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  • The Good Pilot

    February 24, 2014

    Years ago, back in the mid-70s I think it was, my beloved Godmother had a heart attack and flat lined on the table.  She miraculously pulled through and lived many more years.  She had always been a fragile sort, not much of a fighter, and had many health issues.  Without ever saying, I always supposed that John, my robust Godfather, a Lithuanian who could hoist the world upon his shoulders, would long outlive her.

    But if there is one thing I know for sure, and I for sure only know one thing, it is this:  God decides the number of our days.  We knoweth not the hour or the day.

    Year’s later, after my Godfather had passed away from stomach cancer and my Godmother was in assisted living, we spent an afternoon on her sofa holding hands and just visiting as she drifted in and out of sleep.

    In between naps, she told me the story of the day she was on the operating table and how she saw her mother standing in a bright light, calling to her in French, “Rose! Venez! Venez avec nous!” Come! Come be with us!

    She said she longed to run to her mother.  But she couldn’t.  “I can’t go now Mom,” she called, “I’ve got to take care of John.”

    As ridiculous and unlikely as that seemed at the time, that Rose would outlive John and would need to care for him, that is exactly how it played out.

    My Godmother passed away a number of years ago but it is one of those conversations that I have replayed in my mind many times, particularly of late.

    In the past several months, we have had to transition AD’s mother and stepfather into assisted living after George got really sick.  George has a long and complicated health history, so when he got sick it was not a complete surprise.  But then while he was recovering in rehab, Cleo got really sick, which was a surprise, and neither of them could get well enough to live on their own again.

    While George was sick, we braced ourselves for the worst believing that what remained of his life could be measured in days.  But George has made a full recovery.  And as of this writing, it is Cleo whose days seem to be numbered.

    When George was sick, I sat by his bed wondering if this would be our last visit.  Flat on his back, with his eyes closed, he lay in his bed in a pitiful unshaven and disheveled mess, the picture of a man waiting for that one last clear call.

    In a raspy voice, he struggled to tell me how Jesus had come to him in the night and given him permission to let go.  He said he had never been so sick in his whole life and he longed for the discomfort to end.  “I told him, Lord, if you want me, I am ready,”  he whispered, “But I need to stay to take care of Cleo.”  Then a tear escaped and zigzagged through the stubble of whiskers into the pillow.

    At that moment, the idea that he would recover to care for Cleo seemed to be a machination of delirium.  He was flat on his back and she was ambulatory.  But that is exactly how it is playing out.

    Yesterday, I spent a good part of the day with George as we sat by Cleo’s bedside. She is mostly in a catatonic semi-sleep like state, mumbling and thrashing.  At times, she would reach out her hands, to whom?  Is God near? Is he giving her permission to let go? Does she feel His breath on her neck? Is her mother calling to her, “Come Cleo! Come be with us!”  Does she have a reason to stay?

    Throughout the day she would occasionally pop her eyes open and have several minutes of clarity, recognizing Sean and AD.  She would chat as best she could with a lazy and thick tongue. In one awakening, she reported that a pilot flew her up to Tulsa, where she lived as a young mother when AD was three.   And then just as quickly as she comes into our world she is off again.

    Who is this good pilot who takes my beloved mother-in-law joyriding through the days of her life and gently touches down so she can chat for a moment or two before whisking her off again?

    And when will he take her off to be with those we too long to see some day?

    We knoweth not the hour or the day.  But we know Him, the one who numbers our days.  And that’s all we need to know.

    On Being Ruth

    October 13, 2013

    One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the account of Naomi and Ruth, as found in the short Book of Ruth in the Old Testament.

    Naomi is Ruth’s Jewish mother-in-law.  Ruth is a Moabite .  This complicates matters because Israel and Moab were long-standing enemies.  Mother-in-law relationships can be challenging in the best of circumstances, but given the cultural and national differences, there could have been a lot of tension in their relationship but none is noted.

    As the story goes, the two women, along with another daughter-in-law, Orpah, also a Moabite, find themselves widowed, which is really bad news at any time in history, but particularly bad in those days because without men folk, women were left to starve.

    With no men to provide for them, Naomi plans to return to her family in Israel and urges both of her daughters-in-law to return to their people in Moab.  After much weeping and garment rending, Orpah yields to Naomi.  She returns home and eventually starts a talk show and we all know how well that works out for her.  Ruth on the other hand would not go.  Would. Not.

    Do not press me to leave you or turn back from following you!  Where you go, I will go; Where you lodge, I will lodge.  Your people shall be my people and your God my God.

    ~Ruth 1:16

    At this point, I wonder if Naomi just sighed and said something like, “Ruth. Don’t be a martyr. Just go. Please.”  Or was she flooded with relief?  Did her heart swell with love for Ruth’s loyalty as mine does when I read that passage?

    Instead, Ruth hitches her wagon to Naomi’s rapidly falling star and together they make the journey back to Israel where she will have to figure out a way to provide for the both of them.

    As one who loves security and certainty and comfort and eating regularly, this would have been a really difficult choice for me.  Go home to my family who will take care of me – or?  – embark on a long and treacherous journey with an elderly woman into an unknown land where the people hate me.  I mean, I want to do the right thing and all, but all that potential for discomfort makes me flinch.

    But for Ruth the choice didn’t seem difficult at all. That she would stay with Naomi was unquestionable, not even a choice really.

    In spite of whatever fears she had, and there must have been many, in spite of her own grief, in spite of Naomi’s insistence, in spite of the legal out she has to ditch Naomi and go back to her own family, she does not abandon her.

    Like a stray dog that won’t be beaten off with a stick, she stays.

    Ruth sets the bar high for the rest of us daughters-in-laws.

    She works. She serves. She provides. She has dirt under her fingernails.

    And I think that speaks tremendously of Ruth’s character and her heart — that she would not only remain loyal to her mother-in-law, but that she serves her and loves her so deeply and sacrificially.  And more so, the Bible records no instances where she huffs or sighs or calls her girlfriends for sympathy or sits down for a  pity party.  Unlike me, she does not seem to have a flee response when life gets unpleasant.

    Ruth is on my mind a lot lately.

    My in-laws have both suffered a number of serious health issues on separate occasions in recent months.  Ironically, it is the one who is not hospitalized who ends up getting hospitalized from the stress of trying to care for the one who is hospitalized. So they take turns, when one gets out the other goes in. And now they are both in rehab together and I am doing my best to take care of the things which they cannot – their house and their bills and laundry and whatever else comes up.

    And I’m trying to be like Ruth.

    But they don’t see the dirt under my nails.  My efforts go unnoticed and unappreciated or are even sometimes met with resentment.  I understand that they are not fully aware, no longer quite themselves, but these things sting the heart just the same.

    Caring for aging parents is an emotional mine field and caring for in-laws makes it even more complicated.  Some days I am spent from all the tip-toeing through the land mines and it invokes my flee response.  I want to go back to my own people and be cared for.

    But I won’t.

    I will be her Ruth.  Not without question or without tears or the occasional pity party.  But I will stay and glean or clean or do whatever needs to be done, and scrub my nails at the end of the day.

    I will stay.

    I will be her Ruth.

    Therapy, Financial Advice and a Make Over. All In One Place

    August 6, 2009

    My mother and father-in-law have owned a cosmetics studio and clothing boutique in downtown Tuna for the past 30 years.  In addition to selling makeup and outfitting the local church ladies, they have provided a number of other services to the locals.

    Up until a few years ago, an older lady named Leona would come in every other week or so with her checkbook and hand it over to George.  Leona couldn’t read or write a lick so she brought her checkbook in and George would balance her statement and tell her how much money she had and write out whatever checks needed to be written.

    Another lady came in to the store three times a week for seven years. She never bought anything, but she needed some place to be for the three hours her husband took dialysis.  She drove in from some outlying area and after she dropped her husband off at the hospital,  she would stop in at the store and hang out.  George and Cleo offered her a comfortable chair, a place to put her feet up, something to drink, some fudge if George had made some that week, but mostly they offered her some place to be.

    Occasionally you’d get a crazy older lady who would come out of the dressing room asking for a bigger size wearing nothing but her bra and a pair of stretch pants.  George would duck quietly out the front door because he is a gentleman.

    I’ve been thinking about Memaw’s store a lot lately and the cast of characters that have come in and out of there over the years.  Memaw is in her mid-80s and still works that store most days.  I’ve been after her to retire.  Although I don’t know what could possibly fill the void that she would leave behind on Main Street.

    The following post was published in November of 2006

    * * * * *

    Therapy With A Side Of Cold Cream

    My mother-in-law, Cleo, has owned a cosmetics and clothing business on Main Street in downtown Tuna for more than 25 years. She has enjoyed a fair measure of success for a variety of reasons.

    One, she can flat out sell. That woman could sell the devil a Bible and then he would order a few more for gifts. Two, Papa George stands squarely behind her, encouraging her and supporting her every step of the way. Three, she understands that she is not selling clothes and cosmetics, but hope and dreams. And four, the good people of Tuna need some place where they can get therapy and a makeover at the same time.

    A bell tied to the front door, clinkles and clankles, announcing the arrival of each customer. She greets them by name. “Helloooow there! Come in!” she calls from behind the counter looking over the top of her rhinestone bifocals. She asks about their children, their grandchildren. She knows them.

    Usually the first customer of the day is some old farmer wearing bib overalls. That might seem odd if you were at the mall, but no one in downtown Tuna blinks an eye to see a farmer in a boutique. His wife has sent him in with an empty powder compact that he pulls out of the pocket on the front of his overalls. Cleo knows exactly what to replace it with without even looking at it. His wife has bought the same product in the same shade for the last 25 years.

    He pulls up a stool at the makeover counter to rest and chat. He leans on his cane and Cleo leans on the counter to hear the latest. His wife has cancer, but she is hanging in there he says. Cleo listens and offers him a piece of homemade fudge. There’s nothing that George’s fudge won’t make better. Cleo rings up the makeup and walks him to the door. “You hang in there now. We’re a’prayin’ for you,” she says as he makes his way out the door.

    Ever so often, some young gal will come in with her head hanging low. She’ll pull up a stool at the cosmetics counter and pour out her woes all over the eye shadow counter. Like a good bartender, Cleo listens. Her husband has left her. He took the dog. Cleo gives her a piece of homemade fudge and pats her arm.

    Fifteen minutes later, her woes have been replaced with a new face and a new blouse. When you’re living your life out in a country and western song, a bag of cosmetics and a new blouse will fix most all that ails you. She hugs Cleo as she leaves the store. “Keep your chin up gal!” Cleo calls to her. She has made a customer and she has made a friend.

    You just can’t get that at the mall.

    * * * *

    The entire Tuna series can be found at the Best of Antique Mommy

    Update – The Broker

    August 18, 2008

    You may or may not remember, but last year Papa George saved the local park in Tuna from a big faceless corporation who wanted to install a cell tower right in the middle of the park amongst oak trees that are hundreds of years old. A cell tower would have destroyed the visual beauty of the park and made it not that much of a park, really.

    Because Papa George is who he is, he was able to work out a deal for a small nearby church to rent a portion of their unused parking lot to house the cell tower thus providing the cell tower a more suitable home and the small church some much needed funding for their food pantry.

    George reports that the cell tower was finally installed and that the church is now able to provide groceries for 50 families every Monday. This is a congregation of about 50 people feeding 50 families every Monday. I think that is amazing. And I’m so proud of my Papa George and they way he goes about quietly ministering to people behind the scenes.

    Here’s a picture of Sean in the park (without a cell tower in the background) enjoying some retro space age playground equipment.

    And for your reading convenience, here’s the whole story from last March.

    The Broker

    My father-in-law George is a sweet and gentle man with a heart as big as the ocean. He never raises his voice. If he’s really really mad, he might say “damn”. That’s the only way you know he’s really mad because he doesn’t raise his voice. And let me add that in the eleven years I’ve known him, I’ve only heard him utter that word one time. Truly, he is a servant of God who looks after widows and orphans in their distress. But don’t mess with him.

    A while back George took his car to be washed. When it was done, he got back into his car to find that a roll of quarters was missing from the glove box. George went inside and spoke to the manager and politely asked for his quarters back. George is not a big guy. With a head of thick silver hair and a cane, he’s not an imposing presence. I’m sure when the carwash manager saw George, he figured he would blow him off like a ripe dandelion.

    The manager all but said I don’t have your quarters old man and why don’t you scram. But George wouldn’t budge. George said that was fine, that he would just hang around and talk to all the customers until he got his quarters back. In about ten minutes the manager handed him his roll of quarters. George thanked him very much and went on about his business. George brokered a deal for everyone to do the right thing without causing a stink and that’s a quality in him that I really admire.

    Across the street from my in-laws house is a park that covers one city block. It is filled with big gnarly twisting ancient oaks which shade the 1950’s space age inspired playground equipment, a basketball court, a picnic area and lots of open space to run and play.

    In the middle of the park is a large granite stone that is engraved with the message that the park was donated to the children of Tuna in 1947 in memory of Janis by her mother. I don’t know what happened to Janis or how old she was when she died, but it’s touching to think of all the children that have played in that park under the shade of those trees, whose children now play in that park and even grandchildren, Sean included.

    Recently a big cell phone service provider came through Tuna and decided that a good place to erect a cell tower would be smack dab in the middle of the park, leveling most of the ancient oaks, leaving only the margins of the park and thusly rendering it no longer a park for all intents and purposes.

    In exchange for obliterating the park, the generous BCS (big corporate schmucks) were willing to compensate Tuna with rent of about $1000 a month. It is my impression that the Tuna powers-that-be were salivating at the thought of all that money pouring into the city coffers and maybe even the idea that they would no longer have to maintain the park. And certainly the dumb people of Tuna would go for that. The notice of their intent and the date of the hearing was surreptitiously buried in the back of the local newspaper. Unfortunately for them, not much gets by George and he was on the case.

    George was the only one who showed up at the hearing. When BCS saw the sight of an unassuming elderly man leaning on his cane, they probably figured they had a ripe dandelion in their sights. But like the car wash manager, they would be wrong. George stood up and made his case on behalf of the children of Tuna. And whatever he said, it was enough to convince the board to kill the issue. For the time being or until they figured George had forgotten about it.

    Across the street from the park is a building that used to be owned by the Baptist church which moved to a new and larger location several years ago. The property is currently owned by another religious organization whose primary purpose is to house a food bank for the needy. After the meeting, George visited with the pastor of the church/food bank and told him that if he were willing, he could rent his parking lot to BCS for over $1000 a month, income the food bank sorely needs. Within a few days, the deal was inked.

    Thanks to George’s brokering skills, BCS will plant their cell tower in an unused parking lot, the food bank will earn some much needed income and the giant oaks will continue to shade the children of Tuna as they play in the park and little Janis will continue to rest in peace – a win-win-win-win deal for all parties.

    Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Matthew 5:9


    The Little Red Car

    May 20, 2008

    One of the problems of being an older parent of an only child — a child that is especially delightful and charming and works the strings of my heart like an angel strumming a harp — is not caving in and spoiling him rotten. It takes a lot of restraint. It takes a lot of that self-control stuff that I’m trying to teach him.

    Antique Daddy and I believe that over-indulging the desires of Sean’s heart would be to abuse him. We believe that it is good for Sean to not have everything he wants, to long for something a little bit, to have to save up for something.  I believe these things in theory.  In practice, I could use some practice.

    Grandparents do not believe this in theory or practice.

    * * * * *

    In the past year or so, every time we have gone to Wal-Mart, Sean asks if we can stop and look at the little battery operated cars – Barbie cars, Lightning McQueen cars, Jeeps, John Deere tractors. He stands in front of the wall of tiny vehicles and gazes upon their magnificence. His eyes sparkle with desire. I can see that he is imagining himself tooling around the neighborhood in the little red Lightning McQueen car waving to everyone he sees.

    “Mom, can we get one of those little cars?” he asks.

    “Well Sean, they’re really expensive. They cost about $300. That’s a lot of money,” I tell him.

    “Please Mom, I really want one,” he pleads.

    “I know you do. That would be a really big present. I’d have to talk to Daddy about that.”

    “Maybe?” he asks, hopefully.

    “Maybe someday,” I tell him. “We can’t buy everything we want.”

    He doesn’t really understand that.

    * * * * *

    Recently I got a Tuesday Morning ad in the mail and I noticed that they had a little red Dale Earnhardt battery-powered car for $99. I was sorely tempted to run down to Tuesday Morning and get Sean one because a) it was only $99 and b) I was imagining how his eyes would light up when he saw it.  And I love it when I make his eyes light up, it jump starts my soul.

    But I didn’t.

    What stopped me was a) I would have to explain to Antique Daddy that I had breached our agreement for $99,  b) the little red car would have to occupy space in our garage that we do not have and c) that whole not over-indulging my child theory I’m supposed to be practicing.

    * * * * *

    Just before Mother’s Day the phone rang and it was Papa George – Papa George the grandfather who is immune from the rules governing the over-indulgence of children.

    “Tell Sean I gotta surprise for him,” Papa George said in his Alabama drawl.

    “Oh George,” I sighed. “What have you done?”

    Papa George played the Grandpa card, confessed to buying the car, offered no apologies and hung up.

    So we went to Tuna to celebrate Mother’s Day, and there it was in the middle of the living room — the little red car of Sean’s dreams. It was half way hidden under a blanket. Like Houdini, Sean pulled the blanket away, clutched his heart and gasped in disbelief.

    “I can’t believe my eyes!” he screamed. “I have wanted one of these my entire life!”

    Now, even if the story were to end here, y’all would probably be thinking, “That Papa George! What a fantastic grandpa!” And you would be right, but you have no idea.

    Papa George is 81-years-old and his spine is crumbling. He has a hard time standing for 10 minutes at a time without white hot pain. It’s hard for him to get around. Yet he got up at 6am, drove to Tuesday Morning and stood in line for two hours to get Sean the little red car. Two hours.

    Photos Temporarily Unavailable

    Papa George doesn’t know how to love small.

    With no prodding from his parents, Sean jumped into the recliner with Papa George and gave him a big hug and a kiss and told him how much he liked the car.

    I don’t know if that eased Papa George’s back pain any, but I’m sure it was good medicine for his heart. It was for mine.

    I’m just hoping a boy can be a little bit spoiled and not be rotten.

    The Broker

    March 2, 2007

    My father-in-law George is a sweet and gentle man with a heart as big as the ocean. He never raises his voice. If he’s really really mad, he might say “damn”. That’s the only way you know he’s really mad because he doesn’t raise his voice. And let me add that in the eleven years I’ve known him, I’ve only heard him utter that word one time. Truly, he is a servant of God who looks after widows and orphans in their distress. But don’t mess with him.

    A while back George took his car to be washed. When it was done, he got back into his car to find that a roll of quarters was missing from the glove box. George went inside and spoke to the manager and politely asked for his quarters back. George is not a big guy. With a head of thick silver hair and a cane, he’s not an imposing presence. I’m sure when the carwash manager saw George, he figured he would blow him off like a ripe dandelion.

    The manager all but said I don’t have your quarters old man and why don’t you scram. But George wouldn’t budge. George said that was fine, that he would just hang around and talk to all the customers until he got his quarters back. In about ten minutes the manager handed him his roll of quarters. George thanked him very much and went on about his business. George brokered a deal for everyone to do the right thing without causing a stink and that’s a quality in him that I really admire.

    Across the street from my in-laws house is a park that covers one city block. It is filled with big gnarly twisting ancient oaks which shade the 1950’s space age inspired playground equipment, a basketball court, a picnic area and lots of open space to run and play.

    In the middle of the park is a large granite stone that is engraved with the message that the park was donated to the children of Tuna in 1947 in memory of Janis by her mother. I don’t know what happened to Janis or how old she was when she died, but it’s touching to think of all the children that have played in that park under the shade of those trees, whose children now play in that park and even grandchildren, Sean included.

    Recently a big cell phone service provider came through Tuna and decided that a good place to erect a cell tower would be smack dab in the middle of the park, leveling most of the ancient oaks, leaving only the margins of the park and thusly rendering it no longer a park for all intents and purposes.

    In exchange for obliterating the park, the generous BCS (big corporate schmucks) were willing to compensate Tuna with rent of about $1000 a month. It is my impression that the Tuna powers-that-be were salivating at the thought of all that money pouring into the city coffers and maybe even the idea that they would no longer have to maintain the park. And certainly the dumb people of Tuna would go for that. The notice of their intent and the date of the hearing was surreptitiously buried in the back of the local newspaper. Unfortunately for them, not much gets by George and he was on the case.

    George was the only one who showed up at the hearing. When BCS saw the sight of an unassuming elderly man leaning on his cane, they probably figured they had a ripe dandelion in their sights. But like the car wash manager, they would be wrong. George stood up and made his case on behalf of the children of Tuna. And whatever he said, it was enough to convince the board to kill the issue. For the time being or until they figured George had forgotten about it.

    Across the street from the park is a building that used to be owned by the Baptist church which moved to a new and larger location several years ago. The property is currently owned by another religious organization whose primary purpose is to house a food bank for the needy. After the meeting, George visited with the pastor of the church/food bank and told him that if he were willing, he could rent his parking lot to BCS for over $1000 a month, income the food bank sorely needs. Within a few days, the deal was inked.

    Thanks to George’s brokering skills, BCS will plant their cell tower in an unused parking lot, the food bank will earn some much needed income and the giant oaks will continue to shade the children of Tuna as they play in the park and little Janis will continue to rest in peace – a win-win-win-win deal for all parties.

    Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.Matthew 5:9

    UPDATE:  It is one year later and George reports that the cell tower was finally installed and that the church is now able to provide groceries for 50 families every Monday. This is a congregation of about 50 people feeding 50 families every Monday. I think that is amazing. And I’m so proud of my Papa George and they way he goes about quietly ministering to people behind the scenes.

    Canned Peaches

    January 29, 2007

    At what point in life do you start keeping canned peaches in the bathroom? And what does it mean?

    a) Collecting canned goods is my hobby
    b) I spend way too much time at the grocery store
    c) Sometimes I crave peaches at the mostly unlikely of times
    d) All of the above.

    On a recent visit to Tuna, I opened the linen closet in my father-in-law’s bathroom expecting to find, oh I don’t know, a washcloth or a towel or maybe even a Q-Tip. But no. Out rolled a #10 can of peaches onto my foot.

    Given that, I couldn’t resist the urge to snoop see what else might be lurking therein. Sure enough, there was a cache of Christmas presents dating back to 1998 (an impressive museum of Ronco gadgets, World’s Best Dad statues and soap on a rope) as well as a case of Allen’s green beans. It was like a little mini-convenience store. I almost expected to find a man named Apu and a Slurpee machine in the back.

    In the same way that life is about the journey and not the destination, and as hunting is about the thrill of the chase and not the catch, Papa George, my father-in-law, is not so much about the procurement of edibles, but about the bargain. And ladies, you yourself know that when you find a bargain, the first thing you want to do is burn up the phone lines to spread the good news. Papa George is no different. Except that for him it’s about canned goods and not shoes.

    AM: Hello.
    PG: Kroger got purple hull peas on three for 39.
    AM: Oh. Hi George. How ya doin’?
    PG: Smithfield bone-in ham, 99 cents a pound.
    AM: Oh me? I’m fine. My throat is a little sore. Thinking about seeing a doctor.
    PG: Allen green beans, the big cans, 49, usually 69.
    AM: Sean’s fine too. He’s at school today.
    PG: Love ya. Bye.
    AM: Love ya too Papa George. Bye.

    It’s Papa George’s own sort of love language. If he’s not calling to give you the market report, he doesn’t like you that much.

    But I digress. We were talking about peaches. It’s hard to imagine how one could wander off a topic as fascinating as that.

    Yes. So then. In case there is a quiz later, the answers to the original questions.

    From what I can surmise, the point in life at which one starts keeping peaches in the bathroom is about the same time the social security checks start rolling in. Now I know what you’re thinking – I would never keep peaches in my bathroom. Just wait until you get that AARP invitation before you start making judgements.

    And what does it mean? I don’t know. But, it’s really convenient when you get a hankerin’ for peaches while taking a bubble bath.

    How To Be A Rock Star In Tuna

    August 1, 2006

    The fourth installment in a series that looks at life in a small town in Texas.

    If you ever find yourself in Texas, and you’re really hungry and you want good food and plenty of it, what you do is drive to the nearest small town, check the obituaries and then head to the church for the post funeral feeding. Wear an outdated and ill-fitting suit of clothes and look appropriately pitiful and you’ll blend right in. If you arouse any suspicion, you can always deflect it by complimenting the potato salad:

    “I’m sorry, but I don’t believe I know you. How did you know Bubba Ray?”

    “This is the best potato salad I’ve ever eaten! Who made it?”

    “Whell! (sniff) Erleta Winslow made that, and it’s okay, if you like your potato salad dry and bland like that, bless her heart and all. You wait right here (calling over her shoulder). Let me get you some of my potato salad. I make mine with a pinch of dill. Can I bring you anything else? Refill your tea maybe? Some pie?”

    Before you know it, you’ll have four or five church ladies armed with bowls of potato salad fawning all over you. Small town people take their recipes very seriously and the church cookbook is the Who’s Who In Greater Tuna. The absolute worst social faux pas in Tuna is bringing store bought cookies to the church picnic. Your reputation would be forever sullied. Prayers like this would be offered up on your behalf in the ladies groups: Dear God, please bless poor Leona Fay. Either her oven or her mind is on the blink and we just ask that you restore her either way.

    George, my father-in-law, is a Tuna rock star. He’s got so many recipes in the First Avenue Church of Tuna cookbook that they finally set a limit. Sitting in his den the other day, he leaned forward in his recliner and beckoned me towards him. Then looking over each shoulder, he whispered to me in a low voice and confided that he had submitted some of his recipes in my mother-in-law’s name to get around the limit. I might have gasped and clapped my hand over my mouth if I had understood what a scandalous thing this was. It wasn’t scandalous that George was blatantly swan diving through a church cookbook committee loophole, but that my mother-in-law goes to The Second Avenue Church of Tuna. So in my ignorance I said, “Oh really?”

    Small town churches have a rivalry that goes far beyond that of Texas high school football, which is saying a lot, since both are considered religious activities. Being a Midwestern Catholic, I don’t really understand either. This became obvious when I attended the funeral of an elderly relative awhile back.

    After the funeral, the family gathered in the basement of the Second Avenue Church of Tuna for the post funeral feeding. One of the church ladies sashayed by my table to refill my tea and asked me how my meal was. I told her it was wonderful, especially the potato salad, and thank you so much for doing this. Instead of just shutting up like a normal person, I asked her if the recipe was from the First Avenue Church of Tuna cookbook (Antique Daddy, quit kicking me!) which is so good and has so many good recipes (would you please quit kicking me?) I’ll bet this good potato salad came from the good First Avenue Church cookbook (stop with the nudging and the kicking dude) and maybe I could buy one while I’m here. In fact, maybe I’ll buy several for gifts, they’re just that good!

    She stopped pouring the tea, slammed down the pitcher, looked me squarely in the eye and through gritted teeth hissed, “Whell! I wouldn’t know!” Then she spun around and marched off.

    I turned to Antique Daddy who was leaning on his elbows with his head in his hands. “What just happened here, dude?” I asked. “I just complimented the potato salad. Isn’t that what I was supposed to do?”

    He shook his head at my embarrassing blunder. “This is the Second Avenue Church of Tuna,” he said hanging his head. “We’re never going to get pie now.”

    * * *

    Hungry for more Tuna?  Go to the Best of Antique Mommy to see the whole series.

    Banking in Greater Tuna

    May 20, 2006

    Although I really enjoy living in the metroplex, sometimes when we visit my in-laws who live in a small north Texas town, I realize there are certain aspects to small town living that I really appreciate. Like banking.

    Awhile back, when we were visiting Tuna I decided that I needed to cash a check to facilitate my Main Street antique shopping. I parked right in front of the building and walked right up to the teller whose name was Floydine. As I was fumbling around in my purse for three kinds of ID, I informed Floydine that I would like to cash a check. She asked me if I had an account there and I said, no, but George is my father-in-law. And she then said — and get this – she said “OK”. And she cashed the check without blinking or even writing anything down. She didn’t even ask to see my ID. She just said OK. Because I knew George. And she knew George. When in Greater Tuna, it’s good to know George.

    My bank in the metroplex, where I’ve had an account for 25 years, won’t even cash my check before photocopying my drivers license, taking a blood sample and finger prints, even though my check has their name on it. Even though they have had my money for 25 years – they knoweth me not. They have lots of college grads running around in khaki pants and polo shirts to prove how casual and friendly and “all about people” they are, but they don’t actually do anything helpful, like banking.

    I thought of Floydine and her quaint little Main Street bank the other day as I stood in line behind a velvet rope awaiting the privilege of giving the 1st National Bank of Khaki Pants my money. As I waited, I made use of my time by filling out their little customer satisfaction survey. And since they asked for suggestions as to how they might improve their customer service, I wrote:

    1) How about adding banking services?
    2) Hire Floydine.

    A Georgeism

    April 26, 2006

    I love my father-in-law George. I don’t think I could love him more if he were my own daddy.

    George has the heart of a servant. He loves to cook and feed people and he loves to take care of people. I can’t remember a Thanksgiving meal where I didn’t look up half way through to see George loading up his car with “leftovers” – if you consider half a ham and an entire pie left over – to take to a friend who wasn’t feeling well, or an elderly shut-in or just someone he came across who was short on worldly wealth. Nearly everyone along the Red River has been on the receiving end of George’s hospitality at one time or another.

    I say this in advance of what I’m about to tell you because I don’t want you to think I’m making fun of George. I adore him and he makes me laugh. Although not always intentionally. He will sometimes misappropriate a key word in a story in such a way that it gives it a lot more flavor.

    For example, awhile back, I called to talk with my mother-in-law and George answered the phone. When I asked him where she was, he reported that she had gone out to the hospital to have her breasts monogrammed. Oh really? Her initials or His and Hers?

    And I thought mammograms were uncomfortable.