“Never give up on the things that make you smile.” ~ Unknown
Every fall uncle Harold and his boys Brian, Evyian, and Kevin hook the trailer to the tractor, throw on some hay, and take us for a ride up one holler or another. It’s fun for all of us regardless of age. I almost didn’t go this year. I just wasn’t feeling it. Until the tractor started to pull away, and then, like a five year old, I wanted to go. Lucky for me Evyian drives slow. Of course I had a fabulous time as you can see below. And yes, that’s me in a UK hat and Brian in a UofL hoodie. He takes the ribbing in good humor. He’s a keeper just like the hay rides.
“Never underestimate the power of kind words” ~ Unknown
We had our fall family gathering today at Uncle Harold and Aunt Phyllis’ farm in Morgan County (that’s Eastern Kentucky for those unfamiliar). Fall’s brisk weather finally swooped in and made the day crisp and overcast. Perfection. We ate hearty foods, drank hot coffee, had our annual hay ride, shared birthday cake for Dad and Aunt Linda, and told ghost stories. In fact, that may have been the most fun of the day, sitting in a room surrounded by the elders telling stories of visitations and haints galore; the fantastic and the believable. There was something very, very different about this gathering from the others we’ve had. I sensed a calm in the air. The bittersweet thirst for those no longer with us while reveling in their memories in unadulterated happiness. Perhaps Cousin Brian was on to something during the hayride. “We are the age our parents were when we went on hayrides,” he said as we sat sandwiched between first and third generation Terrys. It happens to every generation in every family, in slow, often imperceptible ways until one day Cousin Brian sees the culmination of time in a single moment. The realization that the changing of the guard is fully underway. This is just one blessing of this family; to have sustained multiple relationships over decades that can come together and celebrate goodness. To be truly grateful for the gifts in spite of the sadness, to me, is a mark of great faith. That is something this family has in spades.
“Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.” ~ Gilda Radner
Tonight we celebrated dad’s 80th birthday. Sixteen of us were able to gather at Ramsey’s for a Monday night dinner and he was just as tickled as he could be to see everyone. Before dinner he got a call from his brother Darrell in Flatwoods, and during dinner he got phone calls from his sister Mable in Florida and great-nephew AJ at work. The clincher of the night may well have been Marcie and Steven Terry. Marcie is dad’s baby brother James’ wife and Steven, their son, is the youngest Terry grandchild. He’s also the tallest at 6’3″. Dad has always thought Steven favors his dad, but after James died, I noticed that dad longs to talk with him. He was visibly moved that Steven and Marcie drove from Stanton on a work night to be with him. It meant the world to me and mom, too. This family really pulled together to give dad a wonderful birthday. We didn’t think he’d survive to see 80, and everybody at that table was keenly aware of the gift we’ve been given to celebrate him once more. Never take your people for granted. Celebrate them at every opportunity.
“Everything comes to you at the right time. Be patient.” ~ Unknown
Tony and Charlene are having a large yard sale tomorrow in West Liberty. At the last minute, not wanting to miss out on the upcoming holiday extravaganza, they threw a summer dinner for the family who could get to them in Lexington. It was a great way to spend a Monday evening, and the food was, as usual, fantastic. If I haven’t mentioned it, my aunt Lois Nell makes the best baked beans in the world. She’s also not at all afraid of my camera (see above photo). She’s getting a lot better with it, too. I better be careful or she’ll be taking all the pictures before I know it, and that can only mean one thing: I’ll be in them. That will never do. HA! I sure enjoy this bunch, and I’m really lucky they let me hang out with them.
“Don’t wait for things to get better. Life will always be complicated.
Learn to be happy right now, otherwise you’ll run out of time.” ~ Unknown
A couple of years ago I thought we might not have anymore Father’s Days to celebrate. I was wrong, thankfully. This past week, dad got real sick, even landed in the hospital. Yesterday was the sickest I’ve ever seen him, and I’ve seen him cut stem to stern sick. But yesterday was very, very different. Just like the Energizer Bunny, he got up this morning bright eyed and bushy tailed; back to himself and rarin’ to go. A little slow, but definitely, unmistakably here. We shared a meal and talked about his boxing days in the Army when he “knocked the shit outta them with a Kentucky Haymaker.” He confessed he wasn’t much of a boxer, yet that Haymaker kept him alive and made him a few friends in process. Though today wasn’t the Father’s Day we’d planned, we got A Father’s Day. I don’t know what else anybody could ask for. (A big thank you to Uncle Tony for the 1968 photo below)
“Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don’t have to sit on it.” ~ Joyce Meyer
Lucy Barnes-Gilbert loves her grandmother Kelly “Gigi” something fierce. She loves everyone else, too, but she really, really loves Kelly and hardly leaves her side when they’re together. I think this bodes well for Lucy as an adult. Virtually every woman I know had a strong grandmother in her life. Someone who could dispense nothing but love with all the sugar and spice and everything nice a little girl can handle. Someone she loved like Lucy loves Kelly. It’s adorable. There will be more on Lucy in the coming days, but for now, just let the light of this little girl brighten your day and remind us all to not sit on the cactus.
“The secret to living well and longer is: eat half, walk double, laugh triple, and love without measure.”
~ Tibetan Proverb
I had the great fortune of dining with some of my family to finish off the birthday weekend. I only get to go to Longhorn Steakhouse when mom and dad are in town, so that’s where we headed. I swear, even though they’re a chain, they make the best steaks I’ve ever eaten – and they’re consistent in that quality. Anyway, Mike Moore has a birthday four days after me (plus he’s four years younger), so I’ve dubbed him my birthday buddy. It’s a lot more fun to celebrate when there’s more than me to celebrate. I can’t think of anybody I’d want as a birthday buddy more than Mike.
This dinner with the family meant more to me than dinners in the past. I’m not sure why. I only know that I was deeply honored that they could join me. They’ve each helped me so very, very much in this life, and always when I needed them the most. So, yea, I’m still a few hours away from my actual birth date, but I’ve had the best birthday weekend I could ever want. Who knew turning 53 was gonna be so awesome?
“Continue to choose hope over despair, love over hatred, and action over apathy — every single time.”
~ Kamala Harris
Soon after we returned home from Thanksgiving dinner at Aunt Lois’, dad turned to me and said, “That was a wonderful day with the family.” “Yes, it was,” I replied. “It was the best Thanksgiving since Mamaw and Papaw died.” (they died 10 days apart in April 2009) “I believe you’re right,” he confirmed. Thirty of us invaded Lois’ house. Everyone brought something to eat. We exchanged $5 gifts with one another. We laughed a lot. It was truly a wonderful day. Mission accomplished.
“You must do the things you think you cannot do.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
Today was an especially important day. Today, our Hero turned 79 years old. We learned just how bad his heart condition was after his heart attack last year. That, coupled with other significant maladies, pretty much ensured he had very limited time. I can’t tell you how pleasantly surprised, and overwhelmingly grateful, I am that he lived to see this birthday. Make no mistake about it. Shorty Terry is one of the toughest men you will ever meet. Not only has he outlived expectations, he is maintaining his health pretty doggone well, all things considered.
Losing Uncle Greg yesterday was not just devastating to the family, it was concerning for our Hero because of his own fragile health; because losing Greg, not two years his junior, drove home his own impending departure; and because he loved and respected Greg deeply. He is heartbroken. In light of Greg’s passing, mom and I had planned to hold off on birthday festivities, that was, until Lois called this morning. God bless her for always going the extra mile for her family. By 10am she had rallied the sisters and the local cousins (she would have rallied the brothers if they lived closer) for a birthday celebration in the sun. It was exactly what we all needed, and it was especially important for our heartbroken Hero. He finally had the birthday party he’d always wanted, and it took the sting out of losing his beloved brother. Once again, today proved that no matter how heartbroken you may be, there is always something to be grateful for. My plate remains overflowing with gratitude.
“Make today so awesome yesterday gets jealous.” ~ Unknown
It’s been quite some time since I met up with the cousins for breakfast, so this morning’s meet-and-eat was long overdue. As always, we had a wonderful time being in communion with one another. I snorted with laughter when Renee shared a video of the aftermath of her son AJ’s wisdom tooth extraction. That kid is hilarious when he’s sober, but give him some nitrous and whatever else they had him on for pain, and he’s better than any comedian working today. I sure do love this bunch, and I’m always grateful to share some time with them.