Posted in Uncategorized

Neal’s Post from the Past: “The Viewing & The Circle of Life”

Here’s a post from a decade ago dealing with the death of my father-in-law and my young grandson Daniel’s struggle to understand.

************

My father-in-law passed away earlier this week. Death, of course, is difficult for anyone to cope with, but perhaps especially so for young children. Because they are still so close to birth, little beings of the morning, and because their life experience has been with newness and fresh discovery, with joy and giggles, death must seem unfathomable, foreign, outside of understanding.

But like most kids, my four-year-old grandson Daniel likes to understand: “Abu, why can’t I sit on top of your car? I could see a whole lot better.” “Abu, my teacher won’t let me bring my sword to school and fight like the blue Power Ranger. Why not?” “Why can’t I say potty words?” “Why do we have to wear clothes when it’s hot?” “Why?” “Why?” “Why?”

When his parents arrived at the funeral home north of Atlanta the other evening, they told me that Daniel had, as usual, been plying them with questions about the current subject which went beyond his grasp–his great-grandfather’s death. “But if Papa is in heaven, why will everyone be sad?” “Where IS Papa?”

I played with Daniel and his little brother Gabriel in the large kitchen area of the funeral home, where friends had brought mounds of food. Their mom and dad, Amy and Orte, walked through large white windowed doors and down a narrow hall that eventually led to a sitting room where the family received guests who came to pay their respect and offer condolences. Papa looked pre-cancerous in a striking gray suit, snow-white shirt, and brown and gray tie patterned with tiny crosses. He had been a Methodist minister in the North Georgia Conference. A large United States flag, achingly resplendent in red, white and blue liveliness, lay across the unopened lower half of the coffin. Papa was retired Air Force.

Every few minutes, Daniel ran over to tiptoe and peer through the windows of the white doors, gazing down that long hallway which twisted and turned but allowed no view of Papa. “Where are Mama and Daddy? I want to go too.” A few minutes later: “Why can’t I go in?” “Is Papa in there? Where?” “Let’s go in there, Abu.”

A while later, when we were eating lasagna in the kitchen, Daniel was still asking, asking. I made a decision, a decision you may not have made. I asked Daniel’s mom and dad if I could take him in to see Papa. They agreed, mainly (I think) because they trust me, and they know how much I love D.

I picked Daniel up and asked him if he knew what had happened to Papa. “He died,” came the quick answer. I told him that yes Papa had died. “And he’s in heaven,” Daniel added. His confusion centered on who or what was down that hall that everyone kept traversing. He wanted understanding, answers. He wanted to walk down that hall.

So we did.

The kitchen had been noisy with visitors loudly talking, eating, reminiscing, and occasionally laughing at the past. Its tiled floor amplified the clicks of my boot heels as we walked, Daniel in my arms, toward those doors, dividing doors which in my grandson’s mind led to answers. As we passed through them, my heels, like everything and everyone on that other side, grew quieter on the deep carpet.

We entered the viewing room, and walked past adults talking in hushed tones. Daniel kissed his Nana (Donna is the oldest of the four daughters of Papa), then his Great-Grandma, who sat regally next to the coffin. But his eyes were looking, searching.

Not expecting Papa to be lying down (why didn’t I think to tell him that detail?), Daniel finally found his great-grandfather.

He looked for a while, and finally asked quietly (Daniel doesn’t usually do “quiet” very well), “Is Papa sleeping?”

“No, not really sleeping. He died, remember?”

We stood there for about a minute, Daniel growing heavy in my arms.

“Are you ready to go, baby?”

“No.”

Other folks waited patiently for their turn behind us. Daniel started to lean over toward the coffin, paused and looked at me for permission (and like “quiet,” D doesn’t always do “permission” well). I nodded, and Daniel touched the white satin edges of the liner and then Papa’s right arm.

Giggling just a bit, Daniel said, “It tickles.” I smiled.

“You ready now?”

“Yes.”

We walked back through the hall, toward the kitchen. When we got to the doors, I saw through the windows my daughter Amy and Orte, waiting. I put Daniel down, and he pushed open the door. His dad asked him, “Are you okay, Daniel?”

But he was already off, running on the noisy tile, chasing his little brother. Doing “loud” once again.

***************

With Daniel back in 2012
And now. (Seriously?)
Posted in Five Friday Happy Bringers

Five Friday Happy Bringers 3/25/22

1. Edamame

2. Seeing Robert, aka HR, in unexpected places, in this case the raised hatch window of our little car.

See him?

3. The blessing of having cold—and hot!—running water. Everybody doesn’t.

4. Yellow … and seeing it all around.

5. Back to having in-person sessions with Therapist “Rubi.” Here’s my little ladder back chair and my we-need-to-talk-about-these-things! journal in his reception area.

The chair has this loud, slightly eerie screech when I sit down and make the slightest move. I have a suspicion it’s some sort of signal that “another one is waiting in the lobby.”

Have a happy and therapeutically healthy weekend!

Posted in Throwback Thursday, Neal’s Post from the Past

Neal’s Post from the Past: “Pot Pie Smiles”

Here’s a post from back in 2014 about my life-long relationship with chicken pot pies.

************

One of my earliest joyful memories as a kid finds me meandering off, on warm summer mornings, to the community playground near my house in Cochran Field, near Macon, Georgia. My best friend Billy and I would play until our mothers brought us chicken pot pies and sweet tea. Sitting at the weathered, wooden picnic tables, we would gobble down our pot pies in their little aluminum containers (which we repurposed as treasure collectors).

I have always loved the creamy texture, the flaky crusts, the green peas and carrots, and the homey, Mama-ish warmth of chicken pot pies (or turkey pot pies but NOT cheesy or veggie pot pies).  Of course, they were FROZEN SOLID forty-five minutes before I had all those lovey feelings as a child.  And back then, I didn’t realize that our mothers were watching The Price Is Right or Queen for a Day instead of preparing fresh, homemade lunches for us boys.

So after buying organic vegetables from the local farm-to-table community market (doesn’t that make me sound health-oriented and grounded yet hip and on-target?), I decided to make a homemade chicken pot pie.  HOMEMADE

First of all, do you have ANY clue how long it takes to chop carrots, celery, peppers and potatoes? Boil the corn and then scrape it off the cob? Finely cut the rosemary? Roll out the dough? (Okay, okay, all I did was roll it out of the carton, but still.)

But, oh my goodness, what fun! I may become a famous TV chef or something!

wpid-Photo-Jul-10-2013-706-PM.jpg
wpid-Photo-Jul-10-2013-707-PM.jpg
wpid-Photo-Jul-10-2013-739-PM.jpg
wpid-Photo-Jul-10-2013-738-PM.jpg

Delicious!

potpie1
potpie2
wpid-Photo-Jul-10-2013-825-PM.jpg

Swanson’s may do it faster, but not better!

Posted in Five Friday Happy Bringers

Five Friday Happy Bringers 3/18/22

1. Traveling to Atlanta for St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Savannah’s Big Parade/Craziness was back this year, so we decided to abandon our parade route apartment and get outta Dodge.

2. Marveling at the gorgeous Atlanta Botanical Garden glory.

I felt bad for this sad and lonely little red tulip. I told her not to be embarrassed because she was different from the daffodils, to get right back up and stand proud. I hope she listened.

3. Robert’s obsession with close ups of him and his camera.

4. Last night’s Atlanta Symphony Orchestra/Chorus presentation of Mozart’s Requiem and Strauss’ Tod and Verklarung (Death and Transfiguration). The music was absolutely lush and lovely.

It was exciting to see and hear ASO’s new conductor/music director Nathalie Stutzmann. She was pretty amazing, “a consummate rock star on the podium,” according to ArtsATL. It is also cool that she is the only woman to head a top-25 American orchestra.

And it was especially moving when, after intermission, the orchestra and chorus performed The State Anthem of Ukraine—and dedicated Requiem to the war torn nation.

5. The ability to make choices, sometimes wise, sometimes unwise.

Happy Last Day of Winter & First Day of Spring Weekend Ahead!

Posted in Holiday Joy, Savannah Joy

Neal’s Post from the Past: ”A Savannah Saint Patrick’s Day Celebration”

A post from about a decade ago. What was I thinking with my outfit for the day?!

************

Anyone who has been to Savannah on or around March 17 knows that Saint Patrick’s Day is a pretty …

Big Deal

… in this city! From the Greening of the Fountain and Tara Feis onward, Savannah embraces its Irishness, shamrocks growing and showing up everywhere, an already diverse and fesitval-driven city photosynthetically converting excited energy into green Gaelic joy. And since 2013 St. Paddy Day was Sunday, Savannah opted to hold its primary celebration on Saturday with the parade (the nation’s second largest), River Street revelry and other merrymaking events.

Since Yours Truly lives DIRECTLY on the parade route along Abercorn Street, and since some green Irish blood flows through my veins (Saye =”one who lives by the sea”), I decided to host a little parade-viewing party.

Party Prep Notes For some reason I will never fully grasp, I decided to make Cabbage and Ham in the Crock Pot (or as I call it, Beverly Hillbilly-ishly, “the Slow-Cooking Pot”).   

wpid-Photo-Mar-16-2013-935-AM.jpg

Now cabbage sounds fine, and even a bit Irish, until you understand that my place is a little under 800 square feet, positioned at the front of a beautiful old building completed in the 1800’s.  Well, the slow-cooking cabbage produced a Rather Strong Aroma (try not to imagine it), first in my apartment, then wafting across the hall to my next door neighbor and fellow party hostess Audrey’s place, then throughout the entire old building, and probably up and down the parade route and on to the South Carolina border across the river.  People were so nice and pretended that the smell made the party more “Irish authentic.”  But a bunch of folks had drinks in their hands, so I’m not at all certain their sensory perception was on target.  AND I noticed they would get a bowlful of steaming, fragrant cabbage and then quickly run out the door to see the next band or float they “had been waiting on.”

Here’s me helping to set up the area for guests to sit and watch the parade outside my building (my windows have the St. Patty tacky shamrock cutouts and green garlands).

wpid-Photo-Mar-16-2013-905-AM.jpg
wpid-Photo-Mar-16-2013-906-AM.jpg
wpid-Photo-Mar-16-2013-819-AM.jpg
wpid-Photo-Mar-16-2013-819-AM.jpg

Before the parade started, I made a quick tour of the squares close to me.  A few sights:

wpid-Photo-Mar-16-2013-913-AM.jpg
wpid-Photo-Mar-16-2013-926-AM.jpg

I met some cool green-clad new friends:

wpid-Photo-Mar-16-2013-917-AM.jpg

I found this pretty lady pirouetting in front of my apt, so of course I had to get my pic with her:

wpid-Photo-Mar-16-2013-904-AM.jpg

Here’s across-the-hall stylish neighbor Audrey:

wpid-Photo-Mar-16-2013-1111-AM.jpg

And here’s party guest/good buddy Ellie and her brother encouraging the crowd:

wpid-Photo-Mar-16-2013-1154-AM.jpg
wpid-Photo-Mar-16-2013-1124-AM.jpg

I wish I was brave enough to dance in the street!

wpid-Photo-Mar-16-2013-1116-AM.jpg

Hip green-haired son/father duo Ethan and Kevin:

wpid-Photo-Mar-16-2013-137-PM.jpg

Former Everyday Creative Writing Student Jaymes stopped by for a while.  (He knows what’s rocking in Savannah.)

wpid-Photo-Mar-16-2013-1046-AM.jpg
wpid-Photo-Mar-16-2013-1120-AM.jpg

Buddies Rich and Edward (who brought party-hit basil lemonade):

wpid-Photo-Mar-16-2013-1113-AM.jpg

Cool St. Patty Baby:

wpid-Photo-Mar-17-2013-341-PM.jpg

Made great new friends with some folks visiting from Maryland and staying in the vacation rentals in my building (so of course they were party guests too)–Kathy and Karen with their husbands.  And don’t they look SO Saint Patricky?

wpid-Photo-Mar-17-2013-341-PM.jpg
wpid-Photo-Mar-17-2013-341-PM.jpg

Preparing to kiss the parade marching men:

wpid-Photo-Mar-16-2013-1114-AM.jpg

(Public Service Announcement:  I think I will rent out my place next year for St. Paddy Day.  Is $2000 for the holiday too much?  I plan to include a HUGE bowl of frozen-but-on-the-table-in-a-jiffy Authentic Irish Cabbage and Ham.)

New kayaking friend Tom with Edward, Rich and me:

wpid-Photo-Mar-16-2013-237-PM.jpg

Church buddy Diane with Rich, Edward, Robert, Jaymes and me:

wpid-Photo-Mar-16-2013-1113-AM.jpg
wpid-Photo-Mar-16-2013-1115-AM.jpg

Good friend Zach and brother Josh marching in the parade (marching, that is, before I ran out into the street and made them stop).  Their Irish family has been in the parade for something like 1000 years.

wpid-Photo-Mar-16-2013-1200-PM.jpg
wpid-Photo-Mar-16-2013-1139-AM.jpg
wpid-Photo-Mar-16-2013-928-AM.jpg

What a wonderfully fun Savannah Saint Patrick’s Day Celebration!

But sitting here after the parade, I started to worry:  “What if my Crock Pot Cabbage Smell keeps those hundreds of thousands of visitors from coming back to Savannah next year?  Can they trace it all back to me?”

wpid-Photo-Mar-16-2013-926-AM.jpg
Balloons
St Pat pic