Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Liver Story

When I was a kid I used to love staying with my grandfather. He had this rustic house in the middle of fifty acres he owned way up in the north Georgia mountains, and you could do whatever you wanted and not bother the neighbors. Heck, you couldn't bother anybody if you tried.

Granddaddy, you see, at one time had a farm. And now that he was older, it was more of a very large garden than anything else. And when my parents left me there that Sunday afternoon during summer break from school, I had no idea what was in store for me.

Granddaddy's idea for working was simple; get up early, get your work done before the hot part of the day arrived, play a little, eat dinner and go to bed. So the first morning I got up washed my face and ate the breakfast Janie cooked for us.

Oh i forgot to tell you, Janie you see, was my grandfathers second wife. My grandmother had died when I was 5. All of us grand kids just called her "Janie," because well, we just did, I don't know why. She didn't mind, and it was easy for us, I suppose.

So after breakfast we went to the field to hoe the weeds out of the garden. Anyone who doesn't know where the term "hard row to hoe" comes from definitely has never used a hoe in a North Georgia garden.

So after a couple of rows of bent over hoeing its lunch time on the first day. 'Mater sandwiches (as Granddaddy called them) and sweet tea is served. And then I found out it was my time! I could go and do as I pleased.

So I promptly grabbed the .22 rifle and away I went. Squirrels, tin cans, and knots on trees didn't stand a chance against me and my grandfather's gun. I ran, played, jumped in the creek, did everything a ten year old could do in the vast undiscovered woods of Grandaddy's land.

When the car horn blew I knew it was time to go back for supper (that's dinner, for you northern folks).  So I hurried back up the hill. Washed my face and hands in the wash bowl, threw the water outside so the next person could use a clean wash bowl,
as Granddaddy's house did not have running water. Then I sat down at the dinner table ready to eat.

And right there, right there before me, was something I had never eaten. "Liver" is what Janie called it. "Beef Liver" to be more precise. And she plunked a piece on my plate with a thud. It looked and smelled kinda like a big hunk of rubber.

"I don't eat liver" I told her.

"That's fine" Janie told me.

And that's all that was said about that. No "you're going to eat this before you go to bed" like Mom did or anything. No yelling, mad, or nothing.

Maybe she didn't know how Mom did things when we wouldn't eat? I don't know, but this was too easy.  So I ate my 'taters, drank my tea, and sat on the porch till bedtime thinking she was too easy for a ten year old's diet. Maybe tomorrow I'll convince her I want chocolate cake for dinner.

Well 'taters don't last that long in your tummy. In fact, they go by rather quickly. I looked and looked, and I don't think Granddaddy and Janie ever even heard of Pop Tarts. For that matter, candy bars, cookies, or anything like that you bought at the store didn't even exist in their house. You just had to wait until the next meal.

So when Breakfast came around the next  morning I was hungry, and I ate all I could hold. Worked in the garden again. Lunch with 'mater sandwiches again (still my all time favorite). Grabbed the .22 and off I was on another daily adventure on Granddaddy's land.

I caught craw-fish in the creek. Shot (at) a couple of squirrels. Killed several tin cans completely dead, and headed back to the house just in time for the car horn.

Washed my face and hands, sat down, and.... What's this? Liver? Liver again? Really? Didn't I make myself perfectly clear yesterday?

"I don't eat liver" I remember saying. I do remember saying that. I'm sure I said it.

"what's this doing here?" I asked?

"We don't throw out food" Janie said.  As she plunked another piece of that stuff down on my plate. "We have to eat it until its gone." She told me.

And as I sat there with my head propped up in my hands, remembering that there is nary a Pop Tart in the whole house, a plan began to form. A simple plan it was. But for a ten year old boy who was looking at another dinner plate with liver on it instead of chocolate cake, a plan was needed.

Some plans come from genuiness. Others are derived from simplicity. This plan came from desperation.  If Granddaddy and Janie didn't throw out food, and reheated it until it was all gone, then all gone it would be. I decided right then and there, out of pure liver torture desperation, that I would be the one to make sure there would be no liver served again. I would sacrifice myself. I would eat all of the liver. Because I was that kind of boy.

When faced with such catastrophes as re-occurring liver, a boy's got to do what a boy's got to do. Then maybe we could work on that chocolate cake I was wanting.

So I chewed the liver. I hacked and coughed until I swallowed every piece on my plate. Then I held my plate out for more. Yep! I got seconds, thirds, and more, until there was no more liver to be found in the house. Good thing too, because I was feeling a little queasy in my tummy by then. Swallowing it was the first part of the plan. Keeping it down turned out to be the second part, and I hadn't planned on that part being so tough.

Well the next morning went just like I expected, complete with 'mater sandwiches at lunch.

I grabbed the rifle and was headed out the door when Janie asked if I wanted anything from town, because her and B'nard (Granddaddy) was going to the grocery.

"Chocolate cake" I piped up. Oh and "Pop Tarts too", it never hurts to have a back up around you know.

"We'll see" Janie said, and with that they were off to town and left me there by myself. You should not leave a ten year old boy alone with a gun. I mean you learn things you don't want to admit to. Like never ever, no matter how fun you think it is going to be, don't shoot a bee hive with a gun. You can't run fast enough, and them little buggers just can't take a joke.

Well I survived with my dignity intact, and even got back to the house before the car horn. I think it was the chocolate cake anticipation, or maybe the high speed needed to outrun the bees got me there sooner, I'm not sure.

I put the gun up, face hands washed, grinning from eat to ear waiting on my cake..... And you're kidding me! Is this torture! Yep, that little old lady had served up another plate of liver! I kid you not.

"wha, wha, um, what's this?" I sheepishly asked.

"Liver!" Janie proudly proclaimed!
"You ate that so well last night I went to the store specially to get you some MORE!"

I kid you not. She thought this ten year old boy had "taken a liking," to her cooking, as she so proudly beamed.

Well me being the dutiful ten year old boy that I was, I commenced to eating my share of the liver. I noticed her eyes brightened with pride with each bite I took, so I just kept on till it was gone. Besides, I noticed she did not get any Pop Tarts or chocolate cake, and 'taters alone won't get you through until morning.

I will tell you that I spent the rest of the week with my Aunt Sybil and her family. And, thank god, I don't think she even knew how to cook liver.
Thank you Aunt Sybil.

P.S. Sybil knows how to cook chocolate cake!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Yvonne Brookshire

Sometimes in life you get a warning, and those lucky times that you do, you should heed that warning with all your heart, for failing to do so will haunt you for the rest of your life.

Yvonne Brookshire was my warning. I knew it then, and I let the opportunity pass me by. Yvonne you need to understand was one of my Mom's best friends. You also need to know that her son Kenny was also one of my best friends.

Yvonne and my mom went shopping together, lunches together, spent hours on the phone with each other talking endlessly about the goings on in the neighborhood. See, Kenny and his mom lived just up the street from us. So Kenny and I played at each other’s houses all the time. Such was our friendship that we would just show up at each other’s door for no apparent reason, just to see what was going on on that side of the neighborhood.

These were the days before cell phones, pagers, email, text, or anything else we use today. It was the days of excitement when seeing someone unexpectedly at the door. The days of “hey, how are you” that was done face to face and in person. It was Mayberry built right there in Lithia Springs.

Well, one day Yvonne did not feel well, so she made a doctor’s appointment. The doctor checked Yvonne out and told her she was fine, go home. A short time later she still didn’t feel well and went to the doctor again, and again the doctor checked her out and told her everything was okay. A third time she goes to the doctor and he tells her she has no problems, go home. Well, Yvonne had a heart attack before she even got to leave the doctor's office. I am sad to say she passed away right there.

Kenny, as you can well understand was devastated. And this was my first real experience that parents were not here permanently; as I’m sure it was for Kenny. I felt for Kenny. But I knew I had no words that would heal his hurt.

I do remember going to Yvonne's funeral. And I remember Kenny standing at his mom’s grave telling her that he loved her. Right then and there at that moment I had a tug at my heart to tell my mom the same thing. But my family was not the touchy feely type, so I didn't. The years came and went, and whenever I thought of Yvonne or Kenny I had the same tug on my heart, but I always let it pass me by without doing anything.

And one day in the late 90s Mom was diagnosed with cancer. And as you can probably tell from the tone of my story it didn't end well for my Mom either. Mom died in January of 1997 with me never telling her that I loved her. And I remember that warning every day. And I remember every day that I did nothing. Zip. Nada. And I live with that every time I think of it.

Oh sometimes I go to the cemetery and I tell Mom I love her, just as Kenny did, but it's not the same. If I could go back and tell her “I love you mom” I would. But life doesn't work that way. We don't get a do-over. And we have to live with our mistakes.

The best we can hope for is a warning. And if you do get such a warning I hope you listen to it. Because as I sit here behind this computer screen remembering all the opportunities I had, and all the opportunities that I let pass me by, I can only hope that maybe now I can serve as a warning to you.

Call your mom. Go see your mom. Do whatever you need to do. Do not let time pass, for tomorrow is not guaranteed. Do it now. Tell your mom you love her. Tell her over the phone, or in person. It has to be your voice. No text, no email, no messages. I don’t know why, but she has to hear your voice. It will make you feel better now. And you will feel better. Later, when you have the opportunity to look back, you will know you did what you should.

It will make a difference. It will make a difference with your mom now. It will make a difference with you later.

This I promise.

But this story does not end here. For you see I now have two sons of my own. Every time I see them I tell them “I love you.” I always have, I always will. We can have the most tremendous disagreement, and when it is over we tell each other “I love you.” We hug often and long. Long endless hugs can heal any hurt.

At the end of the day, when I’m laying down in my bed, I remember the hugs. The hugs and the “I love yous” and somehow that just seems like enough.