I wrote this piece on January 22, 2015. I am sharing it again because of yesterday’s post, which reminded me of a 2018 post that was “fathered” by my homage to Carl. I’ll probably repost those 2018 posts later, just to preserve them. Carl was a wonderful man, and it was nice to remember how kind and generous he was, even until the end of his life. I’m grateful I was able to speak to him one last time in November 2014.
As I woke up this morning, I checked Facebook, which is my usual habit. My cousin, Lori, posted that her dad, my Uncle Carl, had passed away. I wasn’t surprised by the news. He was suffering from leukemia and my mom told me a couple of days ago that Carl was on hospice and had been told there was nothing more to be done.
Carl was one of my dad’s four brothers, younger by about seven years. He was a great dancer, very friendly, loving, and warm. For many years, he worked in Natural Bridge, Virginia, running all the tourist attractions. Later, he worked in Luray. Carl had a son and a daughter, eleven years apart in age. He also had five grandchildren, three of whom are now grown and two that are still very young.
Over Thanksgiving in 2014, I sat down with Carl and we had a long talk. One of my other uncles, my aunt’s husband, Bill, interrupted us briefly to comment on a “houseguest” Carl was hosting, a young guy with serious OCD issues who had gotten his girlfriend pregnant. The guy couldn’t live with his girlfriend because she was getting welfare and it was against the rules for her to co-habitate. Uncle Bill said, “Carl, that guy at your house is a POW.” I looked up at him questioningly and he clarified, “Piece of work.”
Carl then started telling me about this young guy who had moved into a spare apartment on his property. He didn’t pay rent and couldn’t keep a job. Carl told me his wife, Betty, could barely stand to be around him. But Carl was determined to help this young fellow. He did all he could to try to hook him up with people who could help him… ministers and social workers, even though the guy wasn’t interested in that kind of help. He let him live in the apartment, even though the guy didn’t pay rent. Carl said the guy did pay for his electric bills and food, at least.
As Carl was telling me about his “guest”, he focused on the positive, saying that the apartment was kept immaculately clean, thanks to the guy’s issues with obsessive compulsive disorder. He liked having the apartment lived in rather than sitting empty. If no one lived there, he still wouldn’t be getting any money for the place.
I got the feeling that Carl just wanted to be kind and helpful, even though many people told him that he was being used and was enabling his houseguest’s irresponsible behavior. Many people told him to toss the POW out on his ass. But Carl wouldn’t do it. He wanted to be a positive force in the young guy’s life.
I have a feeling that Carl’s “POW” is about to lose his free ride. My Aunt Betty has been ill with Alzheimer’s Disease and Carl had been taking care of her. When we saw each other at Thanksgiving time, Carl told me that his wife’s illness was getting worse and they often had the same conversations repeatedly because she would forget. Betty can’t live by herself, so arrangements will no doubt have to be made. That will likely mean that Carl’s POW friend will need to move on. ETA: Aunt Betty passed in October 2018.
I will miss my Uncle Carl. He was a very loving and decent person. He loved his family very much and was always smiling and laughing. He was deeply caring and empathetic, yet he had a fun loving side, too. I wish I had access to my wedding photos. I have a hilarious picture of him at my wedding with a red rose between his teeth and a big toothy grin. Every time I saw Carl, he was happy to see me. He always gave me big bear hugs and he loved to just sit and talk and tell stories. He told a funny story at my dad’s memorial just two months ago. I will always treasure that memory and am grateful that he was able to spend his last holidays with his loved ones instead of in a hospital room.
I am not a very religious person, but I picture my dad up in heaven, waiting to show Carl the way to the rest of his loved ones who passed before him. Four of Granny’s nine children have gone home now.
The featured photo is of the ceiling at Mount Stuart House in Scotland. Below is what I wrote about the photo in my original post about Carl’s death.
This is a picture of the ceiling at Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute in Scotland. Bill and I visited there in 2012. We had a wonderful little Scottish lady giving us a tour and she was a great storyteller. She told us about how the house was used as a Naval hospital during World War I. As she was telling us about the house under this beautiful ceiling, she talked about sick and injured military men, waking up to see that ceiling. She said, in her delightful Scottish brogue, “One look at that and you would surely think you’d crossed the bar!” I like to think that Carl and my dad both saw something amazing as they slipped away beyond the bar… Maybe they saw something even more amazing than the ceiling at Mount Stuart…
This morning, I woke up to a delightful surprise from one of my cousins. He sent me a private message with a photo that was taken during the summer of 1981. I smiled with instant recognition, as I gazed at the picture of me, at age 9, with a bunch of my cousins and a friend of my cousin’s family.
Years ago, on my original blog, I wrote a blog post called “Family Reserve”. It was about a couple of relatives I lost in 2015. The post’s title came from a Lyle Lovett song by the same name that seemed appropriate. I wrote in those posts how I came to discover Lyle Lovett– courtesy of Mormons, no less. Maybe I’ll repost those old memorials today, since I’m referencing them in today’s post. Anyway, his song “Family Reserve” reminded me of my own family… but since I already used that title in another post, I decided to use part of the chorus as the title for this one. If you don’t know this song, and can abide Lyle Lovett’s music (and I certainly can), I would encourage you to listen to this great song by him.
My cousin, name of Bruce, could not have known that I still have many vivid memories of that day at Tank Hollow, as well as the ones that surrounded it. I had just had a birthday, and Bruce and his brothers, all of whom were adolescents, had traveled from Texas to Virginia with their parents to visit other family members. Because they lived in Texas, I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with them when I was growing up, even though my family almost always has a family reunion at Thanksgiving. For three years of my early childhood, we lived in England, so of course we didn’t go “home” for the Thanksgiving party. Prior to our time in England, I was too young to remember what we did. We were in Ohio before England, but I was a baby then, having moved to Ohio when I was about six months old.
When we came back to the States, I slowly got to know the relatives I never spent time with. And in 1981, I was acquainted with the “Tolley Boys”, as they were called– four sons of my Uncle Ed and his wife, Nancy. They came to visit my parents first, in Gloucester, Virginia. At the time, two of my sisters worked at Busch Gardens, which is located close to nearby Williamsburg, so we had a bunch of free passes. I remember we all went there for the day and had an absolute blast, even though I lost my wallet. The “Tolley Boys” were like my big brothers. They treated me like a princess, and of course, I ate it up. It was not a normal or usual thing for me to be treated like that.
After their visit to my parents, Ed and Nancy were going to be visiting Natural Bridge, Virginia, which is where the “family homestead” is. My grandmother lived in the house that has been in our family since 1935, along with my Uncle Brownlee, and his wife, Gayle, and their two kids, Justin and Suzanne. I don’t remember why, but there were other family members there that summer. Nancy and Ed took me with them to visit Natural Bridge. Later, my parents came to get me.
Below are some much more modern photos of Granny’s house. It’s been fixed up a lot since 1981. My Uncle Brownlee was extremely handy, and he really made the house a showplace before we lost him in 2019.
I remember that trip was so much fun! I mean, I got in trouble a couple of times… but Uncle Ed was a really fun uncle in the early 80s. He knew where all the best swimming holes were, and he liked hanging out with us kids.
One day, we all got into the back of my Uncle Brownlee’s pickup truck and rode to a place he called Tank Hollow, in Natural Bridge. It wasn’t very far from where my great grandmother lived (she died the following year, in 1982). As a matter of fact, I think we visited her on that trip. I seem to remember her house as a brick structure near a creek, much as Granny’s house is. There are lots of creeks in Natural Bridge, as it’s in the mountains and near the James River. Edited to add: I see there are other falls in Virginia called Tank Hollow– in a place called Cleveland in Russell County. Please note, this is not the same place— I think Ed called the falls “Tank Hollow”, because they were located off of Tank Hollow Road in Natural Bridge. I don’t know if the falls we went to even have an official name.
Tank Hollow was in the woods, and it consisted of a waterfall that overlooked a murky pond. We were all wearing tennis shoes, because of all the rocks and such. Next thing I knew, we were all jumping off the waterfall into the cold, mountain pond. I remember being so enthralled by the experience. The waterfall seemed huge to nine year old me, and I felt so brave jumping into the water and swimming in the creek. It was one of those days when I experienced “pleasant exhaustion”. You know, when you play so hard that you wear yourself out… That’s how it was that day.
I remember the next day, we all went to the James River. We made homemade fishing poles with sticks and string, baited hooks with worms, and fished in the middle of the river. I don’t remember why, but I recall Uncle Ed threatening to spank me for some reason. He never did, but I do remember the threat. I probably mouthed off one too many times. I also remember my Aunt Nancy threatening to send me home. Still, that was also a fun and memorable day, spent with a bunch of my cousins. Ed and Nancy had driven a big Suburban, and it got stuck in the mud.
Here are a couple of other memories from that trip…
Granny’s house was located next to a “hollow”, that had once been part of the original property my grandfather bought years earlier. I remember we weren’t supposed to go walking “down the hollow”, because it was no longer owned by our family. Brownlee once lamented to me about that, because it really was a heavenly piece of property, with two creeks that met each other and flowed to the river.
Anyway, sometimes we would walk down the hollow. I went with my cousins, Jeff and Jeff. One Jeff was the son of my Aunt Doris, and had once been my neighbor, as we had lived in Fairfax County for two years before we moved to Gloucester. The other Jeff lived in Natural Bridge with my Uncle Carl and his wife, Betty, and very little sister, Lori. Natural Bridge Jeff was telling the other Jeff a really dirty story. It was the kind of story that adolescent boys tell each other. Of course, I was nine, and eager to grow up. I heard the story, laughed with them, and later repeated it to two of my younger cousins, then aged 7 and 5.
My Aunt Gayle overheard me repeating the story I’d heard from my older male cousins on that walk. She promptly “blessed” me out, as she put it. She told her kids that I had a “dirty mouth” and they shouldn’t listen to me. I remember crying, because I didn’t know I’d done anything wrong… She later apologized to me and said her kids “didn’t know what to do with that stuff”. Hello? I was only nine years old myself. I didn’t know, either. 😉 Oh, I probably knew it was “forbidden” stuff, but I was still just a child in need of guidance, right?
In spite of the few negative incidents that happened during that visit, I remember it to be a really fun time and a happy memory. For many years, I remembered going to Tank Hollow and fantasized about visiting again and swimming there. Years later, I asked my uncle about it, because I didn’t even remember where it was located. I said I remembered it to be a big waterfall we jumped off of a bunch of times.
I clearly remember Ed saying, “That was Tank Hollow. And the waterfall wasn’t that big.”
I had such a hard time believing that, because I remembered it to be huge from my memories as a nine year old child. One day, during the summer of 1993, I visited my relatives in Natural Bridge, and we went to Tank Hollow. I was there with Aunt Gayle, and my cousins Justin and Suzanne, and one of Justin’s Army buddies. Sure enough, I saw that Ed was right. The waterfall was a lot smaller than I remembered it. But we jumped off it anyway. Somewhere in storage, I have photos from that day, not that I’d necessarily want to look at myself in a bathing suit, even when I was 21 years old.
When Bill and I were dating on Labor Day weekend in September 2001– the week before 9/11, actually– he came down to Natural Bridge and met my extended family. I took him to Tank Hollow, which now seemed even less impressive. The water was even murkier than it was before, and I wondered if there were snakes there… that thought hadn’t crossed my mind at all, when I was a child, or even when I was a younger woman. I also took him to another local swimming hole called Straw Pond, and we went swimming there, and at Cave Mountain Lake, a park area with a lake where we used to go when I was a kid… I loved it then, but saw it through different eyes as an adult.
Then, we went to Goshen Pass, another special place in my past, as I remember having my sixth birthday party there, with members of my huge, extended family, and my Granny giving me Sweet Honesty perfume in a bottle shaped like a sheep. Goshen Pass is a beautiful place, and it’s probably where Bill and I realized we were in love. We had a magical day enjoying the gorge. Then, the following week came 9/11. Bill was in the Pentagon– in the area that was hit by the jetliner. When he survived, we realized we should probably go public. It wasn’t long after that that we were engaged.
Natural Bridge has always been such a special place to me. And yet, I haven’t been there in almost nine years… I never thought I’d stay away for so long, nor would I have ever expected to feel “weird” about being there now. But, I have to admit I do feel weird. So much has changed since those days in the early 80s.
My Aunt Gayle still lives in Granny’s house. I hope it will never leave the family, because it really is a magical place, and there’s so much family history there. The road it sits on is actually named after my grandfather, Lloyd Tolley, who used to run a store there that sold basic essentials.
In fact, in the old wax museum (which closed in 2014), there was a wax depiction of one of my distant relatives– my great great great Uncle Archibald “Bar” Tolley. I think his nickname was actually “Bear”, but because of the Scottish-like hillbilly accent in those parts, it sounded more like “Bar”. I see another blogger has written about him here, and a bunch of my apparent relatives are chiming in. He was famed for hunting and killing a lot of bears, and was said to be known for his honesty and “salty” tongue (so that’s where I get it).
By coincidence, last night, I was reading about “Bar” Tolley, and figuring out how we’re related. I can see his father, Ezekiel, was my 3rd great grandfather, and his brother, Thomas Milton Tolley, was my great great grandfather. So, that would make Archibald “Bar” Tolley my great great great uncle, I guess. 😉 It’s so funny that he was immortalized in the Natural Bridge Wax Museum! The link leads to a video someone made about it. I’m so glad I took Bill there over that special Labor Day weekend in 2001.
Well… it’s always a delight to see old photos and remember things through rose tinted glasses. I do have some fabulous memories of when I was a child. We did have a lot of fun, especially during those less “regulated” times. Or maybe it just seems that way to me, because I was a kid, and I wasn’t worried about the things that worry adults of every age. I’m grateful that my cousin, Bruce, shared that long ago photo of us on that awesome day in the summer of 1981. I miss those times… and those people.
Here are the lyrics for Lyle Lovett’s old song, “Family Reserve”:
When I saw the ambulance screaming down Main Street I didn’t give it a thought But it was my Uncle Eugene He died on October The second, nineteen eighty-one
Now my uncle Wilbert They all called him Skinner And they said for his younger ways He’d get drunk in the morning And show me the rolls of fifties and hundreds He kept in the glove box of his old gray Impala
And we’re all gonna be here forever So mama, don’t you make such a stir Just put down that camera And come on and join up The last of the family reserve
Now my second cousin, his name was Calloway He died when he’d barely turned two It was peanut butter and jelly that did it The help, she didn’t know what to do She just stood there and she watched him turn blue
And we’re all gonna be here forever So mama, don’t you make such a stir Just put down that camera And come on and join up The last of the family reserve
And my friend Brian Temple He thought he could make it So from the third story he jumped And he missed the swimming pool only by inches And everyone said he was drunk
And there was Great Uncle Julius And there was Aunt Annie Miller And Mary, and Granddaddy Po And there was Hannah, and Ella And Alvin, and Alec And he owned his own funeral home
And there are more I remember And more I could mention And words I could write in a song But I feel ’em watching And I see ’em laughing And I hear ’em singing along
We’re all gonna be here forever So mama, don’t you make such a stir Just put down that camera And come on and join up The last of the family reserve
The featured photo is of a cake I baked in 1993 for my boss at the time. I was the cook at a Presbyterian church camp and there was a nasty stomach bug that came through and made a lot of us sick, including the camp director, whose birthday it happened to be. I decided to bake the cake in honor of the virus– it says “Hurling into #33”. And yes, it was a huge hit! Presbyterians, mostly being very Scottish in origin, usually do not lack an appreciation for ribald humor.
For some reason, this morning I found myself singing “MacArthur Park”, a song that was written by the great songwriter Jimmy Webb. I am most familiar with Donna Summer’s version of that song, since I was a youngster when it was popular. But, in the course of reading up on “MacArthur Park”, I learned that it was actually written in the late 1960s and has been covered by a lot of different artists… including Waylon Jennings, of all people!
I am a big fan of Jimmy Webb’s music. He’s written some really beautiful songs. I didn’t know anything about his personal life before this morning, when I read about his first wife, Patsy Sullivan, whom he met when she was twelve and he was 22 years old. They appeared together on a cover of ‘Teen magazine. The next year, they started a relationship and married in 1974, when their son, Christaan, was 17 months old. Patsy was just 16 years old when she had him. She had five more children with Webb before they split in 1996. When he published his memoir in 2017, he left Patsy out of it and reportedly didn’t mention their son, Christaan. I’m not sure why he did that, since it’s not like it wasn’t known that they were married and had children. Anyway, Webb is remarried as of 2004, having wed his wife, Laura Savini.
Sometimes I think it’s better not to know too much about the people you admire. I’m not sure I approve of Webb’s relationship with the very young Patsy in the 1970s… but I guess it was considered a different time. Webb was also using a lot of substances– drugs and alcohol– and has since given them up. I still think it’s shitty that he’s denied his first marriage in his memoir. Seems pretty fucked up to me.
I have funny memories of “MacArthur Park.” Although I had heard it many times when I was growing up, I never paid much attention to the lyrics. It wasn’t until I went to college that I heard the line about the cake in the rain. My old friend– brother from another mother, Chris Jones– was going around singing it badly. “Someone left my CAKE out in the RAIN…” Chris can’t sing under the best of circumstances, but he’s also a natural comedian, so his version of that song was hilarious. I remember saying to him, though… “are you sure those are the right words?” Or maybe I just thought he’d made them up, as we were both likely to do in those days (and in my case, today).
Chris assured me that the song, as ridiculous as it was, was actually written with those lyrics.
Today, I read that the lyrics by Jimmy Webb were based on actual things that he saw as he and his friend/girlfriend were breaking up in view of MacArthur Park in California. Someone actually HAD left a cake out in the rain. The mind boggles at the backstory potential. What happened? Was someone’s birthday party rained out? Did a romantic date go badly? Did some people run off and leave the cake because they’d rather stay dry than save their sweet treat? Who knows… but what a weird visual. I guess the truth really is stranger than fiction.
I still like Jimmy Webb’s music and respect his immense talents. I suspect he didn’t want to address his first wife’s age because he’s a “different person” now. Actually, I’d say that if you aren’t willing to own up to the past, maybe you haven’t changed that much, after all… I’m sure his life story is still interesting, even though he omitted a big, major chunk of it from his memoir. I haven’t read the book, but I can see from Amazon reviews that a lot of people didn’t think it was very good. They claim he name drops a lot and is apparently a “moral midget” who has affairs with married women. I dunno… Maybe I’ll read it so I can decide what I think of it. If I do read it, it won’t be for awhile. I have a bunch of books to read right now and only so many conscious hours.
And there are many, many other versions of this song, as well as other songs Jimmy wrote that are fantastic. I’ll just try to focus on those.
If you attempt to read this, please do me a favor and try to make it to the end before passing judgment.
A couple of days ago, I did a search of my own posts on Facebook. I don’t even remember what I was hoping to find. Maybe it’s because I drink a lot of beer. 😉 In any case, when I did that search, I unexpectedly found today’s featured photo. I got a kick out of it for many nostalgic reasons.
That photo was taken 30 years ago, during my junior year at what was then known as Longwood College in Farmville, Virginia. It’s a pretty special picture for many nostalgic reasons… including some I’ve just realized so many years later. I’ll get to why in a few paragraphs, if you’ll just indulge me a bit.
My junior year roommate was a year older than me, and the one I got along with best during my college years. She was a very serious student– extremely hard working and high achieving. I don’t know if this is still true, but at the time, she was said to be the very last organ performance major at Longwood. Her goal was to be a music teacher. I hung out with a lot of music majors. They were some of the hardest working people I’ve ever known.
This roommate and I got along very well, which is an amazing thing. We lived on the third floor of South Cunningham, which has since been demolished. In fact, the room I had during my sophomore year is no longer used as a dormitory. It’s now an administration building. Those of us who went to Longwood College, as opposed to Longwood University, have very different memories of the campus. It really has changed that much. I guess it leads to bonding on Facebook.
I’m always a little dismayed when I realize that I went through SEVEN Longwood roommates, and that was even with two semesters during which I had my own room. Sometimes I feel like I’m just not a very likeable person who isn’t compatible with most others, even though Bill and I are ridiculously compatible.
Then, when I think about it, I realize that my roommate situation is not as bad as it sounds. One year, I temporarily had a second roommate who eventually got kicked out of school. One year, my roommate joined a sorority and moved in with her new “sisters”. I had the room to myself in the spring. Another year, I had a roommate for a few weeks, until she left to student teach. Then I got a new roommate during the spring semester before my graduation, and we got along fine.
Then there’s my very first roommate, “Margaret” (not her real name) with whom I only spent a week before she basically kicked me out of the room so her slutty friend across the hall could move in. I’ve already blogged about her, though…
Before anyone comes at me, let me just say that I know it’s not nice to call someone a slut, but that was basically what Margaret’s friend and future roommate was like. We had been at college for a mere week, and she just wanted to skank around with fraternity guys. My former roommate delusionally thought the frat guys would like her, too, so she tagged along with her friend of one week. I understand from my former suitemates that their living arrangement didn’t work out very well.
If I hadn’t been in the middle of that mess during my first week of college, I might have felt sorry for my former roommate. The chick from across the hall– who openly and unabashedly spoke of her “twat” itching (yes, she literally said this– and I was confused because, at the time, I don’t even think I knew what a twat was)– was probably just using ex roommate for her money.
Margaret had a lot of money, but to be blunt, she was definitely not a looker. But she and fraternity skank showed me nothing but contempt, so I don’t have a lot of regard for either of them. Besides, it all worked out for the best. Both of those women left Longwood after our freshman year, and this article isn’t about them, anyway. So, I’ll move on. 😉
Junior year was a pretty good year for me. That was the one year I finally had a good friend as a roommate. Because I was 20 years old, I couldn’t buy my own booze… except at a couple of places that never carded people. My friend, who wasn’t a drinker, helped me buy a case of Bud Dry at what was then a Harris Teeter supermarket (I think it’s now a Kroger). Bud Dry was highfalutin’ beer in those days. I usually drank Natural Light or something of that caliber. There was a Canadian beer called Arctic Bay that I used to get all the time. I don’t think they make it anymore. I know Bud Dry is now defunct, as of 2010.
Being 20 years old and not very experienced in the ways of the world, I honestly thought Bud Dry was good stuff. So I packed it into my dented and RENTED dorm fridge and took a picture for posterity. At some point, I shared the photo on Facebook, where a lot of laughs and discussion ensued. As I mentioned up post, South Cunningham was demolished, but it was a much loved home at Longwood for a lot of students. So that photo of Bud Dry was definitely prime sharing material. First, I shared it on my personal page; then I shared it in a group for Longwood College alums (as opposed to Longwood University alums).
At this writing, about 250 people in the group have liked the photo, and there have been a lot of lively comments about it. Most of the comments have been about what “expensive” tastes I had, since I wasn’t drinking Milwaukee’s Best (Beast) or its ilk. Again, the reason there was a photo was because I was “proud” of drinking Bud Dry. I thought I was living large. I was, but only in terms of my clothing size. 😀
I was enjoying the Facebook commentary about the photo when I noticed someone with a familiar, yet unusual, last name had “liked” it. Suddenly, I remembered a woman I knew of because of my second Longwood roommate, the woman who had joined Kappa Delta sorority and moved in with her “sisters” during the spring of my freshman year.
Though I never joined a sorority myself, I eventually learned that most of them had nicknames based on their campus reputations. I also found out that a sorority chapter on one campus might be totally different than they’d be on another. For instance, I have some cousins who were Sigma Kappas at the University of Georgia. The Sigma Kappas at Longwood when I was a student there were known as really “smart” and kind of nerdy. But my cousins, if they had gone to Longwood, were probably more like Kappa Deltas or maybe Zeta Tau Alphas, both of which were founded at Longwood. Actually, if they had gone to Longwood, my cousins would have probably pledged ZTA, because their grandmother, my Aunt Jeanne, was a ZTA at Longwood.
My roommate after “Margaret” was a woman who happened to have the same first and last name as Margaret did. However, she spelled her first name differently and went by a nickname. I’ll call her “Maggy”. She was the opposite of Margaret. While Margaret was a narcissistic asshole who wore braces, and was morbidly obese, Maggy was slim, cool, and pretty. She was a natural for the “KD ladies”, as she told me they were known as at Longwood.
Maggy and I weren’t destined to be long term friends, but she was a much better fit than Margaret was. At least she didn’t come in during the middle of the night and turn on the overhead light while I was sleeping, right? In fact, a lot of nights, she slept with her boyfriend. That was cool for me!
Anyway, Maggy was very busy during the semester she pledged her sorority. She had a composite photo of all of the “sisters”. I remember seeing that photo every day during my first semester at Longwood. I remember most of the women in that photo were really conventionally pretty, like Maggy was. However, there was one woman who stood out in the composite photo. She was very attractive, but not in the super pretty way the others were. She had what seemed like a rare kind of charisma. I found her interesting and was curious about her.
I remember taking notice of the woman’s name, mainly because she had kind of an unusual moniker. I also noticed her because she had a dazzling smile that was very genuine, like someone everyone would want to meet and know. Again, she was not gorgeous in the typical popular sorority girl way, but she had an inner radiance about her. I could tell that she was someone who made friends very easily.
Maggy’s new sorority sister had a rare kind of true inner beauty. Her magnetism was obvious and memorable to me, even though I didn’t even know her. In fact, I never even met her when I was at Longwood. As an 18 year old, I just noticed and remembered her name and her face… and as time marched on, I eventually forgot about her… until last night.
I noticed someone with the same unusual last name liking my beer fridge post. I hadn’t thought of Maggy’s “dazzling smiled” sorority sister in well over 30 years. She was two years ahead of me, and we didn’t run in the same circles. At first, I thought the person who had liked the photo was the same woman with the dazzling smile. She hadn’t spelled out her first name on Facebook, but she had the same first initial as Maggy’s sorority sister did, plus the same surname.
I was curious, so I took a look at the person’s profile. After a minute or two, I realized that the person who had liked my post wasn’t the woman with the dazzling smile. Instead, she appeared to be a family member– perhaps a sister or a cousin.
There was a picture of the woman with the smile on her public Facebook page, and based on the comments, it appeared that she had died. I followed another link to Maggy’s sorority sister’s profile, and saw more comments from people who missed her. They commented on her spirit and her laugh. I could relate to that, since my laugh is very distinctive, too. When I die, I’m sure if anyone still knows me offline, they’ll comment on my laugh, too.
A few more minutes of investigation revealed that the woman with the smile had died of breast cancer. I soon found many pictures of her before and after treatment. There were pictures of her that recalled how she’d looked in her Kappa Delta composite photo. And there were pictures of her smiling bravely, with very short hair, and then finally completely bald. In every single one of those photos, there was that radiant smile that defied the circumstances and revealed what appeared to be an indomitable spirit. I don’t even know her story, but the smile told me a lot about her.
Soon, I found myself looking closer at the people she’d left behind. This was a woman who was obviously much beloved by a lot of folks, especially her family, but also friends and colleagues. She had clearly made an impression on many, and had left a very positive and indelible mark on their hearts. I suddenly felt kind of sad, because I wished I’d had a chance to meet her. Behind her sparkling, lively eyes, and bright, brave, dazzling smile, even when she was completely bald, there was a remarkable woman who had really made a difference to so many.
Of course, if I had met her, there’s every chance that we wouldn’t have meshed. I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating. I tend to be the kind of person people love or hate. But now that I think about it, looking at pictures of Maggy’s sorority sister reminds me of an experience I had on a road trip years ago, when I happened to run into a Buddhist monk. I wrote about that experience here, but the short story is, that guy had a countenance that immediately put me at ease and calmed me down when I had been hangry and wound up tighter than a spring. I was awestruck and moved by simply being in the peaceful monk’s presence, looking at him from across a crowded room.
When I did a similar search for old photos last night, I happened across one about one of my relatives… She happened to live on a farm called Longwood, and she died a couple of years ago. I wasn’t very close to this relative. Although we were family, we didn’t agree on religion or politics. However, when she died, many people were genuinely devastated.
I noticed that along with the post her sister– another relative of mine– had written about missing her, there was a photo of them. And I noticed that they both had dazzling, warm, and genuine smiles, too. Even though we’re family, but not close friends, I can see that they obviously have left indelible marks on people. If I didn’t already know them due to our family connection, I’d probably be struck and ultimately touched by their beautiful smiles, too.
Isn’t it funny how a photo of a rented dorm fridge full of Bud Dry posted on Facebook can lead me to these places? Anyway… if anyone related to this woman figures out who she is and that I’ve written about her, I just want to say I’m very sorry for your loss. I can tell by the photos showcasing her smile that she was a very special person. Either that, or her dentists are worth their weight in platinum. 😉 (I’m kidding, of course…)
I swear, on Friday, I thought I was feeling better. I was feeling well enough that I thought maybe we could go to a wine fest this weekend. But yesterday, I realized that I felt tired, and didn’t really want to walk around in the hot sun. We stayed home and hung out. This morning, I woke up early, then fell asleep until 9:00 am, which is unusual for me these days. Remembering that COVID tests can end up being positive a couple of days after a negative test, I took a test this morning. Sure enough, it came up positive. See the featured photo for proof.
Bill has no symptoms of COVID. He has a doctor’s appointment tomorrow, so he’s going to test. I’ll be surprised if he’s negative, but he hasn’t been sick. I can think of a few places where I might have picked up this germ, even though we haven’t done much in the past couple of weeks. I probably got it at the wine stand, since we ran into a fellow American who said that COVID had visited their house and her partner was still sick with it.
I’m not very sick. I’m just kind of tired and a little crankier than usual. I have a productive cough, some nasal congestion, and a low grade fever. It honestly feels like the back end of a cold. I think last month’s sickness was a cold, because I had a really runny nose that was so bad that my skin got raw. This time, I didn’t get a runny nose, but I do have a slight fever, which I didn’t get last month. Anyway, I am no longer a “COVID virgin”. I figured this was bound to happen sooner or later, though. I’m glad I got vaccinated, because this isn’t much fun, but it’s nothing deadly. At least not at this point.
Speaking of deadly… I got confirmation this morning that my Uncle Ed, has, in fact, crossed over to the other side. I don’t know the details, other than it happened in the morning. I chatted with my sister yesterday, and she said that Ed had a mass on his lung that he decided not to treat. She said he also had a skin condition, along with pneumonia. The man was 85 years old, so it was probably time for him to go. I don’t feel sad that he died, but I do wish our last conversation hadn’t been the way it was.
I have a lot of good memories of my uncle. When I was about ten years old, he took a bunch of us cousins to the James River and we went fishing with homemade fishing poles and worms. Another time, he took us to Tank Hollow, a swimming hole near my Granny’s house. We all rode in the back of my uncle’s pickup truck… ahh, the things we could get away with in the late 70s and early 80s! I remember jumping off the waterfall into the frigid mountain water, having the time of my life.
In later years, Ed was a lot of fun at our family reunions every Thanksgiving. I remember dancing with him once and cutting a really nasty fart. He laughed at me and said, “YOU FARTED!” And I remember sharing moonshine with him, as he told funny stories about my dad, his older brother. As they got older, my dad and Ed looked like twins. Dad was four years older, though, and died four years younger than Ed has. Both of them died in July… Dad on the 9th, and Ed on the 23rd. Two weeks apart, and Ed’s death is a day after the fifteenth anniversary of Granny’s death.
Unfortunately, Dad and Ed also had alcoholism in common, and they were both abusive when they drank too much. Actually, my dad was usually kind of melancholy when he drank, but sometimes he’d go into violent rages. I don’t know how Ed was on a normal “bender”, but I was once on the receiving end of one of his tirades… in fact, that was the last time we communicated. I can’t abide verbal abuse anymore. I’ve been too saturated with it, and now when someone goes “off” on me, that’s pretty much the death knell for the relationship. I make exceptions for a few people, but I’ve found that people who feel emboldened enough to be verbally abusive don’t tend to learn from their mistakes.
Ed was mostly a lot of fun, though. He was, overall, a great uncle to me. I like to think of him going to his late wife, Nance, who died in 2010 after having had Alzheimer’s Disease and a heart attack. Together, they were boisterous and opinionated, and they had a lot of spirited debates fueled by Wild Turkey and Busch beer. They were both very politically conservative, but I think Nance was more liberal about some things than Ed was.
I remember Nance having a very spirited debate with my late cousin, Karen. Karen was a devout Christian and very pro life. She was wearing a pro-life t-shirt. Nance took her to task over it, because she had been a nurse for Planned Parenthood, and she had seen scared girls who sought abortions. It changed her opinion about abortion. And Nance was the kind of “in your face” person who would get into arguments at the drop of a hat. She confronted Karen about her shirt, and the two of them had a discussion about abortion in my grandmother’s kitchen. Karen was going on about how abortion was an affront to God, and it was wrong to destroy God’s creations. And Nance was all about the practical, having been a nurse, and knowing that sometimes having an abortion is the most responsible and compassionate action a person can take. It was an interesting conversation. I didn’t enjoy getting into arguments with either of them myself, but it was kind of fun being a spectator when they debated.
It’s strange to think that Nance, Karen, and Ed are all gone now, but if there is a Heaven, they’re probably all rejoicing at the reunion. I like to think of them as all healthy, vital, and having spirited debates with all the Wild Turkey they want… although I don’t think Karen was a fan of boozing.
Anyway… I hope Ed is at peace and has reunited with the ones who went before him. And I hope I get over this sickness soon. It’s been cramping my style for six days now. I’m so glad I didn’t go anywhere this week, except for a walk. I guess I’ll keep taking it easy, and hopefully will be on the mend very soon. I’m tired of my style being cramped. I want to make some music again. Guess I’ll have to stick to guitar until all this snot goes away.
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