Spike pays no attention to the new “looks”
I think they’re fabulous!
yes, of course I’m cute…
but where are my cookies?
Mother’s Day at home with Pretty, the dogs and the pool. Life is good.
Spike pays no attention to the new “looks”
I think they’re fabulous!
yes, of course I’m cute…
but where are my cookies?
Mother’s Day at home with Pretty, the dogs and the pool. Life is good.
I wrote the following story in February, 2012; it was first published in my third book, I’ll Call It Like I See It, and was reprinted with my permission in an anthology entitled Mothers and Other Creatures. I think of these two women, both of whom I loved dearly, especially at Mother’s Day but truly every day…
The Photo Finish
In 1965 when I was a freshman in college my parents bought their first home ever in Rosenberg, Texas, after almost twenty years of marriage. My dad was the assistant superintendent of the local school district and my mother taught second grade in one of the elementary schools in the district. Since I wasn’t living with them, I’m not sure how the decision was made to hire someone to help with cleaning the bigger new house, but when I was home for spring break, my mom introduced me to Viola, who was hired for that purpose. When I returned to stay the summer with my folks, Viola was gone.
I never knew what happened to Viola but was so self- absorbed I didn’t really care. Early in the summer Mom informed me we would have a new woman who was coming to work for us and encouraged me to keep the stereo at a lower volume on the lady’s first visit. I was in a Diana Ross and the Supremes phase and preferred the speakers to vibrate as I sang along but I obligingly lowered the level for our potential new household addition.
I needn’t have bothered. Willie Meta Flora stepped into our house and lives and rocked all of us for more than forty-five years. She became my mother’s truest friend and supported her through the deaths of her mother, brother and two husbands. She nursed my grandmother and my dad and uncle during their respective battles with mental illness, colon cancer and cerebral palsy. She watched over and protected and loved and cared for my family as she did her own, which included five daughters and two sons and an absentee husband. In many ways, we became her second family and she chose to keep us.
Willie and my mom shared a compulsion for honesty and directness that somehow worked to keep them close through the good times and the hard times in both of their lives. They were stubborn strong women and butted heads occasionally, but most of all, they laughed together. Willie’s sense of humor and quick wit kept Mom on her toes and at the top of her game in their talks. They also shared a deep love for the same man, my dad. In her own way, Willie loved my dad as much as Mom did, and my father loved her and loved being with her right back. His death broke both their hearts.
Although Willie kept her own apartment, she and Mom basically lived together in the years following the death of Mom’s second husband. Mom planned her days around the time near dusk when Willie would be there to spend the night with her. Willie became her lifeline to maintaining her independence, and the two of them grew older and crankier as time passed. Willie and I talked on the phone frequently, and she began to tell me she was worried about Mom’s safety and getting lost when she drove around town in her old brown Buick LeSabre. I dismissed her fears and ignored the signs of dementia until Mom’s 80th birthday when it became apparent she had major problems in everyday living.
Not long afterwards, I was forced to make a decision about my mother’s long term care needs and opted to move her to a Memory Care Unit in a facility in Houston which was a thousand miles from my home in South Carolina. Why not move her closer to me? A good question with a complicated answer that included my trying to keep her available to Willie and her family who could drive Willie to see Mom. If my mother could choose between visiting with me or seeing Willie, there was no contest. I would always come in second.
Mom will be 85 next month and struggles with the ongoing physical and mental battles associated with Alzheimer’s in her ultimate race towards death. This past fall I moved her again to a different residence that is still in Texas but much closer to my second home which is also now in Texas. Alas, she’s two hours farther from Willie, and Willie has only been able to visit her once since her move.
Willie will be 81 next month. She and Mom have the same birthday month, and now they have the same dementia. We don’t talk on the phone now because she can’t form words I can understand. When I visited her yesterday, she didn’t recognize me and was uncomfortable with getting up out of her bed, just as Mom is sometimes when I go to see her. Willie’s five daughters and three of her granddaughters are coping with the same problems I’ve faced with Mom–trying to keep her comfortable in a safe environment.
When I consider the strength of these two women and their determination to rise above their inauspicious beginnings in an era when women weren’t valued for their strong wills, I feel a sense of admiration and respect and gratitude for the examples they’ve been for me and for Willie’s daughters, too. We are the children of our mothers and we reflect their strengths and weaknesses in black and white. Theirs was a mysterious bond that we may never fully understand, but the similarity of their physical and mental conditions in these last days is surreal and takes irony to a new dimension. Leora, one of Willie’s daughters, told me recently she thought Mom and Willie just might end their race toward death in a tie. I think it will be a photo finish.
Willie M. Flora died Saturday April 14, 2012. Selma L. Meadows died Wednesday April 25, 2012.
It was a photo finish.
Warmest wishes to all of our friends in cyberspace from Pretty and me for a wonderful weekend. If possible, spend time with your mother. If impossible, cherish your memories.
Until next time…
My paternal grandparents celebrated their 50th. wedding anniversary in May, 1969, which means they were married in 1919 when my grandfather was 21 and my grandmother was just shy of 16…
newspaper clipping from Navasota Examiner in May, 1969
(Grimes County, Texas newspaper)
They shared a 60th anniversary ten years later, but my grandmother died in May, 1983 which put them a year shy of their 65th.
Today in 2018 they would be a year shy of their 100th. wedding anniversary. Imagine.
One of the great regrets of my life is that I was living in Seattle, Washington when they celebrated that golden wedding anniversary. I missed a special family celebration to honor two people who loved me unconditionally and exerted such a powerful influence on me in my early years.
That influence lives on in my memories, my daily life and, hopefully, my character reflects their best qualities. They were a remarkable combination – just shy of perfection to me.
Truthfully, I have lost confidence in political surveys since the presidential election of 2016 here in the United States when almost no survey gave DT a snowball’s chance in hell of being elected. Hopelessly wrong, right?
So let’s just say I now take any survey with a grain of salt. However…this week I saw a survey that reported 61% of Americans now support marriage equality which I thought was really, really fabulous – it put me on an activist high until I just moments ago told Pretty about these results. Why did I tell Pretty?
She brought me back down from my euphoric state by saying that same 60% (in another survey) believed all US companies have the right to refuse to do business with anyone who identified as LGBTQ. Whaaaat? Say it ain’t so, survey taker. Hush up, Pretty.
Now I’m down a rabbit hole and can’t get out which I will blame on Pretty because I decided to look outside the United States to see how LGBTQ people are treated. What I found stunned me.
Predominantly Islamic countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Somalia have laws that follow Sharia teachings of homosexuality as a “vile form of fornication, punishable by death.” Kill the doer and the receiver by any available method like public stoning which averages as many as six per day in Saudi Arabia or throwing people out of buildings in Iraq and Syria. Peace be unto you is the standard greeting for most followers of Islam, but apparently not for the gays. A more appropriate greeting for us: death be unto you.
Thank goodness for Israel with its Gay Pride parade every year in Tel Aviv and its progressive policies which make Shalom much more than a word I love to say. Despite original teachings in Judaism condemning male intercourse as contrary to their teachings, the Israeli government has been evolving toward a positive position on equal rights for the LGBTQ community since the 1980s. Somebody stop me right here.
But no. I included India in my rabbit hole because of the character Raj on The Big Bang Theory which is our go-to nighttime relaxation therapy show, but I probably shouldn’t have because homophobia is evidently rampant in India. Homosexuality is punishable by law with a possible life sentence in prison, although a recently enacted right to privacy statute in India allows the gays to safely express their sexual orientation. Hm. Now I’m wondering how that works in real life. It’s okay for me to say I’m a lesbian, but if I say I’m a lesbian I could be put in jail for life. Tricky. Instead of Namaste, I should say I might be gay or I might not be.
I could go on and on with Christian denominations in every country such as the Roman Catholics and Protestants who have cheerfully wielded amazing power in condemning the LGBTQ community within the confines of their sanctuaries, spilling over into the ballot boxes and other expressions of political influence; but I’m afraid even Pretty wouldn’t want me to go there on a day as beautiful as this one.
I will leave you with the reason our UN Ambassador Nikki Haley voted no on a resolution to condemn death penalty sentences around the world against gay people for having sex. Ambassador Haley explained her vote was “because we feared it would lead to all executions being banned in the United States.” Seriously? In what world does that make any sense…
Enough is enough already. Stick a fork in me. I’m done. I am climbing out of this rabbit hole into the sunlight of a gorgeous day in Columbia. Pretty has moved on to other work activities so I think I’ll see if Spike and Charly want to catch a few rays outside with me. To borrow a happy phrase from Pretty’s good friend Shelley whenever she leaves our house, “Well, toodle do.”
Toodle do and stay tuned.
Occasionally I luck into making a good decision – not often, mind you, just once in a blue moon…
the moon wasn’t blue, but it was a full moon
(the view from our little balcony – the moonlight bathed our room)
My apparently good decision was to take Pretty to the beach for a couple of days for our anniversary. The background story involves Pretty’s penchant for purchasing her own treasures not only for herself but also for her antique businesses which means there is nothing left for me to buy for major occasions such as our anniversary. Enter my idea for the beach trip to Tybee Island, thanks to the magic of online surfing. Yes, Pretty totally gave me credit for this splendid idea.
neither Pretty nor I had ever been to Tybee Island
(which is just across the Savannah River into Georgia)
As soon as we got to our room, after a minor aggravation at the front desk about who Pretty was and why wasn’t I the one rushing in to handle the check-in process since the reservation was in my name, Pretty took off for the beach to scope out her walking destinations while I made sure the tv was operating properly. She walked a mile the first afternoon we were there and came in raving about the Tybee beach.
We determined to jump out of our box for tv viewing on our trip, and I became hooked on the house channel when Pretty went out for a walk. Yes, believe it or not, I had never watched the house channel before and I became emotionally invested in the couples who had to make the tortuous choice between “loving” their newly renovated home or “listing” it to move to the most fabulous new home in the universe. I mostly wanted to love it because I definitely preferred Hillary the hot renovator over David the blah realtor. Sigh. Who’s surprised.
the weather was perfect, the island lovely
I spent a small amount of time poolside
the views were spectacular, the colors simply amazing
Fannie’s offered a wide variety on their menu
I’m not sure we would recommend the combination of
nachos and fried shrimp for dinner –
just because you love them both doesn’t mean they go great together
Alas, while I pondered the love it or list it issues, Pretty spent most of the next day walking on the beach and ended up walking 4 miles from our northern end of the island all the way to the southern tip and back. Now why would she do something so excessive. I have no clue.
She came limping home with a huge blister on the bottom of her foot. Uh, oh. Pretty was confined to quarters, and we watched our very first episode ever of Dancing with the Stars that night. We found the competition among the athletes as gut wrenching as my roller coaster of emotions in the love it or list it dilemmas. We were disappointed that the snow boarder was bumped instead of one of the basketball players who we felt should stick to hoops – no disrespect intended.
on the way home Pretty discovered an art gallery…
…and was excited to find a tiny treasure
next stop: Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah
the infamous resting place that became the cover for
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
the bird lady statue had been moved to a museum
but Pretty struck the proper pose
while I soaked in the views
Can you believe this luck? An estate sale!
The end to a truly perfect mini-vacation for Pretty was the adventure of following the Estate Sale Today signs to a secret location hidden in a Savannah suburb.
Utopia. Bliss. The words I would also use to describe the getaway to Tybee Island…I predict we, as General Macarthur famously declared, shall return.
When a birthday begins like this, what can go wrong…
Spike and Charly were up early with me
the sun also rises
I love the early morning outside in the back yard when the sun is coming up through the trees, and all is quiet except the jets on the pool which sound like mountain waterfalls discovered after a long hike in the hills of the upstate, a hike which I never thought I’d really be able to make because I stopped so many times along the trail to catch my breath and look upward to try to see the end of the trail, hoping to be able to finally hear the majestic roar of the waterfall.
In reality, when I stopped to rest for a few minutes, what I saw when I looked up was the posterior of Pretty as she forged ahead to scout the next section of the trail to make sure I would have a place to dilly dally along while she continued at her measured pace. When I stop to think about it, I have spent the last 18 years of my life following Pretty’s posterior. It’s a view I’ve always loved.
Today my mind meandered to one of my favorite hikes with Pretty. It was six years ago when we followed the trail to Peachtree Rock.
wherever we hiked, Pretty led the way
Ollie liked to lead, too so he stayed with Pretty
the waterfall was just enough beautiful
Pretty and Ollie climbed all the way to the top
Pretty surveys her spoils as the Victor of that day’s climb
Peachtree Rock in March, 2012
(vandals and erosion destroyed the rock in 2013)
I was lost in my reverie of memories on my birthday in the early a.m. hours when I heard Pretty calling Happy Birthday to me from the hall for the first birthday greetings of the day. By this time I had moved inside to the den, and Pretty sat down next to me as she straggled in sleepily to chat.
I really can’t believe you are 74 today, she said.
That’s because I’m 72, I replied and we both laughed out loud.
Numbers have never been Pretty’s strong suit. She had a convoluted explanation for her gaffe, but in the end was, of course, incorrect. Too funny. If only she’d miscalculated in the opposite direction…
Birthday # 72 was a rousing success that apparently continues along with anniversary adventures on the horizon. April is a banner month for our family. Number One Son and Pretty Too celebrated their 3rd. Anniversary the day after ours and are thrilled to take their party to an Eric Church concert – whoever he is. I say Party Hearty, kids; these are your good old days.
I also say stay tuned.
…Pretty talked me out of it.
Yes, Pretty was convinced some of my cyberspace friends would miss me. I told her I thought I might need a break from blogging after almost 9 years so that I could focus on doing some “serious writing.”
Writing about what? Pretty asked.
And there she had me.
I couldn’t think of anything truly earth shattering I had to relate to anyone, nothing pressing that couldn’t wait another year or two, and really nothing I couldn’t say to my friends in cyberspace anyway. Bravo, Pretty. No wonder I married you legally two years ago tomorrow.
The years have flown by – I never thought I would live to be 30, and certainly never dreamed of 72, but I always dreamed of having a wife from the time I was a very young girl. I just never dreamed one day I would be able to marry another woman legally, and I for sure couldn’t have imagined I would marry a woman as perfect for me as Pretty has been.
To borrow from The Sound of Music, somewhere in our youths or childhoods, we must have done something good.
Pretty knows best
Stay tuned. If you will, I will.
Yesterday we had a fierce storm with tornado like winds, driving downpours of rain and no electricity from about 2:30 p.m. until 9:00 0’clock this morning.
As darkness fell in our family room last evening, Charly had a mindful moment hiding her face in the absence of the television sights and sounds she was accustomed to seeing and hearing during a lazy Sunday afternoon. Pretty had no Wi-Fi so no Facebook scrolling. The winds were howling louder than the beagles behind our house.Was the world coming to an end, Charly wondered as she hid her face behind her favorite pillow in her favorite chair?
Thank goodness Pretty saved the day, or night, with her lamp she purchased from the Thrift Store on one of her many pilgrimages across the river to her version of paradise. I tend to be less than enthusiastic about her treasures carefully picked among the donated items, but I was thrilled to have this bright light shining through the darkness of powerlessness.
We exhausted our conversation ideas that included wondering what in the world the people of Puerto Rico were doing without power all this time while I played Scrabble against the computer since I also had no Wi-Fi, and Pretty read a book.
The lamp was a life-saver.
We went to bed early.
I had a very sweet Happy Birthday message today on my Columbia High Class of 1964 message board from one of my boyfriends who I noticed had sent me birthday greetings for the past 3 years on this website which I never check. Thanks so much to Tim for remembering me. I immediately went to Facebook and added him as a friend so that I can send him birthday greetings on whatever day his might be. I confess I have been remiss in wishing others a Happy Birthday unless I am prompted to do so by the Big Brother of Facebook who is forever watching over me.
I am struck by how soon my 72nd. birthday will be…April 21, one week from today. Sweet Lady Gaga, as The Red Man famously said, how did this happen. My first birthday card came from my personal Medicine Man Dr. Martin and his entire staff. These are the people who see me most frequently, and I appreciated the Life is Meant to Live and be Celebrated sentiments. I figure if they’re hopeful for my future, I should be, too.
I’ve received not one, but two, birthday cards from former President Jimmy Carter and the Carter Center, both of which were quite lovely and one signed by the President himself. Why two, you might ask, as I did. And then, of course, my bank ATM machines have been unusually prompt on good wishes whenever I’ve made withdrawals in April which I assume has something to do with their corporate guilt for the outrageous service charges they favor me with every month.
The message board for the 1964 Columbia High School graduating class in West Columbia, Texas took me back 54 years to that senior year when I was about to graduate from high school and leave my little town of Brazoria, Texas that was 15 miles from the Gulf Coast for summer school at the University of Texas in Austin 90 miles away. Big changes were on the way for me, but take a look at the images of my senior year when I was voted by my 90+ person class as the Best All Round favorite, or as my dad invariably teased me by saying, she was the best all the way around.
Return with me to those thrilling days of yesteryear when my mother was always so happy for me to be dating a boy.
Note particularly the hands and feet
(Poor photographer – he must have spent hours on that pose)
(our mascot was the Roughneck)
I am the one on the far left with fist pumped
my mother rolled my hair until I left for college
Senior Follies – and they were
I sang an unremarkable rendition of the St. Louis Blues
my lifelong love of tennis began here…
…and basketball, too
and of course, the political
The photos today are courtesy of me with my cell phone and my yearbook so quality leaves much to be desired, but you get the general idea of this 18-year-old baby dyke trying her best to be straight but unknowingly about to add complexity to her sexual awareness through life in a women’s dormitory at the state’s largest university where the population of the dorm was greater than the population of the town where she grew up. Talk about trouble.
Coach Dawn Staley is ready to erect a statue honoring Gamecock women’s basketball All-Everything and All-That Wizard of the Hoops A’ja Wilson, and I say let’s put that marble statue smack dab in the front of the Colonial Life Arena asap. Coach Staley has offered to contribute the first $100,000, and Pretty and I would love to also contribute $100,000 toward any project that commemorates the fun we’ve shared with #22 over the past 4 years of her basketball career at the University of South Carolina.
We’d love to contribute that much, but we can’t… so let’s just say we’ll add the next $100 which is given with a spirit much like the widow’s mite in biblical parables.
Thursday night is the WNBA draft. Pretty, Susan, Chris, our Gay Boys Basketball Buddies and the rest of the Gamecock Nation will be watching to see which team will be lucky enough to pick A’ja Wilson.
GOOD LUCK, A’JA! YOU GO, GIRL!
You’re simply the best.