Friday, March 11, 2011


My daddy passed away in March 1998 when he was 66 years old.  It seemed awfully young then and now that I am moving in on 60 it seems even younger.  Daddy would have been 79 on August 4th this year. 

I was thinking about him the other day, wondering what he would have been doing at this time in his life had the cancer not taken him.  Would he be healthy?  Would he be active?

Then I started wondering if he had a “bucket list.”  If so, what would Daddy have wanted to do before he died if he’d had the chance? 

He wasn’t much of a dreamer and never talked much about the things he wanted to do, he just did them.  He was always puttering around doing something, even if it was just cutting wood or digging sassafras root.  He liked going through junk and salvaging interesting pieces.  I guess I get that from him. 

I believe Daddy wanted a simple life and would have liked to be able to live off the land.  He wasn’t a worrier, at least not outwardly.  He loved animals and I believe he would have had all the border collies he could have fed.

His morning coffee was important to him and the last year or so of his life I would stop on my way to work and have a cup with him.  I think that meant a lot to him and I know it did to me. 

I think he would have wanted to still be trading horses and mules and working them on a farm.  I do know one thing he always wanted to do, but never got the chance and that was to go on the annual trail ride to Renfro Valley with his own team of mules and a wagon.

I also know he would have wanted to see his children and grandchildren grow up and have children of their own.  He would have been pleased to know that his only son is the spitting image of him and that my 2 year old grandson looks like his pictures at the same age.

If there was one extravagant thing he could have had, it would have been a new bright red Dodge 4-wheel drive pickup truck.  Daddy had a lot of vehicles in his life but the one he really wanted never came his way. 

I know he wouldn’t have given up on living, because he didn’t, right up until that last day when we took him to the doctor in Danville and on to St. Joseph Hospital.  He kept saying, “I am not giving up Paula, I’m not giving up.” He didn’t come back with us that day, but he wanted to.  He kept saying “take me home, I want to go home.” And that he did.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


One Saturday night in the winter of 1956 my grandfather had stayed too long at Finley’s Bar again.  It had become his habit since my grandmother had passed away in June of that year.  He didn’t drink a drop while she was alive.  Pap’ never had a driver’s license so he would get on his old Ford tractor and drive down to Maple Street about 5 o’clock every Saturday evening and get to talking to Mr. Finley, reminiscing and drinking.  He’d drink a while and cry a while.  This particular night though Pap’ was drinking more than crying.  About midnight he decided it was time to go home.  He was driving down Maple and he noticed something very large coming from behind a row of holly bushes.  He swerved to miss it and ran up into the widow Finch’s yard.  She came out the house half-dressed, with cold cream all over her face and curlers in her hair screaming to the top of her lungs.  When she saw it was Pap’ she started batting her eyes and talking sweet, but he wanted no part of what he was seeing.  He got back on the tractor and went home as fast as that old tractor would go.   The next morning the telephone woke him up which didn’t help his splitting headache one bit.  It was Mr. Halafax, the town’s ombudsman.  He was reporting a complaint from widow Finch about Paps’ tractor tire tracks running through her front yard.  Pap’ tried to explained to Mr. Halafax about the wild Rhinoceros that was crossing the road from behind the holly bushes.  Mr. Halafax told Pap’ he would have to come to his office on Monday morning to discuss the complaint. 

Widow Finch was in the Ombudsmen’s office that morning too.  She looked a little better than she had on Saturday night, but  Pap’ still didn’t fall for the eye batting.   He did agree to pay for the repairs on her lawn and promised never to go to the Finley’s Bar again, the sights that night were just too much to bear.  Mr. Halafax told Pap’ if he caught him or his tractor anywhere near that bar again, he would have to start attending AA meetings.

Angel Baby

I picked her up on the side of the road during the worst thunderstorm I had ever seen.  There was a sudden bright flash of lightning that enabled us to see for a split second.  If she hadn’t been white, I would probably never have seen her.  She was so tiny and was drenched by the rain.   My husband gradually slowed to a stop being careful not to hit or scare her.  I opened the passenger side door and reached down to her and brought her into the car.  As always there is some kind of towel or blanket in the back seat of my car, so I grabbed one and wrapped her in it.  She was shivering and whimpering, so I held her really close to me and cuddled her.  She gradually began to stop shaking. 

My husband said “She probably wandered away from a house somewhere nearby,” but as we began to look around, we saw that there were no houses in sight for miles.   It was very hard to think that someone would have dropped this tiny puppy in such a downpour of rain, not to mention the lightning and thunder.  She must have been really scared out there all alone.

We took her home with us and gave her a warm bath and dried her off again.  She wasn’t afraid of the hair dryer; I suppose it was because of how the warm air made her feel.  After I brushed her she was really fluffy.  Her big blue eyes looked up to me as if to say “thanks mom.”  That did it!  She was mine from then on.   We were never really sure what kind of dog she was, or where she came from.  We decided she must have been a gift to us from heaven, so we named her “Angel Baby.”

She made herself quite at home with us and slept on the chair beside our bed with a fluffy pink blanket around her every night for as long as she was with us.  When her time on earth was over, our Angel Baby floated back up to heaven to wait for us.


I remember my grandmother saying, “No house is big enough for two families.”    Families once consisted of a father, a mother, their children, and a pet or two.  At that time it was common practice for parents to raise their children until they were married and left to raise their children and build their own lives. Mothers worked at home and cared for the children and fathers worked outside the home. 

Family life has taken on a whole new face in the past 60 years or so.  In this so-called “sandwich” generation families now come in many varieties.  Single parent families and blended families have become prevalent; as are grandparents raising their grandchildren and sometimes supporting a child or two that either never left, or has come back to the nest. Some fathers are working at home and caring for children while mothers work outside the home.  Then there is the relatively new family category of full-time caregivers to elderly relatives.  This is where we fit in.

My husband Charles and I have raised two children each and enjoy frequent visits with them and our five grandchildren.  Charles is retired from public work and raises beef cattle on our farm.  I am retired from city government and work on contract as projects coordinator for a non-profit organization.  When it became apparent that my mother could no longer live alone due to increasing stages of Alzheimer’s disease, we moved her in with us in November 2006.   Charles’ mom and dad’s farm adjoins ours where they lived until his dad passed away with Parkinson’s disease in March 2007.  His mother was 87 at the time and didn’t really want to live alone, so she moved in with us in November 2007. 

As with all families, there are times when you send up a silent prayer or just take a cleansing breath and times when you need to leave the room to fall on your face and pray or cry.  Sometimes you may even need to walk out into the field and scream.  There are frustrations and hurt feelings, times for apologies and forgiveness, and times for a little extra understanding.  Prayer is a very important part of any family life especially double blended ones like ours. 

Our churches, neighborhoods and schools are made up of all these types of families.  It is extremely important for Christians to consistently pray for all families, especially the non-traditional ones.   James 5:16 states “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”  Prayer is the first and best thing that can be done for families such as ours and other non-traditional mixes.  It is important to remember the constant stress and frustration all families deal with.  Even in-tact traditional families will benefit from daily prayer and encouragement from friends, extended family, and church family. 

It may surprise you how a smile or a word of encouragement will lift the spirits of someone in a stressful situation.  Even the simple phrase, “I prayed for you today” may be just the words someone needs to hear.


Uncles, aunts, cousins, siblings, parents and grandparents all gathered in one house for Thanksgiving when I was young.  Our gatherings just happened to be at our grandparents’ homes.

At Mamaw and Papaw’s house most of the adults sat at tables that were set up in different rooms.  The rest of us would kind of scatter out and eat wherever we could find a seat or an empty spot on the floor.  There was always an abundance of food in Mamaw’s kitchen even when it wasn’t a holiday.  On Thanksgiving though, she always had turkey, homemade dressing, biscuits, fluffy cherry salad, cushaw pies, and dumplings she would just stir up and drop from a spoon into the boiling broth.  We would fill our plates grab a drink and land somewhere.    

Everyone talked at the same time and there was laughing, joking and noise everywhere. I am not sure if anyone ever really heard anything that was said, but we always had a great time anyway.

After eating, the women cleaned up while the men watched football on television or just went outside to “shoot the breeze”.  The kids would run in and out of the house playing and aggravating the grownups.

At Grandmama’s house things were quite different.  Everyone had to eat at the table and before they added on a living/dining room combination, there was only the small metal kitchen table with a gray Formica top, which had just one leaf to add.  Needless to say, there was not enough room for all those people to eat at the same time, so we had to eat in shifts. 

Of course, Grandmama insisted that the men eat first and it seemed like they took forever to finish.  Then it was time for the women, yes I said women, not children.  They also seemed to eat and talk for an eternity. 

When it was finally our turn to eat there were always two of the men left at the table, my two uncles Mack and “Goose.” (whose real name was Lewis)  They started with the men and were still there when most of us kids were done.  I am not sure if they ate slowly, heartily or both.  Anyway, there was still plenty of food for them and us. 

Of course, there was turkey, stuffing and all the homemade trimmings, but some of the food was different.  Grandmama rolled out the dough for her dumplings and cut them into long strips and then cut the strips in smaller pieces before adding them to the boiling broth.  She always had jam cakes and minced meat pies for dessert.  Sometimes she would even make up a batch of her famous fried apple pies.

Activities after our meals at Grandmama’s were about the same as at Mamaw’s, except when someone would bring out a guitar and we would gather around and sing.  There were very happy times at both places.

I hope that when my children and grandchildren think back on our Thanksgivings, they will have as many happy memories as I do.

Mud Furniture, a Weeping Willow and a Swing Set

The summer before I would start the fourth grade, mom, daddy, my sister and I moved into a house with a large yard. There were things to play with and plenty of room to run and explore.  The previous owners left a very large swing set that was handmade and was more than twice as tall as store bought sets. 

There were bars on the side that we could reach if we really stretched or stood on something.  If I remember correctly, it had two swings.  Being the monkey that I was, all I wanted to do was hang upside down from the bars.  Of course those low bars soon lost their appeal and I wanted to hang from the top bar of the swing set.  Somehow I managed to climb up one of the poles to the top bar and hang by one leg for a while and then the other leg.  I would flip around it and hang like a monkey by all fours then shimmy across the top bar and back down to the ground.  This went on for several weeks and I was having the time of my life, until one day my mother looked out of the window and saw me hanging there by one leg.  She threw a fit and needless to say the next day my daddy took the swing set apart. 

There was a really big Weeping Willow on the left side of the yard, if you were facing the alley behind the house.  The tree had limbs we could sit on and play or hold our baby dolls and sing to them.   We pretended that the tree was our house.  The first floor was the ground below the tree and it had two upper floors; the first and the second limb from the ground.  My little red metal rocking chair fit really well on the “second floor” the rockers went across the limb and we tied it with a rope to keep it still.  The “third floor” was the bedroom which had a pillow and a blanket for “sleeping.”  The first floor was the kitchen where we could make meals on our little stove.  You would be surprised what two little girls could find for “dinner.”  We had steak and roast made out of burnt chunks of wood, lettuce pulled from the yard, potatoes from the driveway, and berries from the bushes.  For dessert there was always a “chocolate” cake or pie.  Our younger cousin Patty really liked our pies and cakes, especially when we sprinkled the top of them with cinnamon (sand).  We swept the ground under the tree so often that the dirt was as hard as a rock and there was no dust on our kitchen floor.  The willow branches were our curtains and we tied them back with sashes.  We were very proud of our little house.  One thing the Mink girls didn’t lack was imagination.  We still don’t.

Neighbor girls from next door and up the street would come down to play Barbie with us. We would mix up a big bunch of dirt and water and form beds, tables, couches, and chairs for our dolls’ houses which were fashioned in our sand box.  Once the mud dried, it made perfect furniture.  We could play with the same furniture for months if we kept it out of the rain.   We did have to “rebuild” our houses pretty often because the rain would wash away the walls.

Someone gave us a smaller swing set that we played on for years.  One day “one” of us had the bright idea to make an amusement park on the swing set.  We took a wooden sled with metal runners and made a roller coaster on the sliding board.  Remembering the sound that the metal runners made on the metal sliding board when someone was riding down puts my teeth on edge to this day.   The swings made really good tilt-a-whirls when you turned them around and around with someone on them and let them go.  I can’t remember what kind of ride the see-saw was, but it sure went high.   Then there was a bucket tied to the Weeping Willow tree with a rope that swung when you pulled it back and let it go.   Of course we had to have someone to test the rides before we allowed anyone else to ride them.  My sister got that job; I suppose because she was younger than me.  We really had a good time at our amusement park and made a nickel from each person that was brave enough to ride.  If anyone got hurt, I don’t remember it.

We also had “horses” to ride. When daddy would bring home saw horses, we would tie a pillow on the back of a saw horse for a saddle, a rope for a bridle, corn husk or rope for a tail and mane and we would ride our horses up and down the street to dozens of imaginary places. 

Sometimes the neighborhood boys would get a softball or kickball game going.  We would choose sides and play ball right in the middle of the street.  We knew to watch for cars and drivers knew to watch for us.  Things were so much simpler and safer then.  We played jacks on the front porch, hopscotch on the sidewalk and red rover in the yard.

We were allowed to ride our bicycles to Begley’s to get an ice cream float at the fountain or to the five and dime store to spend our allowance, which we really had to earn by doing chores.  Imagine that!

I guess the younger generation today would think we were weird or something worse because we talked to our friends face to face and could have fun without gadgets that cost our parents an arm and a leg, but we were never bored.  If we had been we certainly wouldn’t have said so out loud, because somebody somewhere would have found something for us to do that wasn’t near as much fun as we were having on our own.

Monday, February 14, 2011

My Valentine

My Valentine asked me, "What is a Valentine anyway?'  I said, "I guess it is a Sweetheart."  Then I began to think about the question.

I believe a Valentine, is someone who loves unconditionally, deeply and selflessly.  One who puts others first, and does for them without complaint. 

My Valentine isn't terribly romantic, but he does love me no matter how I act sometimes, his love for me is deep and not superficial and I truly believe that he puts my needs before his on a daily basis.

First, let me say that I am not always a "blessing" to have around.  Sometimes I am grumpy when I come home from work.  Frustrations and extended family problems sometimes get me down and I lash out at the one who loves me the most.  So what I am about to say is even more amazing than one would think.

My Valentine works on the farm feeding and taking care of upwards of 45 head of cattle, along with all the other daily chores a farmer has to do.  He also takes care of his mother who lives with us, making sure she has her meals when she wants them and the medicine she needs.

Most every day I come home to a meal my Valentine cooks for me.  He is a very good cook and even cleans up after himself. 

So, I may not be much of a blessing, but I am blessed to have such a wonderful Valentine every day.  Not just on Valentine's Day.