Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Visitation

This has been such an eventful week that I wonder where to begin my my narrative. So I will begin at the beginning. As you know we started out last week with the most wonderful news, the birth of our grandson Edgar Lawrence McBride. The day was not the best for me healthwise, but heartwise it was wonderful. After learning that I had cellulitis in my right foot and began treatment, on Wednesday the problem was no better, in fact worse. Mac bundled me into the truck and we headed to the Emergency Room Department at Carolina Pines in Hartsville (SC). I was seen by a surgeon who admitted me immediately. On Thursday I went into surgery where they did cleanout of the affected area. When I came out of recovery I knew from Mac's face that the news was not good. The surgeon came in and spoke to us and told us that the partial amputation of my right foot was not only indicated, it was imperative. I agreed and the surgery was set for Friday. I did not sleep much Thursday night, I was not worried, only anxious. I was told how much of my foot was to go, and I knew I had to live with it. But still sleep eluded me. Friday at 6 am they came to take me to surgery. I was so glad that it would start early, knowing that it would be well underway if not a finished procedure by the time Mac arrived at the hospital. When I came to, as they rolled me into my room I was suddenly surrounded by my family and love. The day moved on in slow motion it seemed. I had yet to cry. I am not a big cryer. Friday night, after my family had all gone home and as I lay on the hard framed hospital bed, I lay curled up on my side and drifted in and out of a half sleep. The tv played in the background, something on HGTV, when the first Spirit arrived. The swirling of a warm mist, the face of my mother peered down at me. She was saying something I could not understand, but her gentle hands caressed my face and as she moved away I saw another spirit ready to move in and my grandmother's hands took the place of my mothers and her voice spoke straight to my heart reassuring me that I was not alone, then my mother in law was there, her face brightly lit her hands caressing and loving and she was speaking to me. Finally the fourth spirit moved over me and soft sweet hands stroked my face and neck. I was not asleep. I was wide awake. The Visitation lasted all night. I felt rocked and cuddled in loving arms. arms of the strongest women in my life experience. At six am I fell into a deep and healing sleep. I am well on the road to recovery and the medical staff is amazed at how little pain medication I have had to take. The doctor told me today that they are calling me the Wonder Patient. He says that I will heal better since I am not having to take so much pain medication. So that is what happened to me Friday night. I would not give anything for the experience. God is good.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Dr. Valverde Day


The town of Ruby declared July 5th 2014 Dr. Michael Valverde Day, and it dawned clear and cool. It was to be the official retirement for the Doctor who most everyone called “Dr. Mike.” He had prepared a speech he wanted to give (sans notes) and practiced on his children. He kept asking us it sounded alright. Of course we told him it sounded fine, because it came straight from his heart. Saturday he was anxious and even before his children arrived at the house he had already shaved, combed and dressed in his best suit. He was ready for the day to be underway and we understood his feelings. To him, it was saying goodbye to a lifetime of work, a lifetime of study. It was saying goodbye to his patients and friends. Finally at 1:45 we left to head to the Town Community Center. It was once the work shop of a dear friend of Dr. Mike and his wife Ms. Grace. Buck Gulledge had been my parents spiritual adviser for many years. His death not to long ago brought tears to us all. Now here we stood, the mayor Keith Bailey, the council members and friend-patients, and of course family, around us. Mr. Mayor addressed the group, explained why we were all there, shook Dr. Mike’s hand and handed over the assembled crowd to the Doctor’s tender mercies. My father is always at home when he has the floor. He spoke slowly and thoughtfully about our arrival in Ruby. “One day,” he told us all, “my wife called me at the large hospital (DC General) where I worked. She told me that since we had sold the house (a necessity since the interstate highway was about to run through our living room) Daddy Dwight was coming with the big farm truck to move us to Chesterfield. I spoke to the Hospital Director and told him that we would be moving and there was no trouble leaving. The truck arrived and the packing completed we moved to what I now call my home town. I had been invited by my wife’s Uncle Gary (Douglas) and Mr Lloyd Baker, to tour the new building that they wanted to be the Doctor’s Office. I agreed to make my practice here. What it means to be a Doctor, it is many years of study, then it is internship, but you are still not a Doctor. When I called myself a Doctor was when I had patients of my own to care for. I remember one of the first patients I had was an elderly man with cancer. There was nothing I could do for him at that stage, but his wife asked if I would come see him. He was my first House Call. I went to see him many times before his death, checking his vital signs and talking to him calmly and assuring him that I would be there as long as he needed me to be. I was paid for each visit with a piece of cake and a cup of coffee. It was enough. And now I say to you that I have loved being your Doctor, for you are the ones who made me one. I will go home and rest, my legs don’t work well anymore, my back is not strong anymore, somewhere, somehow, I got old. Now I am the one who needs the Doctor, and I can not treat myself. I say to you, goodbye. I will be at home. In Ruby.” There may have been a dry eye in the house. They weren’t mine.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Something WICKED this way comes


While I was busy "breaking" from TV last week I was doing something I have not treated myself to in a long while. I was reading in the evening. I read a couple of Kay Hooper's fun mystery/paranormal books and of course a Dean Koontz epic. The last three days of my break (or evenings) I picked up Wicked (by Gregory Maguire) to read. I have been saving this book for some time, I wanted to see the stage play first. Then I saw a photo that Australian pal David McMahon had taken of the Marquee where Wicked was playing in Australia. He posted it in my email, and then it happened. My heart began to throb with the anticipation of finally breaking the spine on Wicked (and my word to myself). I was going to read it. When we were youngsters, my cousins and I read voraciously, we read anything we could get our hands on. My Uncle worked at a place where they made paper products and often brought home stacks of old comics and paperback books. He always took them to the little old house that stood empty eyed and forlorn a few hundred feet from his house. He always told us when new comics had been placed within those old unpainted walls. In the summer, dried tobacco was stored there, tied up in field sheets, waiting till time to go to market. Those aromatic bales of tobacco made for very comfortable reading spots . We would read comics and pass them back and forth, especially if they were good. Betty and Veronica, Archie and Moose...and of course Jughead were absolute favorites. I first found Mr Baum's "The Wizard of Oz" in a box of those old comics. When we had a book, we would take turns reading aloud, the audience kicked back on makeshift sofas of tobacco, taking it all in. I learned to hate and despise The Wicked Witch of the West and idolize Glinda, the Good Witch of the South (or was it North? I barely remember). When we were reading about TWWOTW we shivered in delights of fear when the winged monkeys attacked the little band heading for Oz...we felt the cold when Glinda sent the snow to waken the sleeping victims of TWWOTW's poppy fields (opium???in a a child's tale???) . We read that little book till it was ragged and frayed and learned what "dogeared" meant, as we turned down the page where we would take up next day. Ah, the thrills of reading that followed me like a second skin into adulthood. And now, I'm reading the adventures of Elphaba, the young green Miss before she became The Wicked Witch of the West, and all about her sister Nessarose, she of the barber pole stockings and ruby slippers. I'm learning to appreciate how they came about, how family history turns on a look or a word. I'm learned to feel pity for TWWOTW, and admiration for her as well. I've learned that Glinda wasn't always the sweet little Fairy Queen we once thought she was. I learned you shouldn't judge a book by its insides OR its cover! And if you haven't read Wicked...oh please! Do yourself the favor. I promise you won't regret it.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Those were the Days


Sitting out on the patio with 60's music blaring their memories into my ear, I am reminded how fast time flies. This music seems as fresh and wonderful as it did when I first heard it. Crystal Gayle is singing "We'll sing in the Sunshine" and on Mammy's front yard we are in shorts and shirts that our mothers mostly made us, turning cartwheels and playing tag, Mother May I rings out through the years and age is all a matter of perception. I have just arrived for the summer and the cousins have lots of catching up to do. Elvis is now King and the newest hit is Surrender, the Beatles are on the horizon but have not made it across the pond as yet. Tobacco season is upon us and most of us go to the barns to work, I have a sweet new Japanese Transistor radio which I take with me so that when we get breaks in work time we can listen to top hits...Tower of Strength is playing now and I can hear us singing along, mostly in tune...some off key, but we ignore it. We listen enraptured to Teen Angel and wonder at the idea that someone so young could be gone forever. Then we talk about the accident that took the life of a young friend...Elise was only twelve. Her mother gave me her tea set and I couldn't bring myself to play with it if Elise couldn't. Going through old pictures at Mammy's thirty years ago I came across a picture of her and it made me shiver with memory. Teen Angel...indeed. It wasn't all work, there was play and imagination at work. We made up the games we played, we played parcheesi when the rain stopped work and we were in Mammy's sitting room. The music was still a part of our life...Del Shannon is singing Runaway and we all wonder where she went, and better yet, why she left. We discuss this music like we would a good book we might be reading. My cousins...we were more like sisters and we shared everything. Bobby Darrin and Sandra Dee were the King and Queen of Romance and we followed it breathlessly. Little did we know of the hell that Sandra Dee had been through and the consequences it would have on her forever. We are in our early teens and crushes come and go, first loves occur on a weekly basis. The changes in our lives are confusing and we don't really understand why the boys that so disgusted us last year are now the center of our conversations. It's My Party is in the top ten and we know all the words and understand exactly why Leslie Gore is so bent out of shape. We all had a Judy in our lives, didn't we? Little Peggy March sang I will Follow Him and little did I know that just six years later that song would become my life. Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore and our young minds were Hippies for a season. A brief season. War was the topic of conversation and no peace talks were in evidence. After spending a season in hell our Military men and women came home to live most of the rest of their lives reliving the experience. Some got help, most didn't. Cousins. We shared the best and worst of our lives and I would not trade the experience for anything...thank you Kay, Crystal, Teressa, Patsy, Becky, Cathy and Brat Alice (another memory) and of course my actual sister, Toni...those were the days.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Legend of the Dogwood Tree

It was a warm spring day many years ago when I first heard the story of the Dogwood tree. My Grandmother was standing at the woodline behind her home and she was so joyful that she had spotted a dogwood in the shadow of the tall long leaf pines. I remember walking over to where she stood to see what she was doing. We were there for Easter, having driven from Tampa, Fla., to spend Easter with the family. Mammy, as we called her, was stroking the petals of the little tree and a tear was rolling down her face. I asked her why she was crying and she told me she was sharing the pain of the little tree. I didn’t understand and she saw the confusion on my face and smiled. She asked me if I had not been told the Legend of the Dogwood. I told her I didn’t think I had and she shook her head and told me to sit down. Now, Mammy had been a teacher most of her life. She never missed an opportunity to teach us things she thought we should know. I took a seat on a big old tree that had been felled by a spring storm and she sat beside me. This is the Legend she recited to me. At the time of Crucifixion the dogwood had been the size of the oak and other forest trees. So firm and strong was the tree that it was chosen as the timber for the cross. To be used thus for such a cruel purpose greatly distressed the tree, and Jesus nailed upon it, sensed this. In His gentle pity for all sorrow and suffering Jesus said to the tree: “Because of your regret and pity for My suffering, never again shall the dogwood tree grow large enough to be used as a cross. Henceforth it shall be slender and bent and twisted and its blossoms shall be in the form of a cross — two long and two short petals. And in the center of the outer edge of each petal there will be nail prints, brown with rust and stained with red, and in the center of the flower will be a crown of thorns, and all who see it will remember.” It did not take long for the forests of Dogwoods to begin withering and dying. They did not die completely, only becoming slender and bent and now the flowers came profusely, showing the story of the crucifixion in their petals. I thought of this a few weeks ago as I noticed the dogwoods in bloom as we drove down Highway 151. The most beautiful of all were not the healthy ones that came from a nursery, well fed and tended. They looked taller and stronger than the real beauties, the ones that grew up wild in the woods of pine and oak, their limbs spindly and bent … the flowers are white, the nail marks marred by the rusty color of old blood and the crown of thorns at the center that speaks out to remind us, our Savior blessed you and and forgave you, just as he did the once majestic Dogwood tree. Sometimes being brought low is not a punishment, but a reminder. Rejoice, because this is Maundy Thursday. Good Friday will be time enough to reflect on what was done to this gentle man, this son of God whom we call Jesus. Our tears may flow as we do the Stations of the Cross, but much joy will be shared on Easter Sunday. He is Risen … and the Dogwood still blooms with the story.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The High Cost of Beauty

There's a beauty regimen that nearly every woman I know has to go through. Has to I tell you. There is no choice in the matter, even for those who were born beautiful, you have to work to keep that beauty up on your face and not hanging around your neck with myriad wrinkles and age spots. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this regimen needs to start at, oh I don't know, age ten? Shockingly enough I began my "Noxzema routine" at the late age of fifteen. I remember telling my mother that the soap (Camay, remember Camay?) made my skin feel tight and icky. My mother went out to the store the following day and bought me a cobalt blue jar of Noxzema skin cleanser. Thus began the routine that follows for the rest of my life. It was only the first step, but a major one. It was like I had joined some kind of tribe after I told my friends about the miracles of that astringently smelling white cream that I used at least twice a day, on weekends three. Where had I been, I was asked. One friend claimed to have started using it at age seven. I could only think she must have had some extremely oily skin...or extraordinarily dry skin, for this was one of those "one size fits all" products. There I am, a Noxzema addict, step one is now complete and step two was just around the corner. Lipstick. My first tube was purchased in the May Company. It was Rose. Not red Rose, barely pink rose, you know just a blush of color. My mother wore Fire Engine Red and I asked her why I couldn't wear red. She told me quite simply, "you don't have the maturity to pull it off. Wait until you're older." Of course when we got home, I had to go in her bathroom and try her lipstick. She was right. I looked like an escapee from Barnum and Bailey's Circus. So, at age 16 I could wear a little powder and a tiny bit of mascara. So now here we are, clean face, a little powder, some eye makeup and an almost there lipstick. By age twenty I refused to let anyone see me without my makeup on. Mac was the only exception, he saw a clean scrubbed face twice a day. When we were stationed in London, my friend Bubbles, (she was known professionally as Violet Loxley, the West End Actress) took me to her hairdresser. Every woman knows you have to have a hairdresser that you'd trust with your life. (Here I have my darling Miranda). But so far while in England, I had yet to find anyone with whom I was, well, content. Bubbles had no end of Service people ("Little Men" as she called them...her 6/2 195 pound window washer was "her little man" and the sentence always began with "I have this little man who may be able to help you out, hair wise.") She meant no disrespect, she was not rude, she was English. So, off I go to her "Little Man" who welcomes me warmly, clasping both my hands in his and standing back begins to nod his head, smiling widely. He sat me in the chair and considering me as a blank canvas began to "tch tch" and shake his head. I wondered if I had sprouted another head that didn't meet with as much approval as the one that first entered his shop. He looked at Bubbles and still shaking his head, said "lovely face, shame about the eyebrows." Bubbles came over to me and said very quietly, "he wants to give you a wax, dear. Are you game?" Now how could I tell this tiny sweet lady that the lioness, (which she often referred to me as) in her midst was not game? So Elliot (our little Man) came to stand over me with a sharp stick, globs of hot wax upon it and although I felt I might bolt and run, I simply grasped the arms of the chair as he began to paint molten hell on my eyebrows. Pretending it was not so bad, I began to relax, it only burned a little bit . He then rubbed strips of cloth over the wax, rubbing till I thought a bruise might appear. And then the maddened little man ripped them off quickly, no warning, just PAIN erupting from my forehead. I think I screamed. I don't know, because I think I may have lost consciousness there for a minute, too. When I came to myself Bubbles was patting my hand and saying things like "it's all over now dear, wait till you see". Well, once I dashed the tears from my eyes I could see what she meant. Wow. My eyebrows looked wonderful, making my eyes look larger...the brow no longer went from one side of my face to the other with no break in the middle. I no longer looked like a long lost relative of the Wolfman. The amazing Elliot spent the next hour on my hair and when I walked out of his shop, I had to admit that I felt wonderful and looked pretty darned good, too! So we're about to walk out and back to Marylebone Station when Bubbles takes a package from "her little man". Okay, so Elliot is indeed a diminutive soul, he being 5'4 and me being, well, tall. Off we go, catch the train and back to Beaconsfield we go. On the train she takes the package from her bag and tells me "you'll like this much better for your legs than a razor or that harsh cream." I opened the box and gazed upon a contraption that fit nicely in my hand. It had what appeared to be a coil of wire at the end. Bubbles explained that this was an Epilator, and that you just run the little contraption up and down your leg lightly and "voila" the hair was gone as if by magic. I tried it that night. Dogs from several blocks away responded to my howls of pain. Please, someone pass me the razor.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

TBT:The Great Egg Caper: A "The Good Old Feed Seed" Story

As you all know we lost a landmark in Chesterfield last week. People stood on the street slack jawed with shock as first the building went up, then the ammo inside went off (in protest, I believe). The good old Feed and Seed has stood there for over 75 years and all of us have stories about it, I am sure. I remember the smell of chicken scratch and the gentle peeping of the Easter chicks, dyed in bright colors of pinks and blues that every kid who walked through those big double doors wanted to clutch to them. The fertilizer smells and the old men sitting around the pot bellied stove because Easter might be just around the corner, but old Man Winter was still hanging around. I have a couple of good family memories that involved the good old Feed and Seed...but my favorite comes from their selling of cracked eggs...so gather round children and listen to the tale of the The Great Egg Caper: Long before the medical factions started warning us about things like eating too much meat, eating too little fish, using good old fat back grease for frying and cooking, and eating eggs with cracked shells, we were doing it all. By we, I mean our entire region. We're Southern. It goes without saying. My Grandfather, who was of Scottish descent, believed that a penny saved would keep him solvent. I'm not saying he was tight, but for heaven's sake, he was Scottish. He believed in land ownership, because, he said, they're not making it anymore. At his death he owned nearly 1000 acres which he left to my Grandmother, till her death, at which time it would be divided between the three daughters. My grandmother, who taught school, was a very kind woman who believed in helping her fellow man, even if that meant giving that penny saved, to the down trodden. She had generosity of heart. She and my Grandfather got along the way most married people do, they had their ups and downs and could carry on an argument for days and then suddenly, it was over. And like everyone else, the arguments usually were over money. Mammy (my grandmother) went grocery shopping on Saturdays. During the week (after retiring from teaching school) she farmed along side Daddy Dwight (my Grandfather). The days from Monday through Friday were long hard days, especially Friday night. Friday nights were the nights when Mammy made out the checks to the farm hands, caught up the ledger and prepared for another week beginning Mondays. Daddy Dwight , after inspecting the fields, made up the schedule for what needed doing to the tobacco fields...poisoning (for worms), watering, topping (taking the flower tops off the plants so that the growth would go to the leaves and not the flowers), decide when it was time to "put in tobacco" and hire the extra hands, get the fuel for the tobacco barns , check the barns and flues, just get ready for production, in general. It was not an easy job, for either of them. It was early one morning, a Saturday, and Mammy was getting ready to go grocery shopping at the Red and White. They always got their eggs at the Purina place, (the good old Feed and Seed) and bought them 8 dozen or so at a go. They always got the cracked cheaper eggs. Daddy Dwight was in charge of that. He took the pickup to town, and Mammy took the car. So, Saturday afternoon, I was sitting at the table, knees up and feet on the seat of the bench, reading a book. I even remember the book. It was "Lad: A Dog" by Albert Payson Terhune. Having spent the night with head under the covers and flashlight focused on the page, I only had about two chapters to go. The argument between my grandparents was like a buzzing mosquito in my ear...I wasn't really listening, but the voices were rising. Mammy had the patience of Job and really didn't lose her temper till she had taken as much as she could take and then boy howdy, everyone better stand back, because as in the words of the miners, "she's gonna blow!" Funny, but all her female progeny are just like that in every respect. So I hear Daddy Dwight fussing about Mammy throwing out some of the eggs. She tried to tell him that some were cracked a bit too much and she couldn't cook with them. He kept insisting that there was nothing wrong with them and how wasteful she was being. I saw her eyes narrow and lips thin to a straight line. I closed my book with a snap and just as I was getting up to leave the room, the house, maybe the yard, it happened. Mammy picked up one of the eggs that was severely cracked and said, "here Dwight, let me show you why I can't use this egg," and smooshed it on the top of his head. Then she rubbed it in. And the fight was on. The egg fight, which started in the kitchen, eased onto the screen porch and then on out into the yard. They were throwing eggs at each other like a pair of six years old. Neither of them were laughing, they were intent on coating each other with as much egg as they could. I had run down to my Aunt Margaret's and ratted them out and she and my Aunt Pat went up to the house to break up the war. Both were slightly out of breath, but we never knew what would have broken up the fight first, their anger dying out or running out of eggs. And remember, they had at the very least eight dozen of them. I don't remember how long it took them to start speaking to each other again...three days or three weeks. But I know it took the Aunts three days to cleanup the slippery, gooey mess of eggs dripping from the cabinets, the table, and the walls onto the kitchen floor. My cousin Crystal (Aunt Margaret's daughter) and I were talking about this "comedrama" this morning. We were laughing so hard we couldn't catch our breaths. I told Crystal that I thought I would write about the the great egg caper, that enough time had passed where it was funny. But Mammy and Daddy Dwight never laughed about it. It was not allowed to be brought up in their presence. So, if I get a visit from the other side tonight, I'm thinking I'll know why. I just hope they aren't carrying a box of eggs. v>

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Morgue Drawer...a RA Flare Rerun

A group of us girls got together last night, leaving husbands and significant others to fend for themselves where it came to scavenging for food, drink and entertainment. Waitress not included. It's been a while since we were all together swapping war stories from the line of duty. It felt good to be in the company of women. I'm sure men can appreciate this, it's not much different from their poker nights, only we have no cards or chips, we expend no money only laughter. We try to keep things light for the fun of it and occasionally dark for the thrill of it. We were doing hamburgers and Good Sister was doing her world famous slaw. I was amazed because she was actually making it in front of us so we could all steal the recipe if we were so inclined. I was. I did. I will. I told them about a house that had burned nearly to the ground on my way out to her house. It struck me as suspicious...but that's the cop blood, you see. Everything is suspicious. So GS told me that there had been a few suspicious fires in town, and that I could be right about the house. Everyone was moving around the kitchen, breaking up lettuce, slicing tomatoes, GS was now making chili so those of us so inclined could have a Carolina Classic hamburger...chili and slaw with a healthy slice of Vidalia onion. Turns out we were all so inclined. She cut the potatoes to fry, and looking around at our bounty, said "Wendy's doesn't have anything on us, girls!" Asking me if I wanted a soda, she directed me to her fridge. "I put some diet cokes in the freezer." I walked over to the fridge, pulled the freezer drawer out and grabbed a coke. I heard one of the girls say, "did you intend to put a morgue drawer in your kitchen or was it a happy accident?" Every one broke out laughing as GS shook her head and told us it had not even occurred to her until it was set in place. After that several of us begged her to tell us the story of the night she got pinned in the Morgue. The Morgue in the old hospital was more like a walk in closet with four odd looking drawers inset into the wall. It was old, having been an afterthought years ago when the hospital was first built. The only other people (other than the resident dead) that entered on any kind of frequent basis were the Medical Examiners and family members there to identify a loved one, or view a loved one who had passed in the hospital. One of the drawers, the bottom drawer on the left had long been in need of repair, but administration had done nothing about the repairs in the six months since the request had been made. There was now a trick to pull the "Resident of the drawer" out into the light for viewing. In the room was a tall metal trash can, you had to open the door out, pull out the drawer and quickly kick the trash can under the drawer to support it and keep the body on the tray of the drawer from tumbling onto the floor. The ME's had become so used to doing this that it was just second nature, open door, pull drawer, kick can, support tray. See? Easily done. So this one night when GS was the ME on call, she had to go down to the Morgue to do the paper work on a body that had just gone down from upstairs. The family would want to "view" her, she knew, and she needed to get all the paperwork in the system. For some reason, the "Residents" were always put in feet first, rather than head first which made it difficult to read the toe tags. You had to pull the body completely out to read the information. GS said she groaned when she saw which drawer her patient was in. She expected the worse. She got it. "I opened the door, " she told us, "and realized that the body within was well over three hundred pounds. At first the tray refused to move. I had one leg cocked to kick the trash can under the tray when it rolled out, but the tray still refused to move. Instead of looking to see what might be holding it, I just gave a hard jerk on it and suddenly it began to move. It picked up momentum and before I could kick the can under it to support it, it came off the track and pinned me to the back Morgue wall. I couldn't lift it. I couldn't move it. I began to wail hoping someone would hear me. After a bit, I gave that up and decided to save my voice for when I might hear someone coming down in the elevator. I figured that someone would miss me eventually, or the family would be escorted down to view the body and that I wouldn't be here long. I was in there for an hour before I heard the slightest sound other than my own breathing. I began to yell, "hello!!! hello!!!" at the top of my lungs. The young ME was now thankful for the sweater that she had pulled on before going down to the glorified closet. It was cold in here. Of course, it needed to be cold, but she was afraid she was going to freeze to death before anyone came to her rescue. It was the elevator she heard that sounded like an angel skidding to a stop. She heard a voice singing a gospel song and so she began to shout, "in here, help me please!" She saw the young man in the huge mirror that hung on the morgue wall and showed the outside hallway. He stopped, took an ear bud from his ipod out of his ear and stopped. His eyes were wide and his mouth hung open in shock as though he had awakened and found himself in the midst of a horror movie. The ME, whose voice was now raw and wispy from shouting for over an hour, again called out, "Hello!!" She could hear the young man clearing his throat. He too seemed to have lost his voice. He turned all around trying to locate the voice. He began to stammer back, "hello, where are you?" He turned into the Morgue and seeing her there against the wall, ran over to try to help her. It took three men and a jack to free her from her chilly prison, but they finally managed to get the tray back on the tracks and into the drawer. "You know it was about a month before I felt warm again. And it was the impetus for building a new morgue. And high time, too!" And so that's the story of the Morgue Drawer...line of duty stories? I have a million of them.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Thrill of the Read...winter rerun


The other day I came across a Harlan Coben book I hadn't read. I was surprised, because I thought I had drained the well. I found this one at the flea market and since the books were only a dime (even the hard backs) I knew I couldn't go wrong. I figured if by some chance I had already read it , it would be easy to pass on to a neighbor or my son...if it's a book, some deals are just to hard to let pass. So, the other night after going through the books I had purchased (and when I tell you that every room in my house has a book shelf of some sort, you can take it to the bank) I picked up "Tell No One". You know, even the title gave me a bit of a chill. I felt it work across my shoulders and then slither doen my spine as it pushed a rod of cold straight down. I was reading the "biopsy" of the book. "For Dr. David Beck, the loss of his wife was shattering. And everyday for the past 8 years he has relived the horror of that happening." Hmm...see what I mean? Now do you think I could wait to turn to page one? Even though dinner was on the stove, the table needed setting, and company due to walk in the door any second, I sat on the edge of the sofa and read the first three pages. I was enthralled immediately. I love a mystery. I love the ones that make you look over your shoulder. The ones that ensure that you get up out of a warm bed, breaking off the doze you were slipping into, to make sure that you locked the doors. And the windows...and checked the showers, pulling the curtains back to reveal...nothing. I love Stephen King, but Mr. Coben holds my mystery loving heart. What have I learned from Mr. Coben? Well, I have learned that just because someone tells a character who they are, usually that is a lie. Especially if the person is supposed to be someone in authority. Look again...nothing and no one is what or whom they seem. If in the story a character walks into a room and feels plastic sheeting under their feet, you can bet your bottom dollar that there is no painting going on...this is minimum cleanup of what is hardest to clean up in a crime scene...blood. No matter how hard you scrub, there's always that minuscule drop of blood that worked it's way down into a floor board or behind a piece of paneling. You can bet on it. Hence the large rubber sheeting on the floor, the spill catcher. If someone is supposed to be dead, keep reading...because chances are they are going to pop up at some inconvenient moment and scare the beejeebers out of you. Ah, Mr. Coben, you enthrall me no end. And you tie the ends up so cleverly. You never kill a really bad guy off till you've used him in a couple, maybe three books. Eric Wu is the scariest bad guy I've ever encountered via Mr Coben. Even the description of him is soul shattering. And what he can do to the unsuspecting victim makes you want to skip ahead to the part where the victim is finally, hopefully mercifully dead...because you really can't take anymore of their terror. Or the torture that ensues. Mr. Coben's books are almost painful to read. It's like the old horror movies where you find yourself sitting in the theatre talking to the girl up on the screen, she of the white raincoat and high heels. You're begging her "don't go in the house" and when she does and encounters the monster, you begin begging her to kick off those damned shoes so she can get some traction to run the hell out of that house. Of course, she never does. Mr. Coben is not known for his happy endings. You may want to think so, but even as you're coming up to the last page, Eric Wu has beaten you there...and he's most likely waiting for you.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

WHAT IT WAS WAS FOOTBALL


Here we are a week into February and once again that doggoned Groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil has brought bad news! In fact his prediction was this: "A Super Bowl winner I will not predict, But my weather forecast, you cannot contradict, That's not a football lying beside me It's my shadow you see So, six more weeks of winter it shall be!" For Broncos fans it was a double whammy. First the bad news about winter's non-demise, then their team avoids being skunked by one play. It was a sad day for some, I guess. Nearly a repeat of the "Heidi" fiascco of 1968. I wonder how many of you remember the Heidi Bowl? The Heidi Game or Heidi Bowl was an American football game played on November 17, 1968. The home team, the Oakland Raiders, defeated the New York Jets, 43–32. The game is remembered for its exciting finish, as Oakland scored two touchdowns in the final minute to overcome a 32–29 New York lead. It came to be known as the Heidi Game because the NBC Television Network controversially broke away from the game, the Jets still winning, to air the 1968 television film Heidi at 7 p.m. in the Eastern Time Zone Mac and I had been married for four weeks. The ship had left for Reftay training in Norfolk on 4th of Novembder and so some of the other wives and I had gotten together to take a trip from Charleston to Norfolk in time for the Super Bowl. It was Sue O'Shilelds, Doc's wife Patty and I. I drove our Mustang and off we went. We were driving up 52 North and had just entered Coward, SC when I passed the Greyhound bus. I suppose that should have been my first clue that I was traveling too fast. We girls were all chatting happily and listening to good old country tunes on the radio when I saw it. "It" was a blue and red revolving bubble gum light atop a police car. I glanced down at the speedometer and it read 75 mph. I knew in that moment that the revolving lights were for me. I pulled over to the side of the road and got my drivers license and registration out to hand to the Officer when he approached the drivers side window. I watched him adjust his hat, pat the holster where his gun rested and look in through the back window (to count the occupants I now know). I put the window down and he leaned in and said " flying a bit low tonight aren't we? May I see your pilots license?" Now we all love a smart *ss cop, right? But as Patty later told the tale when we arrived in Norfolk, at least he had a sense of humor. I regaled him with the tale of a wedding just 3 weeks prior, and ship pulling out to sea a week later and a trip of Navy Wives meeting up with husbands to watch the Super Bowl. He shook his head and said "and don't you think your husbands might like you to get there in one piece? Keep the speed somewhere around the legal limit and don't let me catch you flying through here next week." We arrived in Norfolk "in one piece" and called the ship to pick our guys up. We were going to be going back to Charleston on Monday. But that Sunday was the Super Bowl. We all gathered on the Base at one of the clubs to watch it. I seem to remember the Jets were ahead and then the unthinkable happened. NBC broke away from the game to show a new version of the old movie Heidi. The groans were ear shattering. The names the poor NBC folk and Heidi were called can not be published in a family paper...needless to say, the fans were a mite upset. Whenever Super Bowl Sunday comes around, I always remember that one and have never watched a complete game since. I flip back and forth to check the scores and leave it at that. It ruined the game for Mac, and since I learned the rules of the game from Andy Griffin (What it was was Football) I wasn't missing all that much anyway. Frankly I'd rather be reading.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

When In Doubt, Blame the Cat

I'm not sure what is going on in the world of television these days, but it seems a lot of the commercials are funnier than the actual show they host. I've been known to lay in wait for my favorites. Do you remember the one about the dog, who on seeing the sandwich his Master had prepared, sitting beside it a bottle of soda (Pepsi, coke one of those) eats the sandwich, drinks the drink, then taking the cat by the scruff of the neck, sits him next to the empty plate, bottle by...this teaches us what? When in doubt, blame the cat. The cat is good for all kinds of blame. I've seen Mac look Sonny directly in his blue eyes and say "did you do that?" I can guarantee you that if he had done "that" (which usually involves a foul odor moving in my direction) he would proudly own up to it by doing a mad run around the house, climbing up woodwork and sliding into the kitchen sideways on the rag rug. My usual response to this is "now that's mature. Blame a poor defenseless cat." Having grown up in a household of girls, I had to learn the "pull my finger" game from Mac. And he couldn't wait to teach it to his sons. My mother tried to warn me that boys were disgusting, but would I listen? So anyway, the cat and the sandwich is my favorite of all time. Then some ads are so irresponsible that it makes me want to look for a lawyer. These are of course from the Auto Industry. We spend our lives instructing our children on the proper way to drive, to insure that they get home safe and sound, and these bozos are out there talking about "vroom vroom". VROOM VROOM? I do not want my children to go from 0 to 60 in 7 seconds. I don't really want them going 60 at all, since the speed limit for most places is 55. The double nickel. Of course, when my boys first got out there driving they had lots of eyes on them, my brother and sister officers told all. My younger son, Michael, was nicknamed "the Road Warrior" by one of the Highway Patrol officers. Eventually, he realized that he was in a no win situation and slowed down. But the Auto Industry has so much to answer for. Speeding down a highway is only one of the ads that get me hyped up. There is another one that is much worse, in fact borders on Child Endangerment...Dad is out in the back yard building Junior a tree house. It's a warm day. Dad is sweating. He goes over to the family van, and pulling back the sliding door (it's closed!) tells his son the tree house is ready. Now, this is a "tear that little butt out of the frame" moment. The kid looks at his father and wants to know if the tree house has a television. NO? Well, does it have leather seats? NO? Then I'll just stay in here with my little friend. I'LL JUST STAY INSIDE THIS OVEN THAT CAN GO FROM 78 TO 140 (NOT IN 7 SECONDS BUT CLOSE) AND KILL ME. That is irresponsible advertising, no redeeming features in this one at all. I actually wrote to a couple of networks to complain about the ad content, and I encourage anyone who sees it (it still runs, though the brat is probably in high school giving his teachers a hard time, now) to do the same. I'm afraid it may take a disaster to get this one off the air. I can't even put words to the disaster, it chills me. And not to let the Auto Industry off the hot seat to quickly, lord knows they need their feet held to the fire as long as possible (till they develop crispy toes at the very least) but I really don't know any women who put their makeup on in the car mirror. I know, there are a few...I just don't know nor have ever known, any. Not even a passenger who has ever ridden with me has done that. What do I feel? I feel they, the Auto Industry (dimwits) are poking fun at the wrong thing. I have a new commercial in mind...man or woman, riding down the highway...cell phone to their ear, mind on the conversation when suddenly they are wearing the road they were just driving on. Cut to scene at the hospital. Driver/patient is lying on a gurney when suddenly a phone begins to ring. The ring is coming from somewhere in the vicinity of the driver/patient's butt. Because that's where it is well and truly wedged. I may be the last person in the world to not own a cell. When I go shopping, if I want company I take a friend with me. I don't want my phone ringing and interrupting my shopping high. I don't even like to answer the phone at home, so why is answering the one in your purse or that ridiculous little head set stuck in your ear so exciting? When I'm driving I like to listen to the radio or the cd player. I don't want to talk. When I'm driving, I don't talk all that much to my passenger. I'm keeping my mind on more important things. Like my life and the life of the others on the road with me at the time. So, no cell phone. I have an emergency 911 phone for the truck, but I've found that 911 Dispatchers don't have a lot of time to chat. They're sort of busy. Usually sending an ambulance to the scene of a 10-50 (cop speak for wreck) and a surgical team to remove the cell phone from the driver's behind. But then, it was probably a deer that ran out in front of them...yeah, either that or a cat. Probably sonny. He'll take the blame for almost anything

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

M I C K E Y...MOU SE...BAH HUMBUG!

M I C--K E Y...M O U S E... In 1955 we lived in Tampa, Florida and I attended Vila Madonna Dela Neve Parochial (Catholic) School. Mama drove us to school and picked us up. Homework was done after supper and bedtime was 8:30. On Television that year Walt Disney introduced The Mickey Mouse Club. I was a fan...devoted and true. My goal in life was to have a pair of ears like Annettes. Doesn't seem like much of a goal, but considering I didn't attain my ears until Christmas of 2013, it sort of puts things into perspective. If pressed I can still name most of the Mouseketeers...including Jimmy Dodd and Roy (the Big Mouseketeer). I was grown before I knew that Uncle Walt started the show in order to pay for Disneyland. I wasn't shocked by this news, it went along with all I knew of the Commercial world of Want vs Need. But all I really knew was where once I merely needed those Mouse Ears now at the age of forty (1988) I simply wanted them...w a nte d them!!! While we traveled and lived all over the East Coast and the United Kingdom, I was no closer to getting my ears. I know I could have ordered them from some catalog but I wanted my ears to come from Disney (Land or World, it made not a whit of difference). Now, onto the point of my missive. Jobs. Our nation is in some trouble. Our people need work while our supurb work ethic is still intact. ABC and Good Morning America started a trend in 2012 called "Made In America". They encouraged us to go through our homes and chuck out anything not made in America. We found that in most cases we would have to completely refurnish our homes from the rugs that covered our floors (and sometimes the floors) to the lighting that was above our heads...out goes the furniture all bedding the silverware and kitchen items .! But in the meantime if you try to observe "Buy American", according to ABC and GMA you can bring serious jobs back to the good old USA simply by buying all you can that is actually made here and not overseas or north and south of the border. You rock ABC! Now, did you know that Disney owns ABC? Yes, they do. So that made me proud of Disney, that they were pushing the Made In America theme much as WalMart did in the 80's. Now back to the Ears. My son Wallace and daughter(inlaw) Sara spent their first anniversary in Disneyworld. For Christmas I was presented with my mouse ears. My name was embroidered on the black felt and the ears were upright, the Disney emblem proudly stitched on the front. I held them lovingly in my hands. They were finally mine. Later on, after the excitement of Christmas and getting my ears had calmed, I happened to look at the label inside my Mouse Ears...after the copyright jargon, there it was. Made in Thailand. My heart froze...inside my head I was screaming NOOOOO! Tell me it isn't so. Shame on you Disney. Shame shame shame. I looked at my ears, felt the betrayal and placed the ears in my closet...yes, I hung up my ears . For shame Disney...both Land and World...thy name is Anathema. Look it up.

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Southern New Year Table...

You know it wasn't just yesterday that I discovered that I really love Southern cooking. I've known it ever since I was big enough to sit up at the table with a chicken leg in one hand and one of Mammy's biscuits in the other. No one can quite make biscuits like our grandmothers, can they, Belles? No matter how much I watched her with that bowl of flour, from step one to step oven, I could never match her for tenderness, flakiness, or just plain goodness. They always came out of the oven exactly the same golden brown every time, the steam rising off them carrying with it the faint sour smell of buttermilk. I was having a discussion with my neighbor, Joanne, about buttermilk. She likes to eat cornbread in buttermilk, just like Mac does (and he loves saltine crackers mixed up in it, too.) I don't like the taste of buttermilk in the raw. I like it in my pancakes or buckwheat cakes. I like it in my biscuits or as a dressing in my slaw...but I don't want a big icy glass of buttermilk with chunks of bread floating in it so you had to eat it with a spoon. No ma'am, I want to cook with it. Anyway, it's the Southern cook that gets the blame for high cholesterol and hardened arteries, for the most part. What made my grandmother's (we called her Mammy) biscuits so doggoned good, you ask? You didn't ask? Well I'm sure you intended to, so here's the answer. It was the lard. It was the soft wheat self rising flour. It was the buttermilk. And it was her hands. She always told me that I overworked the dough, that you just wanted to work it till it held together nicely when you "petted" it into a round. The imprint of her knuckles would always be in that finished product. I can't remember a time when we were children that she wasn't up with the roosters, making a pan of biscuits, frying side meat(fat back or streak a lean) a pot of grits on the back of the stove and those wonderful scrambled eggs, soft white swirls of -egg white like marbling throughout them. My sister Toni was the only one I know of that managed to learn her method of scrambling eggs. Now, here we are coming onto the New Year and we have a custom. We eat "Hoppin' John and Collard Greens...Hopping John is simply black eyed peas cooked till they're nicely soft and served over a big fluffy bed of rice, with the pot likker ( the water your food is cooking in.) Some folk like to serve a healthy dollop of chopped onions on top, too. I used to ask Mammy why they called it Hoppin' John and the only answer I ever got was because someone had kicked John in the shin. That was her way of saying she didn't have a clue. I have read about eight or nine theories as to how it got the name, but so far no one really seems to know. How Hoppin' John got it's name is still a mystery. Then there are Collard greens. They're much like cabbage, but not at all like cabbage. They're similar to turnips, but very dissimilar to mustard greens. They have body to them. They are really the only green leafy vegetable I know that requires chewing. And the heads aren't ready to pull till it's had one good frost on it. Freezing sweetens them. Now, the reason we especially eat them on New Years day is for wealth and prosperity. The tradition being that if you eat the Hoppin' john you'll have plenty of coins pass through your fingers, and if you eat collards you'll have folding money in your pocket all the time. It's a wonderful tradition in that if you have Hoppin' John and Collards on your table, you're richer than an awful lot of people who have nothing on their table. And so, once again we will be rich this year. The collards are in the freezer and a bag of dried black eyed peas is always in my cupboard. You never know when a little wealth will come in handy.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Memories

I am late putting up the tree this year. In fact I am still decorating and probably won't be finished with the tree until Christmas Eve. There will be tweaking and adjusting to do right up to the minute as I drag out the ornaments, some which go back forty years and more. Ever wonder how you manage to collect so many things and how you are able to keep them all looking as good as the day you brought them home? Each ornament holds a memory of a Christmas of another year. I have the wooden ornaments that we used when the boys were small, just big enough to fit into their tiny hands but not glass that would shatter and cut them. These are wooden cars and trains, tiny elfen drivers and engineers aboard the polished oak which we bought in Norfolk, Virginia. Brass bikes and sleds sit ready to spin around the curves of the Christmas tree much as they did when we first put them on in Fall River, Mass when Wallace was a baby. I can still see friends Doc and Barb's big poodle laying by his crib, both sets of eyes watching the brightly colored tree in wonder and joy. I gingerly handled the Christmas plate with Fathe r Christmas holding the Christmas star high above his head heralding the birth of our Savior. This plate was a gift from our dear friend Bubbles Loxley Green in Beaconsfield (Bucks) England. I have the snowmen from London and the Angels from Charleston. There are ornaments from our first tree after we were married and the ornaments from only a couple of years ago which found their way here as gifts from friends. Oh and here are the nutcracker soldiers from Harrods in London and Mr and Mrs Claus from Colts Neck, New Jersey. Each ornament is a warm memory of some Christmas in the mists of times gone by. That is why it is taking so long to get the ten foot tree decorated. Every ornament must be handled and exclaimed over as it comes out of its wrappings...here is Michael's favorite ornament, the brass unicycle. He always thought he should be able to ride a unicycle which is why I bought this. (Maybe I should let him take it home to put on his own tree and hope it survives another 35 years...). Here is the Angel topper I bought because it looked so much like Arianna. And the little Angel shelf sitter with the wild red curls like Anna's. Oh look, here are the lighted bells that are now over 45 years old and still play the Carols as well as they did when I put them on my first tree in 1968. Christmas...it is family , it is happiness...the Child is come to save the world...and hopefully for one day at least, we can have peace on earth...

Sunday, December 15, 2013

THE CHRISTMAS TREE PART DEUX

I have spent the days since Thanksgiving so sick that at times I was unable to sit up and take a sip of water. We went to Florida to spend the holiday with Mac's family. Some of the visitors came with a little something extra. While trying to combat the flu I came down with a particularly nasty case of pneumonia. I am feeling well enough to attempt a bit of decorating...the tree is first on my list... Oh my tree this year is going to be so beautiful. It's nonflammable, it's pre-lit...and it's white. No strings of lights to untangle is the absolute best thing ever. I remember in years past waiting for anyone to walk through the front door and untie me. There were always at least 50 strings of lights that someone (who shall remain nameless because I can't find anyone to take the blame) removed from the tree, did not disconnect one from the other,and just rolled them into a ball and threw them in a box. Know why? Because it is just too much trouble to take care of at the time, and I really don't want anyone to miss out on the ranting and raving that will follow the opening of "the box". Oh and the screams of "who put these lights in this box?" I think it may be time to come clean with myself. I know who it was that put the lights in the box. I'm the only one who decorates in here, and I'm also the only one who "undecorates", so why deny it? Undecorates. I think I may have just made up a word. I wonder if it'll work in Scrabble? But I digress. So the tree is in it's infancy...I started the decorating earlier this week and am adding things slowly so that it's all even and doesn't have the "stood back and threw the junk on it" look. While I may be a bit impatient removing the tree ornaments, I have the patience of Job when it comes to the actual decoration. Once I could let the sheer beauty of the live tree take the brunt of the disorganizational frenzy of frolic. But now, sigh, we have a fake tree. Or to put a better spin on it, we now have a Faux Tree. I got a white one to celebrate the fact that no one in the house smokes anymore, (a nicotine coloured tree is the most horrible sight to behold). I've always wanted a white tree, imitation snow...it's supposed to be in the 60's today so it's a bit of a stretch on the imagination, but if I turn the a/c on and get it to about 50 I can put on a sweater and stand in front of tree with a cup of coffee to help warm me up. That's after I finish decorating it. By the time that happens it may be in the forties outside and there will be no need of pretense. I will be done with the decorating as soon as I reach "critical mass". Not one limb left unadorned, not one light left unlit and the floor groans with the sheer weight of it all. Ah, Christmas...it's the most wonderful time of the year...