The Old Man in the Woods

As if being called by the wild, I turn right coming from work, off HWY 83 and I find myself at our little farm again. It is becoming spring and I want to smell the dampness in the corner of the shelter-belt, but most of all, I want to visit my old friend the giant cottonwood, the oldest man in the forest. As I make my way through the shrubbery and winters debris, I find him, and his limbs are reaching upwards as if stretched by the release of gravity. His limbs are spindly, spidery and his leaves are just presenting. Time is taking its toll on my childhood friend. I think of my own age, edging near 60 now and remember he was large when I was a child. I wonder how old he is, the old man. I bet he is at least 100. I don’t have to ask how the environment and elements have treated him, for that is evident. He clings to life as if he still has something to say, even though half of his body has now fallen away from itself. For another season though, he will be in his glory soon and I will remember climbing up there, his leaves as wide and bigger than my own hands. I can see where the water below used to be, but is now just a dried basin stream, artificially made by the draining of the city wells. Whispers of the wind are roaming through the trees, the movement of them is erratic. I stand on what was once part of the old cottonwood, it creeks and small pieces of bark turn loose, dusting toward the ground as if saying it is time for me to go and I am saddened. Through the saplings you can see another large tree here and there, different kinds, sizes and shapes, some trimmed by wildlife, others growing through the shade as tall single poles. Many are the times laughter met the breeze and blended with the sound of the rustling old man in the wind. Brothers and a little sister scurrying there. Little sister mostly watching as she clutches her little doll, her friend, not a boy. Both of their hair is tasseled in the breeze. She stumbles through the underbrush, all the while not really realizing so many eyes are watching, making sure she is safe, even though we are probably hanging from the limbs like monkeys. Randy always interested and looking for whatever he might can take apart or burn. He needed watching just as much as little sister did, just ask him when you see him. For a moment I was taken back with visions of what used to be and how everything was so large and grandiose. How the trees and the old man made us feel so small, yet protected underneath their shadows from the sun. I look back at the old man with a tear in my eye, for him too, time has not stood still. His small leaves wave back at me as I touch him gently, with a pat and say thank you for giving part of your life to me. The old man may only be a tree to some, but even in his broken glory, I know he remembered me today.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

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Pecan Pie

As I was at the grocery store today looking around, buying a few groceries and getting things we needed, I passed by the pecan pies. Instinctively I could smell them and remembered how my sister Linda loved them. When I was younger, before I married, we would visit as often as we could. Her husband was a military man, so he was stationed in many places that I was able to drive or catch a bus to. I don’t know why it was a thing of ours, but we always had to have pecan pie. One of the first stops we would make was the commissary. So, through the years, it has become a connection with us, a tradition I suppose, mostly at holidays now. Sometimes it is the smallest of things we remember that causes us to remember a joyful time. When was the last time you sat and thought of the past and found something there that took you from the present? There are many shiny pennies far away, in a distance called the past. We can see and smell them, but we can no longer pick them up. Don’t be the one not putting those pennies in the pocket of your heart. Someday, that pocket may just get full and a penny might fall out. I love when that happens. The pecan pie is representing the bond that my sister and I have, a representation of the past that adhered to some moment that was endearing.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

A Story of Their Own

I was recently asked if I liked writing about my life. I answered in a quick “yes”. I do like writing about my life, because not only is it therapeutic for me, I know there is someone out there that relates to much of what I write about. Is it always easy to write about memories and nostalgia? No, not always. Sometimes when you leave your life on the table like I do, it brings back other memories that are not always welcome, and probably leaves the reader wondering if that really happened or was that really true. I never want it to come across to the reader as just a story. As a very good friend told me, “you write from your heart”. That was an amazing compliment, because it is true. There are many laughs, good times and yet sorrow within all of us, despite what turn of events caused one life to seem harder or better than the other. Life would not be real without these adversities of life and the things I have seen and felt. Many new thoughts and memories have bloomed and continue to grow, for the good. Some of the life’s events I put on paper are written through streaming tears. Others, are written through turned up lips, morphing into laughs. Laughs like the time my childhood friend Cyndi and I would chew grandmas sugar cane and without her knowing it, spit it down her cistern. Yes, the same cistern on her screened in back porch I saw her draw water from so many times. Cyndi, when you read this, you will remember, I know you. Cyndi is my life’s longest friend. She lived next door to my grandmother when we were so, so young. She lives in south Texas now, with her beautiful family. We do not see one another often in our adult years, life gets in the way. But, when I do see her, it is like yesteryear. We never have a loss for words. We are still that little boy and girl from the past, best friends. I thank Cyndi for being in my life as a child, she never judged and was always, always my friend, and I think she knows how important she was to me, and how the void she filled was never taken for granted. It seems as if when we were together we could get in to a lot of things we shouldn’t, like the time grandma caught us playing in her bathtub. Anyone who knew my grandma, knew she wasn’t about boys and girls being in the tub together, even though we were only 4 or 5 years old. Moving forward, living at the farm I remember Rodney standing on the back of someone’s car, I’m not sure whose it was, but they began to drive, and Rodney fell off and hit his head, he slept for hours. Not knowing then what happened, we know today that he must have had a severe concussion, for he slept and slept after that. The time Buddy and I were sitting on the tail gate of daddy’s station wagon while he was pulling an old flat bed trailer with iron wheels up the road, hit a bump, knocked Buddy off and ran over him with the iron wheels. Thank God it was sandy soil and he was resilient. The time Randy got his arm hung in the electric ringer at the “washeteria” as my mother called the laundry. He put his hand in it and it ran is arm up past his elbow. He was swollen for days. The laughs Cindy would give us when she would try to feed her doll real food. I think she still has that old doll. The sadness we felt when my dad would fight with Kenny and Johnny, literally. The times the twins would lock us out of their room and turn their little, lunch box sized record player up high, it’s little speaker unable to handle the noise it made. Their door didn’t have a lock on it, so they got a small block of wood and with a single nail, nailed it to where they could turn it and keep their door shut. The time my mother opened the cabinet door at the farm and a bull snake fell out of it. The time my dad blew up the pressure cooker, got burned, jars busted, glass went everywhere and whatever he was canning went all over the ceiling. The times my twin sisters began having their own children. All these people played a role in making my memoir of memories. Memories that cascade over one another, making a story of their own, closing and reopening chapters of my life.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

The Waterfall

Another road trip down memory lane takes me back to Roaring Springs, Texas. Recently ravaged by a fire on many of the acres around the springs waterfall; this makes me recall swimming there some in the summers when I was a kid. The swimming pool today looks much different than it did when I was a kid and certainly different than it did when my mom and dad were courting. Over the years, the public pool has been sold to a privately-owned country club. The swimming pool encompasses three acres of property, with fresh water flowing out of it continually down into a large stream. To anyone that has ever been there and swam, they know this is some of the coldest water, probably in Texas. The water comes down a small falls, one that has deteriorated in output over the years, but still falling just the same. The temperature of this water is 63 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. You just have to jump in or you won’t get in. The area where the springs exists has a lot of folklore and history attached to it. It was once one of Quanah Parkers (the Indian chief) favorite places to stop and rest. It is also part of what they called The Quanah Parker Trail. It is a site that was probably visited by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado during his expedition of 1541. He was an explorer, born in Salamanca, Spain. It is interesting to look above the falls and imagine what it has seen in its days. The roaming of buffalo across the plains and other animals calling this place their home and watering hole. The gathering of Indians, using rocks to grind their corn. Vividly seeing the echoes of time through the ripples and drips of water from the falls. The same water fall that helped sustain the life of ancestors and explorers. People are drawn to the falls. It is tranquil, and the earth’s life continues to flow there. Four years ago, this November, my son married his lovely wife in Roaring Springs. They have beautiful pictures taken at the water falls. I still have an aunt, uncle and several cousins that live there. It is a community of less than 400 people. Many of my favorite memories abide there. Even after 50 years I can hear the roar of the falls if I close my eyes and listen.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

Love is Us

I watch you sleeping, as I often do. Your dark eyelashes naturally curled up and your eyelids cover the most beautiful cool water, blue eyes I have ever seen, you are beautiful. Many years ago, I met you and I instantly loved you and I love you still. You are the girl in my heart that never has to stand in the corner waiting for a dance. Young we were and much of life unknown, but we learned together. You became my best friend in May of 1984; wherever you were, I wanted to be and just five more minutes was never enough. Those five more minutes will soon be 33 years, the shortest, fastest years of my life. Together, we have made many dreams, some have become reality and others became a testament of faith, love and hope. So, in June of 1985 we married, best friends that we called Love is Us. You are the best memory my mind remembers, the one I don’t have to close my eyes and think of, for you are here, with me and all the minutes that are left. Struggles we’ve seen, adversity we’ve met and yet, Love is still Us. Your sighs are calm now as I listen to you breathe, Mr. Sandman has made his arrival for you. You have been so tired and weary. We have been honorably blessed with two sons that are our miracles. Miracles because they are two of seven little ones that we were allowed to meet, love, raise, watch grow and forever leave their marks on our hearts, as Timye did, for just a short while. Timye is our forever love, our little angel girl in heaven. The little dark-haired princess that time does not forget. There is a longing in our hearts to know her and to someday hold her again. But until then, she will remain our little angel baby, forever and always reminding us that Love is Us. Our oldest son Ken was our 5th try. Life presented us with many problems, hospitalizations and months of bedrest. After two months in bed, he came three weeks early, but was healthy in every way. We were and are so blessed to have such a bright personality in our lives. He was the blessing of all that had been lost. Everything revolved around him and his feet didn’t hit the floor until he was, well too big to carry. He walked so early and was in to everything. He was born in June of 1990. 1991 was the difficult year of Timye, her loss left a lot of displacement and heartache in each of us we didn’t understand. Ken thrived and was so smart, always interested in things beyond his years, having more adult friends than children. We should have known then that great things were in store for him. Today, he has a lovely wife named Keeley and they have careers and future dreams of their own. Several years rocked by and we were happy. Our little family was ideal and we had learned to love it that way. Until, one day I came home from work and Timberly tells me she is pregnant. That word was terrifying to us, it had not met us on even ground, it had taken so much from us, our strength, beliefs, threatening our salvation for being angry at God for what he had not rightly given us, but so easily gave to those we thought were undeserving. As the first trimester ended and little Alex began to grow, we started feeling a little less anxious all the time. Timberly would say “this has been the best pregnancy I have ever had”. Until one day she called me at work. I am a Registered Nurse and was working the 3-11 shift. Her words were shaky, and I could feel her tremble through the phone. Timberly was a high-risk pregnancy so we saw a specialist in Wichita Falls, Texas for every treatment. Her voice on the phone told me that her water had broken, she wasn’t 26 weeks pregnant. This was much to early to be anything but bad news, we were frantic. I got a replacement, quickly at work and drove home. Timberly was ready and had packed a small bag. I know I drove way to fast to the hospital, but we got there. We hadn’t been there long, and she was flown out to Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas. Although her water had broken, the specialist said as long as they could stave off any infection there was a good chance with cellestone injections for lung development and Procardia (blood pressure medicine) would stop any contractions. It was amazing that she was doing so well, and the medication regime seemed to be working. On the fifth day in the hospital, I needed to get back to work because there was little income as it was. I hadn’t been home long until she called and said that an infection had set in and they were going to have to take baby Alex that evening, June 29, 1996. I jumped in the car but didn’t make it there in time for his birth. He was only gestationally 26 weeks and 3 days and weighed in at 2 lbs. 5 ounces and was 13 inches long. He was also born cesarean as was his brother. He was so little. They didn’t give us a good outcome and told us that many premature babies had life threatening illnesses. Alex was intubated and lost weight to 1 pound 15 ounces. The nurses made Timberly save any milk she might have. The naso-gastric tube was tiny, but they were able to feed him about ½ teaspoon at a time. He was a trooper, he did well. He was a miracle baby. Every day was another anticipation with little positive reinforcement from the medical team. To shorten the story. Alex survived, he lived, he is an amazing young man of 22 years old now. He stayed in the hospital 3 full months before he got to come home. He has no health problems and is the second star in our lives but shines just as bright as the first. Through adversity comes triumph. Through our boys we have a fullness in our hearts, thankful for them both. They can do no wrong. Timberly is an amazing, loving mother with love that sustains. We give many more thanks than mentioned, but the one that tops the list is; Love is Always going to be Us. You are sleeping now, you won’t know what I’ve written until you read it tomorrow. I love you sweetheart. Sweet dreams.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

Cane Poles and Rod and Reels

Listening in the distance, I can hear the water lapping over onto itself. Very small crests make it to the bank from the light breeze blowing across the water. A camp fire has been built with twigs, sticks and small limbs, mostly mesquite limbs that we gathered in the daylight. It is warm and feels good with the cool breeze blowing. The fire is orange, and is crackling, tiny red colored embers lift themselves from the wood and for just a second are free to be a color that fades into the darkness. We didn’t have a boat, so our rod and reels were strung across the bank. A forked limb had been whittled and stuck in the ground to hold the rod off of the ground. The day before, my brothers and I would go to the gin on the east side of town. It hasn’t been up and running since I was a young boy. A small creek ran through the south side of it, a perfect environment for growing fishing worms. It usually didn’t take long to have a bucket full of squirmy, wiggling worms. After that had been done, we would then go to the city park and a place called Skunks Hollow that had a small creek that ran through it too. There were a lot of those prehistoric relatives of the lobster that lived there, only smaller, they were called crawdads and could pinch the crud out of you if you weren’t paying attention. We would put bacon on a string to catch them. They would latch onto the bacon and we would lift them out of the water. If there weren’t enough there, dad knew where a small pond was south of town where he would take us to seine crawdads. For those of you who don’t know what a seine is, it is a net about 3 feet wide with floats on the top and small sinkers on the bottom. One of us boys would get on one end and one on the other. One of us would wade to the other side and we would walk the length of the pond. Sometimes you had to be careful, because at times, crawdads weren’t the only things that were caught. Sometimes you might catch a water snake and if we did, it was time for me to go home. We would usually go to A. Jones’ sporting goods and get some minnows if dad didn’t have enough in the shelterbelt. We also had to have chicken livers for bait. Bait was never lacking, and we usually brought more of that back than we did fish. We would bring a blanket or two along and spread them out, often one of us would fall asleep, but most of the time we stayed awake, because fishing with my dad was a treat, one of my greatest joys and memories I have with him. This trip he has brought us to Possum Kingdom Lake, fairly good-sized lake. Many people had boats and you could see the lights setting on top of the water. My dad would always make sure he brought Vienna sausage, crackers and beanie weenies for snacks. We made sure we would bring a couple of gallons of water from home and bring some Shasta drinks, grape, orange and cola. Throughout the night, an occasional flashlight would come on when the rods started to bend. Most of the time at night we would catch catfish. I can remember the channel catfish we would catch. They were already glistening in the moonlight as they reached the bank. The silver shine with black spots was a beautiful arrangement. If they were big enough, they would go on the stringer. Often, we would have a lot of them caught by morning. By keeping them on a stringer, you had to pay attention that turtles weren’t around. If they came around, they would eat your fish. As daylight approached, dad would get out his fishing knife and we would start gutting and cleaning the fish, washing them with lake water and putting them in a cooler with ice. As it became daylight, dad would often go for a swim, he didn’t care what the water looked like, he was going to get in it. I always admired the way he swam, gliding through the water as if he were one of the fish. Throughout my life, I never became a great swimmer. I could save my self, but anyone else would have to fiend for themselves. We would have breakfast of our Vienna sausages, crackers and a soda and then begin to fish for a while longer. When it started getting too hot, we would load up the old truck. This is when it was ok to ride in the back of the pickup. Buddy and I always road in the back of the truck. The wind sometimes whipped around so strong it would nearly take your breath or slap your hair in your eyes. It was nearly impossible to keep your cap on. These are the memories I often think of when I miss my dad. He was wonderful at times, the best. He showed us how to put a worm on the hook, so the fish wouldn’t just pull it off. He showed us how to put chicken liver on the hook so that it just didn’t fall or break off the hook, and he showed us how to put those prehistoric crawdads on too. Sometimes dad would clean them and throw them in the fire, pull them out and eat them like popcorn shrimp. They were pretty tasty. He showed me how to tie a knot in the line through a hook so that it wouldn’t slide out. He was often my friend and teacher; for those reasons, the good memories outweigh the bad. As evening approached, we would start home, looking probably a lot like what the Clampetts looked like on their way to Hollywood. We had an awesome time, sunburned and all. Cane poles and rod and reels, the semblance of my childhood.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

Let Us Look Upon Your Grace

Our white shirts are all ironed, and our best slacks readied for Easter morning. We spent most of the evenings before boiling and coloring eggs, many times with Crayola’s and sometimes with cake coloring.  I remember all of this as dad is driving us to my mom’s parents’ house for church and family festivities, of which I have mentioned in a previous post. There were no seat belts worn, and certainly not enough of them for our family. My favorite place to ride was above the back seat, I think it was everyone’s, but at some point, the bigger boys became too big to ride there comfortably. I could look out the window at the clouds or just lay there. There was no air conditioning in the car, so all of the windows were rolled down. Yes, I said rolled down, because there weren’t a lot of electric buttons in the early 60’s. As we would get close to Matador, we could see the water tower and all start singing “I see Matador, I see Matator”, with unchained passion. As a kid, before getting into town, there was a hill, written in large white rocks was the word Matador. I always thought that was so cool. It is no longer there. I wonder what happened to it, maybe it was reclaimed by the elements. As we roll into Roaring Springs, we pass the little Pentecostal church we will have service at that morning. Grandma and Grandpas house is just a little further up the road. Driving up to the front of the house, the front porch is already inhabited by my Grandpa and uncles, some smoking, some not, telling tales or just talking, catching up on whatever had been missed. Some cousins were already there, running around outside, playing, trying not to get dirty before church.  Mom goes inside with many of her sisters where they are preparing the Easter meal. My mother was nearly always designated to make cornbread and cabbage. All of the aunts had a specialty they made better than the other. As a kid, we didn’t care who made what, we were ready for the Easter egg hunt. Moving forward, as you already know we have had church and are now back at Grandmas house, having a great lunch, with more food than the law should allow. Some of it, especially the drinks would be taken to the tabernacle, where the uncles would go first and hide all the eggs. With anticipation, we would wait, knowing there would also be a prize egg out there somewhere. The day turns into afternoon and finally all the eggs have been hidden. Once there, the kids are let loose as if it were The Running of the Bulls in Spain and everyone moves out of the way. The eggs are soon found and whoever finds the prize egg lets out a whoop and a holler. There usually wasn’t a lot of money in it, but it was the hunt that mattered. It was like a trophy. It wouldn’t be right or Christian if I didn’t make sure it was known why we celebrate this holiday, so here is a small prayer for each of you today. May this day bring you many memories and the richest of blessings.

Our most gracious heavenly father, you loved this world so much, that you gave your one and only son, Jesus, that we might be called your children too. We ask for your mercy lord, to help us to live in the grace of Easter Sunday, each day. Let us have hearts of thankfulness and thanksgiving for your sacrifice. Let us look upon Your grace with opened eyes and rejoice in our salvation. Help us to walk in that mighty grace and tell the gospel to the world. All for your glory do we pray, Amen and Amen.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)