I spent last week with my Mom. She was in isolation in her apartment before going to her new permanent home in a nursing facility. Boxing up things and moving out of an apartment during a quarantine is not as easy as it sounds, especially when you have a mother who needs constant attention. She is a smoker who uses oxygen and is not always the best at separating the two. My sister and her husband have taken the brunt of this work and frustration. God bless them.
One of the hardest things to deal with, however, was the absence of my stepdad. His recliner was there. His Cardinals jacket was there. His chair on the porch was there. Even his pillow with the “Mr.” pillowcase was there.
But he was gone.
Driving home, I took a different route so I could go through the town where my parents had lived for years. I passed the gas station where Everett always wanted to stop on our way through Poplar Bluff, Missouri. I remember it had the cheapest gas and good fountain Mt. Dew. And, I suspect, a really good price on whiskey.
Then I drove by the trailer they lived in for many years. It has been empty for almost a decade. But memories flooded in. Of my kids crawling on mom’s couch to see the cow that pooped jelly beans. Of eating neck bones and potatoes straight from the pot on her stove. Of Everett slipping in the mud while carrying out their old, being-replaced toilet and hurting his pride more than his behind. Of barbecues and laughter and bedazzling sweatshirts and butter pie. Of pallets on the floor and family and hospitality and friends from out of nowhere.
Theirs was not a glamorous life. It was real and raw and full of love hard-won. It was a good life with great friends, amazing family, and stories—oh, the stories.
Love your people, folks. Love ’em hard. Love ’em like tomorrow may not come. Because, sometimes, it doesn’t.