Archive for the ‘Death’ Category

Empty House, Full of Prophetic Dreams

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

This dream was lost to me until a conversation reminded me of it, but it’s horror is so unusual for me, I wanted to write it down. It seemed crazy and out of nowhere at the time, and then upon further reflection, it made all the scary sense in the world. Sometimes dreams mirroring real life before it happens can be most terrifying of all.

I’m in the house he and I first lived in together. It is furnished just the same. A veterinarian lives there now, with her husband and pets, and they made it a bigger house, but in my dream it is the same small one he and I shared.

He is gone. I wander through the rooms, looking in each one, even in the closets and behind the shower curtain. I look out into the yard, on the screen porch that does not exist anymore, the one where he held the kitten in his coat while we smoked cigarettes, the one where he brought me home the puppy. He is not there.

I walk back into the room, and there is an old friend. He smiles and I am happy to see him and to hear his voice. I have missed him and worried about him. He goes to the bathroom. I notice his friend sitting there on my couch. I thought they weren’t friends anymore. I thought they had a falling out. I am glad to see him, too, and I tell him:

“I am glad to see you, but I’m surprised you’re back.”

“I’m back for a reason,” he says, and there is meaning, but I cannot decipher it.

Our friend walks back in the room. He is ashen, grayish, emaciated, and no longer wearing a shirt, only too-large jeans held up only by a belt. He looks at me with sorry eyes, and he drops to his knees, and opens his mouth to say something, but all that comes out is blood, all over our old carpet and his own porcelain white chest.

Almost Thirteen: Caught Between What’s Right & Your Kid Not Hating You

Monday, August 15th, 2016

I took the kids to dinner tonight. (El Mat, our go-to Mexican place. We’re regulars; we actually get The Usual.) So, I was tired and a little stressed, but I always try to put down the phone and listen when the kids are talking about school. And tonight, for whatever reason, The Boy brought up a kid at school. We’ll call him, “M.”

The boy: “Remember when I told you about M last year? He was kind of a bad kid?”

I say yes, and the conversation flows and somehow we end up talking about kids in his class and one kid in particular. This kid, The Boy says, is kind of special. You can tell he doesn’t really know how to talk about a kid who’s different. I think the words he used were, “He’s, like, special needs?” And so we discussed how that could mean a lot of different things, both physical and mental, etc.

Well, long story shorty, he tells me about this kid in his math class. The Boy believes he is special because, “The teachers are really, really nice to him, and they give him special assignments.” That could mean anything, but obviously, this kid is different and that is apparent to the other kids in the class.

We discuss that maybe he’s on the spectrum somehow, and that it just means that his brain works differently, and maybe he processes things differently than other kids.

And then The Boy says, “Yeah, but some kids pick on him. They throw things at him. He doesn’t look people in the eye. I don’t know if it is how his brain is, or if it’s his thick glasses.”

Sigh.

So, I say, “You know that is completely and totally wrong, right? And that you need to be nice to that kid? In front of the other kids. They need to see you be nice to that kid.”

I’m not good at subtlety. Every freaking wrong I endured in middle school came rushing back and spewed out in two or three sentences uttered in complete and total seriousness to my son.

I could tell it made him uncomfortable. I remembered what it was like to be 12-almost-13 and know, deep down, that something was really wrong, but be afraid to speak up.

I asked him questions about which class it was, and who the kids were who were doing it. I made a mental note of the names. I texted the commune and confirmed what I already knew: That it was not okay to out these kids to a parent social group on Facebook. But, I thought: What if I just said to the group, “Hey, if your kids are on this team, and they are in this particular Math Class, please talk to them about bullying. My child has witnessed this happening.”

I sat on it, finished my margarita. I talked to my son on the way home. I told him that maybe we should say something. He begged me not to. I explained my plan, to just put it out without naming names. But he’s not stupid, my kid. He said, “But they will know you are my mom. They will know I am the one who said something about it to my mom.”

FUCK.

I told him I’d think about it, and I wasn’t going to do anything without talking to him, and I wouldn’t post anything. I told my husband. He said I should talk to the teacher first.

So, I decided I’d sit on it tonight. Let it rest in that place of patience where things sometimes work themselves out. Sometimes that place doesn’t achieve a damn thing, and the pain just sits, but at least in my old age, I know that there are some instances where patience and doing nothing actually contribute to solving everything.

And then I have a beer, talk to a friend, and then check Facebook. And what is the first thing that I see? This post about a thirteen year old who commits suicide after being mercilessly bullied. My son will be 13 in 12 days. I don’t really believe in religion, or God, but I do believe in Karma and in The Universe. And I often wonder, when I’m grappling with something, how The Universe can know to serve me up something so fitting?

 

This is long, but if you are a parent, I think you should watch it. I haven’t decided what to do yet about my son’s revelations, but I felt like I needed to share this parent’s grief. I need to do something. I can’t just put this one in the patient place.

And in the meantime, my son and I discussed the art of the withering stare. The one that says, “You, buddy, are a fucking jackass, and everyone in this room sees it.” Baby steps, I guess, in the Stand-up-for-what-you-believe-in classroom ethics lessons.

Note: This is fucking brutal as a parent

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/dad-s-boy-hanged-lashes-bullies-article-1.2749845

Curious what other parents would do in this situation. (My gut: I think I will probably contact the teacher first.)

Mary Etta’s Purse

Monday, May 16th, 2016

When my grandfather died, we cleaned out his house, and there was just. so. much. stuff. Stuff that felt important and that I knew I should save, and I couldn’t make a decision about at the time. I put it away in boxes, and they ended up in the basement.

The basement flooded.

Much to Todd’s chagrin, none of my boxes of genealogies, family papers, history books, and old photos were damaged. However, the whole basement had to be emptied to do the renovations required to put in new floors and paint, so all of the accumulated stuff is kind of being moved into safekeeping until the renovations are complete. (By “safekeeping” I mean mountains of boxes in our bedroom, foyer, and dining room.)

While we were moving them, Tiller immediately caught sight of one item on top of an open box of photos that belonged to my Grandma.

My great-grandmother’s purse.

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I kept it because it’s a classic, beautiful vintage purse. Score. But I had forgotten until we opened it up that I had also kept it because it was a mini-time capsule of my great grandmother’s last years. I think that when she died, her daughters probably just took her purse home, and they couldn’t bare to throw any of it out. (Must be genetic.)

Here are my Grandma Palmer (Evelyn) and her sister, Lessie, at the funeral home. I know it’s morbid and sad, but I don’t care; I like this photo.

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She was born Mary Etta Richardson (her mother was Matilda Denmark, which is partially the origin of Till’s name, but mostly we just liked the name), in Liberty County, GA in 1888. She died December 7, 1959. (Pearl Harbor day, and my sister’s birthday, too.) She married my great-grandfather, Horace Ray Butler (Rollie dodged a bullet there) and they had five children. Two of them died as babies, and the stories of their deaths are heartbreaking to hear as a mother.They were older than the three who lived and died before the others were born. The three who lived were: Lessie, my grandmother Evelyn Jean, and Clayton. (I believe he was actually William Clayton.)

 

Both of the babies are both buried at Thomas Hill Cemetery on Fort Stewart. Here is a photo of Marie’s grave and one of R.C.’s. This gets mighty confusing, because my grandmother would tell me about her mother telling her about losing the babies, and the names above are misleading. According to my grandma, Marie was not pronounced with the common pronunciation. It was “MA-ree,” rather than “Ma-REE.” And there is no french accent to it, just “Little Ma.Ree.” And when my grandmother told me about the babies dying, the boy was “Little R.C.” Not “R.O.” which is what the gravestone looks like, but I am sure that it was R.C. and i think maybe the stone was not well-engraved, because I am sure she knew what her own mother called her dead baby brother. And we never heard a word about “Meldrum.” That makes Little R.C. quite a mystery, as he seems to be named “Meldrum R. C. Butler.” Genealogy nerd me would really like to know what the R. and C. stand for – I think R. might be for “Richardson.” Who knows.

Anyways, a ton of my other Butler, Richardson, Denmark, Shuman, and other families are also buried in cemeteries at Fort Stewart. (I hope to get down there for a cemetery visit, but you have to make an appointment, i think due to the Army not wanting you to get blown up driving around the base. Heck, I could do a whole post just about the people buried on Fort Stewart.)

Whoa. That was one of my more offensive genealogy tangents. Sorry about that. So, here’s the juicy part . . .

I guess the statute of limitations is probably up now on these folks, so I can say that we have not figured out the actual truth, but it is rumored that Horace also had a relationship with another woman (possibly a Sarah or Maude, who was perhaps a Shuman) and fathered a son, but I have never been able to figure out much more about it. People just alluded to it, but never actually gave us any real dirt. (If you happen to stumble across this post and know anything about this other relationship, marriage, or illegitimate child or his descendants, we would very much like to hear from you. I know that’s a long shot.)

Horace and Mary Etta lived in Bryan County, GA, on (as I understand it) the original land grant that the Butlers received in Georgia. My grandmother was born there, near Clyde. When Fort Stewart was created, everyone in their area lost their farms. They moved to Savannah, where both died and are buried.

So, back to the purse. The satin lining is sooo silky.

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Tills and I started laying the things in the purse out on the table. Here are the things we found in my great grandmother’s purse:

This really cracked and cool looking mirror. If Mary Etta was anything like my Grandma Palmer, she would not go out of the house without lipstick.

 

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One box of tithing envelopes. I think at the end, she maybe lived with my Aunt Lessie in Garden City, outside of Savannah, because I know she didn’t always attend church out there.

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Here is one of the cards inside. I love that they are numbered and have the date on them, so that you don’t miss one single Sunday of tithing.

 

 

 

Here is her wallet:

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It contained a lot of medical receipts and newspaper clippings of bible verses and obituaries.
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I thought this one was very interesting; A tuberculosis report, from 13 years prior to her death. Negative. I’m curious if there is some reason she would have kept this in her wallet all those years. At the time of the test, she still lived on Stevenson Ave. Daddy would have been about five at that time, and also lived there.

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Another bible verse. I can’t figure out why it’s printed so oddly. Are they like bible verse flash cards? Because even upside down, I can still figure out it’s from Proverbs. . . and I missed a lot of Sunday School.

 

She had the card for the Superintendent of Sunday School. Love the old phone numbers. No (912) back then.

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One Walgreen’s prescription. I didn’t realize Walgreen’s had been around that long.

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Okay, nerd that I am, I looked up history of Walgreen’s. No wonder they were around so long; They started in Chicago and were allowed to sell “medicinal” whiskey during Prohibition. 

Also of interest: Mary Etta’s doctor was a female. Thinking that wasn’t super common back then, but made me smile.

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Quick Google search on Anne Hopkins came up with nothing, but I bet she might have been pretty interesting. And anyone know what that cream is for?

 

Here’s an obituary for some British dude, William Wright. A boyfriend, perhaps? None of the names look familiar.

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The next one is sweet: A memorial clipping, of some sort, for Mary’s husband, Horace. He died when Dad was around five. IMG_8733 IMG_8735

 

One flashy red change purse.

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A whole bunch of hair doodads.

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I particularly like the packaging for the bobby pins, which did not photograph well, but reads, ‘Gayla 10 cents.’

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Here’s a brooch, of jewels in a crown. A few of the jewels are missing.

I really like this old letter opener. Does anyone actually still use these?

And here is my absolute favorite item in the purse. One, unopened, perfectly preserved stick of Beech-Nut gum. 
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One pair of vintage bifocals.

I really love that they just folded up her glasses and stuck them in the purse. There is something so sweet and personal about holding someone’s glasses for them. It almost feels like an honor. Someone really trusts you if they hand you their glasses for safekeeping. And there is something heartbreaking about folding up someone’s glasses for the last time and putting them away.

Here I am wearing them. Rollie and Tills both had to try them on and we all did our best schoolmarm impersonations. (Ignore my hair frizz. I just ran.) See any resemblance to the photo of Mary Etta below?

Mary Etta Richardson Butler. October 1888-December 1959. Buried at Hillcrest Cemetery, Savannah, GA. (I guess this photo was probably taken at the Stevenson Ave. house. The house is long gone, I think.)

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I guess maybe I will start digging through these boxes as I put them back in the basement after the renovation. I am guessing there might be some related posts in the next few months. History nerds unite. Everyone else just stop reading for a while.

This Week in Beloved Pet Deaths: The Dog Who Knew All My Secrets

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

I wrote about putting my cat, Scully, down on Monday. And then today, I realized that my beloved dog, Quint, the one that I mentioned not even being able to write about yet, had died five years ago today. Seems like it’s time to start processing that loss. So, here’s a little bit of what he was like, my buddy, my very best friend ever.

He was a lover of the lake and babies.

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A kid kisser.

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Kids get a lot food on them, though. (Yes, I think that’s Tiller’s hair when she gave herself the Bowie haircut.)

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He loved riding on the boat.

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And curling up next to someone on the couch.

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Or on the floor when they were sick and watching cartoons.

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He let the kids dress him up and play with him, with no complaints.

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And boy did he love going with us to the beach.

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It seemed like he always wanted to be where the pack was, following me or the kids around.

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He knew where the kids were is where I was.

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And he loved, loved, loved going for rides with me in the car. He was totally my co-pilot.

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And my foot warmer.

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And my best friend.

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The one to whom I whispered all my secrets, even the ones I was scared to say out loud, and who loved me anyway, and never told a soul.

Dead, Towel-Wrapped Cat, With a Daisy on Top

Monday, May 9th, 2016
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We had to say goodbye to Scully today. I’m not a cat person, but she was all my sister and I could have in our little apartment back in 1998. I had her before I had Todd, or a house, or kids. She outlived a second cat and a dog. She was a sweet girl, and her gray and white markings made Lisa and I think it looked like she was wearing a beret cocked over one eye. When she was younger, she could be bad. When Todd and I were dating, I brought him a snow globe from Alaska. He set it on an end table, and Scully walked over and swept it off the table and it shattered. Numerous houseguests and my very own mother were on the receiving end of a middle-of-the-night glass of water dumped on their head, courtesy of the Sculls. In her old age, she would walk around aimlessly, and meow at us until we would shake up the food in her bowl. I guess in her senile state, she thought it was empty. These are small complaints. She was a good cat.
Last photo of me and my girl. I'm going to miss her climbing up in my lap while I work, and sneezing on my keyboard.

Last photo of me and my girl. I’m going to miss her climbing up in my lap while I work, and sneezing on my keyboard.

 
In the end, she started going downhill pretty quickly, but she was never in pain, and I think we timed things right. It wasn’t the horrific emergency I experienced with Quint. (Total PTSD after that experience, and you will notice I have still not ever written in detail about it – it breaks my heart to think about him or look at photos of him.) I got to make the decision on my own time, and I held her while she quietly went to sleep in my arms with her head on my chest. We should all be so lucky. They wrapped her body up in a towel and laid a daisy on top and handed her to me, along with a sweet clay imprint of her paw. I was surprised I cried. I thought I was ready to say goodbye. I saw my neighbor, Paula, in the waiting room on the way out, and I could barely even speak. I was just a crying crazy woman, carrying around a dead cat in a towel with a daisy on top. 
Afterwards was a little weird. I got home and carried in a dead cat wrapped in a towel, and then realized I couldn’t bury her until the kids got home. So, then I couldn’t figure out where to put her down, because our house is so packed full of the stuff that used to be in our basement until the toilet backed up and we had to tear everything out. I decided against the bedroom because ew, dead cat in my bed. Decided against the kitchen counter or the kitchen table because ew, dead cat where I prepare and eat food. Didn’t want to leave her on the floor because Brody was WAY interested in dead cat smell. It would be my luck he would eat her.
Aside: This whole part reminded me of my grandma Palmer’s chihuahua, Princess, dying while they were in Savannah. Grandma just put her on ice in an Igloo cooler until they could get back home to bury her. What kind of crazy person drives around all weekend in a pickup truck with a dead chihuahua in a cooler?) In the end, I set her on bench by the kitchen table, with the daisy on top, until the kids came home. When Todd came in, I yelled, “Watch out, dead cat!” (He knew she was gone already; I’m not heartless.)

 

When Tiller got home, I went out to meet her and bring her inside and break the news gently, but old Eagle Eye Johnson saw the cat carrier in the carport in two seconds flat.
“What’s that?” said Tiller.
“Cat carrier.”
“What’s it for?”
“I had to take Scully to the vet to put her to sleep. She got really sick this morning.”
“Aww.”
“You wanna go inside? I brought her home and we will bury her when R. gets home.”
“Okay.”
“What’s that?” she said, pointing to the towel-wrapped cat on the bench in our kitchen.
“That’s Scully wrapped in a towel. You can see her before we bury her if you want, but you know her soul went to Heaven. You don’t have to look at it. It’s just a body.”
“Okay.”
“You want a snack?”
“Okay.”
A few seconds later, she said quietly, “This isn’t as sad as Quint.”
“No, baby, I don’t think it is. She was old. She lived a good life. She died peacefully.”
So, Tiller ate a snack, but not in the kitchen with the dead cat, and then we realized that if we were not going to wake up with a dead cat in the kitchen tomorrow, we needed to dig a hole and throw a cat funeral before 5 pm, because after that, we have karate and swim practice. I started digging a hole, and when R. came home, Todd told him and he came out and he was much quieter about it than Tiller was. I texted my commune sister wife, and invited her girls up to attend, because they loved Scully too.
Todd came out to help me dig the hole deep enough. (I am now interested in how people buried their dead in all this red clay. It wore me out digging a hole for a 6 pound cat.) We went inside to get the kids, and R. wanted to carry her body out. Out of all of it, watching my boy delicately carrying our sweet dead cat across the yard, her body wrapped in a towel with a daisy on top, got to me the most. Todd held her while the kids and the twins all went around the yard and picked flowers (yellow iris, red roses, and orange/yellow tickseed – I picked my favorite, hydrangeas). Then we asked if they wanted to see her one last time, so we unwrapped the towel and everyone looked at her, and talked about how it looked kind of like she was sleeping, but different, and she was still soft, but not warm.
Again, I said, “It’s just a body. Her soul is in heaven.” We wrapped her back up; Todd laid her in the hole. I picked up a handful of dirt and threw it in. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” I said. “You can put some in, too,” I told the kids. Tiller said, “Do we have to say that?” “No, sweetie, you don’t have to say anything at all if you don’t want to. Or you can say whatever you want about her.” Each of them took a handful of dirt in turn, and tossed it in. No one said anything. “Rest in peace, Scully,” I said. “I loved you. You were a good cat.”

 

Todd shoveled the dirt over her and tamped it down, but just a little.  Then we each took turns laying our flowers on top of Scully’s grave, and then I held Rollie, then Tiller. And then sweet Leah said, “Can we have hugs, too?” I teared up, and I hugged Leah and Syd both. And then we all went inside or back home.

 

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Special Agent Dana Katherine Scully 1998 (?) – May 9, 2016. That’s Eddie Rabbit, watching over Scully from behind the azalea.

 

In the end, Scully lived 18 (I think) healthy, comfortable, well-loved years. She spent much of them sitting inside boxes and in sunlight streaming through windows. She left this world in the arms of a loved one as the breath peacefully left her body.

 

Rest in peace, Sweet Girl.

Check Ignition & May God’s Love Be With You

Monday, January 11th, 2016

I just posted this three days ago on my Instagram for Bowie’s birthday.

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David Bowie, by Panhandle Slim

I’ve written about or referenced Bowie a number of times here on the blog. I wrote this about the song containing the lyrics above. (And then Todd had Panhandle Slim make this for me. Other Panhandle Slim images here – Have fun in the Rabbit Hole.) He surprised me with it on Christmas a few years ago and I cried.) There was that one time time I got drunk and made a roomful of people I don’t know very well listen to the the song twice at 4 am, because I love it so much. That one time I went down the rabbit hole of YouTube videos of Arcade Fire doing covers with various people, including David Bowie.

I loved him.

I crossposted a few of these words on Facebook when I first found out Bowie died this morning, but I think of my blog as a journal of sorts. When I read journals, I love it when I come across people’s thoughts on historical figures, politics of their time, or cultural phenomena. If someone reads my words one day a hundred years from now, I want them to know I thought David Bowie was groundbreaking and legendary and he often blew my mind.

Words won’t do justice to David Bowie’s greatness. He was a radical, an original, a true iconoclast.

Addendum: It is not recommended Bowie fans listen to “Space Oddity” this morning. They just played it on Kexp.org, and it made me sob. Beautiful and eerie lyrics on the morning of the death of the man who sang them. Heartbreaking and gorgeous.

Check ignition and may God’s love be with you.

Remembering My Grandfather, On the Eve of His Hundredth Birthday

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

My Grandfather, or “Pop,” as we called him, would turn one hundred years old today if he were still alive. I wrote about him pretty often, even before his death, as he was quite a character. After he passed away in July of 2009, though, I struggled to write about him. I would start writing and then not be able to finish.

I wanted to get it right. I wanted to make sure not to leave anything out. I finally got around to writing about him in December of that year, because I knew I could not let the New Year go by and not document his passing.

I write a lot, and never enough. I am sometimes feast or famine as a writer. I have written over 1,300 posts on this blog since I started it in 2004. Some of them were just to remember things, some of them I felt proud of, as they were poignant, or well-said. Some were funny, I think, others sad or angry. Some were shocking to others. Some even shocked me when they poured out. Some posts I think were complete crap, although I have learned the value of writing simply for the sake of putting words out into the world. It is an exercise in avoiding the pitfalls of perfectionism.

So I wrote Don’t Puppydog It. I was proud of this post about Pop. I don’t say that about much of my writing. Most of my posts are very personal, but this one is, I think, personal and still accessible to other people who grew up with a southern Grandpa, or who sat by someone in the days before they passed, or who watched their grandma get dressed up for Saturday at the small town mall. It’s not very often I feel like I hit any kind of sweet spot in my writing, but this one felt right.  It’s about big things and little things, just like life. The big ones, like death, and heaven, and generations marching on and on. The little things: one man’s funny idiosyncrasies, and how they are passed onto his descendants. I am reminded that they don’t make people like they used to, that we have it so much easier in so many ways. There are little bits of his story that remind me of just how different modern life is compared to the world into which Pop was born in a small town in south Georgia, January of 1916. Pop was as imperfect as they come, but an interesting man, challenging, smart, and funny.

For all his flaws, I loved him very much.