“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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LIVING ON ISLAND TIME, Part 4: “A Wahoo Honeymoon”


5-13-14

7:41 a.m.

Outside our window, rag-doll palm trees submit to whipping coastal wind and rain. Inside, as my soul-mate sleeps, I’m grabbing some time to work on a book and post a blog entry. Since we arrived, on Mother’s Day Sunday, Port A has remained its idyllic self.

Marrying during my semester-from-Hell, Jeff and I have had little time to rewind and recharge. Even Spring Break was eaten up with preparations for my online Comp I class. When Spring 2014 classes socked me between the eyes, there were many days when I yearned for island time. At last, after giving the last final exam, posting grades, and  turning in my room key, I hollered at BeeGee.

“Hey, cuz. We’re coming down. Is the Wahoo  available?”

After Beeg gave us the thumbs-up, Jeff and I packed a few clothes and some snacks, plied our neighbor with wine and chocolate in exchange for three or four days of dog-sitting, and hopped in the Toyota a day earlier, stopping at New Braunfels to visit Jeff’s family and celebrate a birthday. After a restful night at the Rodeway Inn in Three Rivers and a late brunch at McDonald’s, we set out for the last leg of our journey. .

Already, my mind could smell the salty air, even though we were miles away from the first palm tree. Once we crossed the Nueces County line into Corpus Christi,we noted places we wanted to visit on the way home: the aquarium, the USS Lexington, and maybe a seafood restaurant or two on the water.

Yesterday morning, our first full day in blissful Port A, Jeff and I walked on the beach before stopping at Avery’s Kitchen, a friendly restaurant I discovered, last year, for their savory, homemade corned-beef hash and eggs and Belgian waffles. To my surprise, both our server and even Avery,himself, remembered me.

When we returned to the Wahoo, yesterday afternoon, Jeff and I worked on our laptops until around 6:00 p.m. when we attended a wine-and-hors d’oeuvres farewell party for one of Beeg’s friends at the Dome in the Dunes, another one of her roomy rentals.

Counting today, we have maybe one or two more days left. The blowing rain outside makes me thankful for our cozy cottage and inspires me to write, as I came down here to do.

So where do you go to get away from it all? I look Photo: Visiting cousin BeeGee McBrideforward to hearing from you. Stay tuned for my next entry, “Living on Island Time, Part 5: Home from the Wahoo.”

 

LIVING ON ISLAND TIME, Part 3: Last Day in Paradise


image2:00 p.m.

Wednesday, June 5:  Last day in paradise. It is also my last day to visit places to include in my new work-in-progress, Suffer The Little Children, plunked down in Port Aransas.

As I chart the territory for Burrneece Barefoot and Earl Savage (of Barefoot Savage Investigation),  I cross off  places I’ve already visited:  the Chamber of Commerce for brochures.The marina for pictures of boats. And  Port Aransas Police Department where Lieutenant. James Stokes graciously  explains who gets involved and what they do when someone finds a body on the beach.

After Beegee and I have lunch at Avery’s Kitchen (where Earl would take  Burrneece because he  “knows” owner, Avery Hernandez), I take on  the last sight on my agenda:  University of Texas Marine Science Institute. Keep in mind that, by now, I’ve walked two miles under sweltering Port A sun. I’m red-faced, sweaty, sandy, and crippled after walking in flip-flops and sand lodged underneath the  toe ring I purchased at Gratitude where Burrneece would spend Earl’s money on seashell-studded sandals and upside-down wineglass sunglasses.

By now, I have shown myself that If I wander around long enough, I smack into the water. With the help of my GPS, I  arrive at the Institute and trudge up the steps to an air-conditioned office. A  receptionist who apparently has not been tramping through heat and sand greets me with a sympathetic smile.

“Is there any charge for the exhibits?” I ask.  Please, please tell me there isn’t.

“No, but this is not the Visitors Center. You’ll need to go back outside, down the steps, and underneath the building. Look for a statue of a giant fish.”

Sounds simple enough until I see nothing but parking lot. Oh, wait!  Here comes a  young man who seems to know where he’s going. I’ll just ask him.

“Excuse me, I’m looking for the Visitors Center,”

His eyes cloud. His brow furrows.

“Visitor Center? Ooooh… not open to public.”

“Is so,” I want to blurt. Instead, I thank him and  hobble onward. To a  parking area, picnic tables, and — what’s that ahead? A giant fish?
According to the South Jetty,  the  Visitors Center is only one part of the University of Texas Marine Science Institute (UTMSI), offers “free self-guided tours of exhibits…aquaria with Texas coastal species and habitats, photos, and research projects past and present.”  (82)

The Wetlands Education Center is the other. According to the Port Aransas newspaper, the Wetlands comprise  “3.5 acres between the UTMSI and the South Jetty. A stroll along the boardwalk allows… a marsh/seagrass pond with a wildscape of various seagrasses and coastal vegetation”  as well as “migratory waterfowl and resident marshbirds”. The interior boardwalks, according to the South Jetty, are “limited to guided tour groups”. (82)

Having covered the last place, I retrace the path back to my car, to Avenue G, Eleventh Street, and LaJuana Court where the Wahoo, my rented oasis, awaits.   After a shower and a re-charge, I’m ready for The Fish House and The Back Porch with Cousin BeeGee and our friend, Maryanne.

The last three sun-splashed  days, although exhausting, have given me the break I’ve needed. Early tomorrow, I leave at first (or fiftieth) light and head home.

Up ahead,  Part Four, ” Returning to Reality”.

***********

LIVING ON ISLAND TIME, Part 2: “Feelin’ All Right”


English: Tourist shops at Port Aransas, Texas.
English: Tourist shops at Port Aransas, Texas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

06-03-13

6:30 a.m.

As I stepped out on the patio of the Wahoo, one of the cozy beach homes offered by BeeGee’s Coastal Quarters, the sun was staining the sky a soft gold on her way up. Salty breeze caressed my face as I  sipped espresso from my French roast pot and munched a Cheerios bar. Below the  table, Cousin Beeg’s short-haired, orange-and-white cat, Rusty, wove around my legs and meowed. As I twirled his tail, I leaned back and drank in the serenity of the moment.  I came down here to research Port A, but I would have to wait until the sleeping town woke up.

Chill out, Kim. You’re island time, now.

After washing out my coffee pot in the full-sized kitchen, I dressed in white crops, Skechers, and a black tee-shirt from the 2013 DFW Writers Conference, and grabbed my tote bag. Within minutes, mugginess shrink-wrapped  my body. The black tee, I decided, would have to go.

Around nine a.m., I parked at the Islander, a souvenir and beach shop on South Alister Street,  for a  lighter-weight tee in a cooler color.  Seeing their sale on four tees for $20, I went inside and chose a powder-blue tee-shirt with the logo,  “Port Aransas: Feel All Right.”

“I’m also here to research my next mystery, which I intend to set in Port Aransas,” I told the sales person as I offered her my card.

“Oooh, really? Well, come with me,” she said, leading me to a bookshelf and handing me Images of America: Port Aransasby J. Guthrie Ford and Mark Creighton.

According to information appearing on the back cover of the book, aficionados of  Port Aransas and Mustang Island have Dr. Ford to thank for  establishing the Port Aransas Preservation and Historical Association, and writing the four-volume Port Aransas Historic Series. And hats off to Mark Creighton, a Cornell University graduate, for over 8,000 archived digital images of Port Aransas and Mustang Island.

Recognizing a super source when I see one, I added it to the bill.

After dropping the purchases in my bag and changing into my new shirt in a neighboring restroom, I followed Avenue G to the beach where I shed my Skechers to sink my toes in the sand. It had been too long — January 2009 — since my last beach-fix.  Wet sand and cool water felt heavenly on  tired, sweaty feet!  One thing I have always loved about Texas beaches is that I do not get winded walking on them.  By the time I  walked all the way down to Horace Caldwell Pier and back to my car, I had logged about two miles and sweated off about ten pounds.

Around 10:45, that morning, I returned with face flushed and tummy growling. Time to poll the locals.

“So, where’s your favorite place to eat?”

Avery’s Kitchen,” chimed the Islander staff, almost in unison. They pointed to a blue frame building with white trim, located on the other side of Spanky’s Liquor.  In celebration of the annual SandFest, someone had built a sand castle beside the balcony. The sign outside Avery’s Kitchen read “Keepin’ It Simple.”

“Actually, we’re still serving breakfast, but you’re welcome to wait,” said Meredith, who fixed me up with a tall glass of ice water, a menu, and a copy of the South Jetty, Port A’s newspaper.

“Great! What is the best thing you serve?”

” Breakfast or lunch?”

“Both, really.”

“Well, our egg platters are really popular, particularly the corned-beef hash-and-egg one. For lunch, our hand-breaded fish and chicken-fried steak are good, too.”

My mouth watered. “Is the owner here where I could speak to him?”

“Sure! Just be careful back there. It’s slick.”

When I pushed through the swinging door, owner Avery Hernandez was covering a vat of cole slaw. After i shook his hand and introduced myself, I got him talking about his food.

“We hand-bread all of our own fish. And I make my own corned-beef hash. Basically, we serve comfort food.”.

“Yum! Here’s my card. While I’m here, I might grab some breakfast.”

“Sure,” he said. “In fact, I’d like to buy your dinner.”

As I dug into the corned-beef-and-eggs platter, my mouth told me this was not the  run-of-the-mill canned stuff. No siree-Bob! As Avery himself said, he had cooked the corned beef, chopped it, and mixed in potatoes. It went down smoothly with two eggs over-medium,a homemade biscuit with strawberry jam, and coffee.

Not only was the breakfast blog-worthy, so was lunch. Avery’s fish-and-chips, advertised on a blackboard outside, was $7.95. Having eaten fish and chips  at Long John Silver’s and Captain D’s, I asked Meredith about how Avery fixed it.

” It’s grouper, freshly-caught and hand-breaded.”

The grouper was so tender that it self-destructed in my hand. No “fake” fish, here.  The fries were so well-seasoned that I needed no additional salt.  Chunky cole slaw in a light, not overly-sweet dressing complemented the meal..

I was wiping my mouth and shoving my plate aside when Meredith approached me, again. After pouring more ice water, she pointed to a table where a cake and bowls were set out.

“When you’re ready for dessert, you’re welcome to a complimentary piece of our lemon cake.”

When I finished the square of cake — satisfyingly tart and sweet and just the right portion —  I paid for my meal and waved my thanks.

. “I will be back!”

Still on my agenda, the marina and the Chamber of Commerce. I had a lot of ground to cover in three days.  This was only Day One.

LIVING ON ISLAND TIME: Port A, Here I Come!


image06-02-2013

One thing you must know about me is that I’m a biiiiiig weenie about driving long distances. But when I saw, on Facebook, that my cousin’s  daughter-in-law got to spend some time with her, I told Brandy I was downright jealous.

“Well, come on down!” she said.

Sigh. If only it were that easy.

In a few days, the summer-school onslaught would begin. But, two days later, I got a call from school. It was Amber, my Department Chair’s assistant.

“First off, I’m only the messenger, so don’t shoot me,” she began. “We had to give your class to a full-timer. Your Summer II classes are still good, though.”

All right, then. I thought. During the past year, I had become really worn-down with not only teaching four face-to-face classes each semester, but, also, building an online course. I was ready for a break. This was my God-given opportunity to head down to Port Aransas.

Since I’m planning to set my new mystery, Suffer The Little Children, in “Port A”, I saw this as an excellent time to   research motels, restaurants, and fishing areas where Earl Savage and Burrneece Barefoot of  Barefoot Savage Investigation — would most likely hang out on their vacation before he reels in a body  off  Horace Caldwell Pier (or maybe the South Jetty.). It was also a good opportunity to interview the local police.

With that in mind,  I started figuring out a way to make it happen. One night, I priced motels,  bed-and-breakfasts, and BeeGee’s Coastal Quarters into the wee hours. Since this  is the peak season, there was little chance of finding anywhere  that cost less than $125 per night. That is, before I told Beeg I planned to come visit.

My original plan was that I would head on down on June 3 and return June 5.  But, as my sweetheart reminded me, doing it that way would give me  only one day in “island paradise”. Hardly any time at all to turn around before I’d have to head on back.

“Why don’t you go down there on Sunday and return on Thursday?” said Von.

He was right.  Three whole days. Yeah, that would work.

The next concern, getting there.  Round-trip airfare, particularly within Texas, was out of the question. At its cheapest, I’d be looking at $400.  The other option, according to the Port Aransas web site  was landing my plane on the island. Not  a pilot,  I had to laugh.

“But, of course!” I said, smacking my forehead. ” Why didn’t I think of that, first?”

At that time, I whipped out  my iPad and punched in Port Aransas on my Google maps. All three routes had me staying on I-35 most of the way. I was ecstatic.

” Kim, old girl,  this is doable,” I told self. “Even on a shoestring!”

On Saturday night, I turned in early and woke up at 5:30 a.m. After dressing, feeding Russet, and packing the car, I headed up the street for the nearest Waffle House for a jalapeno bacon-egg-and-cheese biscuit and a travel mug full of coffee, I hit the road.

From Arlington, I took I-20 West to 35W. At Hillsboro, Interstate 35W turned into just plain old I-35.  When a major accident halted traffic on I-35 in Schertz,  outside San Antonio,  I gassed up the car and headed around the corner to Wendy’s. After a leisurely lunch, the pile-up had cleared in time to switch to Interstate 410 South. From there, it was a short jog onto  I-37.  Texas 358 took the longest, lasting 130 miles. Good thing I had packed plenty of CD‘s to keep me rocking.

Seeing the first palm tree, just outside Corpus Christi, I smiled. Soon, I would smell that salty air and hear waves crashing. Still, State Highway Park Road 22E  and Texas 361, the road into Port Aransas.

As I entered the Port A city limits, I started slowing down to look for street signs.

“Turn right for Royal Palm Drive,” said  “GPS lady”.

Passing it up, I had to look for the next turn-in and double back. The same happened with BeeGee’s street.

 Nearly smacking into an oncoming car while looking for a street sign,  I turned around in someone’s driveway and, in the process, met a new friend (who happened to know BeeGee). When she pointed me in the right direction, I gave Beeg a call.

” I was waiting to hear from you,” she said. ” My street sign’s down. Look for a Port-a-Potty on your right.”

After waving me down in the street, she directed me to drive around back to the Wahoo, a cozy one-bedroom island cottage complete with a full kitchen, living and dining room, a bathroom opening both to the hall and the bedroom. Television sets in both the living room and bedroom and a washer and dryer completed the comforts of home. Outside, a barbecue grill and patio set. All this and Beeg for a  neighbor.  How cool is this going to be?

When I   settled in, Beeg and I met at her house where we kicked back with  snacks and a movie. Most important, we were long overdue for some serious “cousin time.”

Planning to devote Monday through Wednesday to researching my new book, Suffer The Little Children, a murder mystery set in Port Aransas, I knew I had my work cut out for me. However, evenings like my first one were for relaxing. As I drifted off on whisper-soft sheets and pillows, I thanked God for guiding me safely here.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Living on Island Time.  Now, it’s your turn. What is your favorite vacation getaway?

BONDING OVER THE BUCKET


Beach Road, Port Aransas Texas

09-17-2012

5:30 p.m.

So, here I am — teaching pre-writing techniques to thirty freshmen. As usual, while they free-write, brainstorm, and cluster ideas at their computers, I’m doing the same. Ten minutes pass.

I wave my paper in the air.  “All right, time’s up! Who wants to share?”

Stultifying silence ensues.  Eyes drop to the floor. Throats clear. Well, at moments such as these, I am not above bribery.

“C’mon, everyone. Ten points to a daily grade?”

*rustle of  hands *

As I mill around from one student to the next, they share  everything:  favorite books such as  Harry Potter  and The Hunger Games. Favorite foods? Again, Mexican rules. And goals run the gamut — forensic pathology, criminal justice, pediatric nursing, marine biology, screenplay-writing.

After I give the volunteers a chance to read their writing,  I share mine:  vacation spots — Port Aransas, . San Clemente,  Stockholm, and New York City.

But when I lead them into the next technique — brainstorming — they really start clicking the computer keys.  So do I.

After they reel off their lists, so do I: the top ten items on my  “bucket list”. In true David Letterman fashion, I present them in reverse order:

10. Bungee-jumping (Hey, not like I’m going to do it!)

8. Drifting  above the clouds  in a hot-air balloon (with a snootful of Dramamine)

7. Acting in a soap-opera sex scene

( Collective sharp intake of breath… gasping…. giggling, as all thirty students imagine…well…whatever it is college students  imagine. At least they’re staying awake!)

6.Winning a million dollars on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” (or at least enough to bank-roll items #5-2)

5.  Possessing either a baby-grand piano or a Mac laptop (either one, a win-win)

4.  Touring the world, stopping in Sweden  for Christmas

3.  Lolling, writing, and then lolling some more on a Port Aransas beach

2.  Publishing By Her Daughter’s Hands while I’m still sound of mind

And (drum roll, swell of orchestra)  number-one on my  list….. as if it’s any big surprise?

1.  Marrying my sweetheart  somewhere between Medicare and long-term care.

The room is quiet, again.  Some eyes are misty.  I wheel around and dab a tear from my own eye. Sharing….it’s  beautiful. In fact, I believe we’re  bonding.Sweden