“Living on Island Time, Part 6: A Celebration of Life and of Memories”


February 15, 2017

“Rest well, Gran. Give Grady a hug.”

Above the  message,  posted only fifty-one minutes earlier by Beeg’s daughter-in-law, Brandy, was a picture of BeeGee and her son, Grady, who had preceded her in death scarcely a year earlier.

Dumbstruck, I was staring at the picture and trying to process the news when my husband came down the stairs.

“What’s the matter, babe?”

I looked up at him, eyes glassy.

“BeeGee passed away,” I said in a voice I didn’t recognize as my own.

A day or two later, we arranged a quick trip down to Port Aransas to attend BeeGee’s memorial.

As surreal as the news seemed, it explained why I hadn’t heard from Beeg during the past two weeks. A lot had happened to both of us, during that short span of time. I had recently undergone surgery to repair a fracture in my humerus, including the implantation of a metal plate and nine screws. I had sent her pictures that Jeff had taken with my cell phone camera on January 10. Two days later, I received  a text message from her:

“Having a rough spell here. Been pretty much bed-bound…hoping to get back some stamina…check in when you are up to it”. On January 16, my last piece of correspondence from her, came another message: “How did you fare over the weekend? Hope the pain meds did the trick.”

In the days to follow, I called her. Texted her. Left her one voicemail after another. Although I knew that cancer had  once again knocked her under, I prayed that she would rally, as she had so many other times before.

“Hey, Cuz, I’m worried about you. Call me when you feel like it. Okay?”

On February 2, I just happened to go on Brandy’s Facebook page and saw the news: that my cousin had passed away only fifty-one minutes earlier.

One week later, Jeff and I arranged with our neighbor to watch our dog for  five days and headed down to Port Aransas on February 9, after my first two weeks of physical therapy on my arm and Jeff’s first twenty days of therapy on his heart.

On our way down, I regaled Jeff with tales of the fun Beeg and I had at Nannie and Granddad’s house in Lamesa, Texas. We were about nine or ten years old at the time.

“Eeew! You’ve got the bogies!” BeeGee said, pointing at me and giggling.

“No I don’t,” I said. “You do.”

“Don’t neither,” she retorted. “You.”

“No. You.”

The bogies. They were more than just a cousin thing. They were our thing, as much as playing dress-up in Nannie’s clothing, pretending the butterscotch disks she always kept around were “diet pills”, and surprising Granddad McBride when we managed to sleep outside in our homemade tent in the back yard for the entire night.

Born three months apart — BeeGee’s birthday in August and mine in November — we were the two oldest McBride cousins between my mother and her brother, Bill. Joining us, every summer, were Beeg’s younger sister LouLou and little brothers Mack and Indian, and our cousins, Marcia, Janie, Kathie, and Barbara Sue, daughters of  my mother’s other brother, “Oke”. As our three sets of parents visited with each other and Nannie and Granddad, we cousins would run around in the yard and play before putting on a “talent show” in the living room, in front of Nannie and Granddad watching proudly from their recliners. The McBride troupe, directed by my drama-teacher mother, Lois McBride Terry, rivaled  The Ed Sullivan Show. Everyone took part. We sang. We put on skits. We did “schtick”.

The following few days, after Beeg’s parents took the boys home, Nannie and Granddad would take us girls to the variety store in Lamesa’s town square and buy us one one-dollar toy apiece. Now, keep in mind that, in the mid-1950s,  one whole dollar was enough to buy a package of paper dolls, remnants to make doll clothes which my mother would sew for our dolls, and a variety of other goodies which we would happily tote home.

That night, we McBride girls slept on a pallet in front of the television in Granddad’s undershirts until around 1959 when we became self-conscious about our blossoming bodies and slipped into our jammies or gowns.

Years later, when BeeGee and I were marrying and having our first babies, we got busy with our own lives and saw each other sporadically until early January, 2009, when she sent me an email about The Laughing Gull Writers’ Workshop meeting in Port Aransas, that weekend.

“This doesn’t appeal to me, but it has your name written all over it,” Beeg said. “Why don’t you plan to come down, that weekend. I’d love to see you, again.”

It just so happened that I had the funds to book a flight and, because my semester hadn’t started yet, I was able to fly down to Corpus Christi where Beeg met my plane. That night, I met some of her friends whom she had invited to meet her “Cousin Kim”.

Four years later, after a taxing semester, I screwed up the courage to drive down to Port Aransas all by my big, grown-up self. The next year, I introduced Jeff, my bridegroom of two months, to BeeGee who let us stay in the unit next door to hers. For us, it was a delayed honeymoon, as in March, I was focused on school.

The last time Jeff and I visited her, BeeGee took me over to the unit she had reserved for us when we went down for her son Grady’s memorial service.

“What exactly were the  bogies?” I asked.

“Why don’t you know? The ‘bogies’ were stinky feet.”

As we pulled into the driveway outside the Yellow Fin, she nudged me, “And, Cousin Kim, you won that prize, hands-down.”

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FROM “MISERABILIA” TO MEMORABILIA


09-24-15

Hey, girlfriends: what do you call trinkets and other mementos that remind you from sad times in your life?

Well, I coined a word for them — “miserabilia”. Like so many other words, it comes from the Latin — “misery” or “miserable”.

Okay, I lied about that one. Still, some of us still have them in drawers or jewelry boxes, somewhere, never to be worn again.

Necklaces, bracelets, earrings — even rings.  We happen onto these relics from “other lives” while we are rummaging for something else:  loose change or  forgotten $100 bills.

Yeah. Those.

So, what do you do with them? Wear them, anyway, thinking, “They are mine. So, what the heck?”  Hold your breath and pitch them into the  “give-away” pile? Sell them at garage sales? Relegate them to deep, dark drawers. Find a way to turn old into new?

And what about those “selfies” of you and ol’ “Mr. Wrong”? Before my husband and I married, I exorcised those suckers as fast as my finger could delete, delete, delete and freed some space to store a lifetime of happy memories with my “Mr. Right”.

Yes, some memories are worth re-visiting. Other memories — and trinkets — are best forgotten, in favor of  newer and happier ones with your soul mate.

So, ladies, what did you do with baubles from other beaux?

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SAYING GOOD-BYE: Locking the Door to My Childhood Home


08-03-13

On my way out to the car to run errands, I bumped into my Igloo cooler. As I set it upright, I thought nothing more of it until  I Skyped with my sweetheart.  I don’t know how the subject came up. I just know I told Von about the last night I spent in my childhood home, seven years ago.

It is a collage image of the City of Fort Wort...
It is a collage image of the City of Fort Worth, Texas, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every room in that modest three-bedroom cottage teemed with

memories, both for me and for my sons. When I became a bride, in 1968, I naturally expected that I would never return there to live.

Twenty-seven years later, at nine p.m. on October 6, 1995,.we were about to turn in  when my mother called. Her voice sounded as though she had tumbled into a well.

“Kimmie?  I just got home from the hospital.”  Hearing my sharp intake of breath, she paused. “Oh, honey, I hate to break it to you — your Daddy’s gone.

This was not his first heart attack. Daddy had his first one at a Homecoming Sunday service in 1983. It made me realize that, although I had shown him a lifetime of love, in every other way, I had never come out and said those three, magic words: “I love you.” However, after that pivotal, game-changing moment when Mike picked me up at school with the news that Daddy had suffered a heart attack, I couldn’t say “I love you” often enough.

In shock over Daddy’s sudden death, I tossed an oddball assortment of clothing — a pair of culottes, a half-slip with elastic that had plumb “given up the ghost”, and a couple of mismatched skirts, blouses, and shoes — into a suitcase before Mike drove me to my parents’ home to spend the night with my mother and help her with the funeral preparations.

Although I felt like I was underwater, I was able to walk to Daddy’s grave site with everyone else. Little could I have known what a change the next three weeks would bring.

Within those three weeks, my balance worsened. I fell into walls on the way to the bathroom. Nauseating, migraine-like headaches visited me frequently. And a tremor that I had written off as nervousness during nurse’s training, back in 1977, had become more noticeable within the past few years. Even worse, my neck no longer supported my wobbly head.

As I look back, I marvel at  the way a crisis can turn out to be a blessing in disguise!  Around three a.m., on October 30,  — I gave up trying to breathe. After I gasped my permission for Mama to call an ambulance, I must’ve blacked out. When I finally woke up, the next morning, I saw bars on my bed.

After a round of doctors and their tests came Halloween night. Save this to memory.

The sun had melted into a flaming, red-orange puddle when my neurologist walked in and faced Mama and me.

“Kim,” he said, “you have a brain tumor.”

Here, punctuate the words, “brain tumor”, with  ghoulish laughter.  Still, as bizarre as the news was,  I felt relieved.

After the doctor explained the unexplainable, he looked at me.  “Kim, do you have any questions?”

Relief lifted  my soul.

“So, I’m not losing my mind, after all?”

Fast-forward to the day after surgery. As the doctor had predicted, the tumor was benign. It was also encapsulated, and out of my head. Thank God, all I had to do was get better. And I did.

And still am.

On December 1, a week ahead of schedule, I got to go home. Home, as in the house where I grew up. My doctor had told my mother that I would need twenty-four-hour supervision for a few weeks. Since she was retired, it was a no-brainer where I wanted to  finish recuperating.

Two months later, I was strong enough to volunteer part-time and resume driving. Before long, our roles reversed. I became my mother’s caregiver.

Mama and I holed up together for nine years before she joined Daddy in 2004, leaving me the heir of a run-down but cozy childhood home. Two years later, I discovered that the  white-frame bungalow with  yellow shutters, built in 1949, was in no way secure. After my inherited home got burglarized twice in two weeks, one of my sons said, “Mom, if I were you, I’d start looking for another place to live.”

Although I had hoped to live in that house until someone discovered my crunchy, upturned exoskeleton, I had to admit — Tam’s and Terry’s advice made good sense. Still, my heart wasn’t ready to let go until I distinctly felt Mama and Daddy nudge me.

“Time to get out of there, Kimmie,” my heart heard Daddy whisper.

The following Sunday, I told a realtor friend what had happened and asked her to start helping me look for a house.

“We’re going on vacation, but I’ll help you look when we get back,” she said.

While they were gone, I did my research, looking online at houses near my school and checking the police records for neighborhood safety. After a few days of searching, I found a doll-sized two-bedroom town home in a quiet neighborhood.

When B.J. opened the door, I walked up and down the stairs, looked inside the closets, even flushed the toilets.

“Yep,” I said, after looking at three other homes.. “The first one’s the one.”

The very next day I plunked down my “earnest” money to hold the house.

But back to the ice chest. After I moved in to my new house, Steve and B.J.of Sloan and Sloan Realty got started fixing up and marketing my old home. After school, every day, I went back to my Fort Worth home to continue clearing out remnants of a lifetime and stashing them out on the curb.

Finally, it was time for one more trip before locking up and handing over the key. I wanted my last night to be special. Ceremonial, even. So I purchased an ice chest from the Army/Navy surplus store and packed some goodies — vienna sausages, squeeze-cheese and snack crackers, and a fried pie — to feast on.

Picnic in the living room floor finished, it was time for me to say good-bye to the home that echoed with memories. Starting with the garage, I said good-bye to the space that our boat once filled. Then onto the screened-in porch where we lolled on chaises and celebrated my fifth birthday.

Next, the living/dining area, where  my teeth chattered with excitement while I dug  through my Christmas stocking.  I traveled down the hall and  entered each room as though it were a cathedral. Eleven years had already passed since my daddy died; still, the walls reverberated with his jokes and my little-girl giggles.

Finally, when I reached the back bedroom where my parents slept, I could no longer hold back the tears. At that instant, something tickled my ear.

Could it have been Mama and Daddy saying good-bye and God bless?

******************

Christmas in Sweden…God Jul!


December 20, 2006
Stockholm, Sweden

The SAS flight from O’Hare itself, has already been an experience. The all-night movies at my fingertips and the scintillating conversation with my seat-mate, a history professor on his way to Germany, have made my first International flight from O’Hare, in Chicago, to Arlanda, in Stockholm, truly blog-worthy. But the real treat…the reason for the trip…lies beyond the airport: a visit with son, Tam, daughter-in-law, Malin, and grandson, fifteen-month-old Harald.

After helping me round up my two bags, Malin and I trudge through the melting snow to her car.

“Hope you’re ready for a three-day holiday marathon!” she says, laughing, on our way to their home in Lidingo, a suburb of Stockholm.

Hmmm…let me think a minute…nine days, in all, with my family, including my adorable grandson…? This one’s hard….

“”I’m in!”

“We do Christmas for three whole days. ” she adds. “It gets really crazy! The night before Christmas Eve, we’re all invited to dinner at Mom’s. On Christmas Eve, we’re going back to her house for the tree. Then, on Christmas night, we help her eat up the leftovers. ”
Soon, we’re home. Having arrived at their rustic, weathered, brown-shingle home, we hop out of the car and I promptly start sliding backwards on the icy driveway, before Malin rescues me.

Their house is built to make the
most of the short Swedish days, with the bedrooms downstairs and the kitchen and living area upstairs.

Before she returns to work, Malin brings me a blanket and pillow, and shows me how to use their tv remote. Eyelids drooping, I’m barely horizontal before I’m already down for the count, sleeping off my first-ever case of jet lag.

Before Malin returns from work, her mom, May, comes over and gives me a tour of the stately, older part of Stockholm, rich in history. We pass by
the palaces, the red, blue, and yellow Hans Christian Andersen houses with the peaked rooftops. We grab lunch at a buffet, including lots and lots of fish.

After the outing, the biggest attraction: walking the short distance, in the snow, from their house to Harald’s pre-school.

A pint-size bundle of blue runs up to me and wraps his little arms around me.

“Harald, do you know who this is?” Malin asks.

“Nannie,” answers my blue-eyed, blonde-haired grandson. Although a New Yorker at birth, his Nordic looks make him a poster-child for a Swedish travel ad.

In a short time, although it’s only 5:30 in the afternoon, the sky is already an inky, midnight black.

The phone in Tam and Malin’s house rings.

“Hey, Mom, you want to hop a bus into town and meet me after work?”

I have to laugh. Sure, I’m a gazillion miles from home. It’s icy-cold midnight outside.

But what do I say?

“Sure, hon, I’d love to!”.

As it turns out a neighbor of theirs is riding in on the same bus to the same stop.

“You’ll be fine,” Malin assures me, handing me a bus ticket. “Just get off when Peggy does. ”

Sure enough, when both of us get off at the bus stop in Stockholm, Tam is waiting to give me a tour of the cosmopolitan city, which resembles Dallas, except the signs, in the Swedish language, have way more consonants!

After riding the subway back to their house, we’re pretty much ready to call it a day.

Tomorrow, I just might launch out on a bus ride to their outdoor mall to do a little shopping for Christmas Eve.