(I wrote this eight years ago when I worked for Grimes Publications. So to be accurate, add that number to the ones I mention. In addition, Dad’s batteries ran out Memorial Day, 2016, I parted ways with the paper, went back to graduate school and started a new career teaching at Columbus State University (My life has never been static). But almost 10 years later, the message and my resolve have not changed one bit. Hope you enjoy).
Amazing how the word changes with time.
Remember when you couldn’t wait for them to roll around.
“I’m almost 13…can’t wait until I’m 16…finally –18…ah-h-h, sweet 21.”
And then it changes.
One day you’re 21, and before you know it, your youngest kid is going to New Orleans to celebrate the milestone.
And that was almost five years ago. Next month, my son will be 26.
But my Dad is the one who really can’t believe the calendar…nor can we.
Last weekend he celebrated his 87th, and he is far from old. In fact, he sets the standard very high for all of us. He’s like that battery bunny…he just keeps going and going.
“You got one coming up yourself in a week, don’t you?” he asked as he looked across the supper table at me Saturday night. “How old will you be?”
“I’ll be 58,” I answered slowly…my voice sounding like fingernails on a blackboard.
“Never thought I’d have chillun’ that old,” he replied. “Seems like yesterday I was a chap myself.”
“Where were you born?” asked my sister-in-law.
“Down there in that white house next to the church. Mother always said the icicles were a foot long that morning. Uncle Marvin and Aunt Eunice delivered me. They lived on this corner where your house is, Pam. He practiced medicine here before they moved to LaGrange.”
Dad talked about the changes…the things and people he missed…the years he had spent here at Jones Crossroads…stories I never tire of hearing.
During the first decades of the 20th century, Harris County was extremely rural and remote. Automobiles, of which there were very few, did not make the scene until the early 20’s. The only paved road was U.S. 27, and the main mode of transportation was the mule-drawn wagon or horse and buggy.
“People didn’t go to town back then. There were little country stores everywhere that sold the staples people used – mainly coffee, sugar, overalls, and work shoes.
“Folks raised hogs for meat, grew all their vegetables, and canned or dried enough produce to carry them through until the next growing season.
“In fact, y’alls great grandfather, Uncle Rob, had a community preserving plant at one time – I guess you could call it a co-op – where the folks in the Hopewell and surrounding communities could bring their produce to be canned.
“But the biggest difference in the Harris County then and the Harris County today is what our claim to fame was.
“During the 20’s and 30’s, we were famous, or should I say infamous, for being the best place around to buy corn liquor – white lightning.”
We raised our champagne glasses in a toast, saluting the fact we were together and that our kids appeared to be doing well.
After everyone left, I continued to think about the changes in my life…about the number of years that have passed since I moved back to Harris County – ‘twill be 30 this fall.
I sat down and opened the photo album I started for my Dad a few months ago. I added the prints I had made for his birthday – photos of Hal and me when we were wee ones, a picture of our family in Boston in 1958 when my Dad was named “Master Farmer of the Year”, my brother and I posing on the seawall at Panama City when we were tweens.
The joys and sorrows started flooding back…the memories of my youth, the dreams I had, the nightmares that happened, and the blessings my children have always been to me.
I started to feel that familiar wave of tearful loneliness.
“No,” I said aloud. “Don’t look at the scrapbook any longer.”
I closed the cover and stood up.
Memories are just that – memories. You can’t go back.
When ghosts emerge from old photos, it’s time to put them away.
I felt the tears subside.
Yep…I’m a year older and I’ll never be 21 again.
But at least I’m alive.
And I hope to toast my silver-haired chillun’ when I’m 87, tease them unmercifully…
…raise my glass, look back and smile.