So....Several months ago I was in Walmart with my usual grocery list. If you know me....then you aren't surprised that I seldom adhere to my list because...each time I'm in a grocery store, I simple-must visit the aisles with my favorite snacks--like--- Chocolate.
Those of us with a Chocolate Addiction use Chocolate as a kind of visual and oral therapy. Yes, like any "Fix"…. Chocolate is a “temporary happiness” BUT....it works every time!
Anyway, while I was standing in the Candy Aisle, lustfully-scanning the shelves for an inexpensive but delicious --momentary pleasure-- a very small and serious-looking older man suddenly appeared. He was extremely thin, maybe a little weak, and seemed to be having difficulty, maneuvering around my shopping cart. I quickly moved my cart out of the way and ---feeling the need to be friendly....I smiled and said: "This is my favorite aisle and I'm looking for my favorite chocolate. Chocolate is my weakness."
The man "perked up" instantly...like we were old friends! This absolute stranger launched into a lively conversation abou how much his wife loved chocolate but-- because of her chronic constipation-- chocolate only "stopped her up"! Before I knew it, this most-devoted husband was asking me to recommend something to help his wife "eliminate" her constipation?!?!?!
Not only did he list the many treatments she'd endured BUT....he began describing--in great detail-- the various enemas, colonics, pills, liquids, even suppositories he'd insert into his wife's rectum!!!
When he began talking about her "locked bowels"....I quickly interrupted:"OOPS! I'm late for a very important appointment.... Nice to talk with you! Be sure to tell your wife I said "Hi"."
Still smiling, I waved goodbye, and.....holding onto my shopping cart for dear life... raced away from the Deadly Chocolates to the safety of Aisle 12----where I hoped to restore my sanity among the Detergents, Bleaches, Disinfectants, and Cleaning Supplies.
I wonder if it's too-late for me to get a degree as a Personal Plumbing Specialist!? Since moving to The Village, I've had more-than-a-few people "open up to me" about their bathroom experiences... people who thoroughly enjoyed sharing intimate "secrets" concerning their rectums, bowels, colonoscopies, intestinal malfunctions...and now-- I hide when I see those people headed in my direction!
Apparently, the world is crowded with older people who delight in talking about their most-intimate dysfunctions or the many-dark secrets surrounding their personal-plumbing leaks, broken pipes, and offensive smells. For some reason....listening to people talk about their poop---or their ability to go-- or not go--is a major turn-off--- to me.
I believe there are serious- subjects that should NEVER be advertised on TV or discussed with strangers....or " alluded-to" with close family. Yes, I have "privacy" issues. You might say I’m “anal-retentive” when discussing ANY personal-plumbing-problems. SO.....
Stay Close....but...don't share your bathroom problems!!!!
EVERY DAY, I’M THANKFUL FOR MUSIC. Somedays, when I find it difficult to write or express my thoughts, I simply open my mouth and start singing.
Regardless of the song, singing usually provides my best inspirations. Singing always lifts my spirits to greater heights--while it helps remove all doubts and sadness. I learned a long time ago--it’s impossible to cry and sing at the same time.
My original music with catchy lyrics.... encouraged my special needs students to sing---which made teaching easier and learning more fun. “Don’t worry if it’s not good enough….for anyone else to hear…..just Sing, Sing a Song!”
I recall how my special needs students especially loved one song I wrote---just for them. “Why would you want to be somebody else-not you…you’re so very special. Why would you want to be somebody other than you…you’re so unique! You could search the whole world over….and you’d never find, but one-of-a-kind, and that one….is YOU...Let me hear you sing it…..”
Music will continue to "top" my Thank You List, every single day. Music has been such a dominate force in my life so---- I can't imagine life without it.
My brother, Jerry, had one child, a daughter named Margo. From childhood I included Margo in swim classes, charm/modeling classes, voice lessons, and volunteer efforts but—nothing inspired Margo like boys and marriage. I’ve lost count of her marriages—there were four, maybe five—but the first one was most memorable to me.
During high school, Margo had a boyfriend who lived down the highway from Pine Bluff in a wide-place-in-the-road-kind-of community called Grady. Margo and her boyfriend were both young, barely seventeen, when they announced their upcoming marriage.
Still in high school, the bridegroom-to-be was a farmer’s son with no job and with no future prospects. As old-timers would say, “He’s nothing but a kid whose still wet behind the ears.”
As the bride's Aunt, I made arrangements to host a Bridesmaids Luncheon at the Pine Bluff Country Club (using a friend’s membership)for Margo's bridesmaids and all female family members. At the time, I was living and working in Little Rock so I arranged the luncheon on a Saturday.
I don’t remember the exact year, but it was probably the mid-seventies, and it was hot. Everyone was decked-out in sheer fabrics, pastel colors--- drinking frosted lemonade and complaining about the heat.
When the mother of the groom arrived, everyone stopped talking and---stared. The serious-looking woman was wearing a black wool dress with long sleeves, black heels, carrying an over-sized black bag and a large piece of heavy plastic—what contractors call Visqueen. She apologized for being late and asked where her seat would be when it was time to eat.
Trying not to look surprised, I pointed out the place card with her name and asked if sitting between the mother of the bride and the bride’s grandmother would be all right? Without a word, she unfolded the piece of heavy plastic and carefully spread it over her assigned chair. Without explanation (she surely felt the stares and questioning looks), Margo's future mother-in-law began chatting with women close by. In a few minutes the chef announced it was time to serve lunch and everyone took their seats. Carefully smoothly the plastic over all the chair, the groom’s mother was the last to sit down.
It was impossible for Margo’s other grandmother, Mary Alice, to go unnoticed at any gathering. She was a blunt-speaking woman with a unique voice pattern....I sometimes described her accent as a Southern Baptist/ Southern Twang set-to-music. She’d always greet people with “Hi-There, girl! How-yer ya’all do-in?” Sure, it was a routine greeting, but every word of the greeting was broken into at least three syllables and every syllable represented a different note on the musical scale. Mary Alice’s greetings usually managed to cover at least two octaves.
The meal had barely begun when Mary Alice turned to the groom’s mother and blurted out: “Girl, why are you wearing a black wool dress at a summer party? And, why in Heaven’s name did you bring that big piece of plastic to sit on?” Everyone stopped talking; the quiet was deafening.
The groom’s mother, unsmiling, and speaking in a loud whisper said: “I don’t want to offend anyone here or shock anyone but since you’ve asked me those questions I am obliged to answer. I’m having my monthly—you know, the curse—and sometimes the blood just gushes out like a waterfall and goes everywhere and runs down my legs and in my shoes so I wear all black cause that way, the blood won’t show up on black so bad and....I bring my own plastic to sit on so I don’t bleed all over people’s upholstery or on their carpets. I try to be prepared by keeping a couple of damp dish towels in my bag to wipe the blood off my legs and shoes and off the floor and all the other places blood goes.”
Everyone stared down at their plates for a few, very-long seconds, waiting. Then, as if on-cue, the ladies lifted their heads, picked up their forks, and began eating.
What can one possibly say—when everything that should or shouldn’t have been said—has indeed, already been said?!?!
FROM MY BOOK: THE BEAUTY QUEEN.
FROM MY BOOK: THE BEAUTY QUEEN.
Anita Bryant and I both competed for the title of Miss America, 1958. As Miss Arkansas and Miss Oklahoma, we were invited back to the pageant the next year to serve as entertainers. Through the years, we have continued to serve as...friends.
"We had just started unpacking when Anita pulled out the tickets. “Surprise!” she threw the tickets on the bed. “He’s invited us for tonight's opening performance and we have front row seats!” Anita’s friend was performing at Atlantic City’s famous Steel Pier and three hours later, I was alone with her friend and America’s number-one heartthrob, Ricky Nelson.
For the first time in months I laughed, had fun, and felt completely happy. Midnight came too soon and, hand-in-hand, we walked the deserted boardwalk back to my hotel. Rickie surprised me with several romantic kisses before asking to see me the next evening. With lips still tingling, I danced off the elevator and down the hall to my room.
If only I could have ignored the note taped to my hotel door telling me to return my mother’s phone call. When my mother delivered her happy news…I wanted to run away: “Tomorrow, Jack is flying to Atlantic City to surprise you. Take him to the fancy parties, find him a good seat in the auditorium, and introduce him to lots of important people. It’s a big deal for Jack so--- behave yourself and when you see him.... act surprised!” Devastated, I left a phone message for Ricky, cancelling our date for the next night. Deep inside, I knew this moment would be one my life’s biggest regrets. Like ships passing in the night, our paths never crossed again.
Jack arrived the next morning, looking like a poster boy for the quote: “You can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy.” His shoes were un-shined, his socks were dirty white, and he wore a cheap, faded, wash and wear suit. His first words were memorable: “God damn, everything about this place is expensive and everywhere I look some money-hungry Jew’s trying to pick my pocket! I hope you know the damn plane ticket was my salary for the next two months and I still have to pay for the train-trip home!!” At that moment, all my windows of opportunity slammed shut---and all my good times ended.
The week couldn’t have been more devastating. Jack’s sudden appearance ruined my hopes for auditions, singing offers, and any future in New York City. I felt defeated, more hopeless and helpless than at any point in my youth.
So.... I lost my virginity in a roomette, on a fast-moving train from Atlantic City bound for Little Rock. Good lyrics for a country song, right? Like an escaped prisoner being returned to Arkansas’s death row, I chose to submit rather than struggle. Two weeks before the wedding, I went “all the way” with a person who kissed badly, ignored foreplay, and satisfied no one but himself. Afterward, he apologized for not having a bigger “weapon.” For a man almost ten years older than me--- with years of sexual conquests--- someone who considered himself an expert on female anatomy--- Jack knew absolutely nothing about what Southern Men refer to as “priming the pump.”
Follow-up: Many years have passed since that awful memory. During those years I've learned a lot about life and love and men.....and… one valuable truth: When a woman’s breathless with excitement, overwhelmed with passion, and primed for the Grand Finale.....she isn’t thinking about the size of the equipment.....she’s only interested in how well it performs!"
This tragedy happened decades ago and I suspect that many—except for the immediate family---have forgotten about that deadly day. People who are not directly involved with a tragedy…..usually pay their respects, lock the incident in the past, and move forward. But those who personally-suffered the devastating loss, particularly the loss of one so young, have no choice but grieve--a lifetime.
Because I didn’t witness the incident or talk to railroad officials, details from so long ago are hazy, but one fact remains clear: On one ordinary day---a young man named Raymond-- in his twenties, married and with a new baby--- was accidentally “coupled” between two railroad cars.
I wasn’t living in my hometown of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, when the accident happened that particular evening….in the train yards of the Cotton Belt Railroad. The level of my father’s voice was unusually low when he called to tell me about the accident. I sensed that my father, an experienced railroad engineer, was painfully-shocked by what had occurred in the place he called his “other” home.
I didn’t know the young man personally, but I’d seen him from a distance. Our small neighborhood was friendly; we knew who lived in every house. And I remember when Nancy—a tiny, young blonde who lived just one block from my parents---married Raymond.
My father related what little he knew, saying that after the impact, Raymond was conscious. He talked with people around him, asked for a cigarette, and began instructing people about what to tell his wife and family. He recognized the seriousness of his injuries; apparently he knew that his chances of survival were nearly zero.
No doubt doctors and emergency teams arrived within minutes. The young man was surrounded with attention from experts…..but the situation was grave.
There was no question that the procedure for uncoupling the massive steel joints… now joined together through the young man’s midsection…was enough to kill him. And, medical personnel knew that, within seconds of the uncoupling, the victim would bleed to death.
Perhaps my father said it best: “Heroes are born from Tragedy. Raymond was “just a kid” yet he never-once thought about himself. All he could talk about was his wife and their young child. He kept expressing his concern for Nancy---kept worrying about how she’d make it without him.”
Yes, an ordinary-young man named Raymond died that ordinary evening in Pine Bluff, Arkansas when railroad officials had no choice but uncouple the railroad cars that were keeping him alive and “intact”. I’ve never forgotten Raymond’s death. The way he died will haunt me, always.
Don’t accuse me of being morbid just because I think about, talk about death and dying. Death is an undeniable part of Life. It comes to all of us and…..we won’t know the day, the hour, or the circumstances. For that reason, I keep practicing my “strength” training, hoping to stay strong, unselfish, and level-headed--- until the end.
Think about what you’ve read and ask yourself: “Who among us—when faced with life’s end---will think of others rather than ourselves? How many of us will remember to say “I Love You” to those nearby?”
Finally.... will any of us remember to whisper a simple“Thank You, God” for giving us the gift of life?