WHAT IS NEXT?

Holy Cow! In about a week, my twin brother will turn 64. I can’t believe he’s that old. Jim hasn’t changed much over the years, and I hope he stays constant for many years to come. It is, however, a bit upsetting to realize that my brother is that old. How’d it happen? I am concerned about several things that swirl around his arrival at the age of one year short of Medicare. Actually, all the fretting is about me.
First and foremost, I’m worried about running out of time. In my teens and even into his 40’s and 50’s, I was focused on the things I enjoyed. I truly loved my teaching career, especially when it concerned the students and not a bunch of ridiculous tests that measured systems’ abilities to administer them. Now I am more than halfway down the hill, and so much needs to be done in such a short time.
I retired, but that didn’t mean I quit working. Part time jobs have kept me busy while providing a supplement to my monthly retirement income. What is so rotten about part time jobs, or full time ones for that matter, is they tie retirees to schedules that they hate. I’ve always liked staying up late at night, but when I must rise at 5:30 a.m. to be at work at 6:30, early bed times are required, and “The Tonight Show” or late ball games are things from the past.  
Like many people my age, I have a bucket list. Unfortunately, it’s much too long to cover. Many want
to travel abroad to see the wonders of other countries. I much prefer making my way to the breathless sites of this country. Years earlier, taking such trips wasn’t possible because we had small children. These days, they still are on the back burner until I can quit work. I hope my body isn’t worn out by that time so that I can’t enjoy the sites.
That’s another thing. I’ve noticed more and more that I can’t do what I used to do. Even with a moderate amount of work or activity, every part of my body is attacked with aches and pains. My hair line more closely resembles my maternal grandfather’s. My crooked, sore fingers remind me of my maternal grandmother’s. Joints don’t squeak, but they do keep me awake some nights, and walking all day at my job doesn’t help a bit.
My biggest concern is about the time I have to spend with my children and grandson. After what seems like a blink of my eyes, Madden has become a rambunctious boy; he’s lost those toddler characteristics that I loved so much. He’s already become a polite, patient young man who tolerates
his grandparents. Before much longer, he’ll not want to spend much time with us at all. The older we grow, the harder it will be to provide fun things for him to do when he comes to visit.
I love Dallas and Lacey, but sometimes they remind me of adult children who are keeping protective eyes or their parents. I’m not yet to the point where I am unable to do things for myself, but I can see my children’s minds wrapping around that eventuality. To be honest, I want to be their hero, not their burden.

So, another year is passing. I’m thankful to be here and to have so been showered with so many blessings. My prayer is that I can stay vibrant and healthy for at least another 30 years. We’ll see how that plays out.

A SINGLE ROSEBUD

Mother’s Day has come and gone. I purposely didn’t write about it then because I needed time to think. Moms across the country celebrated with families either with visits or long distance phone calls, Facetime, or Skype. All of us agree that those women who are mothers are a special group.

In the 1950’s, Mother’s Day was also a special time. My mother always took the day to heart. Her mother lived about a mile from us, and Mother seemed to be inspired and awed by her. I never understood that because Mamaw Balch always seemed to be a stick in the mud. She smiled rarely and spent her days listening to radio preachers and reading her bible. Still, she brought four children into the world. She worked to provide for her brood during the Great Depression. Never did the family go hungry, although they had little cash. She made sure their home was clean and warm, and her meals were the kind that gave energy that was needed for completing all the jobs on a dairy farm.

Mother celebrated her mother’s love with visits and with acts of kindness. Both women were small in stature, but they were stronger than most in attitude and grit and determination.

Mamaw Rector was a complete opposite. She was a rotund little woman who worked outside the home for years. By the time we boys came around, she’d already retired. At home in Lonsdale, she cooked and doted on my grandfather, whom some say was far from a warm, engaging man. Her daughter and two grandsons also lived with her at some point, and later she opened her home to a great grandson. Mamaw was filled with the “Rector” pessimism. We carefully asked how she was because most of the time the answer came back with a litany of woes. Still, she loved her children and patted on them and spoiled them as much as possible during their early years.

Daddy called her “Momma,” and he never failed to check in on her after his shift at Southern Extract was finished. He’d make sure the house was in order and that food was plentiful for the family. Even as he grew sicker with cancer, he dragged himself to her house until he no longer could drive.

Mother loved us boys. She stayed at home until we began school, at which time she began teaching and returned to college to earn her Bachelor’s Degree. We made her Mother’s Day gifts at church or school. One I remember was a potholder made with pink and yellow strips. The presents weren’t much, and I feel sure the moms today would feel slighted with such trivial things. Still, Mother took them as if they were treasures.

On Mother’s Day, she walked into the yard. We followed her to the rambling rosebushes. There, she searched for five perfectly formed roses. After cutting them from the branch, she pinned them to our
collars, as well as to hers and Daddy’s. Then we traveled a short distance to the old Beaver Ridge Methodist Church. During the service we sang “Faith of Our Mothers” (a small adjustment to the familiar hymn), and the minister spoke of the importance of all mothers, always giving special praise to Mary, the mother of Jesus.

As the years past, Mother made the same trek to the rosebushes to select buds for us. However, she made a second trip to pick a white rosebud for herself. It symbolized the loss of a mother. A tear
would come to her eye before she turned herself back to the daily grind of her own life and responsibilities as a mother.

I still shake my head when I think of those old Mother’s Days. Edna Rector rose before the rest of us on that Sunday, just like all of them. She’d get ready for church and then don her housecoat before making pancakes and bacon for breakfast. She’d already put a roast with potatoes and carrots in the oven or cut up a chicken for frying. When we returned from church, Mother changed clothes and returned to the kitchen. She’d finish cooking up a Sunday feast, and our family would sit together for at least a while. When it was over and we all waddle to other activities, Mother cleaned the kitchen. Only then did she sit down in her chair to read the Sunday paper. Sometimes she’d nod off for a while.


She’s been gone for a long time. I miss her and wish I could give her a hug, a kiss, and a “thank-you” for all she meant to me. A single rosebud just doesn’t seem big enough to say those things, but then again, it is a beautiful flower that grows and brings joy, just like mothers. 

AH! SPRING!

Ah, the arrival of 80 degree temperatures and daylight arriving before 7 a.m. and departing after 8 p.m. signal the winding down of the school year and the arrival of the best season of the year. Even after all these years, this time brings the most excitement to me. The memories from long ago are vivid.
Students are stuck in classrooms right now. The news this morning announced that the company that creates standardized tests cannot deliver enough materials for young folks to take the exams. That wasn’t such a big deal in another time. We students took achievement tests for a couple of days and then went on with other business. What mattered more to us elementary students was Field Day.
We didn’t travel to the high school football stadium to compete with students from other schools. At Ball Camp, we gathered in the large area in front of the school. Parts were grassy while others were barren spots with sprinklings of gravels and dirt clods. For at least part of the day, students raced, threw softballs, and tugged against other classes. At the end of the event, participants went back to building and prayed that breezes blew through open windows of classrooms that had no air conditioning.
When we became teenagers, this time of year made us weary. We were tired of classes and homework, and trying to be cool sapped our energy. The warm days called us from classrooms, and some of us managed to sneak away from school. We never minded walking miles to arrive home nor gave a second thought about being caught by school authorities or parents. The escape from the confines of school spurred us on, even if our destination was that house where we so often wanted to leave.
It was at this time of year that high school seniors became the centers of attention. Graduation was at hand, and we had so many things to do. Prom was a big event for us, and the junior class paid the
expenses. Back then, juniors were also excited about the prom since it was there that class rings were passed out to them. That always meant a huge crowd.
Graduation Day fast approached. Seniors were released from school days earlier than other students, and we spent time traveling to the lake or pools, even if the water was too cold for dips. Baccalaureate exercises were mandatory, and a few days later, we practiced for graduation exercises that were held in Central Baptist Church in Bearden after a senior breakfast.
Our efforts at sending out invitations to family and friends were rewarded as a steady stream of presents came. Many folks gave money which we squirreled away. I remember receiving a jewelry box from one family and thought how nice, but odd, it was since I had only a couple of pairs of cuff links, a watch, and a ring to put in it. Family members from out of town arrived at our house with gifts in tow. The house was crowded, but it was a wonderful time.
This season also found teens maneuvering to find summer sweethearts. The warm weather was so much more fun when a boyfriend or girlfriend was also there. Males marveled at girls who had hidden behind winter clothing for so long. They radiated beauty that raised already warm temperatures to nearly boiling points. Young love that so often proved to be short-lived was blooming fully for the time being.
Even older folks, college students, revel in the spring temperatures. Hoards rush from dorm rooms and gather on quads where they can throw Frisbee, sit on blankets and study or just talk, or enjoy
studying in the fresh air. Before long, they’ll leave for home and somehow manage to survive a couple of months in a house filled with parents, brothers or sisters, and smothering rules. Still, after a year of studying, escape to a familiar place sounds good.

This comfortable, easy time will soon enough give way to the scorching days of summer. Enjoy them as long as possible and recall some of the wonderful memories from past years.

YEARLY PHYSICAL

Today, I visited the doctor for my annual physical. It’s funny how things have changed. In my younger life, I rarely had a physical, and when I did, the entire thing consisted of checking my heart beat, determining my hearing by holding a watch up to my ears, weighing on a scale, and peeing in a
cup. The whole thing lasted no more than 10 minutes. Boy! Things sure have changed.
The first part of physicals these days is spent with a nurse. She checked pulse, weight, and blood pressure. Then Linda and I had an interesting talk about my medications. I nodded with the naming of every one of them. Then I asked her to make sure the doctor wrote a new prescription for Flonase and Nexium.
 I’d name the rest of the pills if I could spell them. All I know is that each morning and again each night I swallow a fistful of pills and capsules. When a couple of them run in short supply, I become nervous. The last thing I need is a case of acid reflux or a bout of restless leg syndrome.
Doctor Catherine Mathes is my doctor. She took care of my mother for several years, and I swear by her. She’s a no-nonsense doctor who takes excellent care of her patients. She came into to the room and sat down at the computer. The doctor reviewed my record while catching up on my condition at present. I told her I was worn out, and she surmised that being so was, in part, the result of getting older. Then she asked me how I felt, what physical problems I had experienced, and whether any things had changed unexpectedly. All answers were “no.”
An EKG was in order this year, so I lay upon the table as Linda attached a handful of wires to my chest. It occurred to me that those leads resembled the spark plug wires and distributor in my old Pathfinder. The car is 30 years old but still manages to chug along; I do the same. When I was young, those sticky things didn’t bother me a bit. Now, they are painfully removed along with a small crop of gray hair. How’d that stuff get there and turn so gray?
A few deep breaths, a couple of thumps on my abdomen, and new prescriptions led to the end of my exam. I managed to escape the prostate exam this year, and I said a quick, silent prayer. For some reason, I felt better; maybe the fact that no serious “Hmm’s” were uttered let me know that I was good to go.
Dr. Mathes escorted me to a waiting room, and ere long, a man came in with a small clear cup with a lid. Yep, it was time to pee in that cup, open a small metal door, and place it on the shelf. Some
people have difficulty performing this act; maybe it’s a form of panic. The only times I’ve experienced problems are when large lines of men at events are waiting for me to finish.
Soon, I was off to the lab where three vials of blood were drawn. Then I was sent to x-ray for a picture of my chest. Even though I’ve been a reformed smoker for 13 years, the doctor wants a yearly
check of my lungs. I always get a bit nervous about the results, especially since both parents and my older brother died of cancer after years of smoking.
Finally, I walked to the last procedure of the exam. A nice young women looked at the paper I handed her and then announced that I owed a $35 co-pay. I thanked the clerk and walked out the door.  Thankful for a good report and feeling healthy, I decided to take the stairs instead of the elevator. By the time I reached to ground floor, my legs were weak and muscles were burning. That was all right with me. My mind focused on finding something to eat since I’d been ordered to fast the following night.
The next visit is a year away. The goal is to do a better job of living a healthy life, something I plan to start as soon as I pick up an order of biscuit and gravy from Hardees.