Early yesterday morning I drove up to my north-of-Atlanta hometown of Ball Ground for a short visit with my mom and dad.
My dad–Harold or Tub–is 89 (90 in November–come to the party!), and my mom–Geneva–turned 86 in May. I can’t even begin to tell you how much fun we have when I visit. They taught me (are still teaching me) to laugh, to enjoy life.
Here are Ten Reasons I loved my little visit.
1. The early dinner that awaited me upon my 11 am arrival. Okay, for some of you this will be a bit confusing, but in Ball Ground lunch is called dinner, and dinner is called supper. (Breakfast is called Hardees.)
My favorite meal in the whole wide world consists of 1.) my dad’s creamed yellow corn. 2.) My mom’s fried sweet potatoes. 3.) A tomato and an onion.
The corn is scraped, raw, from the cob and meticulously cooked stove top, stirring constantly to keep it from scorching. It has the taste of heaven.
These sweet potatoes look a little burnt, and they should. That gives them the carmelized flavor. Cooked in a large cast iron pan, there’s nothing better. One stick butter, one cup sugar, sliced sweet potatoes. Orange joy.
Oh. My. Goodness. Thank you, Jesus.
2. The bird clock in my parents’ bathroom.
I like it best when the batteries get old, and the hourly bird calls become eerily elongated.
3. Walking around my folks’ small house (which my dad built BY HAND 34 years ago), looking at the bushes and trees.
4. Eating supper at Cracker Barrel. During the meal a very overweight but jolly lady came over to our table and said to my mom, “Honey, can I give you a hug? You remind me so much of my little grandma.” “Why, of course!” Mama replied.
“”Our hugs come in twos,” my dad said with a laugh. And then was amply rewarded.
I thought about saying, “What about me? Three’s company.” But my mouth was full of turnip greens and chow chow.
5. My mother repeatedly getting her supper choice, “eggs in the basket,” confused with a meal she had about forty years ago at IHOP called “pigs in a blanket.”
“Now what do you call this again, Neal?”
From the Cracker Barrel menu: Eggs in the Basket–Two slices of Sourdough Bread grilled with an egg in the middle of each, cooked to order and served with smoked sausage patties, turkey sausage patties or thick-sliced bacon and your choice of Fried Apples or Hashbrown Casserole.
6. Still at Cracker Barrel, as my dad stood in line at the counter paying (he INSISTED), another lady just finishing with paying her bill, saying to my dad, “Here, sir, let me pay for part of your meal with the rest of my gift card. Happy early Father’s Day?” And my dad, a bit confused at first, trying to PAY her for the gift card, before she finally hugged him and said, “No, no, I want to do this for you for an early Father’s Day present!” (While I stood over to the side between the pulled taffy and the Brad Paisley cd, unsuccessfully holding back laughter.)
As we finally left Cracker Barrel, my mom said to my dad, “You sure are hugging a lot of women today. I gotta get you out of this place.”
7. After loading mom’s walker in the trunk, and getting us all in the car, my mom, saying, “Tub, you should have asked that lady what days she usually eats at Cracker Barrel,” sending the three of us into giggles for two red lights, when I said to them, “I wonder if she would like to adopt us as her other family,” (which really wasn’t all that funny, but still got us roaring all over again, in the way you sometimes do when laughter is in the air.) Pulling off the Ball Ground exit from I-575, my dad said, “Those hugs were a pretty good way to spend an afternoon.” Because, of course, it was only 5:00 and we had already finished supper.
8. The feeling, even at my age, of being HOME.
9. The difficult but important discussion we had on this trip about what my mother would do if my dad died first.
“I just hope to goodness I go before Tub.”
“Now Neever (his version of Geneva), we can’t control those things.”
“What I really wish is that we could just go at the same time,” my mom said with total sincerity.
“Well, that might be possible,” my dad said with a twinkle in his eye, “the way I’ve been driving lately.” And we all laughed, at something so unfunny.
10. Experiencing irony as I was leaving Ball Ground the next day, stopping by a convenience store for a Yoo Hoo and a lottery ticket. The long-time teller printing out my ticket, as she mouthed, “straight to hell,” the lyrics of a country song blaring from the radio, and then handing me my Power Ball and saying, “You have a blessed day, sir!”
A joyful, blessed trip.