Archive for the ‘Genealogy’ Category

Feeling Sentimental

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Not sure why. Maybe Christmas is causing it all, but i’ve felt like a debbie downer lately, so i was looking through some more old pictures and came across this one and it just made me smile.

Dancing with Graham, 1973

This is my cousin, Graham, and I dancing at my Aunt Dot and Grandma’s apartment in about 1973. I don’t remember the name of the street they lived on, but it was an upstairs apartment in a house. No idea how, but they had a piano up there. I would give my right pinkie to know what song we are dancing to, but you can see aunt Dot (my Grandma’s sister) over there smoking and clapping along. She loved to dance!

I miss the big family gatherings and the crazy grandmas and aunts and uncles and cousins. Graham and I were best buddies, at least until those hangers-on, Lisa and Adam showed up.

And I don’t remember ever liking to dance, but i guess i did at some point!

Don’t Puppydog It

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

I have been putting this off. Every day since Pop died, I have thought about the fact that I haven’t written about it, and I have put it off another day. It has kept me up at night. Some nights it has almost made me sick. I know that it is normal to have some kind of delayed reaction to grief, and for grief to come to me in phases is normal. But I don’t think that is the problem.

Don’t Puppydog It.

That’s what Pop used to say to me when I was learning to hammer nails. Don’t Puppydog It. It meant that you needed to aim true, hit the nail on the head, not miss and hit the wood around the nail, causing indentations where the hammer head hit. A few indentations around the nail gives the appearance of a dog’s footprint. Don’t Puppydog it means “take pride in your work.” You didn’t want to Puppy Dog it when Pop was watching. You didn’t want to hear, “You’re puppydoggin’ it!” in an exasperated voice.

And I think the reason that I haven’t wanted to write this is that I don’t want to PuppyDog it. But I also know that fear of failure is almost always worse than the doing of that thing. So here goes.

I’ve written quite a lot about Pop here on Dogwood Girl.

I wrote about him and Matilda and their bonding and his strange depression-era ways. I wrote about him reading a post I wrote on his 90th birthday. My Mom printed it out so he could read it, and he thought it was his obituary. I wrote about my heavy-hearted drive down to Warner Robins the day before Pop died. And on the day that died, this is all I could muster.

But there is more to say. I loved Pop, and as a child, I probably respected him more than my other Grandparents. I think I thought he was perfect back then. Of course, we grow up, and we learn that people are not perfect and that sometimes the people who seem perfect are the ones that are trying the hardest to cover up that they aren’t perfect. Pop wasn’t perfect. He was vain and stingy. He desperately wanted people to like him, I see now, but most people just thought he was the nicest old man they had ever met. But he could be hardest on those closest to him. He would sometimes share with friends and neighbors what he never would have shared with his own family. In later years, when I had children (and the new perspective that children bring to life), I still vacillated between anger at his disapproval, his inability to show pride and approval to my father, his tight-fistedness, and forgiveness for his ways; After all, he had never had a mother and father to teach him about right and wrong and trusting others, and to demonstrate love. He had an Uncle who beat him, and an Aunt who surely loved him, but had a son of her own and two other nephews to care for also, in a time when women were surely not able to speak up about things like unfairness to an orphaned child taken into the family.

Words of kindness from my Grandfather carried more weight with my family than those from other folks. As a child, when I left my Grandparents’ house, my Grandfather would stand rigid when I threw my arms around him for a hug. I would hug him. He would uncomfortably pat me on the back or head. He would say, “Stay off Dope” instead of “I love you.” I still remember the first time he wrote “Love, Pops,” instead of just “Pops,” on a card.

There were good things, though – he was not all cold and thrifty. He and Grandma gave us Hope Chests. I think that these used to be for a girl to keep things she made or was given, to take with her when she got married: Linens, china, silver, etc. I am not sure, because all I ever kept in mine was junk from childhood – Dead flowers from high school boys, my diploma and cap and gown, my Varsity letter, adoption dolls and Madame Alexander dolls, class photos, costume jewelry, and the blue and white blanket my grandmother crocheted for me. Very little of this would actually be useful in a marriage, and I am sure Todd thanks his lucky stars that I brought this trunk full of junk to our holy union; Every man needs a wife who keeps her baby Snoopy stuffed animal from second grade, her childhood diary, and every note ever written to her by stupid schoolgirls from 7th through 10th grade.

One year, Pop gave us a doll case. It was a handmade, wooden case, painted blue, with quilted material inside in a floral pattern. Tiller has it now and it still spills out the Barbies of my childhood. (My sister and I still want to ditch the kids one Friday night, open a bottle of wine, and play Barbies.) Another gift was a girly gilt mirrored tray, with matching brush and hand mirror. I did not keep mine, but kind of wish I had, despite the fact that I can imagine exactly what Todd’s face would look like if I brought it into my house today.

One Christmas in Alpharetta, my sister and I got a Barbie Dream House. I remember Pop and Daddy trying to put the damn thing together, and I was telling them how to do that. I did that a lot. One of their favorite stories is of me, at about age five, telling them how they should cut down the fallen pine trees on our house and porch, after the 1978 ice storm. I think of that every time one of my children tries to direct me or Todd in a task today. Kids are funny – they really do think they know how to do everything!

My other memories of Grandma and Pop were mostly of their house or the Lake. We would be at the lake for a weekend and after breakfast on a Saturday morning, Grandma would get dressed to “Go to town.” This involved putting together a well-matched ensemble of pantsuit, fancy polyester dress shirt of some sort, with corresponding matching jewelry: A necklace, “earbobs,” and a pin (she said it kind of like “peon”) which was a brooch. She would put on her lipstick and her powder and then we girls (her and Lisa and Me and sometimes Mom) would go to the Milledgeville or Houston Mall, where we would walk around and look at stuff, usually in Belk’s. By the time we got home, i would be rarin’ to go outside and hang out with Dad and Pop.

In my mind’s eye, it is cool, maybe Fall. I am wearing a navy windbreaker, with Garanimals, probably the pants are plaid, and a solid red or blue ribbed turtleneck. I am pony-tailed, and wearing Zips. I am tagging along with my dad and Pop. I am maybe six. I am the Gofer. “Mouse, fetch that bowsaw,” Dad would say. Or Phillips screwdiver. Or awl. Move that sawhorse. Get that level. Hold this piece of wood. One time, I was holding wood while Pop sawed it. The saw skipped and caught me across the finger. I was bleeding. Pop told me to hold the wood while he finished cutting and then we would go in and get Grandma to look at it. That’s how Pop was sometimes – Unsympathetic. Cold. When I catch myself being this way with my kids, telling them to “suck it up,” I try to remember that it’s okay to teach your kids to be tough, and to stick things out, but not to be unfeeling about it.

But I loved being a kid and hanging out with them, and learning to mix cement, or measure wood, or build stairs. And sometimes, after we worked, we fished, and I remember learning to clean fish with him and Dad. Or we would walk around the yard, surveying our day’s work, and Pop would point out little things for me to do, like trimming a shrub, or digging up a stump, or deadheading something, or digging up potatoes. Pop never sat still. Even when he did sit, I can remember him sitting in the middle of the grass, pulling weeds, using a pocket knife to get the stubborn ones. He would always have a pocket-knife in his pocket, for pulling weeds, or cutting electrical tape, or sharpening a pencil, or paring a pear, or cutting up meat for the dog, or cleaning dirt out from under his nails. I have his old Case pocket-knife now, and I used it a few weeks after he died to cut a piece of carpet, and then I cried. That’s the only time I’ve cried over Pop. I was like that when both Grandmas died, too. I cried over Grandma Smith when I found bottles of Early Times in her closet at Mom and Dad’s house.

I used to love to walk around the yard with Pop, him pointing out the names of plants and shrubs and trees. I owe my love of growing things to Pop. I think of him, wearing his pants and long sleeve shirts even in the dead of Summer, every time I walk around and look at the things growing in my yard. I think of being in the yard at the lake one weekend during college, wearing his old flannel work shirt, and a pair of cut-off jeans with tights and Doc Martens. He laughed in a kids-these-days way, and shook his head and told me, “We never cut up our dungarees like that.” He eyed my boots. “Those look like sturdy brogans.”

Pop started slowing down a lot in the last ten years. He didn’t go to the lake anymore. He stopped saving bread for the birds. (He still saved leftovers mom and dad brought for him in styrofoam takeout containers on the stove. There was a learning curve for Todd and the kids, where they had to learn that if pop offered you food, you probably shouldn’t take it unless it was pre-packaged. Fried chicken on the stove could have been there for a week or more.) He got to where he would only eat certain things. Canned baked beans (cold), Vienna sausages from the Dollar Store, a cereal bar, homemade pimento cheese, and some diet soda. (Generic store brand, of course, like Big K.) I am not kidding – he almost lived off this stuff for the last five years of his life.

He also got to where he would tell the same stories, over and over. Even todd could recite them: When forgetful, he would say that he “needed to download new software.” He thought it was funny when I yawned and made a loud yawning noise. He would say, “Well, you don’t have to holler!” after my yawn. He would tell a story about him telling Grandma that he was going to write a book one day when he got to be an old man. She would retort: “You’re an old man now!” He thought that was the funniest thing. He would say, “meer” instead of “come here” to the dog. He called Grandma “Ezlynn” instead of Evelyn sometimes. And she called him “The Goat Man.” “Ooooweeee! You look like the goat man, she’d say to us, when we came in muddy or dirty.” Pop and Aunt Lena Mae, his sister, and i were the three Goat men. We were the ones who always got the messiest, although sometimes Aunt Lessie was a goat man, too. Or my Daddy. I think people think Lisa and I are nuts when we use the term Goat man, but it is forever part of my vocabulary. I got my Goatmanishness from my Pop.

We knew Pop was dying. It was slow. He went from the hospital to the hospice. He was there a couple of weeks. They were about to send him home, because he wouldn’t eat, and he wouldn’t rouse, but he wouldn’t die either. Mom and Dad were freaking out about how they would care for him. And then he seemed to take a turn for the worse, almost as if he knew that going home would cost a pretty penny for his family, and he wasn’t going to waste that money on extra dying time!

On the 4th of July, Todd and I took the kids to fireworks at Chamblee. I remember looking up at them, looking over at the wonder on my children’s faces at the fireworks, remembering another time – one of my most precious memories of my Grandma Palmer – that I watched fireworks with her on Tybee, tears rolling down her cheeks. She had alzheimer’s by then, and I thought she was crying over the beauty of the fireworks. And she was, but when they were over, she turned to me, still crying tears of happiness, and said, “I haven’t ever seen fireworks before!” Of course, she had, but she didn’t remember that.

I sat on the blanket at Chamblee, and I realized tears were rolling down my own cheeks. Partly for the love of my children and their sense of wonder and the thought of their whole lives ahead of them. Partly knowing that an era in my life was gone, a whole generation was dying with the coming death of my grandfather. I was not long for the world as a girl with Grandparents. I was becoming more a mother, and a daughter, and a wife. In the big picture, the passing of my last grandparent signaled that the next generation was my own Mother and Father. It signaled that I was taking my parents’ place in the world. I was 37 years old, watching fireworks, and i was not a child myself, no matter how much i still felt like one.

I drove down that Sunday, July 5th. I went to Hospice in Perry, GA. My father, still recovering from heart surgery, could not stay. My sister and I spent the night with my grandfather, and we all thought that he would go that night. He didn’t. His breathing came shallow, but it marched on through the night.

In the morning, Lisa went home to mom and dad’s to take a shower. I stayed with Pop. I held his hand and read a book. I don’t know if he knew i was there.

Mom and Lisa came back late morning. Mom went outside and Lisa read aloud to Pop from the bible. She went outside with Mom

I was alone with Pop.

I had read in the literature that hospice gives to families that sometimes people who are dying will “hang on” out of some sort of obligation to their family, and that they need to be told it is okay to let go. It almost seemed that was what was going on with Pop. Or maybe, as we had joked a million times, he really didn’t want to leave his savings behind.

But to tell someone that it is okay to let go? He had been on this earth for 93 years. Almost a century. I had been here barely over a third of that time. Who was I to tell him how to die, if it was okay to let go? It just felt so . . . presumptuous. But I knew that it had to be said. Somehow I knew that was what he was waiting for. He was a complete control freak in life, and he needed to know that he could relinquish control.

I am a person who spends too much time thinking. Too much time typing and writing. I do not tend to voice my feelings aloud. I will tell you what I think of YOUR problem, or if I don’t like someone, i will say so. But I rarely say the big things, the heavy things, the things that will really hurt someone I care about. Spoken words have so much power for things that are so impermanent. You speak a word, and it disappears at once into the ether, but the echo of it carries on in your head after it is spoken. I have always struggled with voicing the difficult things aloud.

I sat in that room with my Grandfather, and I talked to him. I told him I loved him. I told him he had lived a good life and that he should be proud of all the things that he accomplished in his life. I told him that if his parents had lived to see him become a man, they would have been so proud of him. I told him that he was a good husband, and a good father. I told him he was a wonderful Grandfather and that I loved learning about plants and work from him, and that the moments I spent traipsing around the yard with him, getting dirty, were invaluable to me, and that one day i hoped to do the same with my own grandchildren, and that I would tell them all about him.

I told him that it was okay for him to go, that when he got to heaven, he would get to see Grandma again, and all of his siblings who passed before him, and that he would finally get to be with his parents again. I told him that Princess and Tiny, his dogs, would be there, too and would be so happy to see him, and Princess would run in wide circles around him like she did as a puppy.

I told him that we would meet him there some day, too. I don’t know if we will meet him there, but i said it anyway. Excepting possibly saying “I do” on my wedding day, or the first time I said my children’s names aloud while gazing into their brand new faces, these were the most important and heavy words that I have ever said to another person.

I sensed the peace that came over him, that came into the room. Or maybe it just came over me. I sat with him in silence after that, holding his hand, until mom, Dad, and Lisa came back in.

I left to go home and change, and get some lunch with Dad. Dad had left and “said goodbye” to Pop, and he did not want to go back to the hospital. We knew it would not be long, though, and I could tell that Dad was torn – part of him did not want to be with Pop when he died. Part of him felt he should be there. He grappled with it all during lunch. I finally told him that I was going back, and that I wanted to be there, and that everyone understood if he didn’t want to be there. He looked almost like a child as he struggled with whether or not he should go. I could tell that he wanted someone to tell him what to do, but I knew that I couldn’t tell him, and he had to decide himself.

I told him i was going and could drop him off at the house, or he could go back to Perry with me. He decided to go.

When we got there, it was apparent that Pop was letting go. We sat with him, watching his breathing, in and out, like a terrible ticking clock. Then, the nurses needed to check on Pop, and we all moved to the family waiting room, which is so nice, it’s like a parlor – Couches and a television, coffee tables with magazine and flowers, and clean bathrooms with brass fixtures.

The nurses came in and said that we better come back in. Dad went in, and he was near to losing it, I could tell, as if he was an animal trapped in a snare and he was starting to panic. In the end, he could not stay till the end. He had to leave. I thought of that scene in Steel Magnolias where the men just can’t take it and have to leave the room while Julia kicks it.

In the end, it was me, and lisa, each of us sitting with Pop. Mom was in the room, sitting on the couch, and leaving the hand-holding to us. I sat on his right, and held his right hand. Lisa stood on his left. We talked him out of this world, whispering that we loved him, stroking his head, holding his hands. It seemed that he was not in any pain when he went. He was peaceful. And somehow I felt at peace, too.

I kissed his forehead. I said goodbye.

Afterwards, we collected his things, things with an owner no more. A person can be dead and still have shoes, and you look at the shoes like they are out of place, and all the while, those shoes are screaming, “I am Walter’s shoes!” Lisa and mom got some papers and things, and i sat out on the picnic table and looked up at the sunny sky, a sky over a world with no more Pop in it.

That was back in June. I started writing this in July or August and just couldn’t quite finish it. I would work on it, and then get to missing Pop, and missing the feeling that I had a grandparent still with me, and I would put it away to finish later.

But I knew I had to finish it this year, that I owed it to Pop, and to myself, to get it all down, so that I would remember it all. Pop, I hope I got this right.

I hope I didn’t puppydog it.

And some photos of Pop’s life:

He never met him, but Pop’s grandfather, Hartwell Hamby Palmer served in the Civil War for North Carolina. What a strange link to what seems so far in the past.

And Pop’s mother’s father, John Thomas Knowles, served too, with Pop’s great-grandfather, Benager Birdsong Knowles. They served for Georgia. John Thomas Knowles is pictured below, with Pop’s grandmother, Sarah Patience Hood Knowles.
Sarah died when Pop was a teen, and I asked Pop if he remembered her, but his memory was gone by that time, and he couldn’t. If you still have grandparents around, ask them everything they can remember about the old folks who were around when they were children. I wish I had asked so many more questions of my grandparents!

This was Pop’s father, John Lewis Palmer.

And his mother, Ludie Margaret Knowles Palmer:

And Pop with his siblings at their home in Broxton, Coffee County, GA.
Palmer Children, About 1918
Pop is the baby. Not pictured is the youngest sibling, Carl, or their older half-siblings, Leta Estelle Palmer and Curtis Lee Palmer. This was not long before Pop’s parents died. A relative told Dad that someone bought this old house and is renovating it.

Pop, probably around the time of his high school graduation, Martha Berry School for Boys, Rome, Georgia. 1930s. Pop left the home of his Aunt and Uncle, Wiley Byrd, and Bettie Knowles Byrd, for Berry at age 11. He took the train from Jeff Davis County, Georgia, to Rome to go to school there and stayed until his graduation. He heard about the school from a traveling preacher who visited the farm in Jeff Davis.

Pop and a friend, playing in the snow at North Georgia Military College, Dahlonega, Georgia. 1930s.

Pop, his brother Carl, and a friend, hopping a train. I doubt they were really riding the trains, but the picture makes me laugh at its playfulness. 1930s.
1930s_WalterWoodrowPalmer 002
Pop and Grandma on their honeymoon.

Pop and Dad. Savannah, Georgia, about 1943.

Pop and Grandma at Mom and Dad’s wedding. June 21, 1969.

My mom with her mom, Vivian Dunstan Smith, and Pop and Grandma. 1969, the year my parents married.


Pop, Grandma, and Grandma’s sister, Aunt Lessie (center), cleaning fish in FL. c. 1973

Pop, with beard. 1976. He grew it out as part of the Mason’s celebrating the Bicentennial.
Bicentennial Man, 1976

Pop with Me, Lisa, Dad, and Grandma. Christmas, 1980s.
Don’t hate me because I had a pink E.T. shirt and you didn’t.

Me and Pop, sitting on the couch in Roswell. Christmas, some time in the early 90s. I didn’t just post this because it shows you that I used to be a waif, but also because you get a good glimpse of Pop giving me the “Kids these days” look. And I was a waif. Not sure what i was doing with my hair here. Must have gotten crazy and chopped it off and died it black.

Pop with me and the kids. God, I forgot how cute Rollie was at this age! Pretty special to have so many pictures of them with their great-grandfather. I hope that they will remember him, but i doubt it.
Pop, Me, and the Kids

I think this was my longest post ever. Hope you don’t feel like you wasted your time if you got this far. Thanks for reading.

I still love you, Pops!

Nano Nano

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Well, I’m trying to do NaNoWriMo again this year. I did it last year, too. While training for a half-marathon. So, you would think that this year would be easier, since I am benched (AGAIN) due to the Halloween Ankle Twisting episode of 2009. (Just thinking ahead. Let’s be honest. It will probably be an annual event.) No, it is not easier this year. We are still trying to finish up renovations to the basement: we still have doors to paint and hang, shades to purchase and hang, some lighting issues to resolve, and I have to put away all my highly valuable packrat stuff. Yes, I need that funeral home fan from the 1940s, my t-ball hat from 1978 (Go Birmingham PeeWees!), and every letter written by every member of my family for the last 120 years. I need them! Deep down in my soul!

But I am going to do it again anyway, because last year? I wrote FIFTY THOUSAND WORDS. They came right out of my head and went into the computer and now i have them. I haven’t quite gone back and shaped and coaxed them into something useful yet, but it is the most writing I have produced in my life. It was AMAZING.

So, yeah, i am already behind. I only have a thousand words down, and I should be up to about 5000 by end of day, but you know what? I have a thousand more words down than I would if I had not attempted at all. And that’s saying something.

Anyone else doing it? Not too late to jump on the bandwagon. I’m looking at you, JB. If not, you are doing Script Frenzy with me in April. I mean, how hard can writing a script be? If Judd Apatow can do it, I can do it. Right?

Oh, god.

Creepy or Cute?

Friday, August 28th, 2009
Matilda at Pop's funeral. By Mark Thomas.

Matilda at Pop's funeral. By Mark Thomas.

What do you think? Creepy or cute?

Six Years of You

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

9:00 a.m. Six years ago today, i was pretty much being ripped apart by a bowling ball. A bowling ball that was not numbed by any amount of drugs for a couple hours. Rollie, you were that bowling ball. And you were worth every second of the worst pain of my entire life.

By the time you came out, my pain was being managed and I was tired and so very happy to see you. I still grieve for those hours that you were not in my arms, but they had to make sure you were okay, and you being okay was most important. Six years going by makes it clear that all of those details and all of the guilt I poured over myself at the time was for nothing. You turned out perfectly and completely and totally YOU. And you are wonderful.

Alvin, Simon, Theodore, Rollie

I really feel like this was the year that you became a true boy, no longer a baby, or a toddler, or a preschooler. You started Kindergarten this year! You rode the bus for the first time! I was so terrified, sending my baby boy off with some person i have never met before. And that night, when i kissed you goodnight, you whispered “I want to ride the bus forever. I never want you to pick me up at school again!” You loved the bus. You still do.

Happy Rollie

You have learned so many wonderful things this year. You already learned to read way back when you were four, but now you are reading longer and longer books. Sometimes the words that you read amaze me. You sound them out just perfectly, and even use them in the correct context sometimes. I will never forget the night that I walked into your room and you were reading the Tales of Beedle the Bard. At five! I wasn’t sure whether to worry that it was too graphic for you, or swell with pride that you could read a real short story book, with few pictures! You are like a sponge with the reading and you retain so much. It amazes me. At school, you are ahead of the game – They are teaching letters, letter sounds, colors, shapes, and the like, and you can already read. I worry that you won’t be challenged enough, but when I see that you are still sensitive, and still on the same emotional level with the other kids in your class, I know we made the right decision. Plus, so far, you are not struggling with your homework very much, and that is a relief to me.


Yes, you have homework. We never had homework when I was in kindergarten, but a lot seems to have changed for parents and kids since then. I hope that your Daddy and I are making good decisions for you, but sometimes it is scary for us. We want so badly to give you all of the tools you need to be a happy and well-adjusted kid. You also started taking French this year, and you have an hour of it a day. i am hoping that you and I can have some secret French conversations around the dinner table. You are already coming home every day with new French vocabulary words. There are still things to learn, though: You still can’t tie your shoes and you get very frustrated when we try to teach you. And your dad and I have been pretty bad about helping you learn to ride a bike. We need to get on that.

Boy at Waverly

You have really turned into an active, energetic little boy. You learned to swim a little last year, but this year, I can sit out of the water and watch you, and you do just great. You put your head down in the water and you can jump off the side and swim back by yourself and swim the entire length of the pool! You dive for rockets, and you were so fun to watch at the pool this year, because you played with the other kids so well. This was also the first year that I could put a lifejacket on you and let you swim in the lake while I sat on the dock. You and Tiller swam for hours in the lake last time I was there. It was a joy to watch you swimming and playing the same exact games that Aunt Lisa and I used to play right there, too. You took your first ride with me on the Jetski this year – I think you were a little freaked out by it, but I am sure you will grow out of that soon and be scaring me with your fearlessness. I know I was terrified riding around on that thing with such precious cargo, but I want you to learn to have fun, and be cautious, but not fearful. I try to teach you that by example, but sometimes Mamas get scared, too.
Rowdy Rollie Rodeo
You played soccer last Fall and this spring and loved it. You are pretty good and we call you “The Cheetah” because you are so fast. Your team was called “The Dream Team Tigers” which we have really gotten a lot of laughs about. This year, you are playing soccer and t-ball (Go, RiverCats!) and I am really enjoying you learn to catch and throw and learn the rules of the game. Just last night, you made your first base hit and you played pitcher and got an out at first. I was beaming. The best part of all, though, is sitting in the bleachers in that moment when light and dark are just about even, then the lights on the field flutter on, and you and your team-mates are running around the bases, playing pickle and laughing (giggling, really) and I just see the joy on your face, and the fact that you are happy, and comfortable with who you are.
Boy Loves Tractor
I know that won’t last forever – that kids are mean, and you have to watch movies about bullying at school for a reason. I know that there will cliques and hurt feelings, mean things said, and unrequited crushes. I just hope that you will have a foundation given to you by your Dad and me that leaves you with a sense that you are a wonderful person, and that you have self-worth. I hope that you always have the strength to know who you are, to be your own person, and to do the right thing, even under difficult circumstances.

Rollie with Flower

10:00 a.m. I was still at Northside waiting for you to join us. The room was unlit and I was hurting, but it was getting better. Daddy and Aunt Lisa were there. The rest is a blur of visiting grandparents and MASH re-runs, until you came out and changed my world forever, at about 5:30, I think.
At about 5:30 today, we should be getting ready to head down to Turner Field. Your birthday party is Saturday morning at the pool, but we have kind of started a tradition of taking you to a Braves game on your birthday. Last year, Daddy and I surprised you with it, but this year, all four of us are going. Even Tiller. We haven’t told you yet, but I can’t wait to see your face when we do. It will be Tiller’s first baseball game, and I’m sure she will love it, but you will be the star tonight. I can’t wait to see you eating peanuts and hot dogs, and yeah, we might even get you a coke. It is your birthday, after all.

I love you, little buddy. More than you will ever know, at least until you maybe have a child of your own. And then you will ache with it, and swell with it, and wrestle with it. I hope that I am there for you when the time comes, because I am so proud of you and I know how proud I will be then.

Your Mama

Are you an aunt, uncle or Grandma or Papaw, who can’t get enough of baby pictures of Rollie? Here’s a set of some of my favorites.

This Time Six Years Ago

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

I was at the Ob’s office, waiting to get on the list to check into Northside for an induction. I finally knew that I was going to the hospital and I would be able to see my baby in the next 24 to 48 hours. I was nervous, happy, relieved, and scared shitless.

Not half as scared as I should have been.

I had to go home and wait for the call that they were ready for me. We went in that night. We slept in a room at the hospital and they induced me the next morning.

I didn’t have any earthly idea how much my life was about to change, drastically and irrevocably. Forever.

For Jason B.

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

For Jason, who thinks Rollie and I look so much alike at Rollie’s age. . . check out my mother, at about the same age. In very p.c. Indian headdress, with old Aunt Zelma, and her dog, Peg. Evidently, Zelma used to fart and blame it on Peg all the time. Mom will have to confirm, but I believe this photo was taken at the duplex on either Seminole Dr. or Mason Dr., Chattanooga, Hamilton Co., TN.


Can’t seem to find the picture of me in my Birmingham PeeWees baseball uniform, but Rollie and I look a LOT alike in that one.

Coming up on Dogwood Girl: “Before” photos of our basement; “Before” photos of my gray roots.

Dunstan Family Reunion, 2009

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

The elder Dunstan cousins.

The elder Dunstan cousins.

We had our Dunstan family reunion yesterday at my cousin Jenn’s house in Roswell. She had a pool, so it seemed logical to have it there. The food was awesome, the pool was fun, and it is always great to see the family. Wish I wasn’t so distracted by the children. I would have loved to sit around and talk and drink with the cousins.

Yes, this is the drinky side of the family. Also smoky. Cardplaying. Gambling. Cussing.

Pretty sure I come by this stuff honestly, folks.

More pics on my Flickr.

Family, Friends, Oddities

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

So, had a nice day. Got up early, went to family reunion. I like to see my Mom hang with her family, or as we call them around the house, “her people.” The kids swam like fish, and we ate burgers and dogs, and drank beer. It was awesome to see my cousins that I never get to see, even though we didn’t get nearly enough time together. It is hard to pay attention to people when you are trying to make sure your children aren’t drowning. it is distracting. I think that being distracted is one of the hardest parts of being a parent. You constantly feel distracted.

Todd stayed home, because he had been out so late the night before, working on a shoot that ended up lasting 21 hours. I gave him a pass on the reunion, because that’s how i roll.

When i got home, we put kids in pjs, then I took a shower and we headed out to my friend Evan’s. Evan and I have known each other since forever. I think he was 11 and I was 10 when we first met. I can’t believe that I have friends that I have known for TWENTY-SEVEN YEARS. Seriously. That is a long ass time.

Evan and his wife have a Rock Paper Scissors Tournament every year. Nope. not Kidding. Pretty fun stuff. Evan is also one of the most awesome people that I know, because he does things like build his own Giant Jenga. Have you ever played Jenga? Yeah, it’s fun. Now imagine playing it with big old 2X4s, cut to proportional Jenga size. This is hard to explain, but basically, it creates a Jenga that is as high as you. So, if Jenga falls, you get injured feet. It is pretty fun. I rocked it. Which means somebody else lost and i didn’t get mushed toes. There were also some boys who decided to create their own Danger Jenga, which was basically a bunch of boys piling wood and coolers, and boxes and shit on top of each other to create a tower. I like.

And then there was the weird Dance Off. It turns out that one of my son’s classmate’s father works with Evan. This father is quietish and the wife is really shy and quiet. Then I hear one day that these folks crashed a NYE party. The father danced like a maniac while the wife watched. Women were amazed by his moves. I was skeptical. So, the guy shows up at Evan’s. He BROUGHT HIS OWN MUSIC. Not kidding.

And then, after a while, he and another guy proceeded to have a dance off. There were splits, spewing beer, and a stripper pole involved.

And I was worried that they were going to be upset that their daughter’s room mother knocked back five beers in two hours. . . . silly me. I’m still kind of amazed that i am a parent.

Oh, tomorrow, I will have to tell you about Play Him Off Keyboard Cat, and also the list that Jason and I gave to Evan. How odd is it to see what you wrote at 18 years of age, after 20 years? So odd.


Saturday, July 11th, 2009


Pop had photos of him and Grandma made and then, if you look closely, you can see where he signed his “Love, Walter.”