Saturday, December 08, 2007

Compassionate Friends -- Worldwide Candle Lighting

When our son, Jay, died on July 2, 1992, our lives changed forever. The Lord and our “compassionate friends” brought us through our immediate grief, so when people began to mention the international group called The Compassionate Friends, we didn’t feel that we had a need to go to their meetings, though we knew that such groups brought relief to parents whose children had died. Though we knew that we could benefit from such a group, we didn’t seek out TCF; instead, we joined a “grief group” at First Baptist Church, our church in Pensacola, Florida. At that time, I had no idea that TCF would eventually touch my life in a very meaningful way.

A few years later, after we had moved to Cerrillos, I happened on an article that would begin a love affair with TCF, even though we would never be official members. The article told of an event sponsored by The Compassionate Friends, an event that would become a joyous part of our holidays. Since I’ve never heard anyone else mention this activity, I’m just not sure that many people -- people who should know about it, parents who have experienced their worst nightmare, the death of a child -- know about something that could give them great pleasure during the holidays which have the possibility of causing much sadness because they miss their children so much more at these special moments.

Here’s what happens around the world each year just before Christmas and Hanukkah. It has come to mark the beginning of the Season for our family. The Compassionate Friends’ Worldwide Candle Lighting began in 1997 as a simple internet activity; however, the world community soon caught on, and now it is probably the most comprehensive candle lighting in the world. On the evening of the second Sunday in December, at 7:00 local time, bereaved parents around the globe light a candle to remember their children so that “their light may always shine.” People gather in stadiums (Albuquerque), in event centers (Hobbs), or at the homes of those involved in Compassionate Friends (Los Alamos). These celebrations for departed children are large gatherings where parents and grandparents bring pictures of their loved ones and light a candle in their memory for one hour. Music and readings are usually a part of the program, which lasts for an hour. What a wonderful way to remember our children in an understanding atmosphere! Just imagine the wave of candlelight around the world!

Our “celebration” is a bit different because it’s held in our home with friends and family gathered for introducing Jay to those who never knew him and for remembering him for those of us who knew him well. This year on December 9, we will invite neighbors in for our fourth Celebration of Jay. Here’s what will happen . . .

Our home will be decorated for Christmas, and as our friends arrive – some having come in other years, some coming for the first time – they’lll feel the festive holiday atmosphere. Since Jay was an uproariously funny, life-loving rock musician, be assured that we’ll be having a good time. Our daughter Wendy, my husband Frank, and I will tell funny stories about Jay, some of which most parents wouldn’t find amusing. We might tell about the time that he had almost 500 fans of Velvet Melon (his band) in and out of our house one night while Frank and I were in Europe taking care of other people’s kids. He had proof of the numbers because he charged a dollar a head, as he called it. For years afterward, young people around the town tolod us of how our house rocked that tnight. Our insurance agent paced in front of his house all night, just knowing that the next minute would bring a call telling him of someone’s having drowned in our pool. No call came. Or Wendy might tell about the time that she and Jay hiked down to the floor of the Grand Canyon. Only she can make us feel the agony that she felt as she hiked up slowly behind Jay, who had run most of the way out of the Canyon carrying the only water that they had between them. He was in big trouble by the time his big sister made it back up to civilization! I usually try to read a poem or a section from a book of his friends’ remembrances of him; however, the old mom has a little difficulty even after so long. So Wendy finishes for me.

Wendy is a photographer, and her favorite subject was Jay; therefore, we always have photos and/or videos. We can count on whatever she comes up with to be entertaining, funny, sometimes poignant. At our celebration, we make sure that there’s lots of laughter because that’s what Jay would want. Telling stories about Jay and poring over pictures and videos of him have been our way of getting through our grief. Stories and pictures have also been the vehicle for introducing our friends here in New Mexico to our boy. No one out here knew him except Wendy, Frank, Wendy’s daughter Corey (who remembers him, too, only through stories and pictures), and me. And we certainly don’t want to deprive our friends of knowing a young man (he was twenty-four when he died) whom they surely would have loved!

The celebration lasts no more than an hour, usually less, so as soon as we finish, we head for the table. Guests never come to our house without being fed, and the second Sunday in December is no exception. We don’t have an elaborate dinner . . . just sandwiches and Christmas cookies.

The Young Family will be indebted forever to The Compassionate Friends for introducing us to this wonderful way of keeping Jay’s light shining and of ushering in the Christmas Season, truly the most joyous season of the year.

(I originally wrote this to enter in an Christmas Essay/Short Story Contest sponsored by our local newspaper, The Santa Fe New Mexican; however, I didn't see it as contest worthy after reading it aloud. Just wanted to save it on my blog. Thanks for reading!)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Stan the Man

Dear Stan,

I think I just need to reminisce a bit. I know that’s what I need to do because that’s the way that I remember things that have happened and people that I love. Your family and ours go back a long way, Stan. I don’t think you were at home the evening that really sealed the closeness of Fran, Bob, Frank, and me. I’m sure you remember the Amway days. Who could forget them? You might never have known that they began with a lie.

One Friday afternoon, I called your mom and told her that Frank and I would be in their neighborhood that evening, ostensibly for eating at a restaurant somewhere near the beach. I told her that I needed to pick her brain about how she was teaching Julius Caesar that year. I guess that wasn’t completely a lie, but the real reason for our visit was for Frank to “prospect” Bob for Amway. He took the bait . . . and our lasting friendship began. And so began, also, the friendship between you and Wendy and Jay. It was also the beginning of many antics with the three of you.

You are exactly twenty days older than Wendy, making you about four and a half years older than Jay. That’s important for what I want to tell about the three of you. In the summer of 1975 (you and Wendy were 12, and Jay was about 7), the seven of us set out for Washington, D.C., in our Oldsmobile station wagon, headed for the big Amway Convention on the eve of our nation’s 200th birthday, dragging our trailer behind. You three children were so cute, playing on the back seat all day and cavorting in the campground in the evening. You and Wendy really knew how to keep a younger brother in line. In fact, Wendy refers to it as torturing the little boy. If I remember correctly, Jay poked the tiniest hole in the back of the second seat in the station wagon. You and Wendy assured him that if they told on him, we would practically kill him. What a great way to get a seven-year-old to do everything you wanted him to do! Even more mischief from the three of you . . . while we four adults were at the Amway rally one evening, you almost got us thrown out of the hotel by whooping and hollering and using the beds as trampolines. The manager scared you so badly that by the time we got back to the rooms, you were docile little children, assuring us you didn’t know why in the world he got so angry. The manager filled us in pretty accurately.

That vacation really tested the waters for the two families. We laughed often about the trip, and all of us thought that being together in a station wagon and a trailer at night for a whole week and still being friends when we got back to Pensacola was a true test of friendship. That was thirty-two years ago. Our make-up of our families here on earth has changed, but your mom is still a best friend. She has lots of best friends, and all of us will take care of her for you.

When Fran asked me to say a few words today, she knew that that word FEW wouldn’t be observed because I never said in ten words what could better be said in one hundred. I told her that what I have to say would be humorous in nature because I knew you best when you were so cute and funny . . . She gave me permission, so here goes with some of the things that I remember.

One day when you and Jay were playing in his room, Jay came running down the stairs (how do I say this delicately in church?) . . . clutching his privates. He was trying so hard not to scream in agony, but his efforts weren’t working too well. I said, “What in the world happened?” He told me that you and he had been playing with his BB gun, and it went off. He was so afraid that Mrs. Crumpton would find out and you’d get in all sorts of trouble. He knew that “tough love” that Fran used on you, and he thought you might not ever see the light of day again. This was a story that Jay loved to tell, and you know it grew more elaborate every time he told it.

I believe that story because I looked and saw the results of the BB gun; however, this next story is one that I always questioned. Jay could tell such good stories, playing to his audience and elaborating more and more with each telling. How I wish I had asked you about this while you were here with us, but I was always afraid Fran would hear me and worry about it in retrospect. Jay told us many years after the fact that one night you stopped at our house; Jay went out on the balcony and down to your car; and the two of you had a grand old time. I never asked for details, but I’ll just bet you did! There are some things that are just better left unknown to mothers. I never told your mom about this because I knew she’d use that “tough love” again. And I didn’t want to be the one who generated that!

Another thing I remember has to do with a good friend of so many of us . . . VS, Virginia Stephens. You two had a mutual admiration society if I ever saw one. All of us adults saw both her inner and outer beauty. I guess you knew about her inward beauty, but the outer is what you mentioned. One day, you said to your mom, “Mrs. Stephens always looks so pretty. Do you suppose she uses Oil of Olay?” Pretty observant for a little boy, huh?

And now, Stan, I have to tell you that you were a role model to Jay when he was growing up. And that was a good thing. You always had such a good head on your shoulders, but you also had a wonderful sense of humor. Do you remember your Johnny Cash imitation? I won’t do it now because it’s a bit too irreverent for church. You taught Jay well because he could do it just the way you did. He even had facial expressions that made me say, “That’s Stan!” And I loved it. Thanks for the influence.

When I told your mom that most of what I’d reminisce about took place when you were a little boy, she said, “Tell a story for me!” I love this one because it pictures both you and my friend, Fran so perfectly. Your mom took you to football practice every Saturday morning when you were about ten. This was during the time when you lived on the beach. Just about the time that she would turn at Hardee’s in Gulf Breeze, she’d begin to pray out loud. She’d pray for the safety of the team, for the little boys to play fairly, for the coaching ability of the man in charge. Pretty much what you’d expect your mom to pray for. One morning when she turned the corner and you were still putting on your football gear, you leaned forward and said to her, “You don’t need to pray this morning, Mom.” Fran was so surprised and said, “Why not?” “Because Coach will pray, and he prays for us to win!”

And here’s another one that Fran told me. When you were in Karla Summerford’s class in 9th grade, you played the part of Romeo in the class performance. The night before the play, your mom (ever the English teacher!) just had to give you some last-minute performance instructions. “Now, Stan,” she said, “don’t look into the eyes of the audience because some of your FRIENDS might try to get you tickled.” “Oh, mom, don’t worry. I’ve got everything under control!” And he probably did . . . until the time for the cast to introduce themselves rolled around. When your turn came, you said very self-assuredly, “I’m Romeo, playing the part of Stan Adams.” Was this a slip . . . or were you as usual trying to get a laugh? If I were a betting woman, I’d put my money on the latter.

This story is from your Pine Forest High School days. Again, though, it involves you and Wendy and Jay. Every year, a club (maybe Key Club?) had a talent show. You were always able to come up with something really creative . . . something that would make the audience howl with laughter. Steve Martin was very popular during the early ‘80s, and you capitalized on that. You and several of your friends (wish I could remember their names) did a hilarious rendition of the comedian’s “King Tut.” Oh, my goodness, but it was funny! You high school boys were a real hit, but you also had a little guy in your performance. During lunch that day, you and Wendy slipped off to Bellview Middle School and “stole” Jay. I guess the two of you made up some story about having to take him to the doctor or something, but those gullible secretaries in the office believed whatever it was that you told them. Before you began the routine, you set Jay on top of the speakers. He was so little that his legs dangled while he played the music on the recorder (flute). I think I remember that you guys won first place in the talent contest. If you didn’t, you should have! Years later, when Jay went to Europe with us, we had a talent show in Switzerland. Once again you were a model for him. He and a bunch of guys on the tour did their “King Tut,” complete with the same kinds of costumes that you and your friends had . . . towels wrapped around their middles and big spoons covered with foil and strapped around their heads for the “snakes.” Both performances were absolutely wonderful!

I could write lots more, Stan, but I need to bring this to a close. The last time I saw you was at the house in Mackey Cove. Your mom invited us to her house for dinner when Irina, our Russian daughter, and her mother, Olga, were visiting us. As always it was elegant. Nikki and a friend of hers were there, and you had prepared most of the dinner. It was delicious! I have a great picture of you standing at the stove putting the finishing touches on whatever it was that you were cooking. That culinary education at PJC certainly did serve you well! And that leads me to something else.

When Jay died, his friends immediately figured out why he was no longer with them. They were convinced that the Lord needed a new bass player in his Heavenly Band. I liked that. Well, we might be able to explain your early death in a similar way. All of your experience working with Miss Josie at Joe Patti’s Deli surely did prepare you. You remember all that fish that Jesus prepared for his disciples? I just wonder if He needed you to give him a little help at his big fish fries in heaven. I know this isn’t biblical, but it surely does give a little balm to the hurting heart right now.

And now to bring us right up to date. Be assured that we’ll take care of your daughter, Nikki. You might not have always liked that “tough love” that Fran used with you; however, from what I understand from Fran, you used a lot of it on your Nikki. You were probably a soft touch in a lot of ways, though. What a wonderful young lady she has turned out to be! Heredity and home training make children into responsible and caring adults. Your Nikki is a lovely young lady who exhibits these traits and many more. She’ll continue to make you proud.

I have a picture in my mind, Stan, and with that I’ll close. I know just as sure as I know anything that Wednesday morning, when you went from this life on earth, Jay and Bob and all of those other loved ones who went before you, were waiting for you. I can hear my boy Jay saying, “Stan the Man! What took you so long? Come on in . . . you’re gonna love it here!”

We already miss you, Stan, but we’ll join you someday.


For Fran

On Wednesday, October 10, 2007, Fran Crumpton's boy, Stan Adams, went to live with the Lord. Fran asked me to say a few words, which wound up being many words, at Stan's funeral on Saturday, October 13. And so I did. I've posted here what I said to Fran. The next post is the letter that I wrote to Stan. Please read and remember the good times that we had with Stan the Man Adams!

October 13, 2007
If you’ll excuse me for just a minute, I’d like to talk to my friend Fran before I reminisce a bit about our boy Stan. First of all, I bring you greetings, sympathy, love, and hugs from the Big Five of 1981: Wendy Young, Gus Krucke, Danny Stohl, Beth McLeod, and Earby Matheny, who is visiting Wendy right now with his wife and five children, and his mother-in-law. In fact, six of these people are staying at our house while we’re here with you.

Fran, you are an inspiration to everyone in this room. You always talk about others as being your role models, but you, my dear, are the consummate role model. During the thirty something years that we have been friends, you have lost both parents, your only two sisters-in-law, Stan’s father, Bob’s son, and then Bob. Through all of these losses, your faith has never wavered, you have comforted others when they were at a loss as to how to comfort you, and you smiled . . . sometimes with tears in your eyes, but nevertheless, we were cheered by that beautiful smile.

On Wednesday morning, Stan also went to be with the Lord. I’m sure you’ve asked, “Why, Lord? Why Stan? He was so young and had so much life still ahead of him.” Well, dear friend, you won’t get the answers to these questions in this lifetime. Someday we’ll approach Jesus with our list of questions, and these will be among yours. Right now, your heart is so broken that you may not be seeing any light at the end of the tunnel, but I’ll give you a little saying that the Lord gave to me right after Jay died, fifteen years ago. So many well-meaning people said to me, “How will you ever get over Jay’s death?” It was so clear to me. I replied, “It’s an English-teacher thing, a lesson in prepositions . . . we’ll never get over his death, but we’ll get through it.” And get through it we did because of our faith, our prayers and the prayers of others, and the love and nurturing of Christian friends like you, Fran. You, too, will get through this agonizing time with those same three things. We love you, Fran. Let us help you in your grief as we grieve along with you.

When Bob died, you asked me to say a few words at his funeral. I couldn’t refuse my friend Fran. As Frank and I drove home from the gathering at your house on the evening before the funeral, I was getting panicky. I still hadn’t figured out what I would say or how I would say it. Again, the Lord spoke to me and gave me the answer: “Write a letter to Bob. He’d like that, especially since you never wrote a letter to him while he was alive.” I knew when you asked me to speak today that I’d have to write to Stan, too. As I was preparing to compose my letter, a quotation came back to me. Every year in April or May, I’d write this quotation on the board so that my seniors could respond to it: “Nothing rattles like an empty mailbox.” My reason for giving this quotation to them was to encourage them to write to their parents when they went away to school. I thought it appropriate for you to have a letter right now because your mailbox may be rattling from the emptiness of not having Stan right here in person with you. This letter’s for you, my dear, dear friend.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


Biscuits are the first not-in-a-wrapper-from-the-grocery bread that I remember. Surely my mother made biscuits when I was a little girl, but they don’t come to mind immediately. The ones that I remember first were made by my grandmother, Mama Cheatham, in Florence, Alabama. My mother, dad, and I (that’s our whole family) didn’t visit there often, but when we did, the first aroma wafting from Mama Cheatham’s kitchen every morning was the sweet, sweet smell of homemade biscuits. In that area of North Alabama, it wasn’t unusual to have the fragrance of fried chicken mingled with that of biscuits. Sounds strange, I know, but back in the ‘40s, it was common.

I never saw her actually make the dough . . . you know, sift the flour, add the shortening and milk. All I remember of the making process was that dear little lady reaching in to the ice box (that’s the old fashioned term for refrigerator for you youngsters), taking something out, rolling it out on a floured board, cutting very small circles of dough, putting them in the oven, and voila! melt-in-your-mouth biscuits appeared minutes later on a table laden with fried chicken, eggs, butter, jelly, and probably lots of other delectables that I can’t remember because that was more than fifty years ago.

My dad used to tell a funny story about him and his stepmother, my Mama Cheatham. Papa and Mama married after my dad’s mother died, not too many years later, I imagine. In any event, Daddy was a wild teenager at the time, I think the oldest of several children who now inhabited the home. He told me that many a morning, Mama Cheatham would go to his room, open the door, and announce to a sleepy teenager who had probably stayed out much too late the night before, “Arlie, get up! The biscuits are in the oven!” His reply, so he told me, was always, “That’s a helluva good place for them to be, Jack!” That’s what he called his stepmother, Jack. I think he probably dragged himself out of bed shortly thereafter because I can’t imagine anyone in his right mind missing those delicious biscuits!

The next biscuits I remember were the ones my mother made, but I don’t recall them until I was a teenager living in Pensacola. Maybe I just have a blot in my memory because I know she didn’t just learn how to make biscuits until that time. What comes immediately to mind from watching her make her delicious biscuits was seeing her pat out the dough fairly thin and then pour melted shortening over the flattened dough. Next, she’d fold the dough over itself, pat it a little more, and cut the biscuit circles with a juice glass, actually a small glass that probably had held pimiento cheese spread in an earlier life. And were they, too, delicious? You betcha! She never really taught me to make biscuits with a recipe or oral instructions. I just watched from time to time, and am I glad I did because when I was a newlywed, I learned to make biscuits from a friend, but she didn’t know the melted-shortening-fold-the-dough-over trick. By the way, I once asked Mother why she did that, and she said, “Why, don’t you know? That makes it so that you can open the biscuit to butter it!” I seldom questioned my mother, and this time was no exception.

When Frank and I married in 1961, we moved in to Kell’s Cottage, a rent-free house for ministerial students at Mississippi College. We both had jobs to support us while we went to school, Frank in construction and me as the Veteran’s Clerk in the Registrar’s Office at the college. While working there, I met a young woman who had been married a bit longer than I had, in fact, several years longer than I had. She was a cooker! And she knew how to make biscuits.

“It’s really easy,” Virginia said. “All you do is sift two cups of self-rising flour, add five tablespoons of Crisco, mix, and add one cup of milk. Stir it all together, roll out on a floured board, cut, and bake.” Sounded simple enough for me!
After trying several times, I realized that something was missing even though they came out well enough. They were absolutely edible, and my sweetheart was much impressed with my accomplishment. Then I remembered my mother’s trick: buttermilk (plus a little soda), melted shortening on the patted out dough, and the magical fold! Mmmm . . . now I had my mother’s biscuits, but I didn’t have to measure baking powder, salt, the always-needed-with-buttermilk baking soda because Virginia had introduced me to the wonders of self-rising flour!

In August 1961, Frank and I took our longed-for trip to Seattle, the trip during which I would meet my mother-in-law and father-in-law for the first time and during which Wendy was conceived. The former story may appear in another essay; the latter will probably never appear in print. Anyway, we borrowed my parents’ brand new Oldsmobile and headed west for my first trip to Seattle. While we were there, Grandma did lots of cooking. If I thought that biscuits were a Southern delicacy, I was wrong. Grandma made great biscuits, but I’m not so sure that hers were any better than mine. The wonderful thing was that she taught me how to make sweet biscuits! Oh, my goodness . . . I was in Heaven! They were scrumptious! Actually, I don’t think she taught me how to make them, as in giving me the ingredients and instructions. Once again, I just watched as she made the dough, rolled it out, spread soft butter on it, added brown sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkled chopped nuts on top. Then in amazement I stared as she rolled the dough up from the long side, cut the rolled-up dough, placed the spirals on a cookie sheet, popped them in the oven, and withdrew those delicious sweet biscuits. You need to know that my mother-in-law was a very frugal woman; therefore, I’m sure that she didn’t use nearly so much butter, brown sugar, nuts, and cinnamon as I do, but they were delicious anyway. I’m not even sure that she knew that I copied her those many years ago. The old saying “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” applies here because I’m always quick to tell everyone who eats my sweet biscuits the name of the dear lady who first made them. I’m sure that for Grandma those biscuits were a quick and economical way of feeding many mouths!

But that’s not the end of the Biscuit Evolution for me. Through the years, I have made them for our little family, usually for special occasions such as a leisurely Saturday morning or Christmas breakfast; however, now in 2007, they’re an every-Sunday-morning feast. A little bit of background is needed here . . .

We now live outside the village of Cerrillos in Northern New Mexico. Since there is no protestant church in our little town, Annie Whitney, our sweet Christian friend, organized a Bible Study for those of us who were interested in gathering each Sunday morning to study the Word together. Wendy volunteered Frank, her dad, to lead it; he accepted the opportunity after the Lord let him know that He intended for him to take the leadership position. For a while, we met in a local restaurant, where we all bought goodies for breakfast in appreciation to Joseph for letting us meet in his establishment. However, Joseph closed his business after we had been meeting there for several months. What were we to do? Where would we meet? What would we have for breakfast? Our daughter and son-in-law, Wendy and Todd, came to our rescue for the place. We’d meet at their house. But what about food? You guessed it. Sweet biscuits! I made them one morning, thinking that I’d come up with other breakfast goodies; however, they were such a hit, that I’ve been rising every Sunday morning in time to bake up a batch. One of our Bible Study members loves them so much and gives me so many compliments (sometimes threats about what will happen to me if I show up without them!) that I have re-named them. They are no longer sweet biscuits. They are now Glenn Biscuits, named for that quiet, always-faithful, God-loving man, Glenn Holleman. I doubt seriously that my biscuits will evolve much more.

I’m still making the old stand-by biscuits, though. After all, that’s one thing that I’ve always been able to bank on having our dear granddaughter eat. Corey’s not a big eater, but I can count on her eating her share of Grammy’s biscuits. I wish she could have tasted the ones Mama Cheatham made, though.

Monday, July 02, 2007


In The Santa Fe New Mexican each week, I read a gazillion letters that families write to loved ones who have died. That seems a little strange to me since I doubt very seriously that those departed folks read the paper.
So . . . on this fifteenth anniversary of Jay's death, I'm not writing to him. I'm just writing some thoughts that are going through this mom's mind as she thinks about her boy. What I plan to write will not be morbid meanderings, I hope, but rather some good memories that I'm cherishing today as I sit in my little messy office here in Cerrillos, NM. Feel free to make comments!

How I wish that Jay had been alive during the digital camera age! You think I have lots of pictures from the point-and-shoot-and-take-the-film-to-the-store-to-be-developed age. Can you imagine what I would have if I'd had my trusty little Sony while he was alive? I'd have to have an external hard drive just for pics of my boy! Anyway . . . the picture on this post is a digital shot of an old picture that Wendy took at Mardi Gras in Mobile one year, maybe in 1992, not long before Jay died. My memory's not that good! One of the last exact things that I remember Jay saying to me was at his last gig, one of the many at Yesterday's in Chattanooga. During the break after the first set, he came to sit with us, as he usually did . . . just for a minute before he started "working the crowd," his term for visiting with everyone. He said directly to me, "Mom, did you see that? I had the crowd right in my hands! You can't even imagine what that feels like!" And he was right. I couldn't imagine it. But I have a picture that shows him with the crowd right in his hands! That's my boy! Maybe you were there that night. Maybe he had you right in his hands!

Today, I'm thinking about all the great times we had following Jay and Velvet Melon around all over the Southeast and even as far as New York. I'm also reminiscing about how you Melonheads always welcomed us old folks at the gigs, how some of you guys would always ask me to dance during my favorite songs (I was a bit clumsy in the movements, I'm afraid), how the waitresses would meet me at the door to tell me that someone had just put a fresh pot of coffee on for me, how Jay would always find time to come over to Frank and me during one of the breaks just to talk to his mom and dad. You may not be aware of it, but many a Sunday evening at Coconut Bay or Chan's Bayside I'd sit and write lesson plans on cocktail napkins during the sets. And many a time, Jay would check just to be sure I wasn't grading papers. No chance of that! Can you imagine what my students would say when I returned the papers and they got a whiff of where I'd been grading? Ah! Those were the good old days!

I'm also thinking of all of you Melonheads who gathered at our house right after Jay died and sat on the floor of our family room with Wendy, going through snapshots for her to put on the collages that she made and that we exhibited at the visitation and funeral. We needed you, and I firmly believe that you needed us during that time. In fact, Frank and I think we remember that Melonheads in various numbers were with us in our home for several days, maybe even weeks, after Jay died. We grieved together. And that was a good thing! I remember hearing several Melonheads say at different times, "Well, God needed a new bass player in his band, and he surely did get one!" That observation was music to a mother's ears, I can assure you! Another specific thing that I remember coming from one of you, this time just a little bit after the funeral, when we were all gathered again in the family room, came from Jack Canavan, if I remember correctly. He said, "The only thing missing from Jay's funeral was having all the cars (126, by Andy Waltrip's count) circle Cordova Mall, yelling good-bye's to Jay. Wouldn't that have been fun? As they say, "Hindsight's 20/20," huh?

Writing about my boy is one of my passions, but I'll end right now. Just had to get some words and thoughts down on "paper" today. Someday I'll put together all of my ramblings, hoping that some of them make sense in retrospect. If you were among the folks at the Velvet Melon Reunion at Beth and Andy Waltrip's house on April 28, we loved seeing you and getting all those hugs. If you weren't there, we missed you. Thanks, Beth and Andy for hosting! And thanks, Wendy (our darlin' daughter), for loving all of us so much that you'd spend literally months getting us all together! I'm still working on the VELVET MELON Reunion blog, so check back soon. Eventually, I'll put lots of pictures on Snapfish and send links to all of you.

Enjoy the day, and remember funny stories about Jay!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Road Trip to Pensacola and VELVET MELON Reunion

What a surprise we had on April 28 at Beth and Andy Waltrip's house! I'll give a bit of background before describing the day.

Wendy, Frank, and I were supposed to make a road trip to Pensacola around Christmastime; however, we never could find a good date. We postponed our trip until spring. When Frank found out that Wendy and I had planned about a two-week trip, he balked because he can't be gone from his land for that long at that time of year . . . all sorts of "crops" planted, and they need tending. So Wendy, Sandy, and Jackson would make the trip alone.

A few weeks before departure time, Wendy called to tell/ask her dad something. Her end of the conversation went something like this: "Hey, Dad . . . I have a question for you, but you must answer 'Yes.' Then you can't ask any questions. On April 26, can you drive to Pensacola with Todd? (His answer had already been supplied.) Remember, no questions!" The "no questions" part went for me as well.

Our road trip was so much fun with lots of talk although Wendy said that our three days of travel were the hardest she ever spent since she couldn't talk at all about her surprise while we were traveling. Since I knew there was something wonderful in the offing, I made sure to disappear at least once every time we were with relatives or friends on our trip. As an aside, I need to tell readers about the excitement that we had on our way to Pensacola.

Early on the morning of April 19, Wendy, Jackson, and I headed out for Pensacola. Excited hardly explains what we were feeling. This trip would prove to be my first to drive all 1300 miles by myself. Wendy would have driven, but I really think I was trying to prove to myself that I could drive the distance alone if I ever had to or wanted to. You see, Frank's not much for traveling these days, and I have "travel" in my blood . . . not travel to distant lands, just travel to see those I love. This Pensacola Road Trip was travel that I really wanted to do, and I did it! Jackson was such a good traveler. Very contented most of the time. On this first day, he talked to his daddy and pop on his "none" a good bit of the time!

We spent two nights on the road, the first one being in Plano, where our cousin Kathy Resmondo and her family live. Kathy got in touch with two other cousins, and we had a grand family reunion at a great restaurant that my cousin Steve Trammell chose. My cousin Becky Keck and her family were there, too. About thirteen descendants of Mary and Jimmy Kolb ate dinner together that evening. So much fun!

This is almost the whole gang. We're missing just the guys, Steve and Lamar (Kathy's husband). They were in charge of the picture.

I have lots of other pictures, but I can't include all of them. So . . . I decided on this one of Steve and me. We decided that we haven't seen each other in twenty-five years, at his and Lenita's wedding. My mother and I made a wonderful road trip from Pensacola to Dallas, stopping every afternoon going and coming at Dairy Queen, where we pigged out on hot fudge sundaes. One of my favorite memories of my mother. Steve's dad, Jack, was one of only three boy cousins in the Kolb family . . . and one of my favorite people of all time!

Another day of driving . . . lunch in Monroe, LA, with my cousins Gail Gambino and Kay Holloway. Great visit and no dead air at that table! Kay is on the left, and Gail on the right. Gail and I grew up playing movie stars. I have some funny stories about Gail and me when she and her mother lived with us for a couple of months. Kay came along much later. We went with Kay to her and Jeff's house, which we hadn't seen. On the road again . . .

Then an evening in Clinton, MS, having dinner and much talk with a college friend, Ann Smith, her husband, and daughter. Ann and I hadn't seen each other in forty-four years. We just took up where we left off! Delroy and Angela became family immediately. Jackson had the first of very few meltdowns. He was just so tired; however, when he and Wendy left the restaurant, where we had a delicious dinner, to walk across the parking lot to our motel, he told everyone at our table good night, then proceeded to the other tables to "head butt" them, his unique way of taking leave.

The third day was a piece of cake, with only about six hours of driving. We stopped in Pascagoula, MS, to have lunch with a couple who were best friends of ours back when we were all young marrieds. Ann and Gary Holland have been our friends for so long, whether or not we lived in the same town. This visit was wonderful. We just reminisced and shared pictures to our hearts' content. The Hollands suffered a lot of damage during Katrina, but they have managed, through lots of hard work and dollars, to get it back to the beauty that it once was . . . maybe even more beautiful!

We were elated to finally arrive at JoAnn and Fred Gaines's house. Jo is my cousin (our mothers were sisters), but she's more like a sister. I love her and her husband, Fred, so much. Whenever I drive up to their house, I breathe a little sigh and feel as though I'm home. On this visit, Wendy and Jackson stayed in the house, and I had my own house . . . their trailer. What luxury! Sometime I'll write about staying with Jo and Fred. We have our little routines, and I'd like to tell you about them, but for now, I'll do a bit of "leaping and lingering." Just fill in the blanks if you want to.

Every time I go to Pensacola, almost every minute of every day is filled with appointments and visits. This time was no exception. I had lunch with my "Three Musketeers" teacher friends (Joyce Wiggins, Dee Boone, and Betty Spiegelhalter); made it to two doctors' appointments (one with my favorite doctor, Derek Jones, who also was one of my favorite students back in the good old days); visited with Annice Webb in Gulf Breeze and ate her favorite lunch, talked about everything under the sun; went to Joyce and Don Wiggins' home to chat for a while, finding out during the visit that Don has had a novel published (I'm so excited for him. Just wish I'd really get serious about writing and get something published.); ate out with Jill and Chig Findley at the Oyster Barn (I long for good seafood out here in New Mexico), during which time we caught up on everything (mainly their family) since last July when we had a surprise party for Chig at our house (celebrating his 70th!); riding over to Mobile for a bit of shoe shopping; and finally (though I'm sure I've left some things out), lunch at Fran's house with Hazel Scales and Annice . . . and of course, Fran, Wendy, and Jackson. Whew! What a week!

Then came the big day, the day Frank and Todd had driven 1300 miles in two days for. The day that Wendy couldn't breathe a word about during our three days on the road together. The day that she had prepared for all those months. April 28th!
That was the same day that Fran and the other Lunch Ladies had planned to have their every-other-month lunch, this time at Sara Klusmann's house. After a delicious lunch prepared by Chef Sara and delightful visiting with Fran, Hazel, Barb Lautner, Linda Sue Thomas, and Sara, Frank came to pick me up so that we could open the mysterious envelope that Wendy had given us that morning. Here's what was inside . . .

For you, Mom and Dad,
There's a reunion to be had.
Some folks are waitin'
So stop hesitatin'!
Get in your car,
And tho' it be far,
It's worth twice the drive!
Just don't drive TOO slow!
And here's where you go:
14300 Eitzen Road
(that's Beth and Andy's if you don't know!)

When we arrived, our first clue that we were at a Velvet Melon Reunion was Andy's VM t-shirt. I remember when those shirts rolled off the press. We were all so excited! Do any of you remember that Jay had a special one for Jimmy Mills? He was the sound man and wasn't on the front of the shirt. By the way, Jim, I campaigned for you to be right there with everyone else. But, no . . . Jay had your picture put in the "armpit" of the shirt. It really was funny, but your old mom wanted you on the front. Then I looked through the gate and saw Todd Vannoy. I knew for sure that we were having a Velvet Melon Party! Just like the old days! Later, Wendy asked me if we saw the balloons along the way. I had. Did I notice that they were pink and green? I didn't. So sorry. That little hint was wasted on the elderly.

(This post in in progress. Check back later for complete and edited version!)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Jackson's Birthday

Jackson celebrated his second birthday on May 21, 2007; however, we didn't do the real celebration until June 2, his dad's birthday, when we sang "Happy Birthday" to Jackson, Wendy, and Todd. Wendy's big day was May 24. So many birthdays in May/June! Jackson is sitting in his brand new red car that Grammy and Pop gave him. He absolutely loves to DRIVE!! One day last week, Todd moved their Saturn in to the yard so that he could drive a big car to his heart's content!

A First Posting

Someone said, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life," but I can't remember who. Maybe today is the first day for me . . . at least in blogging. I've been trying to get around to setting up my blog since August, when my friend Dan Griffith helped me enter everything for my blog. Just no time to get serious during the school year, but now that summer is here, and there are no schools to visit, I'm going to try. Bear with me while I learn . . .