“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.
“All great changes are preceded by chaos.” ~ Deepak Chopra
Dad and I had a rare treat today. Mom had gotten very ill last night, so I stepped in to help. I took dad to one of his appointments with his favorite Dr. Forrester. Then, we were invited to my Aunt Charlene’s for supper with the family. Poor mom was still in bed, so unfortunately she wasn’t able to go. Dad’s BFF, Tony Adkins was there and the two assumed their normal positions. Food was delicious, the company superb. I told dad we had a good day all things considered. He replied, “Our time is always good. We go get, and take the guess out.” The Hillbilly Philosopher strikes again.
“Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.” ~ Henri Nouwen
Our hero continues his recovery at the VA. Sisters Lois, above, and Barbara were there when I went by. They’ve come to see him every day. I listened to the three tell some new stories (to me) of their shared childhood. The interesting thing about siblings with several years between them, and gender playing a role to a degree, is how differently their shared experiences can be. This is true for all of us of course. We’ll each recall the same event in slightly differing ways, but to hear these three recount their youth piqued my interest a great deal. No matter what stories they told, or how different the details, one thing was abundantly clear and that was just how challenging their growing up really was; for each of them but also for their mother. Their father was a miner who would sometimes be gone for weeks or months at a time. Meanwhile, their mother was a home maker trying to feed, clothe, and clean 14 children. Plus, there’s a generation between the oldest and youngest; the oldest born before WWII, and the youngest near the start of the Vietnam conflict. The first six to eight children were born in a variety of coal camps in Eastern Kentucky, and the last ones were born after the family moved back to the maternal family farm at the head of Railroad Fork in Morgan County. It is not an exaggeration to say few people can imagine such a life. While I’m very sorry they had to endure so much hardship, I appreciate the people it grew them into being. All 14 of my grandmother’s children have their own story; unique and powerful. And each one is a blessing.
“The only things you can take with you when you leave this world
are things you’ve packed inside your heart.” ~ Unknown
Siblings Robin Dalton and Tucker Lykins: Our families go back well before Tucker and I were born. Robin remembers my dad and some of his brothers coming to their house to play cards with her stepdad, Victor, and others from around Cannel City. Robin shared her tent with me at Pickin’ in the Park, and later in the day, we did this group picture to celebrate birthdays for Victor and one of Tucker’s grandsons (I can’t remember his name). Robin has four brothers. Tucker is the youngest, and Mike is the oldest (not pictured). Kenny, in the orange shirt, is a year older than me and Tucker. He’s holding their brother Billy’s youngest grandchild. Billy was between Kenny and Mike. In 2007, at a very young 43, Billy was taken by Kidney cancer.
I dated Kenny off and on through high school. We started sparking before he had his driver’s license. He would walk up Railroad Fork to my grandparent’s to see me when I was there. That was maybe two miles from his house. He must have really liked me. He turned me on to AC/DC, which is still one of my favorite bands. He was naturally an excellent football player. He always played the tough guy. That was pretty easy for him because he is a big, tough guy, but in truth, he’s a softie. Here’s a gif to prove it (he’ll want to choke me if he ever sees it).
I’ve always had a spot in my heart for Kenny. He’s a great guy. Always was. Always will be.
“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” ~ Mother Teresa
You first met Robin Dalton back in May 2014. We don’t get to see one another very often, but ours is the kind of friendship that doesn’t suffer because of distance. When Robin found out I was going to be at Market in the Park she made it a point to come see me. She spent hours with me, and she talked with more people looking at my work than I did. She pretty much held court with Frankie Adkins and her daughter, Amanda, below. I just love her. At one point mom (who also braved the heat to come out) turned to me and said, “Right there’s your PR (pointing at Robin). Let her do the talking. You take the pictures.” HA! Robin’s exceptional PR skills cleverly disguise her talent as a writer. Always a voracious reader, it wasn’t until much later in her life that Robin began to explore writing. She doesn’t do nearly enough of it – because she’s a work-a-holic – but she knows what she’s doing. She’s lived a dozen lives already, so I’m looking forward to her retirement when she can really put pen to paper and show the world what she’s made of. I’m going to do her PR.
“Joy comes to us in ordinary moments.
We risk missing out when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary.”
~ Brené Brown
A family photo was gathered near the end of James’ visitation. There were 53 of us still in the building. #54 was taking the photo; Nila Terry Crouch, widow of uncle Ralph Paul. Amazingly, you can almost see us all, but more than that, everyone was smiling. Our cousin Michael made a touching video montage of James that was played at his funeral the following day. It was shared among the cousins this evening, to which cousin Brian (Mr. Moonshine “Science Project”) responded, “I just want to go on record and say: We have the greatest family in the world!” I can’t top that.