Thursday, December 14, 2006
Nancy White Kelly
Low-budget coin-collecting has been my hobby for many years. Eventually I took the necessary courses to obtain ANA numismatic credentials. In the process I have met some interesting people.
Yesterday an elderly couple came by. He was 93. She was 87. They carried a small assortment of coins. A friend had recommended me to them as I occasionally buy old gold and pre-1965 silver coins.
This couple won my heart immediately. They would have been a push over for an unscrupulous person wishing to make a buck. That isn’t me. A wolf preying on helpless lambs is not my idea of Christianity.
The wife patted her husband’s cold hand while I went through the paper sacks. Unfortunately their small cache didn’t have a lot of value. It contained many foreign coins as well as modern copies and replicas that are highly advertised, yet thinly plated in gold. There isn’t much of a market for these glitzy come-ons. I made a fair offer and recommended that the couple get another estimate. They didn’t want to shop around.
“Write the check,” the aged man said. Assured that they were both pleased with the transaction, I obliged.
The two individuals were of more interest to me than their two sacks of coins. They live alone, far from relatives, on top of a nearby mountain. Their main source of heat is firewood. A single space heater warms the bedroom. I wondered how they managed. He was on a walker and she on a cane. Neither could walk appreciably well. The wife had just begun driving again after recuperating from a broken hip.
While we were inside talking, Buddy was outside washing their van windows and making sure the tires had air. We both could see the situation for what it was: two old people trying to survive in an expensive world.
As they left, the wife lovingly assisted her husband into the van. I held my breath, fearful that they might fall. It was obvious they had a routine. The wife shoved the man’s uncooperative right leg inside the vehicle. Then, with all the heave she could muster, she slammed the heavy door shut.
The wife reclaimed her cane, gave me a grateful smile, and asked for a hug. I gave her the biggest one I had.
Life is tough for many. I can only imagine what the situation will be for these two in another year. Half-jesting, I told the gentleman that I hoped I could get around as well as he did when I was in my nineties. He told me to stick around.
Maybe I will. So far my life has been an epoch of extraordinary encounters.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Nancy White Kelly
I watched the little ole man from the corner of my eye.
On our Thanksgiving journey to my brother’s house, Buddy pulled into a non-descript sandwich shop. We were tired and we were hungry. It didn’t matter what was on the menu or that ambience was lacking. We just wanted food. Turned out that this place’s specialty was spiral-sliced ham.
While we stood in the order line, scores of local people came through the squeaky cabin door to pick up pre-placed orders. That deli must have sold a hundred hams and turkeys during our brief stop. When our order eventually came up, there was only one small table available. Though unwiped, we gladly took it.
A quick sip of sweet southern tea quenched our thirst. Buddy eagerly bit into a savory sandwich stacked high with honey-baked ham. I didn’t. The white-haired man at the take-out counter continued to hold my attention. He was a short, nattily dressed gent plainly misplaced in this Mississippi neighborhood of century-old cotton patches.
When the man’s order came, he paid with a wad full of bills. Then, as if an afterthought, he sat the sacks down and turned our way. There were at least a dozen other people sitting at tables and many more were standing. For some unknown reason he headed our way. Maybe we looked like a long-time married couple who shared similar values.
He greeted us and remarked about the beautiful weather.
“Bet you never had a Thanksgiving serenade.”
“Sure haven’t, “I replied, not knowing exactly what to expect but thinking something unusual was about to happen.
He pulled a harmonica out of his suit pocket and began playing “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” We smiled and thanked him. He proceeded with “Dixie,” and few other whimsical tunes. By then all the customers were fondly watching. We nodded our appreciation. Buddy tried to engage him in conversation, but the focused man was clearly into his music, tuning out any attempt at frivolous intrusion.
Next came “How Great Thou Art” and “Amazing Grace.” And, finally, he reverently played “Taps.”
We were awed. Several patrons clapped. One man wiped away a tear. Without a word, he put the worn, silver harmonica back into his pocket, picked up his sacks, and headed out the screen door.
It was an extraordinary Thanksgiving experience, one of those treasures of serendipity that comes along unexpectedly.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Nancy White Kelly
Today I am not sitting in a doctor’s office. I am not lying rigid in an MRI tube fighting claustrophobia. No chemotherapy is dripping through my veins. Nope.
At this very moment I am doing what I have always imagined would be the epitome of literary experiences. Alone, on a towering penthouse balcony, I am in a writer’s fairy land. To the left is a majestic golf course. To the right, ocean waves rhythmically lap the sandy dunes. It is sweet solitude, the necessary laboratory of a creative mind.
To top it off, this billionaire ambience, isn’t costing a dime. At least not me. For three days, I get to enjoy such ridiculous opulence. This is in stark contrast to my humble childhood home or current middle-class abode.
In the early 1950’s, there were no high-definition TV’s, DVD’s, i-Pods, or X-boxes to lure me away from the front porch steps. My imagination entertained me and eventually morphed to stories and poems written on torn bits of brown grocery sacks.
While I am enjoying this posh environment, Buddy is not neglected. He is undoubtedly flying high, literally, on this beautiful day. He lives to fly. I love to write. I can fly and have the license to do it. He could write, but lets his Mississippi education chain him to the untruthful idea that he can’t.
A friend is here on business. She invited me to come along to share the journey. Margit is equally awed by the beauty and magnificence of this coastal island in South Carolina. Reservations for the hotels were full. She got bumped up to a resort villa. Sometimes life is better than fair.
While Margit is listening to a seminar speaker at the conference center, I am soaking up the salty air and watching sea birds dive for lunch. Sometimes life is far from fair.
I feel like the Queen of Serendipity. Three years ago, a CEO and regular reader of this column, sent Buddy and me on a first-class trip to the Holy Land.
Old friends and new have been exceptionally nice to this Living Lady. I may never know why, but I am grateful.
Friday, November 03, 2006
On the way home from visiting an old friend, I chose not to stop by the woods on a snowy evening. Why repeat what Robert Frost so famously did? Instead I stopped by Wal-Mart about forty miles from home.
Christmas is near and I needed to start shopping. Wal-Mart is a bargain hunter’s mecca and I like to save a dollar.
My basket was filled with gifts for friends and family but also included a fluffy bedspread for Buddy and me. It was a nice little splurge.
The clerk had a difficulty scanning the spread. Finally, with a sigh of disgust, she keyed in the numbers manually. Unintentionally, she under-priced the sale price by $9. I noticed the mistake immediately but said nary a word.
I smugly loaded the trunk of my car. It was my quiet little coup. But not for long.
While driving home, an inner voice kept nagging me. Some might call it conscience. I think it was God.
“Thou shalt not steal.”
“But, God." Wal-Mart will never miss $9.”
“Whatsoever is honest, think on these things.”
“It was just $9, Lord. Surely they made more than that in profit on just my purchases.”
“Will you let $9 come between us?”
Throughout the afternoon and part of the night I tried to rationalize keeping the $9. I might as well have robbed a bank. Nobody would ever have known. My children had heard the mantra from my lips many times, “Character is what you are in the dark.” It was dark thirty in the morning when I decided there was nothing to do but make it right.
The next day I penned a note to the Wal-Mart store manager explaining the situation and my need to return the $9. I addressed the envelope, stuck a stamp on it, and dashed in the rain to make sure it went out in the afternoon mail.
A couple of hours later I realized that, in my haste, I had forgotten to put the $9 in the envelope. I dug through my purse. I didn’t have a $5 bill and four ones. However, I did have a $10 bill. That would do.
I went back to the mailbox and retrieved the letter. Using a kitchen knife, I created a small opening in the flap of the envelope and inserted the $10 bill. Mission accomplished. Lesson learned.
Buddy would have noticed the unusual activity had he been home. He left earlier to attend an afternoon meeting. It was almost time for me to join him for our church supper.
I searched through the closet for something different to wear and noticed my mother’s jacket. It was a custom-made, glittery black blazer that I had given her many years ago. My mother loved that coat. When she died, I asked for two things only: that jacket and her cookbook. I use the cookbook often, but the jacket has hung in the closet since 1996.
My dad was the big guy. My mother was small-framed and, until recently, I was much too large to wear the jacket. I slipped the blazer on and, to my pleasant surprise, I could even button it.
With my Bible in hand, I locked the back door and slipped the door key into the pocket of the jacket. Two seconds later the whole community must have heard me shout. Imagine my shock to pull out of the jacket pocket, not one, but TWO $10 bills.
Coincidence? You decide, but I know the hand of God when I feel it.
Friday, October 20, 2006
Journal of a Living Lady #284
Nancy White Kelly
Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, or Atheists need not apply.
Have your attention? Thought so.
Most of us are vocal defenders of the
Intolerance isn’t new. But I wasn’t expecting to find it where I did. In the classified ads of a major newspaper.
Buddy and I have been searching for a puppy since Oppie, our beloved
I am a Christian. That is no secr
True, Christians are generally good folks. Unfortunately, not all Christian families are ideal. Some are b
The question this odd ad raised is this: What constitutes a Christian family worthy of a dog? Do they visit the sick and feed the poor? Do one or more family members attend church regularly? Do they tithe? While these are desirable characteristics, religious activity does not make one a Christian anymore than reading the label of a dog food makes the reader a canine. Christianity is far more than that. John 3:16 and Ephesians 2:8-9 succinctly sums it up.
Does my belief in Jesus as the Messiah, born of a virgin, make me a more worthy puppy buyer than my Jewish friends? Hardly. What difference does it make
Buddy and I didn’t buy the Yorkie puppy. We ended up adopting a darling two-pound
Midget is unimpressed with my piano rendition of Amazing Grace. She much prefers my chant: “Here, doggie, doggie, doggie.”
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Journal of a Living Lady #283
Nancy White Kelly
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Journal of a Living Lady #282
It is 3:30 in the morning. I put on my bedroom slippers and head
When I was knocking on heaven’s doors in mid-summer, following compl
Obviously the escorting angels returned
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Nancy White Kelly
We had just finished a Wednesday night meal at church when Buddy informed me that some friends had invited us for supper tomorrow. I was elated because they also planned to take us for a boat ride which is one of my favorite activities.
This would be the first time for us to be guests in the couple’s home. Actually, it was their second abode. They recently acquired a large RV and resided there part-time to be on the lake.
Today, Thursday, was the tomorrow Buddy mentioned. I had a vague idea of the general area where the RV was parked. To be sure we wouldn’t be driving aimlessly in Neverland, I asked Buddy if he knew the way. He nodded affirmatively.
Later, as we made our way to our host’s home, I questioned whether Buddy had traveled too far from the expected turn. He quickly acknowledged that he was lost in deep thought and had over-shot the runway. Driving on auto-pilot has happened to me many times. No problem. We still had plenty of time.
Buddy turned around and headed west. That didn’t seem right to me either and I said so. Shaking his head in frustration, Buddy turned around again. However, at the main highway, he incorrectly turned left instead of right. I frowned. What was wrong with this husband of mine?
Often our strengths, taken to extreme, become our faults. I have always been a punctual person and have little esteem for others who aren’t. Especially so if I am preparing food. Whether the guests have arrived or not, I put the bread in the oven at the appointed meal time.
Buddy and I were already more than ten minutes late. My concern was that the hostess would be miffed at our tardiness. I was clearly unhappy with Buddy. He said he knew the way.
My blood pressure rose steadily as Buddy made one wrong turn after another. He was lost. Reluctantly, Buddy stopped the car in a driveway where a man was tending his yard. He asked the stranger if he knew our friends. Surprisingly he did. The affable fellow volunteered to lead us there in his car. I was truly grateful. Otherwise, we might still be driving endlessly in Evermore.
Even though we were thirty minutes late, I put on my best, hypocritical, happy face. I was mumbling to Buddy that we deserved burned bread when the front door jolted open.
The husband stepped out on the porch, noticeably missing his shirt and shoes. That seemed a bit odd, but these are down-home folks as are we. No big deal. As gently as the man could, he explained that the supper invitation was for the next day, Friday. In fact, his wife was in Atlanta.
Buddy profusely apologized for our misunderstanding. I didn’t correct him, but he was using the wrong pronoun.
Our friend unceremoniously put on a shirt which was drying on the porch rail. After some brief, but awkward small talk, I gently poked Buddy to signal that we needed to leave.
Fully aware of his social blunder, Buddy quietly backed out of the drive without so much as a look my way. He steered the wheel sharply and grazed a big tree. I rolled my eyes, shook my head in disbelief, and then locked my tongue between my teeth.
Buddy said nothing either. Taking a deep breath, he slowly opened the car door to access the damage which turned out to be minimal. He opened the passenger door and addressed me in mockingly pleasant voice.
“Honey, sweetheart, would you like to drive us home?”
Nice attempt, but I wasn’t humored. We rode home in total silence. That is the way we have argued for 41 years. Thankfully, we don’t argue often.
Who can stay mad at Buddy? He is the most considerate husband I have ever had. Come to think of it, he is the only husband I have ever had… or want. We have never considered divorce, but at times either of us could make a case for justifiable homicide.
True, Buddy is getting older. But aren’t we all? Forgetful? Yes he is, but I couldn’t tell you what I had for breakfast. Fuzzy with directions? Yes, again, on count three, but I am the queen of the directionally challenged.
Tomorrow Buddy and I will be on time for that dinner with our friends. Tonight we make up and snuggle closely as we drift off to sleep. Life is too short for silly marital warfare. Ask any grieving widow.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Nancy White Kelly
The phone call brought forth a huge wave of nostalgia. The red-haired, freckled faced, ten-year-old boy was waiting with his few meager things. He was pacing the sidewalk outside the Children’s Home waiting for us to come. When our car pulled up beside him, he flashed his huge signature smile. He was finally going to a home where he would be, for the time being, an only child.
The home had called us a couple of weeks before to tell of a child who was left there with two older brothers by a mother who couldn’t care for them. David had trouble adjusting to group home life and the counselor thought he’d do better in a foster home. This was ten years before the birth of our own, late-in-life, son, Charlie.
David was the second of many foster children we would nurture for a number of years. He was a charmer. David was also mischievous and plenty stubborn. He liked to be the life of the party and did most anything to blend in with his peers.
In his early teens, the school called to say that David was staggering in the halls. The principal suspected that David was using drugs. I was insistent that he was just showing off. Many months later I found out that I was wrong. He had marijuana which was all too common in the 1970’s.
When he was fifteen, David and Buddy spent many months fixing up a car which was to be his first shot at real independence. On his sixteenth birthday, we gave him permission to drive it to church and back. He was to have no passengers. A few hours later we got a call that the car was in a ditch far away, but that the carload of boys were okay.
Things went from bad to worse. He tried going home to his birth mother. Life was entirely different in a looser environment. No mon. No fun. Repeatedly he came back home only to resent reasonable rules.
After high school, he went into the Air Force, but was soon given a general discharge due to marijuana use. Time and again we helped him on his feet, but eventually he landed in jail for shoplifting and employer theft. After serving his time, we gave him a new chance at home with us until he could get a job and get on his feet. I remember the probation officer warning us “that boy would kiss the ground and eat dirt right now to be free. But the honeymoon probably won’t last.” He was right.
David had a good voice and loved Elvis. He even sang at his own wedding. Charlie, then four, was the ring bearer. The brief marriage didn’t last, but he did have a daughter that he dearly loved. David was given few opportunities to see her for good reason. He wasn’t a responsible individual or parent. Yet that didn’t keep him from writing poems and songs for and about her. Sometimes he even wrote lovingly about me.
The phone call last week was from a friend telling us that David had died from collapsed lungs, asthma, and heart failure while on crack cocaine. He was 46.
Our first foster child, a rebellious teen, has passed away also. She turned her life around and was the mother of three fine daughters. Severe diabetes took its toll of her fragile body. She was barely in her 40’s also.
Though not blood related, they were our children: David for seven plus years and Linda for four. I miss them. They held such promise.
Life is serious, and for some, short. My mind keeps returning to that line in the Robert Frost poem from high school: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference. “
One young man took the wrong road and made wrong choices. I am sad today.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
Nancy White Kelly
We are on the brink of the apocalypse. My source of authority is the Bible. Based on the books of Daniel and Revelation, events have to escalate before they get better. But I digress.
My writing goal is to bring hope, cheer and occasional humor to readers. Yet it is hard to write something light with the evening news blaring about the devastation caused by war and terrorism. Like Scarlet O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, I “can't think about that right now. I'll think about that tomorrow.” Willfully, I flick off the television remote so I can concentrate on something less heavy.
My only sister, Sunnie Anne, and brother-in-law just left after visiting for ten days. They live near Memphis and came to give Buddy some relief during my recuperation from acute kidney failure. I am happy to report that I am off dialysis and back to fighting cancer.
While they were here, Buddy decided to entertain them with my walker. He proceeded to run backwards down our handicap ramp, Jerry Lewis style. The walker wheels hit an aluminum strip which flipped him over.
I came close to being widowed. Buddy’s head missed a concrete wall by about two inches. The worst injury was to his knee. He limps from the soreness, but didn’t lose his ability to continue entertaining guests with time-worn stories. I have heard them so many times during our 41 years of marriage than I can repeat them verbatim. My favorite is about the bird.
A Christian man received a parrot as a gift from a friend. This parrot talked all the time, but only said curse words. The man tried unsuccessfully to retrain the parrot as he had great distain for the bird’s profane vocabulary.
The good man tried to teach the bird Bible verses, but the parrot repeatedly squawked only objectionable language. One day, the profanity became unbearable. He grabbed the parrot by the neck.
"Stop that foul language or I'll have to do something drastic!" The bird didn’t believe him and let our string of new vulgarities.
The exasperated man threw the bird into the freezer thinking that a "cooling off" period would help. There was some squawking for a while and then complete silence. The man was afraid he had killed the parrot and hesitantly opened the freezer door. To his amazement, the subdued parrot flew out and quietly perched on the man's arm.
The parrot said, "My dear sir. I apologize profusely. My language was inexcusable! You will never ever again hear a foul word coming from me.”
After a brief pause, the parrot asked, “By the way, what did the chicken do?"
Friday, July 28, 2006
Nancy White Kelly
One of my friends has renamed me: Ms. Kitty 9 ½. Seems like all I write about lately is my health or lack thereof. Yet, according to recent email, readers want to know. So, to up-date you and apologize for the delay in the regular bi-weekly column, this is it in a nutshell.
On July 11th, while on my regular chemotherapy appointment, the chemo room became unusually quiet. The nurses slipped off. My doctor dashed in and out whispering. My oncologist stopped by my infusion chair. He said in a hushed tone that, according to the lab results, my kidneys had completely shut down.
I was stunned though for days I had felt terrible. I was beginning to believe that I was a hypochondriac. Every joint and organ in my body ached or cried out in excruciating pain. My limbs were flailing unmercifully at odd times.
I was hospitalized for nearly three weeks and am now on dialysis three times weekly. And I thought cancer was a bummer!
So far, I have managed to keep good cheer most of the time, but this is an endurance test. What caused the kidney failure is unknown, but there is hope for recovery medically. Of course, divine healing is always an option. I am most grateful for all the friends and strangers who have bombarded heaven on my behalf. I am blessed beyond measure with people in my life who genuinely care and demonstrate it on a daily basis.
As usual, Buddy is a wonderful caregiver. But be forewarned, ladies. Don’t send your husband to the grocery store without a specific list. Buddy doesn’t hear well without his hearing aides. I asked for him to pick up a good name brand of some prunes and offered him some suggestions. Later I looked at his list: Prunes by Dell.
Sunday, July 09, 2006
Nancy White Kelly
July 4th has come and gone quickly. The calendar inches toward Christmas. How can it be? Seems as if yesterday we were counting down to the millennium and now we are facing the beginning of 2007. Much transpires in our lifetimes, both planned and unplanned.
My month of June was interrupted big time by physical set backs. Several of my friends are busy with entertaining company and some are involved in elections. Seems odd to have elections in the summer months.
I don’t mingle much with partisan politics. I vote, of course. After studying the issues and the candidate, I vote for the person who personifies my own ideology or world view. As far as running for office myself, that is not something I would seriously consider. Too much muckraking for me.
I was invited recently to interview a Lt. Governor candidate. For the life of me, I don’t understand why I was asked to do so. However, in reflecting on its implications, I decided to forego the opportunity. I am a columnist, not a reporter. Reporters are supposedly unbiased and report just the facts. Columnists make observations, offering commentary on the passing affairs of life. In a few cases columnists are influential. The Living Lady believes it is best for voters to investigate and decide on the best candidates themselves.
There was one election that I did become involved in the 1970’s. The brother of my pastor decided to run for Police Chief of a county in mid-Georgia. I was a school principal. My help consisted mainly of writing a couple of promotional brochures, drafting a few letters, and editing a campaign speech.
The candidate was a good man with integrity. Though the under-dog, I wasn’t surprised that he won. However, I was a bit taken back to receive a large bouquet of flowers the day after the election. A personal note was attached, thanking me for all my “hard work.” I am happy to report that this man went on to be sheriff of one of the largest counties in Georgia and recently retired with deserved accolades. If he had turned out to be a bad sheriff, I would have forever felt guilty of assisting the wrong posse.
Saturday, June 24, 2006
Nancy White Kelly
The last two weeks have been hectic. Thank you, readers, for showing your concern for my physical welfare. I am glad to report that my life is back to normal. Normal for me needs defining: up-right, walking, talking, and causing commotion wherever I go.
I have a new cardiologist whom I like him very much. He is personable, professional, and demonstrates genuine interest in my heart.
It was obvious the good doctor didn’t consider this vital organ of mine as a minor appendage. He didn’t apathetically refer to it as ventricular number 2422. My heart really seemed important to him. How impressive.
It wasn’t trivial either that Dr. Kelley shared my same last name though he spells it incorrectly. I was so impressed with him that I scheduled Buddy an appointment for the next week. Everybody needs a heart check-up.
When I informed Buddy, he acknowledged that my action, though impulsive, was needed. He has had some wild palpitations lately. However, Buddy made it known in no uncertain terms that he would prefer to schedule his own gynecologist appointments.
Back to my visit. I followed Dr. Kelley out of the examining room as we discussed adjustments to my medications. Feeling quite satisfied with this initial experience, I thanked him and made my way toward the waiting room door.
It was with over-whelming gratitude that I thank God for unimpaired hearing. I over-heard Dr. Kelley nonchalantly comment to his nurse, “I think Nancy likes us so well she is going to take one of our gowns home.”
Sure enough. Oblivious to the gaping gown, I was about to expose part of my matronly chest to whomever awaited the unsuspected X-rated viewing. On second thought, perhaps a PG rating would be more accurate. Pretty ghastly.
The gown strings dangled mischievously as I dashed back for my blouse. The longer I live, the funnier it gets.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
Nancy White Kelly
My last column was like a soap opera. It left readers hanging and I promised an update.
After my oncologist sent me rushing to a cardiologist, I had a thallium test and echocardiogram. Before I could sit down with the doctor for the follow up, I had more pain. My blood pressure shot again to 235/125. Buddy decided it was time to go to the emergency room.
We debated about going to a local hospital or on to a major heart hospital in Atlanta. Common sense said I should go to the closest hospital.
This was a holiday and our experience that day was atypical. At least I hope so. In the past our local emergency experiences have been quite satisfactory.
At the nearby hospital, it took 20 minutes for the lone, bubble-gum chewing clerk to give me any attention at all. This was after two pleading requests from Buddy. He made it plain that I was on the verge of a heart attack or stroke. While sitting in a school desk behind a canvas curtain, I overheard the ER doctor on duty talking to a patient about an infected bug bite. What happened to triage?
I have a sometimes annoying problem of looking better than I feel. It didn’t matter this time anyway. The apathetic young woman hardly looked at me while hooking up the blood pressure cuff.
“And what brings you to the emergency room today?” she asked robotically. I looked at Buddy and rolled my eyes. He rolled his back. With hardly a word, we are on our way to Saint Joseph’s in Atlanta.
Buddy drove well, considering. He put on the car’s emergency blinkers and made his way carefully through the traffic. We entered through the ambulance portal. Thankfully, we weren’t reprimanded. Instead we were greeted by concerned staff who immediately ushered me into a small room, did a cardiogram, and drew blood…all without my signing a single document. Soon I was guerneyed to intensive care.
ICU could have been my last stop before heaven, but again it wasn’t my time. Cats with nine lives have nothing on me. Word spread quickly. Several friends sent word that they were praying for us. After a heart catherization and related tests, I was eventually allowed to return home with a list of prescriptions and a new appointment. Before then, I will return to my cancer doctor for chemotherapy, the one who started this heart marathon. Won’t he be pleased that I heeded his advice? Maybe I should forward him the bills.
Only condemned criminals get choices of death, usually lethal injection or electric chair. While I have been challenged with serious cancer and heart disease, I throw my gauntlet down. Ride on, chariot. I plan on living forever. So far, so good.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Nancy White Kelly
My doctor says I am in denial. I beg to differ.
Earlier this week I was on the examining table of my oncologist. My former oncologist is now semi-retired. She transferred me to a very knowledge young oncologist whom I really do like. I forget what country he is from. Maybe he said Lebanon.
Dr. K. asked the same routine questions that Dr. S. did. I have that litany of questions memorized: “How are you feeling? Anything new? Any rash? Any cough?
Take a deep breath. Blow it out. “
Out of my range of sight, he hammers my spine. He is somewhat gentler than Dr. S. She hit me so hard once in the area where my cancer mets were that I instinctively drew up my fists.
“How many pillows do you sleep on at night? How many trips to the bathroom? How many fingers am I holding up?” I have to admit I want to say something like “twenty or thirty-two,” but I managed to control my attempt at sophomoric humor.
During the course of this examination I casually mentioned the dog episode that recently occurred. Buddy and I were taking an afternoon siesta when we heard a huge commotion in the front yard. I jumped from the bed and looked out the windows. To my horror, a pack of menacing dogs were tossing around what looked like a small, fury, bean bag. Our twelve-year-old Chihuahua lets herself out the doggie door to relieve herself. It occurred to me that his might be our Oppie who was been ripped apart.
Without shoes, I dashed through the den and out the door with every intention of trying to save her. Barefoot also, Buddy grabbed his shotgun. The victim of this attack was a black feral cat that hangs around our creek. The dogs quickly vanished. The wobbly feline ambled across the wide road and promptly died on the other side. I came close to joining her.
Excruciating pain racked my chest. I made it inside the house and Buddy rushed for the oxygen. He put the tube up my nose and began to search for the tiny bottle of nitroglycerin we keep on hand. I could hear him tearing through the cabinets in the kitchen where we keep the prescriptions. He found the nitroglycerin and rushed to place a tiny white table under my tongue.
The pain persisted. I took another pill. The hurting lessened and my short breaths returned to normal. Other than feeling washed out for a day or so, I was fine. Little did I know that telling my story to my oncologist would bring such a stern reaction.
“Do you have a cardiologist?” he asked.
Yes, I did have. However, the last time I saw him he said he wouldn’t touch me with a ten-foot pole. The doctor laughed, but quickly regained his professional demeanor. He tried to make me think that the cardiologist, noting my aggressive cancer, probably thought I wouldn’t live very long. Most likely he didn’t see any point in possibly participating in my death, at least on his shift.
I laughed. Whatever.
Before I exited the examining room for my chemotherapy, Dr. K. made me promise I would see a cardiologist immediately. If I didn’t make an appointment right away, he assured me that he would.
The next morning Buddy told a friend who called his friend who contacted his brother, a prominent cardiologist. Being out of town, the doctor couldn’t see me immediately, but a colleague could. My appointment was at 1:00 p.m. whether I liked it or not.
The new cardiologist said he could have me shipped straight to the major heart hospital in Atlanta. I wasn’t ready for that…not without more evidence this was that serious. The doctor agreed to tests first with my promise that I’d go the E.R. if I had any other pain whatsoever. His staff scheduled a stress-thallium test, plus an echocardiogram. The doctor wrote four more prescriptions, adding to my already burgeoning list of cancer-related drugs. I do believe the only thing I am not on now is skates.
PS: I have had the thallium test. Apparently it must be sent to Atlanta where the graphs will be read by their top-notch heart professionals. In the meantime, I wait, trying not to make any waves that would cause an ambulance to stop by for a swim.
Having had angioplasty a dozen years ago, I know the possibility of further heart problems exists. Genetics are against me too. Everybody who has predeceased me in my family died from the same cause. Their hearts stopped beating.
To be continued.
Friday, May 12, 2006
Journal of a Living Lady #273
Nancy White Kelly
Buddy has picked his share of cotton. In his youth, he plowed unending delta miles. These weren’t sky miles. For Buddy, his unceremonious view on most days was nothing more than the two humps of a
Opposites do attract. I wanted
Buddy graduated in the bot
After high school, Buddy joined the navy rather than be drafted. He spend four years on a naval destroyer, distilling water in inhumane heat, longing for the green, green grass of America. The day he signed out was one of the happiest days of his life.
Unfortunately, the money he had sent ahead for schooling wasn’t there when he arrived home from the service. It was probably the biggest disappointment of his life. With borrowed money, he headed
Buddy was employed as an aviation mechanic for Eastern Airlines when we m
Buddy and I are a compromise of life-styles. I enjoy books. He likes engines. I enjoy theatre. He endures it.
No shot-gun adorns the back windshield of Buddy’s truck, but he can use one if necessary. My little pistol suits me just fine. I carry it in a case, just in case.
We are equally proud of our southern heritage, mine
Saturday, April 29, 2006
Nancy White Kelly
There is an elephant in our den. Numerous outer scars indicate a battered life. Its ivories are yellowed and chipped. No doubt several folks have tried to tame this old elephant. A church finally adopted the blackish, 600 pound pachyderm. Eventually it was relegated to the basement hall where it has stood quietly in a corner, oblivious to the various church activities taking place nearby.
But the elephant is lonely and neglected no more. Perhaps this monstrous pachyderm has found a permanent home. Our home. Most elephants roar, but poke this one here and there and a rich, mellow sound comes forth. I don’t care about the looks. It is what is inside that counts. That goes for elephants, people, and old pianos.
Yes, at last I have a piano, an ancient up-right. It was a discard from a church that was up-grading its musical instruments. Buddy figured life is too short to hold back on life’s pleasures, especially such a simple one as this. He encouraged me to get it and worked out the moving with our son and his friend.
The piano came rolling into our home today. The floor creaked under its heavy weight and the wheels left a permanent crease in the linoleum. Oh, well. I am still glad to have it.
The walnut needs lots of touching up. The internet tells me that there are over 5,000 moving parts in an up-right piano. Looking inside mine, I can only imagine. The piano innards are layered with decades of dust.
My task now is to learn how to play the old Kohler and Campbell upright.
I did have a half-dozen lessons, more or less, many years ago, but the console piano we acquired back then had a very short tenure. The den needed to be partitioned to allow another bedroom for our growing number of foster children. Sadly, the piano had to go.
Today, when the new, old piano settled into our den between the couch and the bookcase, the keys beckoned me. I pulled up the bench and gave it a try. Surprisingly, a couple of old hymns flowed from my finger tips with just a few missed notes.
It is sad that the old hymns are fading away. The future generations will never know the truths of those faithful songs that have encouraged us old timers through difficult times.
Therapy comes in many forms. Mine will come from the music from this old upright. Just out of curiosity, I wonder why it wasn’t called an up-left.
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Nancy White Kelly
Spring has finally sprung. It is nice to get out of the house again. Seems like months have passed since being able to absorb sunshine on a daily basis.
Coming home from my annual trip to the nursery for summer flowers, I downed the window on the passenger side. The pleasant breeze twirled my hair. Pollen quickly attacked my eyes and nose, but not before seasonal sounds filled my eager ears.
It was enthralling to hear lawn mowers humming again, birds tweeting, and the rustling of leaves as squirrels catapulted from tree to tree.
Then I came upon an anomaly. Sitting in a greening pasture was a pontoon boat full of jolly boaters. One man had on an orange life preserver. Children appeared to be watching the fishing lines of dangling cane poles.
I quickly snapped my head sideways another time, wondering if spring was playing tricks on my mind. My second glance confirmed the first. An occupied pontoon boat was sitting in the middle of a pasture with no semblance of water anywhere around. Holstein cows mooed in a nearby field.
Thinking I was on Candid Camera or temporarily lost from the loony farm, I turned the car around. I had to return to that scene. Whether I drove a statute mile or nautical mile, I do not know. I approached very slowly this time.
Sure enough. There sat the canopy-covered boat filled with real people smack dab in the middle of grazing land.
It didn’t take long to figure out what was going on. Taped to the side of the boat’s hull was an orange and black “For Sale” sign. Obviously these were serious yard sale shoppers on the verge of a buying a boat. The mystery was solved, but it brought to mind another experience.
A couple of years ago I bought a Jon boat in a yard sale. Its condition suggested that it was the prototype of the African Queen. Buddy reluctantly drove it home, shaking his head and mumbling about my impulsiveness. Eventually he came to believe the little boat was a good deal after all. He even added a weather-proof canopy before parking it indefinitely in the grassy yard.
We did go fishing in the little dinghy once. Buddy and I often have sat in that boat in late afternoon while we discussed the affairs of the world. I suppose we are an equally odd sight to passer-bys too.
Albert Einstein said, “Logics will get you from A to B, but imagination will take you everywhere.” I have seen a fishing boat in a pasture. I am waiting now to discover a farmer plowing the ocean.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Nancy White Kelly
Our son, Charlie, recently celebrated his 26th birthday. Ten years ago he got his driver’s license. I remember the apprehension of allowing a new driver on the road. That driver was the baby I had wrapped in swaddling clothes...yesterday. Charlie gradually worked his way from an old junker vehicle to a fairly decent one, certainly more than his dad and I had at his age.
Charlie is a new father and drives a van to accommodate his wife, son, the car seat, diaper bag, stroller and other necessities. Micah celebrated his first birthday last month. It has been an eventful year. The baby was diagnosed with one medical problem after another. Jaundice. A heart murmur. Three months later a growing skull circumference suggested fluid around the brain.
The pediatrician has concluded that Micah has mild cerebral palsy and possibly even muscular dystrophy. Little Micah has been x-rayed, MRI’d, and CAT scanned more than most senior adults. He already has had his adenoids removed and tubes inserted in both ears. A neurologist recently ruled out muscular dystrophy to our great relief.
Everyone agrees that Micah’s mind is sharp. For that we are grateful. We have been and still are hopeful that the initial cerebral palsy diagnosis is incorrect. How thrilled Buddy and I were when Micah took his first steps last week. Praise the Lord. Wheel chairs aren’t the vehicle of choice for anybody, much less a child.
But, back to our adult child who is now a school teacher. Charlie has long been pining for a Mustang or other sporty vehicle. Alas, financial realities have set in. Tori, a teacher herself, needs to stay home with little Micah. Charlie is the chief bread winner. In this economy, teacher salaries don't buy a heap of dough so dreams often give way to priorities.
I never thought Charlie would follow me in choosing education as a career. Yet, since the week following his college graduation, Charlie has been teaching as well as serving on a church staff. Even more surprising to me is that Charlie has taken up writing in the last year or so. The more he writes, the more I recognize a familiar style of writing. When I read Charlie’s latest blog entry, I asked his permission to share some of what he wrote.
Last week Buddy gave Charlie the family truck. While it isn’t a muscle car, it has been well taken care of…babied actually. Along with several pictures of the truck, Charlie posted this account, slightly edited, for his friends and former college roommates:
“Well... here it is. But then again... there it always was. This is my new truck. It's my new truck, yet I have been riding in it since I was 8 years old. My dad bought this truck new for about $12,000 in 1988. I remember the first time we met…the truck and I. Dad came to pick me up from one of those camps which give parents a reprieve one week of the summer. Holding my suitcase and a plastic bag of soggy clothes, Dad and I walked toward the camp parking lot. I was looking for the pukey- brown, F-150 that he owned. Instead, Dad walked me up to this blue and white steed. It was pretty awesome at the time for an 8 year old boy.
A brand new truck!It sure beat that ugly brown one. I remember when we got that other truck too. It was second-hand, maybe third-hand. Dad paid cash for it in the parking lot of some restaurant. I had to ride home in the truck bed along with several rusty, smelly beer cans.But this new truck was nicer. Much nicer. I have ridden in it for the past 18 years. It is definitely part of the family. Lots of fond and funny memories include Ford Truck Kelly. It was transportation for a vast menagerie of creatures, including rowdy boys, a hundred cockatiels in a make-shift cage and several goats.
And now, the memories will continue. I was planning on getting a Mustang. I got the 302 V-8 part anyway. Micah's medical bills put a kink in my 'Stang’ plans. But that is how it goes sometimes. In some small way I'm glad it happened. It is no hot-rod, and maybe, as one fellow commented, it is an "old-man truck.” But you know what? It is my old-man's truck. And I'm proud to have it.
Today, for the first time, Micah sat in the truck that I first sat in when I was just 7 years older than he is. What was old is new again. Maybe, one day, Micah can have the new Ford Truck Kelly too.”
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Nancy White Kelly
When I was five, I asked Santa Claus for a pony. I didn’t get it. When I was six, my Christmas list was more realistic. I wrote PIANO in large letters on tablet paper. Alas. I didn’t get that either. I assumed at the time that both were too big to get down the chimney… even if we had one.
In retrospect, I am certain I didn’t get the pony because we lived in the city. Why I didn’t get the piano I do not know. I suspect it had something to do with money. Putting groceries on the table for five children must have been a greater priority.
Not that I didn’t have good Christmases. I did. My favorite gift came in my early teens. It was a turquoise-colored, manual typewriter from Sears. My dad typed a note on it: “Go write the great American novel.” I honestly thought I could and would.
Now that I am in my sixth decade, I find myself still pining for a pony, well…actually a horse. And, I would like to have a piano. Not that I can play well. I only had a dozen lessons in my lifetime. It is just that I miss piano music. I do amuse myself with an accordion occasionally.
Our son, Charlie, a natural pianist, was playing music by ear when he was just three. He had to sit on telephone books to reach the keys. He later took lessons and even chose to continue them in his high school years. When he married, he took the glossy black piano with him. The emptiness left behind is more than physical. I can still hear his vibrant version of “Victory in Jesus” in my mind. Nothing will ever erase that memory, Alzheimers bedamned.
While Buddy would have little use for a piano, he would most certainly vote for a horse. I suspect he was the original horse whisperer. He and horses talk a language that only they understand. It is eerie.
We used to have horses in our young married days. In fact, we…I mean I, used to ride in horse shows. What happened to those blue, red, and white ribbons and brass-coated trophies, I don’t remember. I suspect the old cardboard boxes that contained them were thrown out years ago. Funny how important those ribbons and trophies were at the time. Vanity of vanities.
Perhaps a compromise is in order. Buddy could get a horse. We already have a small pasture. I know just the right spot in the den for a piano. A horse would keep Buddy occupied while I got reacquainted with those white keys and confusing black ones. I think they are called sharps or is it flats?
Is this a whim that will soon pass? Perhaps the Shadow knows.
PS: If you don’t know who the Shadow was, ask somebody who was born in the imaginative dark ages of radio.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Nancy White Kelly
The generation gap is real. If this is the day of the X or Y generation, then I must fall around letter M on the alphabetical time line. Our sons, in their teen years, would have classified Buddy as an E, one notch beyond the dinosaur age.
Nothing shows our age more than our conversation. While growing up, my own mother used puzzling phrases that dumbfounded me. What did she mean when she said you can’t get blood out of a turnip? Everybody knew that turnips didn’t bleed.
Most of her maternal sayings or proverbs eventually became a part of my language. No doubt these strange sayings confounded my own children. How would they have known that when a dog doesn’t hunt, something doesn’t fly? And that we weren’t talking about birds.
There were, however, bird phrases. How could a child understand what “a bird in the hand" implied or why one bird securely held is worth more than two loose tweeties in a shrub bush? Did our boys actually believe that a little birdie told us secrets? I doubt it.
Drop in a bucket. Fish out of water. A sow’s purse. The list goes on.
How did my dad know that Job had a turkey or that he was poor? What was an ace doing in a hole? New brooms sweeping clean? No wonder I grew up linguistically dysfunctional. Being saturated in southern culture probably didn’t help either.
Mash a button. Cut on a light. Fixing to go. Wanna come.
In the scheme of things, language evolution is minor in comparison to culture change. Can you imagine our war era parents getting a preliminary glimpse of 21st century with its torn jeans and backward baseball caps?
If alive today, what would our conventional parents say about nose rings, tattoos, carnival-colored hair and raunchy hip-hop?
Sure. When pigs fly or hell freezes over.
Thursday, February 09, 2006
Nancy White Kelly
By the time you read this I should be setting off Geiger counters in Oak Ridge. That is because I am having my routine cancer check-up. An MRI, CAT scan and bone scan are all scheduled for one single day. It was my choice. This way Buddy and I don’t have to make that long trip over the mountains but once.
I have been battling cancer for a long, long time. The first episode of breast cancer occurred in 1986. I found the lump on the eve of my fortieth birthday. After surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, I made 12 twelve years before it recurred in my lungs, lymph system, and bone. I have undergone radiation, hormonal treatment, and chemo repeatedly. It has been an up hill, down hill journey. My body shed all hair twice, but the worst part of the hair affair was when stray eyebrows started growing on my chin and upper lip.
There have been tears, not from sadness, but from unexpected funny moments. My mother was my family’s Lucille Ball. Buddy is our Barney Fife.
Not long ago, in a Wednesday night church prayer meeting, Buddy tearfully asked our church family to pray because I was going to have a TIA the next day. (A TIA is a mini-stroke.) What he meant was that I was going to have an MRI, a sophisticated type of diagnostic x-ray. Restrained laughter filtered through the congregation. Then knee-slapping hilarity trounced the sanctity of the prayer service for several minutes.
That’s my Buddy. Everybody loves him. He is who he is. While his brain may have difficulty handling acronyms, his over-sized funny bone adequately compensates for any minor deficiencies. I don’t know if God gave me Buddy because of his sense of humor, but that humor has certainly made my journey with cancer easier.
Not so very long ago I was in hospice with little hope of recovery. Then, by fervent request, God gave me a reprieve. Ultimate healing is coming, but currently the cancer is stable and I keep on keeping on.
The roll call of those diagnosed with cancer in our circle of friends continues to grow. Maybe the high statistics are due to the fact that we live in a community with many older retirees. Perhaps medicine has advanced so much that cancer is diagnosed earlier.
I recently read that post-autopsy studies show that many people who were thought to have died from other causes actually had cancer. In the majority of those cases, cancer is now considered the primary cause of death.
If you have just recently been diagnosed with cancer or know someone dear who has, remember that there is life after cancer. A rose can be beautiful in spite of its thorns. I just bought two new rose bushes that Buddy gets to plant soon. With proper care and pruning, beauty will triumph.
While there have been many wonderful experiences that have come to me because of the cancer, I would not have chosen to have cancer. Nobody in their right mind would. It is not fun. It is a walk of faith, of choosing to believe that God makes no mistakes.
Is your faith fluttering? Do yourself a favor. In the morning, look out and then up. Your faith just became sight. The sun always shines even after the darkest night.
Friday, January 27, 2006
Nancy White Kelly
Names. People are sensitive about their names for good reason. The Bible says, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.” I like my name and am rather protective of it. I have spent a life-time defining who Nancy White Kelly is in hopes that my name will forever be spoken of with fondness and respect.
Our adopted son, Bobby, and his wife Ginger, have two precious children, Mackenzie and Alexander. The parents and big sister refer to the near 3-year-old Alexander as “Bubby.” That is okay for a nickname, but I doubt it will float too well in first grade or even kindergarten.
Bobby and Ginger prefer to call their six-year-old daughter “Macka,” which is acceptable. It is their choice, though I much prefer Mackenzie. She is in kindergarten now. I was present when she, her mother and father made it perfectly plain that she wished to be called “Macka” at school. In spite of this, the parents got a progress report a few days ago. It was addressed to the “Parents of Cassandra Kelley.” In bold black was a note saying that their daughter was having difficulty recognizing her name.
Good grief! For starters, Macka seldom, if ever, is referred to as Cassandra at home. The Kelly family uses only one “e” in the last name. Schools are supposed to get it right.
My birth name was Nancy Lee White. I can imagine the reaction in the White household if a letter arrived addressed to the parents of Lee Whitee.
Now that our son Charlie and wife Tori have little Micah, Buddy and I trip our tongues on Macka and Micah sometimes. That’s senility and is forgivable.
In the meanwhile, this grandmother is making sure Macka can recognize Cassandra when she sees it. Who knows when the next person will address her with that name.
The Kellys can get used to the misspelling of our last name. It happens all the time in the mountainous area where we live with the other Kelleys. But, please, get the child’s preferred name correct. And, don’t slip and call me Nelly Leigh. My deceased parents might do the proverbial turn-over in their graves.
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Nancy White Kelly
If I were to receive a grade for counseling individuals who lose their dog, it would probably be a D. The only point I would earn would be for caring. Words fail me when a family pet dies. Without an opportunity to give the owner a big, warm hug, I feel helpless.
Three days ago I got a call from my only sister who lives near Memphis. She had three dogs. This is the story of one of them. His name was Yoda.
I must relate some background so you will know why Yoda was so special to Sunnie Anne. After my father died of cancer years ago, my sister was the only child left at home. Actually she was an adult beginning college.
Gradually my mother became ill. Sunnie Anne, both by default and choice, became her caretaker. She and my mother were as much a twosome as any married couple could be. They could finish each other’s sentences. In time, my sister passed up a good opportunity to marry because she could not divorce herself from my dependent mother. There weren’t any good alternatives. I lived out of town with several foster children. My mother would never leave Memphis anyway. My brothers, all three of them, were in different phases of life that made it impossible for them to do daily care. We all did what we could, but Sunnie Anne cheerfully attended to my mother until the day she died. Obviously, Sunnie Anne took our mother’s death especially hard. She never fully recouped from the loss. Loneliness and depression set in.
Sunnie Anne, being a caregiver by nature, took a spontaneous trip to the humane shelter. Anybody with a hint of raison d'être could have predicted the results. Sunnie Anne spotted a scraggly, mixed-breed fluffy dog who, to hear Sunnie Anne tell it, called her name. The rest is history. She adopted the dog, took care of his shots, and even went through the expense and throes of heart-worming the canine.
Our family came to dislike Yoda, especially me. When Sunnie Anne came to visit soon thereafter, she insisted on bringing Yoda. By then, the rescued Yoda had become so attached and defensive of Sunnie Anne that nothing kept him from her. Nothing. One door in our house still has teeth marks and splinters where Yoda tried to chew himself into the den, not knowing that my and sister and I were shopping. Yoda was subsequently transferred to our little guest cabin whenever we had to leave. Even though a bit more doggie-proof, he went cabin crazy. The entrance door had to be metal-plated at the bottom.
Buddy was a champ. He went about the business of tending to the offenses of Yoda with unintelligible mumbling. I think Yoda knew what he was saying and kept his distance.
Sunnie Anne sent an email a couple of days ago saying that a big wind came through the town and broke down part of the fence. Yoda escaped. I was not overly concerned. Yoda had escaped once before and returned. However, I promised to pray for his safe homecoming and I did.
My prayers were not answered as requested. Unknown to us at the time, Yoda had already met his demise. Death is death and resurrection is not a reasonable request. Somebody found Yoda’s rigamorphed body near the road about six houses down.
I felt for my sister and consoled the best I could, assuring her that she was not to blame. Due to the suddenness of the wind storm, she could not have foreseen his escape. Being me, the blunt realist, I reminded her that the laws of physics prevailed. Yoda was killed because he ran in front of a car.
Putting on my counselor’s hat, I told Sunnie Anne she was entitled to grieve, but to give herself a time limit to do so and then move on. It’s the best advice I could think of for the situation.
On second thought, about the grading. Maybe I should get a C.