Friday, February 26, 2016

Country Music Buddies

Anita, Sibyl, Jay Lee Webb & Elaine at the
Ernest Tubb Record Shop, Nashville, December 1967

A few weeks ago, I visited an old friend in a rehab facility. By old, I mean in terms of the longevity of our relationship, because Sibyl and I have been friends since high school. We’re the same age. But her health is declining, mentally and physically, and it’s breaking my heart. 

Sibyl and I were country music buddies. As teenagers, we listened to the same radio station, followed the same stars, frequented the same record shop — Rumore’s Record Rack in downtown Birmingham. We started going to concerts together. Back then, it was fairly easy to get backstage at the Boutwell Auditorium, and one day the manager of Rumore’s introduced us to our heroes, the Wilburn Brothers. We were in heaven.

I have so many memories of our travels and concert-going over multiple decades, many of them captured in photo albums. We visited Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry several times, and followed our favorite singers to other cities as well. We were Alabama representatives for the Loretta Lynn Fan Club, and hosted Loretta and fellow members for a barbecue in my back yard. We started a fan club for one of Loretta’s brothers, Jay Lee Webb, and attended his funeral together a few months after my husband died in 1996.

As if in honor of our friendship, my youngest daughter was born on Sibyl’s birthday.

We had so many good times together.

Neither she nor her younger sister, Anita, ever married. They lived at home with their parents until the parents died, and now maintain the home themselves. A few months ago, Anita emailed to say Sibyl had fallen during the night while trying to get from her bed to the bathroom. Anita had to call the paramedics. Sibyl was always overweight, so there is no way Anita could pick her up. After two more falls, Sibyl wound up in the hospital, and from there, she went to rehab.

I could tell she was slipping mentally when I spoke with her by phone after one of her falls. Then I visited her twice in rehab. The most recent time, I took some of the many photo albums of our trips and concerts and we laughed over not remembering who some of the folks in the photos were. During that visit, she asked me how Jack liked our log home. “Jack died almost 20 years ago,” I reminded her. “Oh, I didn’t know,” she said. “Yes you did, you just forgot,” I replied, as gently as possible.

Sibyl was always neatly dressed and well-coifed, so it hurt to see her in a wheelchair in sloppy sweats and stringy hair. No need to have her hair set, Anita says, because she lies in bed most of the time.

She has been taking what she calls her “memory pills” for a couple of years, but Anita didn’t realize until recently exactly what that meant. Sibyl is in the early stages of dementia. She is incontinent, and she isn’t getting any better. She wants to go home, but Anita can’t take care of her. Anita is overwhelmed with decisions about where to put her and how to pay for it. 

About all I can do is call Anita from time to time and listen, maybe gather some eldercare resources for her, take her to dinner, and visit Sibyl.

It seems so little for a friend who means so much.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Valentine's Day: Bah, humbug!

I hate Valentine’s Day.

I used to really love it. That was back when my husband was alive. Now, it just reminds me that my sweetheart is gone.

Especially annoying was watching elderly couples dancing on the Today show this morning. It’s difficult enough to see folks at church who have been married 30-plus years holding hands. But to have 30 couples who have been married more than 50 years hugging, smooching, renewing vows and saying stuff like, “He still makes me laugh,” and “She’s the love of my life,” made me sick…with envy, that is.

Next month, Jack will have been dead 20 years. Even if I had remarried 19 years ago, I wouldn’t live long enough to reach the half-century mark.

He died about two weeks before our 26th wedding anniversary, which is March 21. Some really close college chums married on the 28th of March. Their 46th anniversary is coming up soon, and I’m really proud and happy for them and all the other couples who have made it that far. Like one of the Today hosts said, these couples know that when something within a marriage is broken, you don’t give up on the marriage. You fix it.

It’s not that I don’t have a good life. I have a handful of BFFs and lots of friends and acquaintances, a family that gets along well with each other, two adorable grandsons, horses to ride, llamas to look at and dogs that dance with delight when I return from a trip to the grocery store. My house is paid for, I have a decent income that allows me to buy stuff for my grands, help a few missionaries and travel. 

Still, I get sad around Valentine’s Day. I turn aside when I see all the red, lacy hearts and embossed cards in the stores, and the constant ads about making dinner reservations early and which piece of jewelry to buy her. Funny, not many ads talk about what to buy HIM, do they?

I just wish I had a HIM to buy for.

Friday, February 5, 2016


It was a dark and stormy night.

No, really, it was.

My SAFE-T-Net app began sending weather alerts on Saturday before the storm broke Tuesday evening. My daughter suggested I leave earlier than usual to avoid the wind, rain and lightning. I was hesitant to leave at all, because I worry about my animals when tornadoes are a possibility. One of my dogs is afraid of thunder and always makes her way to my side when she hears it. But by this time, I was packed and dressed, So off I went.

The wind started howling and the rains started pouring before I reached Amanda's house, which is an hour from mine. But the worst part came after bedtime.

Batman could have protected us!
Amanda has a two-story home with a basement. Bedrooms are on the uppermost floor, and Gabriel wanted to sleep in the basement playroom. It has a futon and a daybed at one end. We should have heeded his pleas. Around 1:30 A.m. the winds really picked up and the lightening made his bedroom look like a fireworks display on the Fourth of July. We heard Amanda and Daniel moving around, and all met in the hallway. We decided to head on down.

Gabriel and I grabbed blankets and pillows, I picked up my purse and iPad, and Daniel carried the still-asleep three-year-old. Amanda grabbed a sleeping bag, or maybe it was already downstairs. Recalling college fire drills, I kept saying, "We need hard-soled shoes," and spent precious minutes looking for mine.

Just as we were drifting off to sleep, my cell phone rang. It was 2:10 A.M. A phone call at that time is always scary, more so with a storm raging. I almost swallowed my tongue when I realized it Tamburello Protection, my security company. The night dispatcher said the company had received a break signal from my front door. (Yes, they can pinpoint the spot.) Was anyone home or supposed to be going in? No, I replied. So they said they would dispatch the sheriff's office. If there was a problem, such as a break-in, I would hear back in 45-minutes to an hour. If there was no problem, I would hear nothing. "Surely a burglar wouldn't try a home invasion on a night like this," I kept repeating to myself.

I warned the dispatscher to tell the sheriff's department about my aggressive dog, who had tried to bite the last deputy who checked on a false alarm when I wasn't home. I  tossed and turned as I waited for the dreaded call. Had someone actually broken in, or had the winds pushed the door open? Were my animals okay? My house? Would I have to drive home to check on the situation in the middle of this storm? Needless to say, none of us slept much that night.

The next night, when I returned home, I drove to the barn to make sure my critters hadn't been felled by a tree or struck by lighting. The were okay, so I fed them and drove to the house. When I pulled up, my dogs came out to meet me, indicating they were fine. Whew! Once inside, I heard my alarm panel beeping. It was flashing an FD reading, meaning, "front door."  When I checked, I was relieved to find it wasn't wide open. I remembered having locked it, but apparently hadn't bothered to actually push it completely closed. I wouldn't say it was ajar, but it was what you might call, "loose." I remedied that. 

I slept much better that night.