In the past, I concluded that the art of visitin’ is a thing of the past for much of America.

With the onslaught of the pandemic and its various restrictions, I fear that this traditional pastime of folks across the U.S. has now seen its end.

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A drive that made my heart beat faster

I pushed on through the mountains, my Lumina maneuvering the curves with great accuracy. Snow lay along the roads as I watched diligently for patches of black ice on the interstate.
I had hit a patch of black ice before when I was about 20. I exited Atlanta’s 285 at Doraville returning home from a concert in Marietta. About 20 feet into the circular ramp I found myself spinning out of control. Using every bit of knowledge gained a few years earlier in driver’s ed, I simply did all I could do to not fight it, giving in to the scenario, allowing myself and the car to be out of control by turning into the spin and praying as it eventually came to rest facing the oncoming traffic.
I was blessed that it was about 2 a.m. and no other car was coming off behind me, so I slowly allowed the car to slip backwards off the ice until I was able to turn around and continue my journey feeling like I had just walked out of the scariest scene in a horror film.
I looked in my rearview mirror and headlights seemed to be on top of me. My heart began to race as I realized that the Jim and Jesse song I once recorded – Diesel on My Tail was becoming a reality. As I hugged curves, speeding along trying to stay out of its way, I was not going fast enough in the dark icy conditions to suit the trucker.
I looked at my alternatives and decided to get into the other lane, though there seemed to be a higher probability of hitting ice there.
It seemed in my mirror, no matter where I was, the truck was behind me in my lane. Maybe it was an illusion of the turning roads but needless to say, I continued to do my best to get out of this stretch of the mountains and make it to the flatlands as quickly as I could.
Finally, as we cleared the Appalachians, the truck passed me and sped off into the night.
I continued on the journey home from North Carolina now much more relaxed as the icy conditions were behind me and my greatest concern was keeping my mind occupied and my eyes open.
Before I faced the potential perceived metal peril of tons of truck careening out of control with me in it’s wake, I was thinking of how my ancestors had crossed that same section of mountains making their way westward without the advantages of modern travel.
I am sure that my heart pounded much as that of my ancestors as they perceived the danger of a bear coming close or as they avoided a party of Native Americans out hunting through the area.
I guess the passage of time and the advantages of technological advancement do not change the basics of the human condition. We still find ourselves facing fears, sometimes simply imagined, sometimes real in nature. What makes that experience worthwhile is it reminds us that we must never forget that while the world is beautiful and filled with God’s amazing creations, we can still find those moments and situations that make our heart beat faster, and our mind rush to fear.
It is how we react to those moments knowing that God is with us in every thing, that shows whether we have the ability to continue on that brave path my ancestors walked one step at a time pushing forward into the unknown.

Grandmothers don’t always have to be kin

I opened the can and took a big breath through my nose. There was nothing quite like the smell of barbeque Charles Chips. I sure loved those chips as a boy; they were delivered like milk to the house and replenished into that metal can kept in the pantry. I took just one and placed it on my tongue and let the seasoning dissolve.
Then I took out a handful and placed them on my plate and on Millie’s plate beside the sandwiches with thinly cut beef, brown mustard, tomato and lettuce.
It was lunchtime and I was on a stay over with my adopted grandmother – Millie Dobbs.
Millie was our next-door neighbor when I was a youth. When I was about six, our neighbors the Bounds moved to Florida and to the initial disappointment in moved a family with no children – Fred and Peggy Gross and Peggy’s mother Millie.
I am sure in many respects especially early on; I became a Southern Dennis the Menace to the Grosses as they settled in to their new home. Despite the lack of someone my age to play with, I soon found myself the focus of Millie, a retired nurse from New York City. On a side note, she told me about assisting Marilyn Monroe on a hospital stay. In just a short period of time, we had both found our way into each other’s hearts.
Millie was what I would describe as puffy when I hugged her.
Since my folks had relocated to Atlanta for business, I was hours away from my grandparents, so it was wonderful having Millie in my life.
Often when Fred and Peggy went out of town, Millie would invite me to stay over. I would get to stay in the master bedroom suite. It was always an adventure. I remember on one of my earliest visits, I opened the wrong door by mistake and began a head over foot tumble into the basement. I didn’t get hurt though. I landed on my head. So if you wonder why I am still a bit off, that would be the reason. Actually, I limped away from the fall with a stumped toe.
Later I would learn the basement was Fred’s domain where he kept his model train and 78 rpm record collections. I seldom got the chance to see those things, although it was a treat when I was allowed.
Millie was an amateur artist who loved painting and making crafts with her hands, and she often brought me into what she was doing helping to teach me and giving me a try at it. She loved to play cards and she taught me as well – solitaire and gin rummy. We would often pass hours playing especially when my Uncle Waymond came to visit, Millie would always join our family for evenings of card and game playing.
Another one of her passions is still part of my life – mysteries – Agatha Christie among others.
Every few months, Millie would treat us both to a lunch out and we would walk a little more than a mile to Brannigan’s Irish Restaurant and have lunch. I would get this huge hamburger covered with mushrooms and everything imaginable.
As I grew and our family celebrated the milestones, Millie was there, birthdays, elementary graduation, Eagle Scout ceremony, and awards until one day, Fred, Peggy and Millie moved to Florida. I was in my teens by then and our connection remained via letters, cards, and holiday greetings.
One day mother received a call from Peggy to let us know that Millie had died. My initial impulse was to go and be there with them. That is after all what we did in our family, we gathered, sat up with the dead, ate a lot, remembered and cried as they were buried.
Peggy thanked me for the thought but there was no need for us to make the trip down. As best I recall Millie was cremated.
My adopted grandmother Millie was gone. My mom encouraged me to put away the things that she had shared with me, some paintings, needlepoint, an afghan, her letters, a handmade bell she had gotten from her friend Willie. So I did. You know I am still saving them, like I simply put Millie’s things away where I could keep my memory of her just the way it was.
I know that my childhood would not have been as full without the New York prospective that Millie brought to me – an appreciation of seeing more than what was just at my fingertips.
Millie gave me something no one else had before outside my family –  she taught me that unconditional love didn’t have to be born in blood. She became part of my family and shared time, encouragement, some of my greatest childhood moments, and an amazing love for life.

A little Goober each day is a must

As we watch television classics, there are many character actors that have made their marks and found niches that have allowed them to keep in front of the American public for years and years.

One of those actors was introduced to the American television family in the 1960s.

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