Friday, December 03, 2010

Journal of a Living Lady #386

Nancy White Kelly

Thanksgiving Day has passed, but not the season of thanks. November has never been a good month in our family. My parents passed in November, years apart, ironically in the same hospital room.

Other life-changing events also occurred in the eleventh month of the year. In 1964, I spent all the 30 days of November and part of December in a Memphis hospital recovering from spleen surgery.

Thanksgiving, 2010, will go down as particularly memorable. We were again going to host all of our near-by family, which now includes Tori’s parents who live in Warner Robins. This blended family gathering has become a highly anticipated annual tradition although Ginger, Bobby’s wife, would be in Iraq.

The first hint that this was going to be an unusual Thanksgiving was the puzzling disappearance of the frozen holiday turkey. I searched the freezer twice. Big bird wasn’t there. I know the over-sized turkey was not a figment of my imagination.

My sister, Sunnie Anne, and Buddy can back up the fact that I did actually buy a turkey. Buddy was certain I was over-looking Tom, so he too searched the up-right freezer twice. Like a proud hunter returning from the field, Buddy proudly threw his big frozen blob on the kitchen counter. To his chagrin I casually noted that his solid rock was not the missing turkey, but a ham.

The incident of the disappearing turkey was mystifying but soon became a blip on the significance scale compared to what was coming.

On the Saturday preceding Thanksgiving, I received a late-night phone call from son, Charlie. The news wasn’t good. Tori’s father, just 54, was in the hospital with double-pneumonia and kidney failure. This was especially bad since he only had one kidney which was transplanted 20 years ago.

In addition to this shocking news, Charlie said that Tori’s only brother was also in a hospital in Macon with total kidney failure. He pierced his knee with a nail and waited too long to follow up. Sepsis set in. The prognosis for his this young father of four was not good either. Not only were his kidneys in danger, but there was a strong possibility he would lose a portion of his leg.

My heart was saddened, thinking of Sammy’s wife, Ellen, who now simultaneously had a critically ill husband and son in two separate hospitals. What could I do?

When life throws a curve, we so often rely on our faith as we should. I immediately typed up a note to distribute to several prayer warriors that I would see in church the next morning. An email notice went out to others whom I knew would rally in prayer.

Sammy was air-lifted to Emory and rushed to ICU. The doctors warned the family that he was possibly less than an hour from death.

Because this is a column and not a book, I will summarize: The next morning Sammy made a turn for the better. Each day he improved.

Thanksgiving Day came. On the table amongst the usual trimmings was a young turkey that a good friend prepared for us. The best gift of all was answered prayer. Sitting at our Thanksgiving table was a thankful family that included Sammy and the rest of clan. Buddy’s emotional blessing wasn’t routine. We had been bountifully blessed.

November didn’t end badly after all.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Journal of a Living Lady #385

Nancy White Kelly

Thanksgiving…that traditional American Holiday where families all over the United States sit for dinner at the same time---Halftime. The rushing on the football field in no way compares to the sprint through store aisles the next morning.

Black Friday is a strange acronym for the biggest shopping day of the year. Who chose black of all colors? I can think of a more appropriate moniker? How about Blue Friday? That is the color of shopper’s feet after a day of foot-stomping by aggressive women waving discount coupons for the early-bird specials.

A few members of my family still participate in this annual tradition of rising at 5:00 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving. My daughter-in-law and her mother still do. I opted out after the first year as a three-some. Not that I am not invited each year, but I see a slight glimmer of delight when I politely decline. Then a giant smile breaks out when I offer to baby-sit.

I won’t miss Santa Claus or the malls. The first problem is finding a parking place. The second is that you must tussle with otherwise saintly women for the door-buster bargains. Even if you get the very last toy of the year, you must stand in a long, serpentine line that redefines forever. Just when you get to the register, the clerk closes the line. A moral decision must be made? Do you break into the adjacent line or go the end and start over? Oh, what fun!

I prefer to shop all year. By the time Thanksgiving arrives, I have most everything bought that goes under the tree. Then the task begins that I dread most…wrapping. I am not artistic, not even a little bit. My packages never look like those in the catalogs. An eight-year-old could do better. This year a close friend who loves to wrap gifts has offered to help. Thank you, my Martha Stewart Hummingbird.

If your name isn’t Martha and your culinary talents are lacking, I have some words to cheer you up if you burn the turkey.

You won’t have to worry about Salmonella.

The smoke alarm was over-due for a test.

Carving the bird will provide a good cardiovascular workout.

When the game is finally over, the guys can take the bird to the yard and play football.

Until next year, Happy Goobally-gobbally Gook.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Journal of a Living Lady #384

Nancy White Kelly

This is Thanksgiving month, a time to reflect on the blessing of family and friends. Most of us categorize friends: close, sort-of close, solid acquaintances from work, church and the neighborhood, old friends who no longer live near-by, very old friends from childhood, and new friends we haven’t known long enough to label. There are many sub-categories of friends, but you get the point.

My few closest friends are my confidants. We can banter freely without fear of betrayal. We don’t dress up for each other or need to call first before dropping by. They’ve seen my dust and dishes in the sink. I think nothing of their unmade bed. They would feel free to raid the refrigerator.

Within reason, I could borrow money from my closest friends or anything else of value. I could call on this special enclave day or night and they’d drop everything and come running.

It should be no surprise that they would expect the same responses from me and would get it. This sounds sappy, but you wouldn’t have to be a close friend to avail my help. Buddy was a Boy Scout. He can recite their pledge on cue and does so often. I like the part of being willing to help others at all times. I learned that in Sunday school, “Be ye kind one to another.”

But, be I am no goody-goody two-shoes. My foibles are many. I have personalized a well-known mantra: “Fool me once, friend, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Only once has a close friend hurt me deeply. It would be trivial to most people, but trust is hard to regain. That wound took a long while to heal so I give my trust cautiously. The past is the past and I choose not to dwell on things forgiven.

I cannot fail to acknowledge my internet friendships. Some acquaintances have never met personally, but a few relationships have truly blossomed. The first time I saw Judy she was lying in a casket. She fought a long battle with breast cancer. During that war, she and I must have exchanged a jillion keystrokes. Judy’s grieved husband asked me to give the eulogy for his wife. I was honored to do so. Friendships know no boundaries.

Thanks to the Internet, hardly a day goes by that I haven’t benefitted from at least one quasi-helpful email.

Why buy expensive cookies from Neiman-Marcus? I now have the recipe.

I no longer touch the bottom of purses for fear it has spent time on the floor of a public restroom lurking with ghastly microbes.

When eating in a restaurant I now keep my eyes on my Southern wine at all times. The tea glass goes where I go. Otherwise, I might wake up in a bathtub full of ice with my kidneys removed.

No more cancer-causing deodorants for me. It is far better to smell like a water buffalo all day.

Please don’t offer your hand for me to shake when you get out of your car. One of my cyber friends just advised me that the number one pastime while driving alone is picking one’s nose.

I keep my toothbrush in the living room. Experts say that water splashes over 6 feet from the toilet.

While I concede to being friendly, I admit to being stubborn. I adamantly refuse to give up my Diet Coke. Why should I worry about having cancer since I already have it? If you don’t have the Big C, , it might interest you to know that one cyber friend told me the ingredients in Coke are strong enough to dissolve a T-bone steak in 3 days.

With tongue in cheek, I transmit this foreboding notice to the Living Lady’s discerning readers: If you do not send this column to 166,000 people in the next 70 minutes, a large bald eagle with diarrhea will land on your head at 5:00 tomorrow afternoon. The fleas from 120 camels will infest your body causing you to grown hairy bumps that attract bed bugs. I know this will occur because one of my Internet friends said it actually happened to her second husband’s cousin whose best friend is a local beautician.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Journal of a Living Lady #382

Nancy White Kelly

There has been so much emphasis in the news this month regarding Alzheimer’s. Jokes abound, but it is a serious disease. Now that I am in the last half of my sixties, slips of memory bother me.

I know a face, but the name disappears. I lie awake at night, sometimes for hours, trying to resurrect a name that I should know well. Details of events, even recent ones, somehow slip into a mysterious black hole in my brain. Am I headed down that Alzheimer’s road?

Leading authorities say that Alzheimer’s begins twenty years before becoming obvious. The same can be said of certain types of cancer. There are slow growing-cancers and those that are so aggressive it takes your breath. A friend recently succumbed to cancer in less than three weeks after diagnosis. He and I were working together on forming a local coin club. Bill seemed to be in vibrant health. In our last phone conversation, I asked what I could do for him. He humbly replied, “Pray for me.” I did, but sometimes our will is not that of the Heavenly Father. None of us are going to make it out of this world alive.

Personality-wise and somewhat in looks, I am very much like my paternal aunt who died of serious dementia a few years ago. She forgot who Buddy was and barely recognized me on my last visit though she was like a second mother while I was a child.

Like many folks of her generation, she smoked most of her life. Her only brother, my father, died at the age of 62. He was a heavy smoker too. Thankfully none of the children are smokers, but we can’t help but wonder about the second-hand smoke we were subjected to long before the effects were known.

Most likely I am just growing older and experiencing normal diminishment of brain cells that transmit thoughts and revives memories. I feel much younger than the calendar says and can still be the life of the party as long as I am home by 8:00. Instead of Alzheimer’s, maybe I have what Buddy refers to as “All-timers.”

While on a road trip last year, an elderly couple stopped at a roadside restaurant for lunch. After finishing their meal, they left the restaurant and resumed their trip. When leaving, the poor woman unknowingly left her glasses on the table. She didn't miss them until they had been driving for about forty minutes.
Adding to the aggravation, they had to travel quite a distance before they could find a place to turn so they could return to the restaurant to retrieve her glasses.

All the way back, the husband became the classic grouchy man. He fussed, complained, and scolded his wife relentlessly during the long return drive.
The more he chided her, the more agitated he became. He would not let up for a single minute.

To the woman’s relief, they finally arrived at the restaurant. As the chagrinned wife got out of the car and hurried inside to retrieve her glasses, the old geezer yelled to her, "While you're in there, you might as well get my hat and the credit card."

I do hope my mind lasts as long as my body. I dare not allow my mind to wander anymore. It should not be out on its own. Truthfully, Buddy might not remember to look for me.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Journal of a Living Lady #381

Nancy White Kelly

My Mama taught me that proper people don’t discuss their finances in public. I’m not feeling very proper today.

After rocking from Buddy’s very recent root canal to the tune of $1000, we were completely blown off our feet at what happened yesterday.
We have a darling miniature, ten-month-old dachshund with unusual pie-bald coloring. Except for his size, he could be mistaken for a Jersey cow. Patch is such a joy, full of life and kisses.

On Tuesday afternoon Patch came through the doggie door yelping non-stop doggy opera. Buddy held him while I tried to look for the problem. He had about a two inch cut on his side. He wasn’t bleeding badly, but I bundled him up in a beach towel to hold him more comfortably. He was obviously in pain and that pathetic crying drove us to quick action.

Because we were noted as a “walk-in”, our wait to be seen by the closest veterinarian seemed unusually long. We didn’t complain. Patch did. Everybody in the building knew that he was present and not happy.

When our turn came to see the veterinarian, a technician appeared. We were told he would need stitches and should stay over-night for observation. The tech checked off a long list of blood tests which we declined, including the CBC. This wasn’t major surgery, just a clean cut that needed repair.

The vet called that night and reported that the stitching went fine with no complications. We could pick up our “beagle” the next morning.

On the way to the office the following day, I asked Buddy what was his estimate of the bill. He guessed $200, most of which he jokingly said would probably go to the loan principle for that fairly new, post-modern building. I assured Buddy he was wrong. The charges shouldn’t amount to more than $100. After-all, we were only talking about a straight cut and a few stitches.

Buddy doesn’t hear well and stood quietly aside while I took care of business at the counter.

“Are you ready?” the receptionist asked. I should have known that this was a preliminary warning statement.

“Six-hundred and sixty-five dollars and thirty cents,” she said. I repeated what I thought she must have said, “Sixty-five dollars and thirty cents?”

“No, $665.30,” the lady replied nonchalantly as the invoice hummed through the printer. I turned to Buddy in shock and repeated the amount. His response was appropriate.

“What?” he asked. “You’ve got to be kidding.”

When it became clear that we weren’t leaving with Patch until we paid the bill, I wrote out the check. Buddy suggested we leave the dog, but, of course, we couldn’t and wouldn’t do that. Patch wasn’t to blame for this legal robbery. Buddy suggested out loud that wearing a mask was certainly appropriate for the vet.

Patch was as excited to see us as we were to be leaving the scene of what we now refer to as our “665- Aggravated Larceny.” Maybe we watch too many crime shows.

Buddy and I have examined the itemized bill several times. There were eighteen charges, most of which were ridiculously exaggerated and highly over-billed.

For example, “wound debridement: $38.05” and “Wound cleaning, $29.29.” As if that wasn’t redundant enough, there was a related charge of “wound flushing, $14.77.” Four shots were given, each costing about $30 each. There was even a charge for IV fluids with surgery.” Certainly we couldn’t have dehydration during that ten-minute sewing job and a line needed to be available for immediate access in case something went terribly wrong.

The absurd bill continued with charges for “surgical pack autoclave/ postoperative nursing” and “anesthesia monitoring.” Lots of things can happen in ten minutes. What I would have given to have been a fly on the wall.

Back home in familiar surroundings, Patch was his old self by the end of the day.
Us? We are trying not to laugh at the irony of the last line printed on the bill: “Your invoice was discounted as much as possible to reduce financial burden.”

Sorry, Mama. Proper or not, some stories just must be told.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Journal of a Living Lady #380

Nancy White Kelly

Don’t know why mortality has been on my mind lately. Maybe it is because of all the funerals I have attended lately. Just a couple of weeks ago, on the same newspaper obituary page, were the pictures of three long-time friends.

One day recently a casual friend called and asked if she could come by and visit. “Of course,” I said though I was a bit puzzled. Neither Buddy nor I were sick. She mentioned that we were the second of two visits she was making that afternoon. The other was to mutual friends who have battled life-threatening illness for a long, long time.

We had a nice visit. The sweet lady brought Buddy and me a funny book, nuts, and fruit. We chatted for over an hour. Still in the back of my mind I was wondering what was behind this Sunday afternoon drop-by.

Only as we hugged and said good-bye did I get my answer. This day was the anniversary of her husband’s death. She was doing something besides having a pity party. She was bringing encouragement, even laughter, to others. What an inspiration she was to me and something I plan to remember if Buddy should pass first.
Actually widowhood is a frightening subject to me. Buddy is twelve years older than I. Although my health history scuttles the statistics, chances are that I will out-live him. That scares me to death.

The longer I live the more I realize that our culture is primarily a society of couples. A once-married, single woman sticks out. I look around in church and see numerous friends who not so long ago had a man by their side. Now they look incomplete, even lonely. I admire their courage to keep going in spite of their loss, but don’t long for that courage myself. I don’t want to be unmarried to Buddy, ever. There is something about Buddy’s warm body and over-wrapped arm at night that gives me security. What peace to know that if I were lost in the woods, there is one person who would swim a river to find me.

What would I do without him? I don’t know how to start the well pump when lightning strikes. How do you light the furnace when the season changes?
Who would fill the gas tank when I don’t notice the warning light? Who would prod me to go light on the salt and sugar?

Marriages are made in heaven - but are thunder and lightning. There have been a few misunderstandings in our 46 years of marriage. As we grow older, there has been some amusing miscommunication.

Last week I was invited to a wedding shower for a soon- to- be bride.

As I was trading my lounging clothes for fancier duds, Buddy inquired as to where I was going. I replied, “To Hiawassee.”

He came to the bathroom door.

“Why, “he asked.

“For a shower,” I replied while powdering my nose. I frowned at him. He had seen the invitation on the table.

Buddy’s wrinkled forehead told me he didn’t hear me correctly. I repeated slowly, “I am going to Hiawassee for a shower.”

He still looked confused. Finally he asked, “Why not take a shower right here?”
“I am going to a wedding shower, honey, Remember?”

He moaned as the words registered. I laughed. He laughed. We both laughed again and we are still laughing.

Life would be bleak without my Buddy.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Journal of a Living Lady #379

Nancy White Kelly

This week didn’t start off too well. Due to my cryptic shorthand on the wall calendar, I was two hours late for the funeral of a friend who died with breast cancer. She fought a good fight. Linda was the epitome of bravery when on a death march. She is at peace now and perfectly healed.

This column, first called Journal of a Dying Lady, began when I too was facing the big C for the second time. When originally diagnosed, our son Charlie was 5. I asked…well, begged, the Lord to let me live to see him finish high school. I got my request. Weeks before he graduated, the cancer returned with a vengeance. The doctors gave me 18 months to live if I took chemotherapy and nine months without it. In spite of the cancer news, I was the happiest mama in Town’s county the night Charlie got his diploma.

It hasn’t been easy. ”Slash, cut, burn” is a negative euphemism for the difficult journey with aggressive cancer. On this second round, the cancer metastasized to my lungs and spine. I eventually was enrolled in hospice which was a wonderful help to Buddy and me. One morning, when the nurse decided on her own to take my car keys, I decided I didn’t want to be in hospice any longer. I checked out and never looked back.

God gave me another miraculous span of time, years actually, whereby my cancer has been stable. I have lived to see Charlie finish college, get married, and have two wonderful grandsons. Our last foster child, whom we later adopted, eventually grew up and became a responsible adult in spite of a turbulent adolescence.

Recently, while having my routine oncology check-up, I told my doctor that I didn’t have a good feeling about the up-coming scans. He moved the scheduled scan date up knowing that we cancer patients often have intuitive vibes.

Two hours ago I got the call. The results weren’t what we had hoped. For the first time in this long span of almost normal living, there appears now to be a new lesion in the lung. It may or may not be malignant, but the scenario is eerily similar to my last episode.

My oncologist has been amazed all along at my longevity. He says he doesn’t see miracles very often and beams proudly while pointing upward. We both recognize divine intervention.

So where to from here? Because of the size and location of the growth, it can’t be biopsied just yet. In a few weeks I will have another scan to see if that spot has enlarged enough to be sampled.

It is hard to predict the course ahead. My doctor previously said that we have used up all the chemo options. Maybe some new drug is in the pipe line for breast cancer. Perhaps this is a different type of cancer that will respond to other untried chemotherapies. The best scenario of all is that this is a false alarm.
There will be many questions to ask and hopefully miles to go before I join my friend, Linda. One thing is for sure. I won’t be late to my own funeral.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Journal of a Living Lady #378

Nancy White Kelly

“Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen. Nobody knows but Jesus,” goes the old spiritual. Jump ahead a century and half. The words are still relevant regardless of race. Everywhere we turn we see difficulty.

Right now I can name ten friends who are struggling with either cancer or stroke. I have close relatives who have recently lost their livelihood. They wish they had a mule and forty acres. Personally I would pass on the gift of a four-legged mule since I am married to a lovable two-legged one. Land would be a welcomed gift, but with real estate in the dumps, it can’t be counted on as a fluid asset.

There is so much sadness in this world that you’d think no hope exists. I can vouch for the physical, emotional and financial discomfort that accompanies metastatic cancer. I have aggressively battled this disease off and on for twenty-five years. Throw in kidney failure and dialysis and I ought to qualify for the 9-lives trophy. A friend calls me “Mrs. Kitty” for good reason. How many people have been in hospice twice?

Buddy and I have attended church regularly since we were young children. It isn’t a mere habit, but our source of strength to keep functioning in today’s demoralizing environment. Last week was different.

I teach an adult Bible study class on Sunday mornings. This week a young man headed to the Peace Corp filled in for me so I could participate in an unusual program to be presented during the worship service. Few people knew about it ahead of time.
Spurred by something similar seen on the Internet, members of an appropriately named “Praise Committee” decided to do our own version of “Cardboard Testimonies.”
Against the solo choral backdrop of “Amazing Grace,” thirty-one people slowly walked one by one to the center of the church stage holding a ragged piece of old cardboard. While they stood there silently, the congregation focused on the individualized and succinct statement written in bold lettering.

Each sign simply stated what difficulty that person had experienced. After a few seconds, the individual turned the cardboard over which revealed the positive outcome. Those short testimonies were awesome. Many related to a close encounters with mortality due to illness or accidents. Others told of depression, fire, and deaths of children. One has a spouse serving time. Two of the participants were in wheel chairs.

Each cardboard testimony told a short story of desperation; all gave praise to God for His help in coping and over-coming. Most of the participants were familiar church members, but probably only a few congregants knew the difficult circumstances their pew mates had endured. Only God knew all those stories.

The cardboard testimonies were a great reminder that in the midst of all our troubles, hope exists. We don’t hear that good news often enough.

Hope springs from the eternal.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Journal of a Living Lady # 377
Nancy White Kelly

We’ve all heard the quote, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” That’s me. Funny how so many of our friends and family members think that because Buddy and I are technically “retired,” we sit on the porch and rock away our days. Far from it.
We cram so much into a day that we have to schedule our headaches. I make promises to myself that I plan to keep when all the conditions are perfect which they never are.

I have been writing the Journal of a Living Lady for about 11 years. Writer’s block is becoming more frequent as I age, so I slowed down the pace a bit. Now I try to get this column to the publisher every two weeks. There were a few unhappy murmurs from good friends, but they understand. I have too much on my plate, but can’t bring myself to unload any of it yet. Everything and everybody is important to me.
Out of nearly 400 essays, it surprises me that someone will remember one written years ago. A column frequently mentioned has to do with Valentine’s Day. Let me share it again for those of you who have never read it. Yes, it is deadline time. If it wasn't for the last minute, nothing would get done.

Generally, at our age, we just blurt out what we want for a special occasion. Hinting is for young folks who can still hear well.

I told Buddy no roses for Valentines this year. For that price I could get something more touching like a therapeutic massage. With a son then in college, luxuries were low on our priority list. Since Buddy would insist on buying roses and take me to dinner anyway, I suggested a romantic substitute. Instead of eating out, I would treat him to his favorite meatloaf dinner with candlelight and banana pudding.

What Buddy requested for Valentine’s Day surprised me. He has always wanted and I have always refused a pet pig. Not that we didn’t have a baby pig once. We kept him in the back of our three acres in Stockbridge. Porky was an entertaining pet. He looked forward to Buddy’s coming home from work each day and squealed and did a jig when he heard the old truck turn the corner.

Alas, as all pigs do, Porky grew and grew and grew. Finally we had a 400 pound pet that was eating more than our family, which included a host of needy kids who were living with us at the time. Our family could never have eaten Porky anyway, so he went to a co-worker who left singing, “This little piggy went to market.” That mean man had Porky slaughtered the next day and his family ate him all year. So much for the pig phase. At least I thought so.

But this last Valentine Day, Buddy wanted a pig. Not just a pet pig, but one to be kept in the house. Now I am an amiable person, but a pig in the house? That was really testing the limits of my congeniality.

Buddy is not your usual husband. He is kind, helpful, and loves me to a fault. Actually he is very hard to say no to. Knowing that my days are considered numbered due to active cancer, I decided to let him have his pet pig as a parting present. I kept it a secret and didn’t tell him that I was seriously trying to find a piglet. I just rolled my eyes anytime the subject came up.

A friend helped me locate a genuine pig farmer not too far from the house. I called the pig breeder who confirmed he had pigs of all sizes. I told him I wanted a baby for my husband and would be at his farm before Valentine to pick him up.

My sister was in town, so on Friday we shopped for the best, most expensive high protein pig pellets we could find. Next we got some good quality kitty litter and a huge paint roller box to serve as “Gussy’s” litter box. I never believed for a minute a pig could be trained to use a kitty box, but the research said she would.

My energy level is very low, especially in the afternoon, so by the time we got Gussy’s collar and other toys, I was ready to let Buddy in on the surprise. I sent him to unload the trunk full of pellets.

When Buddy came back into the house, there was a smile on his face from ear to ear. He searched every room looking for the piglet. He was disappointed that I hadn’t already gotten him. I explained that the pig farmer was supposed to be home the next afternoon and he could go with me to pick his piglet out. Buddy and our son, Charlie, had already changed Gussy’s name to “Bacon.”

The man I had spoken to wasn’t home and his elderly father insisted there weren’t any baby pigs. I insisted that he must be mistaken since his son had told me so. The elderly man reluctantly told us to drive up to the pig pens and look for ourselves.

Buddy and I walked in muck past our ankles from one pig pen to another. There were hundreds of hogs, each pen as full as the next.

We spotted a sow that must have weighed 1000 pounds. As for a piglet, the smallest pig that we saw weighed more than me and, until recently, I shopped in the plus department.

The hog smell was not something you would find in a fine perfume shop. You could have collected that stench, put it in a gas bomb, and destroyed a large, unsuspecting nation. It took less than twenty minutes for Buddy to decide he didn’t want a pig after all.

We thanked the old gentleman and headed home for quick showers. Neither of us said a word as we rolled down the windows and breathed the wonderfully fresh mountain air.

It wasn’t a total loss. I am not one to waste food. The pellets mixed up well with the meat loaf.

Oink. Oink.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Journal of a Living Lady #376

Nancy White Kelly

She is ninety-years-old. There is not a shared drop of blood between us. As I finish up the dishes, she and Buddy are in deep conversation about everything from the depression era to modern politics.

I met Allie (name changed) about four years ago. I was in the coin shop when a dilapidated van puttered into the drive. An elderly lady slowly got out of the driver side and made her way to the passenger side. I watched, almost in horror, as she assisted a big, tall man get out of the vehicle. He was more than twice her size and probably even older. The blue of his diaper showed above his belt line.
They were there to sell a few tiny gold coins. During the conversation that ensued, I found out that they lived high on a mountain in North Carolina. The couple, married for sixty-two years, were so obviously in love and even more obviously poor.

This unlikely pair were cutting their own wood to stay warm on those cold days and practically living in one room with a small heater. They had no local kin folks. Allie has a niece in Texas, a step-son in Florida and a distant relative up north who is also up in age. I kept their phone number and told them to call if they ever had a need.

Allie did call me a couple times just to talk. She didn’t complain, just commented on the tough reality of the times. A few months later her husband entered a nursing home and she was alone, unable to drive and dependent on neighbors to get groceries or to visit occasionally with her ailing husband.

That was when I started checking on Allie regularly. After a couple of weeks of not answering my calls, I finally tracked her to the same nursing home where her husband had recently died. She had something akin to a stroke and the state had taken total control of her property.

I have since talked to the case worker and think they are doing what is considered best in her interest. Even though Allie’s husband was a retired full colonel, having worked himself up from the ranks, they entered the twilight years with more bills than money.

The first time I visited Allie after her stroke, she vaguely remembered me. Gradually her mind returned to be as sharp as before. Eventually I was able to take Allie, and her squeaky walker, for short trips to eat at a restaurant. She had no money and was embarrassed at her inability to even pay the tip.
My Sunday school class bought her a few clothes and she was thrilled. Every time I visit Allie I take a few dime store goodies and some fruit. You would think it was Christmas.

Today we had Allie for an afternoon of whatevers. Buddy fixed that noisy walker and attached tennis balls to the rear wheels. Smells of spaghetti, her favorite food, filled the house as we chatted, read and laughed.
When we were ready to return Allie to the nursing facility for the night, she wasn’t ready. Being in the real world, in a normal home, was a surreal experience for her. She didn’t want it to end.

Later, when I checked her into the care facility and got her settled in her tight, two-person room, tears ran down her cheek. We hugged. I told her I loved her and her voice trembled in a mumbled reply as we parted. After the grandchildren come next week, I promised I would be back.

There are so many like Allie in this world. While we can’t pay attention to all, most all of us can take interest in at least one.

I am learning that some of the best conversations are with those under six or over eighty.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Journal of a Living Lady #375

Nancy White Kelly

Being the second of five siblings, my life has always involved children. My parent’s last two babies came so much later in my life that I became their surrogate mother and am, to this day, second mother to a sister in her forties and a brother in his fifties. I find it hard to imagine now that I changed thousands of cloth diapers for that last brother who is now 6 foot 4 and weighs well over 300 pounds. The irony is that the sum total weight of all five grown children now would approach at least 15 times the weight of our mother who was less than 100 pounds soaking wet.

Babies grow up. After college, I became a teacher and later spend the last part of my career as a school principal. In the meanwhile, Buddy and I helped raise 12 foster children and adopted the last one, Bobby, when he was 10. He now has two children himself. Charlie, our birth son, who arrived after 15 years of earnest prayer, also has two children: Micah, age 5 and Noah, age 3.

Though the grand boys are close in age and look-alikes, they are as different as chalk and cheese. Noah, the youngest, is an energetic walking-talking dynamo. One thing I know for sure. I am not smarter than a three-year old. Noah already displays a family passion for humor and words. Last week he told his brother he had “good news and bad news.”

Little Micah came into the world a bit premature. It has been a long journey to get to a diagnosis of mildly autistic. The first clue that there might be a problem was that Micah never crawled. He got around with a military elbow pull. We weren’t overly concerned. He walked a few months later and that was all that mattered to us. Another clue we missed was that he was meticulously orderly, especially with his little cars. When Micah first showed interest those little four-wheel vehicles, family and friends bestowed him with hundreds in every shape and color. The miniature cars could not be parked just any ole way. They had to be lined up perfectly according to size, type, or color. If not, we were blasted with his version of the sky is falling. At first we all thought it was a cute quirk. Not so now. Obsession was another symptom of his autism.

Thankfully, Micah’s I.Q. measures in the mid-normal range. Yet, his speech development has been slow. His potty-training was prolonged, but finally mastered. He is a quiet, self-absorbed child who can entertain himself for hours.

From those early months, Charlie and Tori have diligently pursued intensive speech and occupational therapy. This early intervention may be the one thing that has and will continue to keep him main-streamed. Though unlikely to greet you with high-fives, most people would not even notice that Micah is autistic.

Surprisingly, he has taken up a new, intense interest which I will share another time. Who knows? Micah may become the next expert in poikilothermic, ectothermic tetrapods. I have just ordered some books so Granny can keep up.

Obviously autism has taken a toll on the family finances, especially on a school teacher’s salary. Now Charlie is feeling led to the ministry and, if all goes as planned, he and the family will be moving to Kentucky in a few months so he can attend seminary. Only The Lord knows how they will manage the expense, but that is what faith is all about. When the Lord calls, he provides.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Journal of a Living Lady #374

Nancy White Kelly

Some weeks are normal and other anything but. Recently Buddy and I took a rare visit to our respective hometowns in Tennessee and Mississippi. We had nice visits with our siblings and extended family. We are all obviously aging and in that inevitable transition from children to senior adults.

While visiting my brother Charles’ farm, Buddy got his first opportunity to try out the miniature video camera I gave him for his birthday. I told him that at age 78 the best was yet to come and to capture it for posterity. His most prized clip so far features Charles’ jackass enjoying a carrot dangling from Buddy’s lips. And to think I used to romantically kiss those same ancient puckers.

On the way home, we passed a serious wreck on the interstate near Chattanooga. It is doubtful that the driver lived as the over-turned jeep poured ominous black smoke which could be seen for miles. We doubled-checked our seatbelts.

Coming down Cohutta mountain, we were stopped around a blind curve by a host of state troopers. Thankfully we had made sure we had our registration and insurance papers in tact before we left. From the looks of the line of other cars parked to the side, many others had not.

We were delighted to find Sam, our Siamese cat, alive. He eagerly greeted us in the drive-way. When we left, he had been gone for two days, neither normal nor unusual either. He has a harem somewhere, but doesn’t understand he is forever fixed. Fortunately the church lady who was house and dog sitting our dachshund Patch kept hearing meows. She did some sleuthing and found him locked under the house. Obviously he snuck in behind Buddy when he inched his way in the dirt basement to check the water heater before our trip. Other than being tired, hungry, and thirsty, Sam was okay, just mad.

Immediately after we fell in bed on Sunday evening, Charlie called and needed a favor. Could we babysit Tuesday so Tori could go with him to the Braves game as he was tapped to drive the church bus? As she would be returning the next day from a week long mission trip, he and she would like some time together. No problem. We don’t need much of an excuse to visit with Micah and Noah.

I spent Monday catching up with laundry, bills, and grocery shopping. Buddy cut the ever-growing grass. After bedtime, I got the munches and decided on a bowl of cereal. Big mistake!

Even before the alarm sounded, I awakened with a severe headache. Nothing helped. I walked the floor. With no relief, I ran water from the sink hose forcefully on my throbbing brain. Then it got worse. My intestines grumbled for attention. Minutes later I was violently barfing, almost wishing to die or at least black out until the misery passed.

There wasn’t much Buddy could do to help, but he tried. He shook me every ten minutes to see if I was still alive after such violent vomiting. He offered me a variety of belly-soothers: water, tomato soup, and even a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. All I wanted was to be still and quiet.

I hated disappointing Charlie and Tori. They don’t ask for help often, but there was no way I could delightfully entertain a three and five year old in my state of being. I looked more like a wild-haired monster than their Granny.

I chalked up the illness to a nasty ole stomach virus. For a whole day I was most miserable. It was also lost day for my customers of the Ye Old Coin Shop, many who had patiently awaited my return from our mini-vacation. Buddy told them that they would have to wait a little longer.

What I soon found out was that this wasn’t a virus at all. According to the press reports, there was a recall being made of sugar pop cereal from a major company with the same initial as my last name. Seems a certain packaging held the innocent-looking, but villainous food.

As soon as my eyes could focus well enough, I checked the UPC symbol. The code matched. I had consumed the product that was being recalled.

What is the value of a lost day of your life? What is a day of “wish I were dead” misery worth? What about the ancillary losses to my husband, son, daughter-in-law, and grandsons? Some friends have half-teasingly asked if I planned to sue.

According to my research, it wouldn’t be worth the time to pursue the matter. I did contact the company. Their response was for me to send them full contact information and the recalled product codes. Then they would gladly send me a coupon for a replacement box of cereal.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Journal of a Living Lady #373

Nancy White Kelly

The Living Lady has three speeds: on, off, and don't press your luck. Buddy says I am easy to get along with most of the time and he ought to know. It does take a lot to push my buttons so when I get steamed, it warrants a column.

Buddy and I are animal lovers. Our repertoire of animals and fowl over forty-five years of marriage has run the gamut. We once had a pet raccoon that had a connoisseur taste for our neighbor’s chickens. Bye-bye, Coonie.

Four years ago, twin goats were birthed in our bathtub. Some foreigners adopted them with a promise they weren’t for sacrifice.

We’ve had finches to Macaws. Last winter we had 100 cockatiels, an unintended teaching experiment on color mutation and exponententiality.

Back in the 60’s, Buddy and I obtained an organ-grinder monkey on a crazy whim. That capuchin didn’t like my main man one bit. Whenever Buddy approached the monkey’s pen to look closer, the cagy little beast would leap forward and swiftly run two long, slinky fingers up Buddy’s nose. My “for sale” ad simply said, “husband allergic.”

Animals have come and gone from the Kelly home for various reasons. Our menagerie has dwindled. We now have a Siamese cat named Sam and an orphaned cockatiel named Chipper.

The bird and Buddy do a duet whistle of the first few bars of the Marine hymn each morning. I salute the flag. Buddy was in the Navy, but what does that matter?
Our pet Chihuahua, Oppie, died a couple of years ago of old age. Soon after, I got another chi who escaped our opened doggie door. She ran across the road in front of a car. Our neighbor mercifully disposed of her battered body. It took a while to recover from the guilt of my being so negligent.

Eventually I placed a few computer-generated brochures around the community seeking another lapdog. I had forgotten about those notices until I received a call a few days ago. A lady asked if I were still looking for a pup. A friendly conversation ensued. She said her son who lived in another town was going back to school and had a 3-month-old dachshund that he couldn’t keep. The mother said he was looking for a good home for the dog. I excitedly envisioned having a new canine addition to our family. The caller didn’t think he wanted any money for the puppy which was a nice plus. She asked if her son could call me.

“Of course.”

Within a few hours the son relayed the same story. He did say he’d like fifty dollars to cover her shots which was reasonable. I agreed to that amount. He said he’d be in Blairsville on Sunday. We agreed to meet after church.

I spent the week fixing up a tiny spare room. Next came the purchase of a crate, bed, food, leash, collar and a few doggy toys. On Saturday night I called the young man to agree on a definite time and place to meet. To my surprise, the fellow wasn’t happy to hear from me. He spoke rather abruptly and said it was “first come, first served.”

My heart sank as I explained that I thought it was a done deal. He said his mother had promised him to the vet. That was puzzling since she was the one who first contacted me. The boy-man was obviously conflicted and eventually softened. He would meet me at the pizza place on the square just after I finished teaching my Sunday school class.

My relief was short-lived. A few minutes later he called back and said the dog was promised to the vet. I choked up, angrier than any mad hatter or wet hen. I tried to control my quaking voice. Nothing I said changed the matter.

It wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair. My mind flooded with sad memories. There was a time many years ago when Buddy and I were expecting a baby boy and had already set up the nursery. The pregnancy terminated unexpectedly and I was devastated for months.
After I hung up the phone, Buddy came through the den and noticed my flowing tears. He was furious. Not that he cared so much about getting a puppy, but that I was so saddened. He insisted I find another dog “immediately.” I said I would in time. My heart wasn’t in it then.

A few days later I told this story to a lady I met at a flea market. She said she had just seen an ad for a 3- month-old dachshund puppy in a local newspaper. Thirty minutes later I had that ad in hand and called. Yes, the breeder had an adoptable puppy returned because of the buyer’s hospitalization.

Buddy and I were at the seller’s country home as fast as we could put the address on the GPS. The waiting dachshund puppy, with his long body and floppy ears, was irresistible. He was white with large, copper spots. The attachment was instant and mutual. Within twenty minutes we were on the way home to Young Harris with our peppy puppy.

Trying to come up with an appropriate name for him hasn’t been easy. Solo and Scooter are prevalent names for that breed in our family. Somehow they didn’t fit our new pup. We tried Zeke, Zack, Ziggy, Doxie, Hershey, Oogle, Gizmo, and a host of other names before arriving on one that fits. His name is Patch.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Journal of a Living Lady #372
Nancy White Kelly

Some of my favorite friends are the insulting kind. You know…those people who teasingly throw out sarcastic, linguistic jabs at lightening fast speed. These pundits know their victims well and are selective about who is on the receiving end of these verbal acts. Only members of the Mutual Admiration Society participate. It would be an act of social war to send the same message to someone whose heart is housed in a body wrapped in sensitive skin.

A reader wrote me this note just after my book, Journal of a Living Lady, was published: "Thanks for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it." That reader and I have known each other for more than thirty years and we have a history of comedic slams.

Perverse or reverse humor has been around a long time. You might be surprised at the people who have engaged in such verbal warfare. These are a couple of my choice quotes:

"I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend.... if you have one."
- George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill
"Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second... if there is one." - Winston Churchill, in response.


"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary."
- William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway).

'Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?' - Ernest Hemingway (about William Faulkner)


Unfortunately, not all wit is well-intentioned. Remember the exchange between
Churchill & Lady Astor. She said, "If you were my husband I'd give you poison."
He replied, "If you were my wife, I'd drink it."

And finally. A member of Parliament discoursed to Disraeli: "Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease."

"That depends, Sir," said Disraeli, "whether I embrace your policies or your mistress."

I have always heard that quick wit is a sign of lofty intelligence. Even though I carry an ancient Mensa membership card as a reminder of smarter days, I still don’t qualify for the elite group who can instantly return a swicket.

But to my good friend who is always late, I offer a defense on her behalf. She has good reason for perpetual tardiness. Her ancestors arrived on the Juneflower.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Journal of a Living Lady #371

Nancy White Kelly

Notoriety is a funny thing. One day you are a nobody and gradually everybody, at least locally, seems to know you.

After writing a newspaper column for over 12 years, being on Oprah, surviving two major and public bouts of cancer, writing a book, traveling the world, you might expect a few fans. But not the paparazzi. Not in the quaint mountain town of Young Harris, Georgia.

Recently Buddy and I were preparing for a morning visit to town. We needed a belt for the vacuum cleaner. It was a good excuse to stop for pancakes at a cozy restaurant across the street from our church.

There was coolness in the house so I donned a light jacket and glanced outside for a more accurate check on the weather.

To my amazement there was a small crowd of folks at the far corner of our property. Parked cars lined the street near the edge of the pasture.

“Come see this” I called to Buddy. “Twenty-five people or more are gathered outside. They have cameras and binoculars.”

Buddy sprinted across the den. His eyes widened in disbelief.

“What are they doing?” he whispered.

“I don’t know, but they sure seem interested in us.”

No longer whispering, Buddy asked with a hint of distain, “Have you applied for a reality show?”

“No, have you?” I asked with obvious sarcasm.

Being slightly famous is fun for some. Not so much for me. I don’t care to be followed by nosey reporters. Never will I be a candidate for that dancing program which aims to make buffoons of aging actresses, astronauts, and computer programmers. Five extra minutes of fame can be detrimental to one’s legacy.

Nevertheless, I went to the bathroom, fluffed my hair and re-applied my make-up. This time I was careful that my lipstick was straight. Never know when a candid picture may show up on the cover of People magazine.

Buddy and I quietly got into the car. Our three acres has total road frontage. Buddy suggested we travel the back section which butted the main frontage road just behind the group. If all went as planned, the celebrity hounds wouldn’t notice us at all.

Buddy slowly made his way up the gravely incline and inched toward the stop sign. So far we had not drawn attention. As we drew closer to the conspicuously quiet group, we could see faces.

There they were, men and women outfitted in comfortable outdoor attire, staring intently through large binoculars.

Buddy and I were proud of our near escape. While the crowd was looking high and low, we were about to turn the opposite direction.

I was the first to spot an identification badge. I spontaneously laughed so hard I held my belly.

“Turn left, honey. Not right. Left”

Puzzled at my hysterical out-burst and strange request, Buddy dutifully turned left in front of the group of mostly middle-aged stalkers.

Buddy lowered his side window as he slowly passed by.

“Howdy, folks. It’s a nice day,” he said pleasantly to the man closest to the road. Then Buddy moaned as the words on the badge sunk in.

Written in bold block letters was an I.D.: “BIRD WATCHER.”
Buddy and I meekly gave little waves as we continued down the road.

What lesson was learned that memorable day? Some people are living legends in their own minds.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Journal of a Living Lady #370
Nancy White Kelly

The dogwoods are blossoming. I am coming alive again after a seemingly long, depressing gray winter. Friends are helping.

One special couple took Buddy and me to a rousing musical in Franklin to celebrate our 45th anniversary. Another friend, with Buddy’s blessing, will soon be taking me bass fishing on Lake Chatuge.

This reminds me of childhood days. My daddy would awaken me at three a.m., throw some minnows in a rusty bucket and head to Lake Tunica in Mississippi. He could have taken any of my three brothers, but he took me.

My daddy and I were always close, but our fishing adventures strengthened that bond. Catching fish was sort of irrelevant. Being with my jovial father as the sun rose at daybreak is the fond memory that remains.

My oldest brother Charles is the family fishing fanatic. His love of fishing comes in a close second to his enthusiasm for hunting. In his living room, dining room, and every other room wife number five permits hang trophies from years of fishing and hunting. Actually he has married only four women. One he married twice. The last one, a keeper for twenty years, obviously loves my brother dearly.
I asked her once how many more animals Charles would have to hang in the house before she threw him out. She said she didn’t know for sure, but that the experiment was almost complete.

Everybody loves Charles. He is a comedian on par with the late Jerry Clower. He entertains us all with exaggerated tales from his fishing and hunting escapades. And, of course, he has a huge repertoire of jokes. This is one of many.

Two fellows are out fishing on the lake. A hearse and funeral procession passed the boat on a nearby road. One of the fellows stood up and held his fishing hat over his heart as the hearse passed. His buddy commented, "Golly, Harry, that was really nice and respectful."

Harry replied, "Well after all, we were married for 40 years."

Friday, April 09, 2010

Journal of a Living Lady #369

Nancy White Kelly

Spring sprang. It’s hot already. Seems like each year we skip our highly anticipated season of spring. Now it seems a straight shot from winter to summer. I have been bagging up our winter clothes and trying to find the summer stash. Buddy thinks he put them in the attic, but they aren’t there. My creaky knees barely carried me up the ladder this year. Most likely it was my last trip ever to that space over the garage which houses a treasure trove of memories in cardboard boxes. In the hunt for the summer wardrobe, Buddy keeps finding pictures of younger, happier days.
There is a bit of sadness about growing old and knowing you aren’t going to ever have the energy or strength of days gone by. Buddy is twelve years older than I. Since the turn of the millennium, I have noticed an obvious decrease in his physical agility and endurance.

A decade ago he could work from sun up to sun down and barely break a sweat. Now he requires a nap every two or three hours. That would be okay except he insists that he can’t rest without me by his side. I don’t have time to take that many naps especially since I am not a morning person anyway. His day is half over before I am semi-conscious. By four in the afternoon I am at my peak and he is beginning his shut down mode. That would not be a problem except my Buddy insists he can’t sleep unless I am in bed beside him. What a dilemma. Do I wash clothes, do dishes and write out the bills or do I give in and go to bed with my lonely man at eight thirty?

Sometimes I lull Buddy to sleep at night and slip out of the bedroom to write, read or just do my own thing without interruption. That wouldn’t be a problem except he has this inner alarm that goes off when he can’t feel my body. Many a night he has wandered into my office sanctuary to tell me I need to come to bed and get my rest. Good grief. I’ve already had three naps since sun rise.

I still haven’t found the summer clothes. Buddy insists I gave them to either the Humane Society or Safe House for re-sale. I don’t think so, but it looks as if we will be shopping there ourselves for something to wear as the temperature edges higher each day.

The birthdays and the seasons come and go year end and year out. Once we were young and now we are old. Once we were the children, then the parents, and thereafter the grandparents. The cycle will continue after we are gone just as it has for centuries before.

Charlie just turned 30 and Noah, his youngest son, 3. Seems like only yesterday Charlie was 3 himself. Then we blinked.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Journal of a Living Lady #368
Nancy White Kelly

Think of a four-letter word. Gotcha!

No doubt your mind just conjured up something ugly that would have gotten your mouth washed out with soap in by-gone days. My parents weren’t prudes, but damn and hell were the two worst words I ever heard them say. Those rare utterances always surprised me.

After we married, Buddy became a walking lexicon for his naive wife. Being a Mississippi country boy who went straight from high school to the Navy, he was well acquainted with what I call gutter language.

Some unfamiliar words he interpreted had more than four letters. Buddy taught me that a “broad” was a non-complimentary term for a worldly woman and that a bitch was not only a mother dog but an uncomplimentary description of a nagging female. It didn’t take long for me to fondly attach myself to the term “lady.”

Toilet talk isn’t humorous to me either. When I was a teen-ager, my friends would tease me because I blushed at the slightest suggestion of anything lewd. Half a century later I still blush.
Some things were just meant to be private. Start talking about constipation or gassy exuberances and likely you’ll lose your audience. What occurs in the bathroom ought to stay within the confines of the necessary room built for that purpose.

I must now confess that a new four-letter word has entered my vocabulary…“Crud.” It isn’t in the dictionary, but I can define it easily because Buddy and I have both had this convoluted cold in the past few days.

He got the crud first. For days I endured his sneezing, coughing, laryngitis, dirty tissues and ill mood. Just as he was getting over the worst of his crud, my head started buzzing. Nasal passages dripped like a broken faucet and my voice sounded like a man’s.

Nothing about me is simple. I have had metastatic adenocarcinoma, histoplasmosis, renal azotemia, and an acute myocardial infarction. How could the four-lettered crud be so bad? Memory fades at my age, but I do believe this crud was the most complicated, congestive, cotton-picking cold in my lifetime.

While lightening may not strike twice in the same place, the crud does. We had hardly changed the bed sheets when Buddy relapsed. Round two of crud for him.

Buddy and I are polar opposites in many ways so it should not be too surprising that we handle illnesses differently. I prefer to suffer in silence. Should an unexpected sickness require that I disturb my doctor’s golf game you can be sure I am nigh unto death. Buddy, on the other hand, has his doctor’s cell phone number on speed dial.

My philosophy regarding something like the common crud is that “this too shall pass.” Buddy’s isn’t known for such optimism. When he picked up the phone last week, I quickly intercepted his call and sent the hearse back. As much as I dislike throwing money away on a cold that would likely cure itself, a doctor’s visit had to be cheaper than a funeral. It is always possible that this crud could be masquerading as the Swine flu.

The smiling doctor, who knows Buddy quite well, obliged him with a double-barreled shot, a prescription for antibiotics and a steep bill for sympathetic services.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Journal of a Living Lady #367

Nancy White Kelly

The ides of March have special meaning to me and not just because Julius Caesar was killed on that fifteenth day of the third month in 44 B.C.

In my family there are more birthdays in March than should be legally allowed in a single month. My only sister, eldest grandson and son Charlie have March birthdays. Until his death, we celebrated my father’s birthday on the 31st. All this translates into lots of cards, presents, parties and, yes, money in a period of just four weeks.

Of all those significant March dates, it is the ides that is circled in red. My grandmother, Claudia Lee Smart, and her identical twin sister, Maudie Mae, were born on March 15, in a small Mississippi town following the conclusion of the Civil War. Claudia and Maudie would be 122 years old this year. Claudia played the harmonica and the guitar and Maudie the mandolin. I can still here the harmonious strains of “In the Sweet Bye and Bye.”

Of all my heroes and heroines, my maternal grandmother ranks number one. She was the early widowed mother of five children. Without modern conveniences, she worked hard feeding and clothing her kids. For a few years, during the late forties and early fifties, she lived with my parents which was common then.

Grandma was one of eight children. She lived to be 99 and out-lived her siblings and buried three sons and a daughter. Though she grieved deeply at each passing, Grandma recharged quickly knowing that life goes on for the living.

Grandma had so many good characteristics. Never did I hear her say a foul word. She always looked for the good in people and found something positive to say. Her only alleged vice was to drink a shot of diluted whiskey when she took a cold. Her “hot toddy” she called it.

My grandmother wasn’t one to seek attention. Often her good deeds went unnoticed except by the family. I know of one instance where she gave every penny she had to help a family in need who promised to repay. Though she never got the money back, she wasn’t bitter. Her philosophy was that the Lord would provide for her needs and He did.

Before I could even read, I began accompanying Grandma to church every Sunday. The spiritual became very important to me also. Grandma never taught Sunday school, but because of her persuasive life I have. For more than fifty years I have taught the Bible to hundreds of individuals, young and old. I still teach Sunday school to this day. Grandma deserves the credit for that.

Who would have thought a little woman born in the late 1880’s with a big heart, sweet smile and kind spirit could reap influence in 2010?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Journal of a Living Lady #366

Nancy White Kelly

Leather and lace. Is that an oxymoron or an example of material incongruence? Probably both.

Guns and curls reflect my personality which can run the gamut from seriously somber to insanely silly. Today I perpetuated that persona. I got a permanent at the beauty shop and a gun permit from the court house.

I enjoy being a girl, but I learned early on to hold my own among the guys. I had three brothers and no sister until the month I graduated from high school.

My oldest brother Charles and I wrestled, spit watermelon seeds, threw rocks and exchanged blows frequently while growing up. Charles wasn’t going to let his closest sibling be too girly. It was the era that Daddies worked, Mamas stayed home, and the kids played outside until dark.
Charles kept me busy doing his favorites things: street skating, hide-n-seek, and cork ball. We even played backyard football. That was until my Daddy snatched me out of a touch game at the age of twelve. He threatened my life if he ever caught me displaying my quarterback skills with the boys again. I didn’t understand then. I do now.

Nevertheless, my macho brother taught me many guy things. Thanks to him I can ride a motorcycle, gig frogs, and yes, even shoot a gun. Charles has killed hundreds of deer in his lifetime. I married my dear.

While Buddy is not an avid hunter, he is adamant about being capable of defending oneself. Our older son Charlie had his black belt at the age of twelve.

It wouldn’t behoove any evil-doer to attempt doing me harm. While a baseball bat is my weapon of choice, Buddy insists I keep my gun handy in the Ye Old Coin Shop. He vigilantly watches customers via a remote camera. If I couldn’t shoot an assailant, assuredly Buddy would.

And if Buddy or Charlie were not around, I take comfort that Rocky, our German shepherd, would protect me. His teeth can rip through leather. Any attacker had better guard his throat. It’s nice to be so loved.

Here I am in my twilight years wearing gray-tinged curls and packing heat. Reminds me of President Theodore Roosevelt’s famous quote,” Speak softly and carry a big stick.”

I enjoy being a lady and living. I have waylaid cancer and escaped hospice twice. They don’t call me the Living Lady for nothing.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Journal of a Living Lady #365 (posted early for newspaper deadline)

Nancy White Kelly

Valentine Day has come and gone. We don’t celebrate that day anymore though I still have the first Valentine card Buddy ever gave me. It is sweet. He promised to love me forever.

When we were engaged, but not yet married, I would sneak into his empty mobile home while he was working and leave love notes under his pillow. Soon he got the idea to leave me notes under his pillow so that I would find his first. Those days were fun and romantic.

We still give cards occasionally, sometimes silly and at other times serious. The ones that Buddy likes best are those that I make myself with a list of 21 things I love about him.

When God made Hiram Edward Kelly, He threw away the mold. If it were possible to talk the horns off a Billy goat, Buddy could. Last month our long distance bill was for 868 minutes and only one call was mine. If he can’t find somebody far or near to engage in conversation, he will talk to the dog. Rocky pretends to never tire of an old man’s tales.

Buddy is not only a non-stop conversationalist. He is comedic too. I guarantee he can get a laugh out of the sourest soul. When he transformed from the shy, Mississippi country boy to reincarnated Johnny Carson on steroids I cannot say. In spite of the evolution of his personality, I am still quite fond of the man.

How many men are the first to get up, raise the heat, fix two cups of steaming coffee and then nudge his wife awake? How many men start calling friends and family in a panic if their spouse is five minutes later than expected? How many men come through the kitchen and stop to put up the dishes before snacking? How many men put the toilet seat down every time? How many men compliment the cook after nearly forty-five years of eating the same recipes? Not many.

Buddy is as practical as he is witty. This last Valentine Day I asked him what expensive place he was going to take me. Without missing a beat he replied, “the gas station.”

We didn’t go anywhere. Who need a fancy restaurant, a box of candy, or a dozen roses when you have my Buddy?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Journal of a Living Lady #364

Nancy White Kelly

It is said that to laugh is better than to cry…or in my case to murder. Last Thanksgiving my Buddy gave our dog the raw dressing awaiting its turn in the oven. The dressing was in the plastic bowl that usually houses our meal left-overs. These scraps are eventually added to Rocky’s dry food. I merrily laughed at that holiday fiasco. Everybody is entitled to one mistake.

Yesterday I decided to make my hubby a chicken and rice casserole. I boiled the chicken on the stove top and removed the pan so the chicken could cool for later de-boning. While the broccoli and rice cooked in the microwave, Sam, our Siamese cat, and I grabbed a quick afternoon nap.
Sure enough, Buddy did it again. He gave Rocky the big pan of chicken parts sitting in succulent broth. My delusional husband wrongly concluded that I had been so compassionate during that cold streak as to boil fresh chicken for our German shepherd. I am generally a nice lady, but not that nice.

I held up an imaginary butcher knife in the fist of my hand imitating Norman the maniac in Psycho. I teasingly told Buddy that I felt like doing him in. Hack. Hack. He laughed and I laughed.

Mark Twain says it well:

"The human race has only one really effective weapon, and that is laughter. The moment it arises, all your irritations and resentments slip away and the sunny spirit takes their place."

Buddy has been forgiven, but hopefully an acquaintance I shall call Sue will not repeat her faux paus.

Sue was waiting for a friend in a busy restaurant when her body told her that she desperately needed to pass gas. Sue didn’t want to leave her table empty while searching for the restroom. She glanced around to access her surroundings. Seated guests were chatting and the house music was playing really, really loud.

The petite and usually discreet Sue timed the expulsion of pressing gas to the rhythmic beat of the music.After a couple of songs, Sue began to feel better. She daintily unwrapped her cloth napkin and noticed that almost everybody in the room was glaring at her. It was at that moment Sue realized, to her chagrin, that she was listening to music on her iPod.

So my advice to all the Sues in Readerland, laugh aloud, say Mia Culpa, and observe your surroundings before you pass gas. And to my Buddy, the third time you mistake my grub for dog food, you will not be laughing.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Journal of a Living Lady #363

Nancy White Kelly

My church is a comforting place. It is nice to know that not only is my spiritual heart covered, but my physical one as well. When I look upward over my left shoulder on Sundays, I quickly spot my cardiologist smiling down from the balcony.

If either Buddy or I have a heart attack while straining on the high notes of Beulah Land, our mutual heart doctor could be performing CPR in less than sixty seconds. If he were busy doing quadruple by-passes somewhere in Atlanta, it is reassuring to know that our backs (and hearts) are still covered.

In our church, there are more nurses per square foot than inches. Our former family doctor, now retired, sits just a few rows behind us each week. Another physician friend, a retired obstetrician, also sits in the congregation. It is highly doubtful that Buddy or I would need his special services.

But, our hearts…well, maybe. Buddy and I both have had a few problems with our tickers. If cardiac arrest were to occur at church, I suspect that half the congregation would immediately be on their hushed cell phones dialing 911.

Being that the parking lot of the church adjoins the parking lot of the local hospital, it would seem impractical to call an ambulance. The men who drive the courtesy carts could deliver a victim to the ER faster than an EMT could start his engine, that is, if the patient was conscious. Jenny Craig and I have never met so pity the guy who might try to carry my dead weight over his shoulder.

One of these days the death angel will succeed in ushering one of us out of this world. Buddy and I have no concerns.
Our former Sunday school teacher has become a masterful funeral coordinator. He and his wife can pull together a meal for an extended family in hours.

While our current pastor is relatively new to the area, I knew his fine family in another era of my life. Even if he weren’t available, our former pastor should be. He would have plenty of colorful stories to tell, especially if it were Buddy in the casket. My favorite is the time Buddy suddenly donned my Easter hat and hugged the startled pastor in front of God, cable TV, and everybody.

When the church bell tolls for either Buddy or me, we are ready. An attorney friend in the congregation has already prepared the Kelly’s last will and testament. We will be buried in our pre-paid plots in the nearby church cemetery.

Yep, Hiram and Nancy Kelly can sit in church and not worry a smirching bit about the now or the hereafter. When the roll is called up yonder, we’ll be there by the wonderful, but undeserved grace of our sovereign God.

And that’s the truth!