For the love of family

Lynn Horton is a freelance writer and editor who in another lifetime taught English and Creative Writing at McIntosh High School and later worked in the Starr’s Mill High School Media Center.

Two weeks ago Bill’s widowed sister came to stay with us for what would be the longest time she had ever been away from home. This, of course, was not counting the time she left her mother and father as a newlywed and traveled all the way to Miami, Florida with a great big trunk, a small travel case, and a little handbag she held close to her body. It held her ticket, her lipstick, a handkerchief, and all the money she had in this world. She was homesick from the moment the train pulled out of the station in New Albany, Mississippi. She had never traveled alone, and she was nervous and excited at the same time to be traveling to meet her husband who had taken a job hundreds of miles from Home. Who wouldn’t have been sad and lonely even while being thrilled by a brand new world at the same time?
Most of us remember the first or perhaps the last time we were so very homesick that our stomachs felt like they had been punched by Muhammad Ali, or maybe, you felt so terrible you thought you would never, ever stop weeping hot, salty tears. I was eight years old when my daddy was called up from the National Guard Reserves because of the Korean War and we had to leave the only home I had ever known, Tupelo, Mississippi. Talk about one pitiful little monkey. There is a picture of me standing against the iron fence surrounding my new elementary school in Columbia, S.C. (who would have guessed that 24 years later I would begin my college experience at the University there!), and I look like the Little Match Girl. If you haven’t read that sad, sad story, you must. It is Tragic, which is what I was feeling. My life was over at eight! No more birthday parties (every weekend) or Sunday School where I had known the party-goers or my classmates from birth! No more skating to the Library two blocks from home or walking downtown to get a brownie from TKE Drug Store or to the Lyric Theater on Saturday mornings for Roy Rogers and Dale Evans movies. Sigh. How could I live in the wasteland that was a tacky old brick, single-story house on a sandy hill just next door to Jitney Jungle Grocery Store? Homesick, that’s how.
It was a great kindness that brought Marjorie to visit for 16 days. Not a “visit” she insisted; she was here to help however she could while Bill recuperated from brain surgery and got ready for radiation and whatever necessary treatments followed (lots of tests and meetings to determine these treatments). And help she did. To begin with, Marg, who is an excellent cook brought a sack full of “groceries” and a cooler full of foods for our fridge and freezer. Lemon Cakes, Potato Soup, fresh frozen field peas, summer squash, cukes, bell peppers along with her Famous Chicken Salad and even more Famous Cooked Pimento and Cheese which we ate for two weeks spread on Wonder Bread or Club Crackers, and dipped with veggies or our fingers when no one was looking (that stuff is fabulous!).
She washed, dried and changed linens, swept floors, emptied the dishwasher daily, ran our vacuum over new heavy pile carpet, a job for a stevedore! Acted as both sous chef and head chef in preparing almost every meal delivered in this house for six weeks. One Saturday morning she prepared the wildly popular waffles from an old family recipe for my son-in-law Joel and our grandsons Carter and Ryan. I was in charge of bacon and scrambled eggs and of the homemade fresh-picked blueberry syrup. Yum! Bill has gained back half of the almost 20 pounds he lost while in the hospital (although the food was good there).
Marjorie, or Marge, or Midge, or Mer, are all names she answers to from various members of her beautiful extended family which includes six of the cutest great-grandchildren on Planet Earth. She “Bustles.” Rarely sits unless everyone else is sitting, is always busy with some chore, and was indeed the Best Help we could possibly have wanted during this difficult time. She also answered the phone which rang at 15 minute intervals with messages for appointments from the seven or eight doctors on Bill’s “Case.” Now I understand the idiom “I wish you would just get off my case!” As thrilled as we are to have these wonderful physicians caring for Bill, his nurses and the employees in charge of making, canceling, and rescheduling appointments (whew…a lot of that sure goes on), it takes a full time secretary at this end to keep our calendar straight. Marjorie sometimes stayed at the house when packages were expected, services were rendered, or when she just wanted to get a head start on the next big family meal. She is an exceptional woman (and she’s ours!).
There were some really good times during these two weeks; everything wasn’t just work, work, work. There was the rainy day when the nurses shooed us out of the office for over an hour to run tests and we discovered the “Hot Light’ was on at the Krispy Kreme Donut shop. Though the line wound twice around the drive through, we slid into a parking space, marched right in and bellied up to the bar. Nothing better on a rainy day at the doctor’s. We took a half dozen to Bill.
While Marge might have been homesick, she never showed it. There was lots of reminiscing as there always is when family gets together after being apart for months at a time. Our home was full of laughter and tall tales. Good for the soul and for one’s health. And when Mer’s son and daughter-in-law came to retrieve her and take her back to her “grieving” family in Mississippi (those great-grands have missed this little powerhouse), we were sad. It felt kind of like…Homesickness… when she was gone. Sigh.

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