Monday, February 24, 2014

My Big Brother


My brother has a girlfriend!  And I am tickled to death!

WADE AND HIS COON DOG
SPEAKING AT A
HIGH SCHOOL PEP RALLY
I remember when I was 14, a freshman in high school.  Wade was 17 and a senior.  I remember being totally shocked when girls would tell me how cute he was, how sweet he was, that they had crushes on him.  Several tried to get ME to help THEM get a date with him.  And I would think, “You’re talking about MY brother?  Wade?  You have GOT to be kidding me.”

Growing up, I idolized my brother.  He was the only son, the only grandson on my father's side of the family, and we all thought Wade was the greatest thing since sliced bread.  He was smart.  He was funny.  He was mischievous.  And he was downright mean to his little sister!

EASTER, 1966
 I remember the summer when I was about 5 years old he would somehow convince me to play this game where I would step wherever he pointed.  (Give me a break.  There was no such thing as video games.  Our one, 12" TV had 3 channels.  In black and white.)  How many times do you think he was able to get me to step on a bee perched on clover?

If he didn’t have me stepping on bees, he was convincing me to try one of mother’s skinny little green peppers, fresh from the garden.  He would take a bite and say, “Look, Kerry.  It’s not hot!  You’ll like it.  I promise.”  Or, “I SWEAR this one’s not hot.”  And, like a puppy wagging its tail, I would stick my tongue to the tip of the pepper and start screaming from the heat.  Nothing made him laugh harder that summer.

HE CALLED THIS OUR
WEDDING PICTURE SO
WE COULD BE BROTHER
AND SISTER
Then there was the time mother gave him the chore of knocking a wasp nest off her clothesline in the backyard.  He managed to convince me, his naive little sister, that a real live wasp looked way cooler, way different, than a dead wasp lying in the corner of the carport.  He chose a spot for me to stand and instructed me that as long as I didn’t move a muscle, I wouldn’t get stung.  He threw a large dirt clod at the nest and ran away laughing as I stood bug-eyed and mesmerized by all the angry wasps buzzing around my head.  And of course I got stung.  Right.  Between.  The eyes.  (This was before Botox was all the rage.)  But although mother yelled at him, he still turned it around to his favor.  Mother was out of Clorox that day and allowed Wade to chew up some of daddy’s Beech-Nut to take the sting out.  He always wanted to chew tobacco because daddy chewed tobacco, but usually mother would not have it!  But she did that day.  She even ASKED him to!  And afterwards, Wade happily went galloping off into the sun to find other exciting things to get into while I lay prostrate in my bed, suffering from a hot, sweaty, stale summer day, with a wad of tobacco perched between my eyes.  (Which was wet from Wade’s spit!)  Talk about adding insult to injury...!

DEEP SEA FISHING IN THE
FRONT YARD
I won’t even try and count the number of times he left dead snakes in the path between our house and Granny’s to scare the living daylights out of me.

And so, when all those giggling girls in high school starting saying, “Oooooooh, Waaaaaade!” I would roll my eyes and think they were nuts.
READY FOR BED

A lot has changed since those days, though.  Now I am 47 and Uncle Wade is 50.  But he is the one person in my life who shares the same memories I do:

Being banned to the apple tree in the middle of the pasture and pretending it was a fort.  Riding his pony around our grandfather’s 40 acres, playing cowboys and Indians. The smell of Paw’s cigarette lighter fluid; the sound of his laughter.  The taste of Granny’s biscuits and
LONG AND LANKY
PRE-TEENS
dumplings and fried apple pies.  
Riding over to Pea Ridge with Granny to help her pick blackberries so she could cook one of her cobblers or make blackberry jam. The sound of mother and daddy and Granny singing around the piano after Sunday dinner. The back bedroom at Granny and Paw’s house, where we would run and slide across the cold linoleum floor in our sock feet.  The sight of Paw and Granny playing Rook around the kitchen table with Uncle Bud and Aunt Myra.  Watching Granny take such loving care of Paw while he was bedridden with Rheumatoid arthritis.

PHOTO COLLAGE
So after Wade’s divorce last summer I became extremely protective and territorial of him.  I had been through the newly divorced, single and vulnerable game and I had learned a lot of the tricks that people play.  I made a point to warn him against the pitfalls of dating at our age.  The things to pay attention to and the things to avoid.  I talked him into joining Facebook to ward off some of his nighttime loneliness and, when he thought he was ready, I encouraged his joining an online dating site to try and find a suitable companion.  But I would log into the site as well, to point out the women I thought he should avoid or the women I thought he might want to get to know.

MARCH, 2008
I realized that some women may not think that my brother is perfect, but that others would think he is awfully close.  I saw his tender heart, his handsome looks, his charm and sense of humor.  I saw what the single women our age would see.  A good man.  An honest man.  A dependable, loving and loyal man.  A hard-working man.  A one-woman man.  A man of integrity, strong values and morals.  A man that isn’t easy to come by in this day and age.  And I worried.  I worried he would fall, fast and hard, for the wrong woman.  A woman who would take advantage of him and hurt him.  A woman who wouldn’t appreciate him and love him the way he deserves.

But I didn’t give him enough credit.  He found a girlfriend!  (Of course he did.)  Someone very kind and warm-hearted, loving and giving, who takes good care of him.  Who fits right in with the rest of our family.  And I am tickled.  To.  Death.
JULY, 2013


Monday, December 16, 2013

Granny's Dolls, Part II


People who know me well know that Christmas is no longer my favorite time of the year.  It used to be!  Christmas growing up was so magical.  But since my parents divorce, and several divorces of my own, Christmas - for me - has become more of a burden.  My brother and I along with our families go to my mother's for Christmas Eve dinner and make arrangement to go to my dad's house some other evening for dinner, sometime within the Christmas week.  Then Steve's and my children spend Christmas Day with their other biological parent and grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, leaving Steve and me to spend the day quietly alone.

My Christmas List has a minimum of 20 presents to figure out and buy and wrap and deliver and on top of that, everywhere you turn people are asking for donations for the needy.  My church does the Christmas shoe boxes to send to children in foreign countries as well as the Christmas Angel tree for the local needy children.  All the Walmart and grocery stores have Salvation Army bell ringers in front of their doors to greet you every time you come and go for the month (or more) leading up to Christmas Day.  The radio stations and television stations host canned food drives and Toys for Tots and bicycle drives.  The different departments located in my building at work take up a collection to give as bonuses to the custodial workers who clean our offices, and an extra large box is also placed just inside the entryway to collect new toys to be donated to some other, non-specified charity.  It’s exhausting!  It wears me out!  And puts me in a black funk for weeks.

And then there was yesterday.

Yesterday Steve-O was off work, so we left the house to go mark a few presents off our list and to take care of a few errands, with no particular destination or time-frame in mind.  And as we passed an antique store located 2 miles from our house, I pointed it out and told him that I had seen a cookie jar there a month or so ago.  Something he and I had jokingly talked about giving to my mother as a gag gift some year.  So Steve turned the car around and, on a whim, we visited the little store.

We were walking up and down the aisles looking for the cookie jar when there sat one of Granny's Raggedy Ann dolls.

Oh, it might not be.  There is absolutely no way for me to prove that it is.  She didn’t mark “her” dolls in any way.  But its hair was orange instead of red.  And it was left in loops instead of cut into individual strands, as Gran had sometimes done.  And the hen and egg fabric of its dress was familiar - because I had wanted her to use that fabric for MY doll's dress.  And the legs were blue stripes instead of red, which reminded me of the pillow ticking fabric Gran sometimes used.

I had a gut reaction.  I latched onto the baby doll, and at 47 years of age, I became an emotional wreck.  Steve didn’t understand at first that when I said, “This is one of Granny’s dolls!” that I meant this PARTICULAR doll had been handmade by MY grandmother.  There was no way on earth I could leave without her.  She was only $15, but Steve knew it wouldn't have mattered if she was $100.

I've compared her to my babies, the ones Gran made especially for me 37 years ago.  The ones I have stored underneath my bed in a protective plastic bin.  She may not be one of Gran's dolls, but no one will ever be able to convince me that she isn't.

And 22 years after Gran passed away, she gave me back my Christmas magic and joy.




Read, "Granny's Dolls" here:http://kerry-mitchell.blogspot.com/2012/07/grannys-dolls_22.html


Monday, June 24, 2013

Mr. & Mrs.

Steve and Kerry
November 3, 2012
Four years ago today Steve asked me if I would like to take the day off work to hang out and run errands with him.  He works in sales, so he usually enjoys days off during the week while I work a standard Monday-Friday office schedule.  Since I always enjoy a good reason to take an unexpected day of leave, he didn’t have to persuade very hard. :o)

After sleeping in, we decided to skip showers, get dressed and make our first stop of the day at Gibson’s Bar-B-Q, a local restaurant that is a favorite spot for breakfast.  Over our biscuits and gravy Steve casually said, “We could get married today...

We had met almost two years prior (http://kerry-mitchell.blogspot.com/2009/10/introduction_30.html) and had been talking marriage since the very beginning.


From: Kerry
To: Steve
Sent: Monday, August 13, 2007 2:21 PM

S:  What day would you choose?
K:  The day we met two years from now.
S:  Okay. Why 2 years. Is 1 bad?
K:  1 is fine with me.  I was thinking about Lyndsi.  You get everyone's approval (my Mom, your Mom, my Dad, your Dad, Beck, Jordan, Logan, Lyndsi, Holden, Wade, John, Jonna) and I'll marry you whenever you want.
K:  Lyndsi will be off to college by then - assuming she doesn't go to Calhoun or UAH and live at home!

K:  All the kids will be used to the idea of us by then.
S:  Hopefully they'll be used to the idea of us before then.
K:  Some will take longer than others, I think.  Especially yours.  Remember - you just moved out in April and their parents were still married a month and a half ago.

K:  All our parents/siblings/extended family will be used to the idea of us by then.            
S:  Mine are already good. It’s your side
K:  True.  You haven't been married/divorced 3 times in 20 years.  My family thinks I'm nuts.

K:  We won't have rushed into anything.
S:  Who's rushing?
K:  Um...  We didn't even KNOW each other 39 days ago.

K:  We will have witnessed every possible mood swing by then.
S:  I don't foresee any real mood swings, unless you're going to surprise me
K:  I do have PMS sometimes.  And sometimes one of my kids or someone infuriates me.  I'm pretty even keel most of the time, but not always.

K:  We will have had at least one disagreement/argument/fight by then.
S:  Disagreement yes, but argument or fight?
K:  It's not all the same thing?  I don't fight physically, if that's what you're worried about.  :o)  I don't punch.  I don't hit or slap.  I don't throw things.  I DO slam doors on occasion...

K:  Glennis will be reassured that I'm going to be good to/for Holden by then.
S:  Reassuring Glennis is not up on my list of priorities
K:  No, Glennis instigated this whole thing.  Had she not chosen to quit your marriage, you and I would have never met.  But she could cause us problems through the kids if she ever wanted to.  I think it's important, given Holden's age, that she and I be on friendly terms.

K:  You're going to be my fourth husband (if I can talk you into it.)
S:  WOW. Who'd thunk... If they would have appreciated and caressed you, you may still be on number one or two...
K:  Don't think I never pointed that out.  I'm not perfect by any means, but I didn't give up.  They did.

K:  I want you to be my last.
S:  I'm not planning on going anywhere. So that would be up to you.
K:  Pinky swear you'll never, ever use the "D" word?

K:  The only way for you to know if you could always be happy with me or not is to spend a lot of time with me.
S:  That's what I'm planning on doing.
K:  Good.  :o)  That's what I want.


We had discussed what day we should get married many times, and I had decided we should marry exactly two years from the date we had met – 7/7/2007.  The problem was that Steve was going to have to be out of town with work on 7/7/2009, and so his argument over coffee was:


S:  Okay.  So what’s 7 times 3?
K:  Twenty-one.
S:  And how many 7’s are there?
K:  Three.
S:  What is 21 plus 3?
K:  Twenty-four.
S:  Today is June 24.  It was meant to be!


Needless to say, it’s pretty easy for Steve to talk me into things.  And I had been putting him off for two years already – neither one of us wanted to wait another year for July 7th to roll around again.  So we finished our biscuits, paid the tab, and rushed back home to Google Madison County, Alabama marriage license requirements.  I begged for time to shower, to wash my hair, but Steve would not have it.  I managed to brush on a little blush and mascara while he searched out our 2007 divorce decrees and then we drove straight to the Madison County Courthouse wearing our shorts and flip flops.  After filling out the bride and groom marriage applications, while waiting for the Clerk to round up the vows, Steve called my dad to ask for his permission.  The ceremony itself took about 3 minutes.  And we were thrilled!  And official!  And then we walked across the hall and changed my name on my driver’s license like any other responsible newlywed would do.  :o)

From the kids
Posted to the refrigerator June 24, 2009
We had parked the car, gotten married, renewed my driver’s license and were back to our car in less than 15 minutes.  So I texted all the kids to tell them we had just gotten married.  Which Steve and I thought was hilarious!  All the kids knew we were going to get married, we just didn’t know when, but I think they’re all still a little miffed that they didn’t know until afterwards, and then via text message!  LOL…

We spent the remainder of the day doing other, responsible newlywed things, such as changing my name at the social security office and adding me and my kids to Steve’s health, dental and car insurance. 

I sometimes wish that Steve and I had been high school sweethearts and that we had shared our entire lives with one another.  I wish he were the father of my children and that I were the mother of his, and that we shared all the same memories.  But I don’t think either of us would have appreciated the other like we do, having been through bad relationships and rough periods of time before having met. 

Besides, I’ve had fancy weddings and have worn expensive, impressive rings.  But those things didn’t amount to anything when the relationships went sour.  I love that Steve and I have a funny story to share, and we’re happy with our $7.50 stainless steel rings.  :o)  We share a very happy life, full of laughter and funny moments.  And we wouldn’t change a thing!


Our Family
Lyndsi, Jordan, Steve, Beck, Kerry, Logan and Holden
November 25, 2010


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Oh Fashion, How I Wish We Got Along


COLLARS!  AND SLEEVES!
HIDDEN TUMMY AND HIPS!
(Internet Photo)
I spent my lunch hour today shopping. Shopping in vain. And now I am depressed. (As usual.) Whatever happened to "classic" styles? Good quality fabrics? Clothing meant to flatter; not meant to emphasize our problem areas? And when did women over 35 give up? We live in a world where our fashion choices are to either dress like 25 year olds or 65 year olds, and we look ridiculous either way. And who in their right mind wears 5" heels to work? I mean, I would love to. If all I had to do was get from the car to my chair in the morning and then back out again in the afternoon. But I have to walk. And bend. And pull and tug and lift and rearrange. And carry!

I am rarely in the mood to shop for clothing, but when I am I even more rarely find anything I would be caught dead wearing.

I believe that women of a certain age should pay attention to their necks, their arms, their muffin tops, their thighs. All too often other women's clothing choices make me think to myself, "Girl, nobody wants to see that!" Over time, my rule of thumb has become - if I don't want to see it in the mirror, I certainly don't want you to see it walking down the street.

So here is my shopping list:

I want a collar.
I am not scarf material.
I want sleeves.
I do not want sleeves that fit tight (think knit or polyester.)
I hate sleeveless shirts and blouses and dresses, and I hate cap    sleeves.
If I am going to wear a dress, or a skirt, it has to be a good length.
THIS WILL BE ME IN A FEW YEARS
(Internet Photo)
Hemlines at the knee make    me look matronly.
Hemlines at mid-thigh are    too short.
Hemlines at the ankle are    good in theory, but I have    yet to find one in a pattern    or material that works.
Women with thighs like    mine have no business    wearing leggings.
Women with thighs like    mine have no business    wearing pants tucked into    boots.
I hate knit.
I hate polyester.
I love turtlenecks.
I love linen, drawstring,    wide-leg pants.
I love black.
I am usually uncomfortable    wearing lots of color or
   prints.

Now, jewelry? I could shop and buy that stuff at any hour of any day. I love me some shiny, sparkly, dangly, obnoxiously big bling. But I can't leave home without clothes.  :o/


Monday, March 11, 2013

Casey Dog


When my children were young they begged and pleaded for me to let them have a dog.  The problem (for me) was that we lived in a city, in a crowded subdivision, and our backyard was not fenced in.  And I was a single mother on a very limited income.  So, although the boys really wanted something large like a Labrador Retriever, I eventually relented and bought (pardon me - adopted) a 6-week old Shih Tzu. The puppy was a surprise for the kids.  And of course I only got him for the kids.  (What kind of mother do you think I am?)  But on the way home *I* named him.  ;o)

The puppy's name was Casey, becoming better known as "Casey Dog," with other nicknames such as "Case" and "CD."

Casey Dog was a sweet little fella, but he was also stubborn.  Obstinate.  Temperamental.  He was going to have his way, it didn't matter that I out-weighed the little guy by... well, we won't say by how much.  He was a diva dog and we all pretty much catered to his every whim.  Mostly because he gave us no other option.

Kerry and Casey Dog at the ball field - May 19, 2000
The last several years were hard on old Case.  He developed cataracts in both eyes and was eventually blind.  Maybe he couldn't hear, either, but it was just as likely that he merely chose to ignore what we asked of him.  "Casey, let's go outside!  Come on, Case.  This way, CD."  (I'm pretty sure he only suffered from selective hearing, but maybe it was a mix of selective hearing with hard-of-hearing.)  But I began to notice how he was slow to get up.  Slow to move around.  His walking became sort of disjointed, as though painful, and I believe he suffered from arthritis.  The last few months he also slept 22 or more out of every 24 hours.

Lyndsi was his favorite person.  He loved us all, but she was the easiest to convince to do his bidding.  He knew she would let him sit in her lap.  He knew she would let him sleep in her warm bed.  He knew she would carry him to the grass and then carry him back to the couch.  He knew she would give him extra dog food and water.  Her fiance, Jeremy, became his second most favorite person.  But he was just as likely to bite Jeremy if Jeremy decided to try and make him scoot over.  He didn't want to scoot over, damn it.  Casey loved the rest of us, but we were subordinates next to Lyndsi and Jeremy.

video

It was hard on Case when Lyndsi left home for college.  The first two years he woke me 5 nights out of 7, sometime between 1:30 and 3:00, to take him outside.  He might need to pee.  Or poop.  But it was just as likely that he was in the mood for a walk around the back yard.  It was like having an infant in the house, catering to Casey's needs and whims in the middle of the night.


Over the last year Casey Dog began losing his teeth.  And he would throw up a lot.  Sometimes he would wake himself up from a sound sleep, throwing up a greenish-yellow bile from an empty stomach.  He suffered from some sort of confusion, too, possibly the onset of dementia.  He would get stuck in the corner of my bedroom or in the kitchen or in the backyard, not really knowing where he was or able to figure out how to get where he wanted to go.  We'd be watching TV and would notice Case sitting across the room, facing a corner.

It became evident that Casey's quality of life was not good.  He stopped wanting to sleep in the bed with me.  Then he stopped wanting to sleep in the room with me.  He didn't want to leave the couch and only did so to eat or to do his business outside.  He trembled a lot.  He sometimes whimpered for no apparent reason. And so, after many months of questioning if it was the right thing to do, if it was time, Steve and I took Casey Dog to be put down Saturday morning.

And I can't talk about it.  And I can't stop crying.

I miss the little stinker so much.  Our other dog, Truman, seems to miss him a lot, too.

Lowg wrote a eulogy for him Saturday afternoon.

video


A EULOGY FOR CASEY
by:  Logan T. Matthews

I grew up under the tender care of my mother; spending the first 18 years in almost as many homes. My belongings were in a constant state of delivery. My brother, Jordan, and sister, Lyndsi, and I would often joke that we should keep them boxed up, assuming the next move was just around the corner. It was a joke for all of us. We clearly didn’t mind the shuffle. I think most young people are somehow hindered “developmentally” by change, desiring some form of consistency in their lives. However, for us, the only thing that remained consistent was change. And, as I said, we clearly didn’t mind.

Change defined most of my adolescent years. I saw the change from what many would consider a nuclear family – or “nuke-uler” as it was in our family – to one under the direction of new stepfathers. I saw how a man ought to treat a woman, and how they shouldn’t. I also recognized the closeness that remained during it all. My family was very small; consisting only of my Mom, Jordan and Lyndsi. And then Casey.

His preferred spot was all up in Lyndsi's face.
By the ripe old age of 12, me, Jordan and Lyndsi (at age 10) had learned the art of persuasion. We knew how to get our way with Mom. She, of course, had established expectations for us and we were determined to meet them. However, when time permitted, we could get our way. Nowhere was this more evident than the times in which we would convince her to let us stay the night with our beloved cousins, Chelsea and Adriane. To be sure, Mom knew when to pick her battles. She knew that allowing us to bond with our cousins was for our benefit, and seeing as we always stayed with Uncle Wade and Aunt Karen, it meant we were out of her hair - for a couple of nights at the very least. She needed it from time to time and certainly had an interest in us getting “our way”. So, when it came time to get a dog, we knew all the tricks and just how to use them – and she aligned her interests as well.

She picked out Casey from a batch of other shih tzus (note: I had to look up how to spell that. To me, it has always been “shit-zu”). Casey was among the most active as a puppy. He grew to be one of the largest shih tzus I have or will ever see. I’m not quite sure where the name Casey came from, but it was a perfect fit, especially when you added “dog” to the end of it; making reference to the exact “thing” you were talking to. His name even rang to the tune of one of our favorite whistling measures. I can hear it vividly in my head and if you are reading this, you can probably hear it as well.

Casey Dog walking around in Lyndsi's bra.
Growing up with Casey was extremely eye opening. I learned the value of taking care of something; or maybe it was someone. I learned responsibility. Known among the family as the “absent minded professor”, I can recount what seems like thousands of times that I would forget my wallet and keys, oftentimes only realizing that I had left them when I had arrived at my destination – and needed them. Casey taught me to think, responsibly, about him and what he may need. In addition, everything I know about the dog reproductive system comes from Casey. Not that this knowledge is of particular importance in my life, but it certainly makes for a good story. Simply put, Casey loved that afghan comforter.

More so than what he taught me, though, was what he gave us, each of us. Casey was, for the better part of my childhood, consistency. He was there. He was excited to see me – when he could see. At Quail Ridge, a house often referred to by the name of the street on which it was located, Casey would run around the divider between the dining room and living room almost effortlessly. He would show off, and strut his stuff, proudly. Casey was exciting to be around and even into his later years, provided a great deal of fun for all of us.

Unfortunately, Casey didn’t have the power of words. He couldn’t utter strong phrases in perfectly orchestrated English. Coming to think of it, though, it never seemed to bother him all that much. But, he did have Lyndsi. Lyndsi knew just how Casey would talk, if he had a voice. Casey seemed to play along, almost as though it was the perfect depiction. “I remember when I could see”, Casey would say, Lyndsi would say in a masked deep raspy voice, like he had just finished a hard day of licking his nuts or turning his head at the sound of Truman running around him. Despite his inability to speak, Casey was a loud presence in each of our lives.

video

In the end, I think everyone could feel that Casey’s best days were behind him. He had “left it all out on the court” so to speak, and was meandering through the days as best he could. He certainly enjoyed the company, even though he acted out like an ill-tempered nursing home patient from time to time. He was set in his ways, as most of us are to some degree or other. He was waiting for today, unsure but with courage and resolve that he was the best damn dog he could be.

Because all dogs go to heaven, so they say, I know that he is looking down - that’s right, looking – and enjoying himself as all dogs of Casey’s caliber might. I know that Shine, Papa’s dog, is showing him around and maybe meeting up with some hot girl dogs up there. They will be best of friends before we get to see them again, and better for it. They have each other, and that’s as good as it gets. I can’t speak for Casey, as Lyndsi can, but if he were speaking down from heaven, I know he would say that we were the best thing that ever happened to him. Yeah, Casey Dog lived the greatest life he could. He was meaningful and taught each of us something we’ll never forget. Mom got her wish to teach us responsibility and we got ours. And, when his heart beat no more, I know his fingers whispered … the number three.

Rest in Peace, our beloved Casey Dog.
February 13th, 2000 to March 9th, 2013