury us.  She was suppose to grow up, graduate, go to college, marry, have children and live a happy productive life.

Family arrived and friends stopped by and my sister, Gloria and my sister-in-law, Sandy took over.  Jim and I were both on auto-pilot and the days were just a blur.  They did so much to help us get through everything. On a previous visit we had been reminiscing and I had told them that when I was a child and did not feel well, Mama would always give me an orange crush soft drink and how it always made me feel better.  They went into town one day to shop and when they can back they had brought me  a six pack of orange crush to help me feel better.  I was quite touched by that one act of love and kindness.

Debbie’s memorial service was held in the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Salem and it was a very touching ceremony.  All of her school friends were there and they were quite affected by both deaths.  Debbie’s favorite Christian song was sung, What a Friend We have In Jesus, and when I hear that song now, it brings tears to my eyes.  After the service we go back home and family and friends stop by and we have so much food we could feed an army.  Then slowly everyone starts leaving and my family from Florida had come up and stayed in our motor home and it was time for them to leave and it was hard to say goodbye.  Jim’s family also started leaving and pretty soon, the only ones there besides me, Jim and the boys, was my sister, Gloria.   Her flight didn’t leave until the next day and it was very comforting to have her stay for another day.  We make plans to dispose of the extra food and clean up and the next day, my sister departed.  Her presence had been the one stabilizing force for me during this ordeal.  The boys went back to school and Jim and I found we were alone for the first time since the accident.  We both wandered aimlessly about, not really knowing what to do.  We just went through the motions and the days passed and finally, we both decided it was best for both of us to return to our jobs.  It had been 3 weeks.  It was hard at first because every time someone would come into my office, they would be so kind and I would end up crying and having to leave the room.  Luckily for me, my boss, Mr. Kendall, was a very kind man and he was very supportive during this time.   As the days and months passed, I was able to control my emotions better and life just continued.  People stopped dropping by and everything appeared to return to normal. I had to do a lot of pretending just so I wouldn’t make others uncomfortable.

I had often heard that there are stages of grief you go through and I can attest to that fact.  Disbelief was the first one I experienced, I just couldn’t believe this had happened to us.  When asked “why me”, the minister asked “why not you, are you someone special?”  Well, yes, I thought  I was.  Things like this didn’t happen to us, only other people. Then came denial.  I use to lay in bed at night and pretend that Debbie was on a date and I was waiting to hear her come in the door, and, of course, she never did.  But, the time would pass and I would fall asleep and then morning would come and reality would sink in.  Then I became angry, angry at her and angry at God for taking my child and angry because I knew deep in my heart she was not coming back. After that…. acceptance… that moment when you realize that it is what it is, you can’t change it and no matter how much you cry or lament your loss, she is now in the hands of God.

It took me a long time to get to acceptance but I realized I had when one night I had a dream.  I dreamed it was snowing and Debbie and I were walking down the street arm-in-arm and the snowflakes were big and fluffy and the only sound was the crunching of snow beneath our feet.  We were talking and we stopped and I turned and said to her, “Debbie, when are you coming home?” And she gently took my hand and looked me in the eye and said, “Mom, I am never coming home.  I am in my new home and I am very happy where I am.”  With that said, we continued walking arm-in-arm not talking, the only sound being the snow crunching beneath our feet.  Then, I woke up and for the first time in a long time, I was at peace.  I have so wanted to have that dream again, but never have, but I believe that is when I came to terms with the tragedy of her death.

It has been 37 years since Debbie died and there has not been a single day that she hasn’t crossed my mind in some way or another, a song, a smell, a name, all of these things are reminders of a part of my life that was such a long time ago.  There is a song that Kenny Chesney sings that sums it all up for me, Who You’d Be Today, and I often wonder that very thing.  In my mind’s eye, she will remain forever young.  The pain has dulled somewhat, but her memory still burns bright and will stay with me always till we meet again.


imageMy Daddy, Virgil Earl Glisson, was born in Statesboro, Georgia on July 29, 1916 to Joseph Paul Glisson and Carrie Bell Futch.  He had a very hard childhood which haunted him throughout his life. His mother died in childbirth when he was 3 years old and he would forever long for the tender touch of his mother.  After his mother died, Grandpa Glisson remarried and I am told that on their wedding night things were not quite what they appeared and the marriage did not work out.  Soon after, Grandpa made the wife leave and life was hard on all the children.  It was rumored that the new wife put ground glass in the children’s food in an attempt to get rid of them.  Daddy has 7 siblings, Rufus, Bertha, Beatrice, Janie Ernestine, Lawton, Willy, who died as a child, and Alvareen, who was pregnant at the time, and who was pummeled to death by an abusive husband.  Unclear to me is why he suffered no consequence for his actions, but I assume it was the fact that it was a rural, backward area and women were possessions and in most instances of no value.  They were to produce heirs and farm workers and cook, clean and generally take care of the home and husband, whatever that required doing.

In that day and place, education was not important and Daddy was taken out of school when he was in 3rd grade to work on the farm.  Grandpa was a ruthless father and made life difficult for his children. Daddy survived his childhood and grew to be a man, continuing to work on the farm with his father and siblings.  He met my mother when he went into town one day to see Mama’s cousin.  He took a liking to Mama and she returned the affection, and on February 19, 1939, they were married.  Daddy and Mama lived in town and settled into a nice little house where in 1940, Mama gave birth to their first child, Gloria Jean.  She was their pride and joy and kept them busy.  In 1942, their 2nd child, Clara Janie, was born and Earl, Jr. was born in 1944, shortly after which Daddy was drafted into the Army.  He was not gone long however as somehow Mama got him a hardship discharge.  I remember when he came home and this man in a uniform knocked at the door and Mama was crying and so happy.  We all got dressed up and I remember we walked downtown and strolled about.

Daddy did not like living in the city, so after a while he returned to the farm to do the only thing he knew how to do, farming.  Mama had never envisioned being a farmer’s wife, but she soon took to it and did everything she had to do.  As children, we learned at an early age the value of hard work and what it took to achieve goals.  Daddy was an excellent farmer and did well.  We learned how to pick cotton, plant, pick, string and hand tobacco, and everything else that needed done on the farm.  We learned a lot in childhood that would follow us throughout our lives.

The only downfall Daddy had was alcohol.  Mama always said he was a ladies man and really knew how to cut a rug (dance).  He also love to call square dances.  One night he went into town with Mama’s sister’s husband and never came home.  The next morning my aunt came out and told Mama that Daddy and my uncle were in jail.  Mama had to go into town and get him out.  Seems that they both had too much to drink, had gotten into a fight with some other fellas and a brawl ensued and they all got thrown in the pokey.  Well, she got him out of jail and he walked a fine line after that.

Mama hid the drinking from us until we were older and we kinda figured things out.  She didn’t want us to think badly of Daddy, but it answered a lot of questions I had.  I remember Daddy went into town with a neighbor on a business matter and he returned a few hours later and the neighbor dropped him off at the end of the pecan-lined lane leading up to the house.  We were all out in the yard with Mama raking leaves and Mama looked up the lane and saw Daddy weaving back and forth.  She threw down the rake and ran into the house crying.  When Daddy saw that happen, he started running and went into the house after her just a laughing and telling her he was just funning around with her.  He never did that again.  I don’t mean he didn’t drink again, but that he never pretended he was drunk again.

 After buying the farm and the passage of a few years, somehow my father and mother lost the farm and we were back to share cropping.  My mother told me once what happened and it broke her heart, but I will leave that part out.  She loved that house and I remember it as being beautiful.  We moved several times during those years. As the years passed, our family continued to grow with the birth of Charles Grady, who only lived for a few days.  I wrote about Charles Grady in another chapter.   Then Judy and Joey were born and it was suspected that my father possibly had some sort of lung disease or TB.   The doctor told him he needed to leave the farm and do something other farming.  Mama was happy sInce all of Mama’s family had already migrated to Florida.  Mama, and Daddy very reluctantly, moved to Florida to begin a life with which Daddy was very unfamiliar.  After the move to Florida, our family continued to grow.  Luann, Stevie and Tommy were born.  

This was a new experience for all of us because we had always lived in the country and that was all we knew.  Daddy was a very insecure man with a huge inferiority complex.  He was a little paranoid and would not eat in public because he thought people were watching him eat.  He was also a very jealous man as far as Mama was concerned.  Mama walked a fine line all of her married life because of that jealousy.  She was afraid to speak to a man for fear of a scene from Daddy.

Daddy had a really hard time finding a job after we got to Jacksonville.  I remember a salesman knocked on the door one day and my sister, Gloria, answered the door.  He was selling cemetery plots and wanted to know if we were interested.  My sister matter-of-factly told him that, no not right now but to check back in a couple of months because if Daddy didn’t find a job soon, we were all going to starve to death.  We knew even as children that in order to survive you had to work.

2boat_0003Daddy finally found a job working at a bakery.  He worked there many years and became supervisor of his department before he retired.  I loved it when he was in the cinnamon roll department.  He used to bring them home and we all loved them.  He never ate them and he said he didn’t care if he ever saw another cinnamon roll for the rest of his life.  He retired on disability when one day his hand got caught in the machinery and he lost part of his hand and 3 fingers.  They were able to save his thumb and index finger but he was unable to perform his job.  After he retired, time became Daddy’s worst enemy.  He had time to increase his drinking habit, time to sit around and feel sorry for himself and time to worry about Mama’s fidelity.   He worked around the house and kept things in good repair under Mama’s watchful eye.  One day he climbed on the roof to make repairs and fell off breaking his arm.  Mama thought he’d had a nip or two before climbing up on the roof.  He said not, but she begged to differ.

In 1982, Daddy suffered a massive heart attack.  We were living in Ohio at the time so we made the trip to Jacksonville by car with the 3 children because he wasn’t expected to live. He had open-heart surgery and they punctured a lung and his entire body swelled up like a balloon.  He managed to overcome all his difficulties and went home after several weeks in the hospital.  It was a long road back for him, but Mama took good care of him.  He didn’t like the food he had to eat.  He was a meat and potatoes man and loved salt.  This was at about the time chlolesterol became a big deal and Mama was determined to save him.  She made him walk with her every day.  One day as they were getting ready to walk, Daddy said Ruby, I don’t feel like walking today.  She was already out the door and turned to him and said, Virgil, you don’t walk, you don’t eat.  Since food was a big deal to Daddy,  he meekly followed her out the door and walked.  He never tried that again.

In 1984, we relocated our family to Florida to be closer to my family and for a change of climate.  Daddy and Mama had settled into a routine and Mama continued keeping children to earn extra money, most of them being grandchildren.  This went on for a time and Daddy reverted back to his old ways and had another heart attack.  It took a lot of rehab and Mama controlling his diet for Daddy to make a comeback, but he did.  He became more agreeable about taking care of himself and did what Mama told him to do.  He stopped drinking and started going to church with Mama on Sunday.  Nothing pleased her more than that one thing.

One night he was sitting in the living room and Mama was in the kitchen and she heard him call her name.  She went into the living room and he was laying on the floor.  She called 911 and they took him to Shands.  The doctor said he had suffered sudden death syndrome and that he would not make it.  He was in ER for 2 days.  We were all there constantly talking to him, and sometimes just sitting there silently holding his hand and praying.  On the third day he regained consciousness and was moved to CCU.  He was in the hospital for 3 weeks and recovered and went home.  He had been given another chance.

He started failing in other ways and seemed to have the beginnings of dementia and the jealously he had always had about Mama returned and he became paranoid that every man was after her, no matter his age.  This became very distressing for Mama and she had to be so careful.  On December 3, 1994, Mama and I took Daddy to the ER because he had been so sick for a week and just wasn’t getting any better.  The doctor immediately decided to admit him because he had congestive heart failure and pneumonia and they needed to drain some of the fluid from his lungs.  They started his treatment immediately and on Sunday he seemed to be better.

On Monday, December 5, 1994,  I did not make my usual visit to the hospital on my way to work as I had gotten a bad cold and did not want to expose him to more germs.  On my way home, I called him to see how he was doing.  He answered the phone and said he couldn’t talk because the nurse was in his room doing something.  I went home and about an hour later, I got a call from my brother, Earl.  He said they had called and said Daddy was not doing well and that they had to have permission from Mama to administer a particular drug.  It would either work or he would die.  Mama gave permission and they administered the drug.  A little later the hospital called and said we all needed to come to the hospital because Daddy was dying.

Most of us made it to the hospital in time to say goodbye.  When my turn came, I kissed Daddy on the cheek and I whispered into his ear how much I loved him and what a wonderful father he had been.  It was one of the most difficult things I have ever done.  Saying goodbye to a loved one is heart-wrenching  and touches the depths of one’s soul, but, having the opportunity to say goodbye… priceless.



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.



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.


imageI am the second born of nine children.  I have an older sister, Gloria Jean.  She was named after a movie star, Gloria Jean Schoonover.  In her youth she was called GlorJean because in the south everyone always had a double name… you know like Jimbob and Billybob… and when someone said it they just kinda ran the name together.  Everyone always called me Clarjane (Clara Janie).  Now, I call her Glo Glo and she is my best friend.  It wasn’t always this way, as I was convinced as we were growing up that she was always trying to kill me, or so my child mind thought at the time.  My sister was always a very inquisitive and bright child and, unfortunately, I was always the one she used to prove (or disprove) her theories.

One night my father and my sister were sitting at the fireplace and my father had the poker in the fire stirring the wood around and he explained to her that if you left the poker in the fire long enough that it would turn white and that it would be a cold heat.  A few nights later we were both sitting on the hearth watching the flames flicker at the fireplace, and, of course, I had not been privy to the conversation she had with my father several nights before, then she calmly placed the poker in the fire and let it remain there until the poker turned white.  Whereupon, she then proceeded to remove the poker from the fire and place it on my leg and calmly turned to me and said “Is that hot?” I let out a scream that brought Mama running to see what harm had befallen her precious second child.  As soon as it was determined that I would live, Mama took me into the kitchen and put some kind of ointment on my leg and pretty soon, it blistered up.  It was quite painful and took several weeks to heal.  To this day, I still have the white scar on my leg where Glo Glo placed the poker and I delight in showing it to her sometimes.

The second such incident took place in the garden.  I think I was about 7 at the time and we were harvesting the vegetables and getting things ready for Mama to cook and we were in the pepper rows at the time.  Glo Glo comes to the row of hot peppers and she had read somewhere that the juice in a pepper was very hot.  So she is going along the row picking the peppers and she asked me to come over to where she was so she could show me something and I trotted over to her like a little puppy to see what she had.  What she had folks, was a red hot pepper.  She said “bend down and look at this”.  I should have known what was coming… but you know that little voice that develops inside of your head that tells you not to do something… well, apparently the little voice had not yet developed in my head and so I bent over to look and as I did she proceeded to break it in half and the juice from the pepper shot into my eyes… blinding me and she says “Is that hot?.  Again, the screams ensued and Mama came running to find out what harm had come to her precious stupid second child.  Mama took me inside and rinsed my eyes with clear water from the well and continued to do that for a while.  Pretty soon, Mama was convinced that I was not blinded for life and that everything would be ok.  The pepper incident did get me out of work for a while but after it was determined that I was not maimed for life, I was sent back to the garden.

The third such incident occurred out in the yard one summer day when I was about 8 years old.  Glo Glo had decided to build something.  For the life of me I can’t remember what, but the end result was that she asked me to hold onto this stake while she used a brick to hammer it into the ground.  And again… still no little voice.  I knelt on the ground and held the stake while she proceeded to hammer the stake into the ground, or at least that is what was suppose to happen.  Ooops… instead of hitting the stake, she hit me in the head with the brick.  Again, the screams ensued and Mama came running to find out what harm had come to her precious really, really, stupid second child.  She soon determined that I was not seriously injured and I just had a big bump on my noggin.  It hurt and ached for a couple of days but soon I was as good as new and ready for the next incident.

We now laugh about these incidents and the amazing thing to me is that no matter how we were as children or teenagers, today there is nothing my sister would not do for me, nor I for her.  A perfect example of this was when I wore her cashmere sweater to school one day and she saw me in the hall and she grabbed me and told me that if she ever caught me wearing her clothes again, she would rip them off my back right there in the hall in front of everyone.  I believe she would have done it too.  However, today, she would take the clothes off her own back and give them to me… and has done so… just not in public.

I will always love and be grateful to my sister for all of her love and support.  She has taught me many things and I admire her for her generous, caring nature and her ability to make me feel better even in the depths of my sorrow.  Aside from my husband, Jim, she is the best friend I have ever had or could ever hope to have.  God blessed me with wonderful parents and 4 brothers and 3 sisters all of whom I love dearly and am proud to call my friends.  Yes, I am truly blessed and give thanks every day of my life for the gift of my family.