Thursday, February 28, 2008

The freezer

On Sunday, one of Mama and Daddy's sitters asked me if I knew insulation was hanging out of their chest freezer. The answer would be no!
I've worried about this freezer for a long time. It's the one my parents filled with the fruits of a vegetable garden at Rock Ridge. No one has used the food in it for years. A decade, is more accurate. I've worried that the freezer would stop working and the food would thaw out and rot without me knowing it until the telltale odor revealed the problem.
Well, that wasn't the problem. I really don't know what happened, but Sunday, when we tried to open the freezer lid, it wouldn't budge at first. Eventually, my husband pried it open, leaving a layer of yellow insulation frozen to the edges of the appliance. Reggie used an ice pick to break the insulation away. So now the freezer lid is in two pieces: the actually white lid and the layer of insulation. On Sunday, he chipped away the ice that had run over the top of the freezer and took out enough food so we could somewhat close the disconnected lid. We placed a carton of soft drinks and boxes of Boost on the lid to hold it down.
We left it like that until last night. The garbage is collected today, and according to the person I talked to at the city, it was OK to place the bags of frozen food beside our roll-out container. The freezer will be taken out of the house on Friday.
We waited until Mama and Daddy had gone to bed last night before we started our work. I didn't know how I would explain why we were hauling bags from the house, and I knew the truth would upset Daddy too much. So I didn't tell him. (He also would have insisted I cook the 15-year-old corn for supper or fry up a package of chicken.) Reggie and I both put on our winter gloves to protect them from the chill of the frozen food and got to work. While I filled 12 large black leaf bags, he hauled them to the front yard.
Because the lid no longer stays open by itself, I had to prop it against my shoulder or my head and reach deep inside to retrieve pint-size bags of corn, crowder peas and butterbeans lovingly grown at Daddy's Rock Ridge farm and brought home to freeze. A few times, I almost lost my balance reaching so far down and had a secret fear of falling in and having to wait for Reggie to rescue me between his trips to the curb. But I didn't fall, thank God. Can you imagine trying to explain that injury at the ER?
Stacked between the vegetables were freezer-burned steaks and pork cutlets, packages of bacon and even a freezer bag filled with snow cream with a note in Mama's writing saying it was made on the second day of the snow and was icy. I can promise you my mama would have eaten the snow cream if she had know it was in there!
There was even an unopened half-gallon of Winn-Dixie's Superbrand vanilla ice cream. I also found a few grocery store receipts, including one from West Nash Market. And Reggie discovered an ink pen that probably fell out of Daddy shirt pocket the last time he reached in to re-arrange the frozen foods.
After I had pulled out all I could get, Reggie had to once again pull out the ice pick to free dozens of pints of peas that were embedded in a thick layer of ice. But, in less than an hour, we had the job done.
Mama and Daddy always dated the vegetables they froze, so we know exactly how old the corn and peas are. Many were dated 1997 and 1998; the oldest bag I saw was from 1992.
My son, Robert, turned 2 years old in 1992. When he was a little boy, he loved to help Grandma and Grandpa freeze corn. It was his job to put the ears of corn into a large bucket of ice water to chill.
A lot of work went into raising vegetables on a farm you don't live on, and the work continued when the picked food was brought home to be shelled and frozen.
Daddy purposedly filled up his freezer with his homegrown vegetables because he wanted to enjoy them when he was too old to farm. He told me this many times. But Mama stopped cooking years ago, and the corn and peas stayed in the freezer. I cooked the ones Daddy had given me, but the rest remained in their cold storage for more than a decade. It's sad, really, to know Mama and Daddy's hard work ended up as trash.
But at least he had peace of mind all of those years, knowing it was there if he needed it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Erasers work

Sometimes the mail at the work brings presents. Last week, I got a goodie box with Febreze products inside. Some of the products have a lavendar/ vanilla scent. I passed those along to my co-worker; she doesn't have allergies!
I did take home the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser with Febreze. It's a "powerful foaming cleaner for kitchen and bath." Well, the tub in my bathroom needing some powerful cleaning, so I gave it a try.
The tub in question is in the bathroom we had added to the house several years ago. I was so proud of that shiny white tub when it was first installed, but it had gotten dingy, and despite many efforts and lots of stinky cleaners, the ring and soap scum remained. I had used Mr. Clean Erasers before to remove marks on the walls. They worked like magic. And, guess what? The kitchen and bath cleaner worked like magic as well! With a little bit of elbow grease, I was able to remove those dingy stains from my tub in about five minutes, and, I promise, the tub felt smooth and looked new again. And, another plus, my hands didn't smell like bleach.
After we finished with that tub, my husband used the eraser on the other tub as well as the kitchen sink. We also used it to remove from the side of the tub a tiny, 3-year-old rust spot from a wayward bobby pin.
I've seen Mr. Clean Magic Eraser with Febreze in local stores, selling around $2.50; there are two erasers in each package. I think it's a real bargain!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Happy Birthday Anna

I know my daughter's birthday is her special day, but as her mother,
it's pretty special to me as well. I've spent much of today remembering back to Anna's birth 14 years ago. What a staggering thought to realize it's been that long since I first held my little girl, admired her dainty features and marveled at the tiny bow the nurse had placed in her hair.
Today, I've thought back to the little details of the day: how incredibly thirsty I was during labor; how ridiculous I thought it was for my doctor to suggest I'd deliver quicker if I just didn't have an epidural; how the nurses looked after my queasy husband; how different it was to deliver naturally rather than by C-section; how eager Anna was to nurse just minutes after her birth; how excited her big brother Robert was to find his mama and little sister later that day.
I also remember Mama. In the last weeks of my pregnancy, I had told Mama that the most important thing she could do for me during labor was to make sure 3-year-old Robert was OK. I told her I'd rather she stay with him than to sit in the hospital waiting room. We dropped Robert off at her house the morning I went into labor. She walked out to the car to talk to me, looked into my eyes, and I'm sure she saw the pain and fear I was experiencing. I can only imagine what happened next, but before long, Robert was in the safe care of my aunt and cousins, and Mama was in the hospital to make sure her own little girl was OK and to await the arrival of her granddaughter.
Anna has turned out to be such a joy to my mother. Just like her brother, Anna stayed with my parents while I worked. She and Mama developed a close bond as they spent their days together enjoying the world around them: walking through yard looking at the flowers, collecting pretty pebbles from the gravel driveway, looking at birds hunting for sunflower seeds at the feeders or worms in the front yard.
Now, as Mama struggles with the trials of Alzheimer's, Anna continues to be a joy to her. It's now Anna who takes her grandmother for walks around the yard, looking for the first signs of spring flowers or perhaps picking a camellia blooming in the back yard.
When I stopped by Mama and Daddy's at lunch, I told them Anna's birthday was today. Mama was thrilled. She asked me if I'd write it all down on a piece of paper. I wrote: "Anna is 14 today." She held the piece of paper in her hands, looking at it every few minutes as if she were memorizing the words. I promised that Anna and I would drop by her house after school so she could tell her happy birthday.
Three hours later, we did just that. Mama smiled when she saw Anna, stood up and gave her a birthday hug. Clutched in her left hand was the paper from the notepad. It was folded up three or four times. "I've held it so I wouldn't forget," she said.
It's another birthday memory I hope I never forget.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Black History

Our Black History Month photo feature has been a good experience for me.
I've thoroughly enjoyed talking to the many people who have called or dropped by the office with their precious photos. And precious they are. These images from 50, 60, 70 years ago (some even older than that!) are real history — our history. The history of Wilson and its surrounding areas is something we should all take note of, whether it be "white" history or "black" history.
I've enjoying picking out people I know in the photos, and I've loved looking at the clothing the people wore and the landscape around them. Did you see the photo of the Book and Garden Club? Those ladies looked so pretty in their spring and summer dresses! Members of that club have submitted news items for the Lifestyle section since before I came to the newspaper in 1984.
I have several more wonderful photos waiting to appear. One of my favorites is a photo that includes my former principal John W. Jones when he was still a teacher. Another features former Daily Times employees. Keep an eye out for these photos to appear in the Lifestyle section in coming days.
If you've missed the photos in the print edition, make sure you look them up on our Web site. The link is http://wilsontimes.com/galleries/blackhistory/index.html
I'll accept photos through Feb. 25 if you have one you'd like to share.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Valentine's stuff galore

Have you noticed the profusion of Valentine's gifts around town? Everywhere I go, I see red and pink balloons, boxes of chocolates, bags of gummy candy hearts, cards and stuffed animals, all ready to say "I love you" to someone's sweetheart.
Each year, I make a point to buy heart-shaped biscuits from Bojangle's. They usually start selling them a few days before Valentine's.
Papa John's is selling a heart-shaped pizza in honor of the big day. I saw an advertisement for the pizzas when I picked up our dinner last Sunday night. The pizza was very pretty decorated with red pepperoni.
And last night, at Walmart, I was amazed at all of the Valentine cookies and treats at the bakery. The most unusual ones, I thought, were heart-shaped, cherry-flavored doughnuts with a pink tint.
I also saw heart-shaped springform pans at Target this week. The pans were for single-serving size cakes. They also had silicone, heart-shaped cupcake liners.
So much stuff! Wonder how much of it will be left on the shelves come Feb. 15?

Friday, February 1, 2008

No more driving

Up until 19 months ago, Daddy was still driving his red Ford Taurus. He and Mama would make a least one trip a day. They'd go to Eckerd to pick up a prescription, to Saratoga to visit my aunt and uncle or to WalMart to walk around the store for exercise and a box of Corn Flakes or half-gallon of milk. And they'd make the familiar trek to Rock Ridge, where they'd ride by landmarks important to Daddy's childhood: the farm, the church, the school.
We live just a few doors down from my parents, so I'd often see them drive by or hear the familiar sound of Daddy's car horn, letting me know they were either going or coming.
In the year before he stopped driving, I started having mixed emotions about whether he should be behind the wheel. On the one hand, I knew how important his independence was to his mental well-being. On the other hand, I feared he might not be sharp enough to drive and might end up having a wreck and hurting someone. I worried about this — panicked in fact — every time he drove by my house headed towards Ward Boulevard. I held my breath until I heard him honk the horn, sometimes hours later, letting me know they were almost home. At least they'd always be back by dark, which gave me some comfort.
But one evening they didn't return by sunset. In fact, they were still missing well into the evening. I've never know such fear in my life. I called everyone we knew and drove to all of their usual spots including McDonald's and Chick-Fil-A, where they often ate their evening meal. The employees told me they hadn't seen them. Then I started driving around the county. I followed every path I knew they took on a regular basis including the roads around Daddy's Rock Ridge farm. I even alerted my cousins on the other side of the county, who were just heading out for their own search when I got word that Mama and Daddy had returned. They had gotten lost and driven around for hours looking for something familiar. Daddy tried to play it all down, but Mama was crying and shaking and as scared as I had been. They had apparently stopped for directions, God only knows where, but eventually found their own way home.
I should have taken action that night. Should have seen the signs of Alzheimer's in Daddy. Getting lost had been one of Mama's first symptoms. I ignored it then with Mama, hoping it would go away, and ignored it the next time with Daddy. Denial is a powerful thing, you know.
Anyway, late in May 2006, Daddy was hospitalized. I barely remember why, but I do remember his doctor saying he couldn't drive. At first we thought she meant for a few days, and then we realized she meant forever.
If you've never taken away someone's car keys then you can't understand the trauma and drama of the next few days and even weeks. My daddy became a monster to me and my sister and even my husband. He said awful things to us, threatened us and made us feel like the most ungrateful people in the world. He begged me for the car keys. But I held strong. He warned me then that if I took away his car I'd be taking away his life. That if couldn't or wouldn't be able to live without his independence. It broke my heart, but by this time, I was getting used to having a broken heart.
His words rang true to a degree. He absolutely lost a vibrant part of himself that summer as he resigned himself to the fact that Reggie and I would be taking him wherever he had to go.
It's a big responsibility to become someone's wheels, but it was a responsibility I took with gladness. I could rest much easier knowing Daddy was no longer behind the wheel. No longer a potential threat.
Over that summer I started taking Mama and Daddy on long drives through the countryside. I'll tell you about those another day.
I was reminded of all of this when my next door neighbor sent a note to my parents this week, telling them how much she missed seeing them ride by in their little red car, beeping the horn to let me know they were OK.
I miss it too.