Wednesday, April 12, 2017

It's all right now, Heaven should be proud


Just like when I was 18.

And it took about 45 minutes to get up the nerve to go up and talk to them. But I did, and now I’ll tell you about it.

Some stories develop a life all their own. Maybe it's a writer thing or an OCD thing, but some events in life turn into more than you expected. Sometimes one plus one equals more than two. Like when I sat watching CMT while Derek was in surgery, and saw a one-time promo video with Buck Owens and his “right-hand man,” and my mission became learning about this Don Rich guy, and… here I am 22 years later, still writing about Hee Haw.

So it is with today's blog entry.

While subbing at a high school in August 2015, I saw class composite pictures dating back to the 1960s. I recognized two brothers, Robert and Michael (not their real names) in the class of 1982 from their jobs in the college bookstore.  Robert frequented the Placement Office, my work-study job. I submitted his resume’ for every potentially fitting job, because even at age 18, I recognized that he was a good worker. I also thought he was gorgeous.

My first year of college, my boyfriend Donnie lived 35 miles away.  (Again, all names have been changed to protect the innocent… and the guilty.) Our romance the summer after graduation was fun and intense.  After college began and football season ended, things got weird.  This guy who’d proposed in my driveway and wanted me home every weekend suddenly stopped inviting me to family dinners. Donnie’s perfect date was semi-pro wrestling. That was fun at first, but got old quick. I wanted him to visit me, like other girls’ boyfriends.  My roommate left every weekend, so we would've had the dorm all to ourselves, but he didn't want to “make that drive.” He preferred my grandparents' house while they wintered in Florida, or his neighbor's shack, where we could hang out on their waterbed.

I was miserable, but I felt committed to Donnie.  In high school, I embarrassed myself by throwing myself at boys I liked. At least with Donnie, I didn’t have to be rejected by anyone else. I thought I should be satisfied. In general, he wasn’t a bad person. He went to church (but never mine, only his mama's), and didn’t drink or do drugs, but, as he even admitted to me years later, he was immature. Honestly, I wasn't much better.  I said all that to say that if I ever thought about taking a chance with Robert (and I did, quite often), I didn't act on it because I felt obligated to Donnie. 

Eventually, he got tired of pretending he wanted to be married, and decided we should take a break. I don’t think I ever cried. I was tired of playing the game too. It was a little too late for me to get to know Robert, as he was about to graduate.  My life got exponentially better though, and fast.  Within a year, I was dating "the rock star." Donnie wanted me back later, but I was done.

But enough about my history.

That day I subbed and saw the composite pic, I wondered what had happened to Robert, and to a lesser extent, Michael. Did they live close by? Did they have children at the school? So when I got home, I did what everybody does in 2017, or at the time, 2015, I Googled them. I saw Robert still had the job I almost kept him from getting.  But more on that later. Neither one married.

I found their names in the obit for their father, who left several siblings, his wife, Edith, 10 sons, and four daughters. That’s right, 14 kids.  I looked for an obituary for Edith. There wasn’t one, but I found the 1975 Tennessean article spotlighting this amazing family who built a beautiful home on a farm and made it work. My imagination whirled: what a life story! I wanted to interview this woman who grew up in Indiana during the Depression, became a “WAC” when it wasn’t all that common for a woman to do so, married someone she met at the end of the war, moved to his home state and contributed to the baby boom - in a big way. But these days, if someone walked up to my door and wanted to talk about my life story and maybe publish an article about me, I'd probably leave them on the porch, so I never approached any of them. 

The 1975 article grazed over the deaths of two additional children; being a morbidly curious nut, I learned that the first, a girl, died shortly after birth, and the third, a boy, at around age 6. Another died in his 40s, leaving nine sons and four daughters to survive Edith, who died this past Sunday of pneumonia.  I have a morbid habit of looking at funeral home websites and newspaper obituaries. I don’t do it every day, but several times a week.  I’ve said before that good Southerners look at the obituaries to find out who they need to visit and bring a casserole.

Today I got to meet several of them.  I sat in the back of the chapel for a long time, observing. Nervous, like I was still 18.  Finally, I got up and walked to the front, where I told Robert my story about wanting to meet his mother. I conveniently left out the part about often wishing I had taken a chance and flirted with him back in the day.  That, too, is a story for another time. I believe I've shared enough of it today.

I also shared my story with Michael, two sisters, and another brother. I told them all my regrets at not getting to meet her. I don’t think I sounded too creepy. If you’re honest, and sincerely show interest in people, they realize you aren't out to hurt them.  I try to be charming too. Hahaha… I realize not everyone has honest motives, and some people use their charm with very impure motives, but that’s not me.  I met two more brothers before I left.  Sweet folks. I may tell more of this woman's story in another blog entry. She lived a long, full life. She was a veteran. She was a super mom – didn’t have a job outside the home but successfully raising all those children and running a farm with her husband - she was an inspiration to me, and I didn't even know her.

I don’t know if this is a nationwide thing, but in the South, funeral homes hand out little folded papers with a picture of the deceased, dates and places of birth and death, surviving family members, etc.  Inside Edith’s, Proverbs 31:10-31 was printed.  I believe it described her well.  You should look it up, but here are a few verses:

10 [b]A wife of noble character who can find?  She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.

17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.

25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

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