Pickup Trucks and Pennies From Heaven

We miss Dad.

My brother and I are standing outside in the dark beside our trucks, talking in low voices about our dreams of Dad.

"Yeah," my brother says. "The day I bought my banjo, that night, I dreamed Dad and Papa Lee were laughing and dancing. Dad was doing that thing he used to do, you know how he'd hunch his shoulders up and go in those circles?"

"Like Bill Cosby?"

"Yeah, I always thought he danced just like Bill Cosby."

We love Bill Cosby,too.

"I think he and Papa Lee were happy I got the banjo," my brother says.

That would be like them, I think. Dad's father, Papa Lee, had a banjo, used to play in Vaudeville theaters before my father was born and then continued to entertain his family by playing the ukulele. I could see him dancing with happiness that the musical gene has continued on through the generations.

I tell my brother the dream I had where Dad comes and hugs me. But I realize in the moment that he takes me into his arms, he's dead. This isn't real.

I say this and my brother begins to cry. I look at him and dissolve myself. We stand between our two pickup trucks, crying, our children clustered around us, awkwardly patting our backs.

"I'm sorry," I tell my son later. "I didn't mean to do that."

"That's all right," he says, hugging me. "It was bound to happen. Every time you get together with your brother or your sister, you guys wind up crying."

Yeah, true that.

It's bedtime. Tomorrow is a new day, I think. No more tears for the rest of the trip, I promise myself...but I feel like I could cry forever.

I reach into my bag for pajamas. There is a penny resting on top of the bag. Another penny from Heaven.


It is Weekend Roadtrip # 2- With the Youngest Unnamed One.

I am sharing a few of his impressions...

The Road to Roanoke

But then, in the middle of our wanderings through Virginia, we arrive in the town of Natural Bridge, at the best of all possible tourist attractions. Surely one of the tackiest roadside attractions ever to collect money from unwitting touristas- The Haunted Monster Museum, Dark Maze and Dinosaur Park...Forget the Natural Bridge itself and the wax museum. The Monster Museum is well worth the $7 price of admission, for the photo ops alone.

We are lost here for over two hours, investigating the terrifying unkown...

This is terrifying, no?...

Until the creature moves his head and you can see...the stick.

It wasn't enough to save this poor lad.

Yes, even in the land of make-believe, the Civil War is still never far from the minds of some people...

The lad tells me the dinosaur museum alone has made this a trip of a lifetime.

And to think we have only just begun our epic roadtrip!

Tomorrow we take New York! Then on to Philadelphia and The Nightwatchman Concert.


Don't You Worry, I'll Take Care Of You...

My Day...Part Two

Her son drove Maimie down from Detroit, moved her into the nursing home and then disappeared. He didn't leave a number for the social worker to call in case of emergency. He didn't tell his mother he was leaving, or that he wouldn't return. He did manage to tell Social Security to forward her monthly check to him, though, but they aren't authorized to release his address.

He's a drug addict.

He returns a month later with her handicapped son, dumps him in a neighboring facility and disappears again. No forwarding address. But he's that boy's financial power of attorney too.

Maimie has no shoes, none of the special soap she uses for her dry skin, no pocket change, no T.V, nothing. She is trapped in a strange town trying to remember which of her children and relatives don't have a drug problem, then trying to remember their names and phone numbers.

And she cries because she wants to go home. She misses her grandbabies.

She is not even my patient...yet.

The social worker looks at me. "I was walking past her room yesterday and I heard her talking to herself. She was standing in the bathroom, looking into the mirror and just talking away."

"What was she saying?" I asked.

The social worker gives me the saddest look in the world.

"She was saying, 'Just you hang in there. Don't you worry. I'll get you out of here somehow. I just don't know why he done this to you but don't worry, I'll take care of you."

The Queen Is Not Amused

This is my day...Part One

Sitting in the day room at the nursing home, filling out a mountain of progress notes and utilization reviews while the T.V up on the wall in the corner blasts out an old black and white movie.

"Hey girl, you know who that is, don't you?" He demands.

He looks like a roly-poly Weeble...you know, "Weebles wobble but they can't fall down"? His pants circle the high-middle of his egg-shaped torso, white crew socks slip into black, thick-soled shoes. His short sleeve shirt needs only a pocket protector to scream "Geek!" He is the Teacher's Pet, the brown-noser, the tattle tale from elementary school only now he's grown into an old man with a thin mustache.

I look up because other than the Weeble, there is only one other woman in the room- an overweight black lady wearing a curly-haired wig and sighing because she's obviously constipated and trying to correct the situation.

"Uh, no," I answer. "Who is it?"

We are ignoring Betty's distress because it should be a private matter anyway.

"Audie Murphey. That's him when he was young."

"No it ain't!" Betty says, inspecting the screen carefully. She casts a doubtful glance at me and says, "It ain't him, is it?"

"He's playing Billy the Kid. I seen this movie a million times. I should know!"

I try to bow out of the discussion but then I have to mediate between them over whether or not the female lead is Jane Mansfield or Betty Hutton.

I think it is neither but I wouldn't swear to this in a court of law, so I ask the Weeble where my favorite lady, Jane, is.

"Aw, she had that bandage on her side changed and the doctor don't want her out of bed for a few days."

"Ah," I nod, understanding everything now. Jane is the Queen of the Dayroom but as she is temporarily away from the kingdom, The Weeble is taking over, bullying Betty and anyone else who comes in to the room.

"Betty!" The Weeble barks. "Cover your mouth when you cough!"

Betty looks at him. "I'm not elderly!" she tells him. I think she means to say she's not a child, but it's too late, the gauntlet has been cast down.

"You are too! I'm 70 and I'm elderly, so I know you are!"

"I'm 71 and I am not elderly." She looks to me for validation. "I'm not elderly, am I?" she asks.

"She's a hell of a lot older than 71," The Weeble mutters. "Why she's 85 if she's a day!"

But Betty isn't deaf. "I am not! I'm 71! Aren't I?" she asks me.

"You're as young as you feel," I say diplomatically. "And you sure don't look 85."

Now she looks offended and The Weeble is bristling. Obviously this wasn't what I was supposed to say.

"Well, what do you call a 71 year old virgin?" The Weeble demands suddenly. "I'm a 71 year old virgin. I'd call that elderly."

I'd call it a damned shame but I don't say so. Later when I visit the Queen in her room I tell her The Weeble is looking to usurp the throne.

"Aw, that little shit!" she says, annoyed. "He's only doing that because he knows I'm not there to keep him in line. You know, he never married. Lived with his mother all his life. He's a Mama's Boy, that's what he is!" The Queen is not amused.

I do not tell her The Weeble is a virgin. I just can't. It would somehow be like giving a shotgun to a cat facing down a tiny mouse and even the Weeble doesn't
deserve that.

"I'll git him back in line when the doctor lets me out of here. The nerve of him! She hunches herself up onto her elbows and fixes me with an imperious gaze, made more powerful by the way she has to peer over her glasses, down her nose to stare into my eyes. "Now, tell me again...What all did he say about me exactly?"


A Rainy, Penny Weekend With the Unnamed Eldest

To celebrate the Eldest Unnamed One's graduation from high school, we took a trip- just him and me.

I told him we could go anywhere he wanted to go...within reason.

He told me it couldn't involve a lot of driving or a long time away from The Beloved.

"The mountains," he offered. Then, just as I'd begun seriously looking for cabins- "Washington, D.C."

At the last minute I mentioned there was a bluegrass festival in Cherokee.

"Book it!" he cried.

I was shocked. Who thought the child would look back on his earlier years camping at the Fiddler's Convention every Memorial Day weekend, with such fondness?

Who knew we could even find the tent up in the attic, let alone remember how to set it up!

But we did.

We arrived in a pouring rain, took stock of our situation and went shopping...for another tent, a cheap gazebo, screened monstrosity we used as a staging area for setting up the real tent.

We didn't argue. Voices were never raised. We worked like a crackerjack team to assemble our weekend home and it all went off without a hitch.

I'd show you pictures but the card reader died.

My boy and I stood under umbrellas in the rain and listened to IIIrd Tyme Out and a host of others. We sloshed around to look at the vendors tents. We explored Dillsboro and Sylva. We laid up in our Aero beds and passed the crossword puzzle back and forth. We prepared feasts. And never once engaged in that "What are you going to do with your life?" stuff I'm sure he was expecting.

We just remembered who we are at the best of times and reconnected as two human beings who have a great fondness and mutual respect for each other.

It was wonderful- even though it rained and rained and rained.

And you know me and the penny thing?

We arrived and there in the middle of our campsite, was a penny.

We set up the tent and two pennies fell out into the middle of the floor.

There were pennies on the picnic table, pennies in our bags and finally, as we were leaving, we picked up the tent and there was a bright shiny new penny lying beneath the tent.

Pennies from Heaven and Dad- who would've really approved of our weekend happening.


So I Haven't Written in Awhile...

Okay, so I haven't written in awhile- Neither has Shakespeare!

I've been a little busy. It's the end of the school year and the Eldest Unnamed One is graduating from high school. Who knew there was so much parental responsibility involved?!

I suppose I should've anticipated this well in advance and planned accordingly but I am just not always that type of mom. So that means racing down to the finish line, always feeling like I've forgotten something.

There are the parties, given by parents and students; the ceremonies; the invitations and announcements; the last minute college stuff; the out-of-town relatives and most of all- the emotions. My biggest boy is taking yet another step toward adulthood and away from the safe and cozy nest where I have been able to keep a watchful eye on him.

That probably accounts for the fog surrounding my brain these days...Denial.

And then there has been another little distraction...

But I will have to tell you more about that in my next installation...