#5TF: Saying Goodbye

Five Thought Friday Challenge:  Week 2 – July 1 – July 7, 2017

This was a very bittersweet week for me, filled with both joy and sadness. On Monday, my paternal grandmother passed away. She was 91 years old.

Granny and I were always very close, even though I long ago fell out of touch with my dad. The exact reason why we lost contact eludes me now but I’m fairly certain it had something to do with my divorce and subsequent exit from the proverbial closet. Coming out is a very hard thing to do in a Southern family. My mother’s terrible reaction made me very reluctant to tell anyone else, including my Granny and my dad. Being 2,200 miles away then, it was easy to hide the truth from them while also living my life as I wanted. It may not have been the wisest of choices at the time but it was the one I made.

Granny’s funeral provided an opportunity for me glimpse the life that my dad has lived over the past 12 years and it seems to have been a good one. He and my step-mother have been married for more than 30 years and seem to love one another as much today as the day they got married. It was nice to see other people happy.

One thing I really enjoyed this week was getting a big hug from my nephew, who I haven’t seen since he was 7 years old. His hug was genuine and sincere and showed in that brief moment that he had grown into a kind and caring (and very handsome) young man. He is a sophomore in college now (at my alma mater) and works next door to where we live. My nephew was born when my brother and his girlfriend were only 16 years old so my dad and step-mom played a huge role in raising him. One hug was all it took for me to know they all did a wonderful job.

I am grateful for all the many things my Granny taught me – from how to make a quilt to how to haggle at a yard sale. She was an amazing woman and I will always treasure the times we spent together. I am grateful for Angie being beside me at the funeral. Though Granny had not been well in almost a year, her death hit me harder than expected. Without Angie’s support (and never-ending supply of Kleenex), I don’t know what I would have done.

This week, my sister celebrated her 40th birthday. (She’s the little kid in the photo above with Granny.) I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to share her big day with her and her husband during a quiet lunch at a new Mexican restaurant in town. She also went with us to the funeral home to say goodbye to Granny. Though she drives me nuts on most days and I often cringe at her outspokenness, I am grateful she was there to carry the conversation when I couldn’t find the right things to say.

I need to let go of my habit of second guessing everyone. I have no idea what my dad would have said all those years ago if I’d talked to him about my life. I assumed he would react just as hatefully as my mom did but his reaction when I introduced him to Angie told a different story. He simply shook her hand and said, “It’s about time, isn’t it?” I still to this day second guess other people’s reactions and tend to avoid a lot of interactions based on what I think may happen. This is something I need to work on so that I’m not standing beside another casket one day wishing I’d done something different.

We made progress on our hiking goal, adding 16.4 miles to our combined total – in one day! We were off work on Monday for a long holiday weekend and had decided to hike the Bryant Grove Trail at Long Hunter State Park. It was on our unofficial “Summer Bucket List”. We completed the hike in 3 hours 21 minutes – with the last 4 miles hiked in the pouring rain. 

We also made unexpected progress in other areas of our life. Mending fences was never on our list of happiness goals but in seeing my family again, I can’t help but think that it is going to be an integral part of that process. I feel there’s a story there that I need to hear and probably more than a few happiness lessons we can learn from.

The funniest thing that happened week is best illustrated by the picture below. We had made it to the midway point of our 8-mile hike. The sky was blue. The sun was bright. Our plans were to set up our hammocks, take a swim in the lake, and have lunch before heading back down the trail. Just as we emerged from the woods, the sky quickly darkened and rain began to fall. Never one to be deterred, especially when hot and sweaty and in need of a good soak, Angie jumped in anyway – clothes and all. I followed her, just after I snapped this shot.

Friends, Family, and Farmer’s Markets

One ray of sunshine in our otherwise sleepy little town is the abundance of fresh produce during the growing season. Almost everywhere you turn, someone is set up by the side of the road selling something and here in about a month, it’s only going to get better as the farmers who planted after the last frost (instead of in a greenhouse) start to see their tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, and corn come in like crazy.

I realized as I was driving down the road the other day that I’ve inadvertently become a bit of an expert on where to find the best produce in our area. If you want strawberries, you can’t beat Bradley’s Kountry Acres or Oak Grove Farms. Blackberries, we also get those from Bradley’s or Circle S Farms. Peaches come from Mr. Paul’s house (he has a little stand with an honor box). The best honey is from Happy Bee. Almost everything else (cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, eggplant, potatoes, etc.) comes from Wade Farmz or one of the many other vendors at our Wednesday or Saturday Farmer’s Market…which now includes a man named Jeff.

Two weekends ago as I was leaving the market with our CSA basket, I heard a voice call my name. I turned to see a scraggly mountain man waving at me from the gate. Almost instantly I recognized the weathered but smiling face. It was Jeff, a friend of the family from so many years ago, I can hardly recall. In fact, I’d dare say 30 years have passed since Jeff was popping wheelies on my 3-speed bike across the backyard where our garden now grows. Jeff’s sister and my mom were good friends for a short while and Jeff always seemed to tag along with us wherever we went.

Me posing with a rooster in Gatlinburg, TN [circa 1988].
Jeff is a character like none I’ve ever encountered. He was a wild 22-year old boy when he went with us to Gatlinburg on vacation one year. Chickens must have been all the rage back then because everywhere we went, there were giant chicken statues and Jeff and I posed by every one of them. When I was going through photos earlier in the year, I found this one.

It was good to see Jeff at the Farmer’s Market and even better to find out that he now has a farm just 3 miles from Mom’s house. His pickling cucumbers and red potatoes are absolutely delicious, earning Birdwell Farms a spot on my list of “best places to buy produce” in Sumner County.

Last Wednesday, I took Ticky to the market with me. It was really too hot to be outside but I thought she might like to help me pick out some vegetables. She immediately wanted to give Jeff a hug, though they’d never met. Little kids (and dogs) know good people when they see them. She picked up potatoes and studied them intently, eventually handing one to a lady who walked up. Then she discovered blueberries. Before I could stop her, she plucked one from the container and popped it into her mouth. I bought 2 cartons, of which she ate about 1/2 cup when we got home. That kid loves fruit (and veggies) thank goodness!

She was so tired from her Farmers Market adventure that she passed out at our next stop. Thankfully Walmart has pillows!

We’re starting to see a few veggies from our own garden and will likely have enough blackberries to top a few waffles very soon. Watching them grow makes me pretty happy. Filling the freezer for winter will make me even happier!

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Angie comes back from her 2 week stay in Texas tomorrow. I absolutely can’t wait. Though we’ve talked every day, it feels like she’s been gone forever. While she’s been away, she’s been doing a bit of gardening too.

Plus, she took her mom to the Lubbock Farmer’s Market for the first time ever. I believe her mom has lived there all of her life. This is their haul for the day, most of which Angie has already eaten. (I hope she can sneak that honey jar past TSA!)