Sept 18 – Family and Friends

With Mom a few years ago on Madge. She was 89, and still able to climb aboard from the dock.

We were only in Saint Marys for a couple of days before we had to load into the car and drive to Birmingham for Mom’s funeral. When we tried to leave on Tuesday morning, the battery in the Suburban was dead. I’d kept a maintenance charger on the battery while we were cruising, but it was a fairly old battery. I quickly grabbed my high capacity charger and jumped it off, and then we drove straight to the auto parts store to replace the battery. We were only about 45 minutes late getting away. We decided to stop in Newnan to break up the long trip, and spent the night with friends. The next morning, before continuing to Birmingham, Suzy had arranged to see her old hair stylist for a trim. When we arrived at our hotel later that afternoon, I discovered that the battery for my iPhone was dead. It had swollen so much that I couldn’t fully close my LifeProof cover. Turned out to be a bad day for batteries, I guess. My iPad was still working, at least, and I found a battery replacement place a few blocks from the hotel, where I could get a replacement the next morning. That evening, my brothers and I, along with our wives, had dinner at the upscale Highlands Bar & Grill. I can’t remember the last time we all got together. We had a great time. Funny how such a sad event can lead to some really happy visits.

Mom and Dad on their 25th Anniversary in 1971, wearing their original wedding clothes. Dad passed in 2004.

Our family were founding members of our church back in 1970, though for the past 35 years Mom and Dad were the only ones still in town. Because of Mom’s status as one of the Founders, her funeral was a big deal for the church. After a private graveside service in the morning, there was an open memorial service in the afternoon. The old church always had great music, and though the service was held in the middle of the afternoon, the full choir showed up for Mom. The music was excellent. The pastor did a wonderful job with the eulogy. After the service, we received condolences from many old friends whom we’d only seen sparingly since moving away so many years ago. My parents generation is slowly dying out, and there are few of my generation that are still in town and at the old church. Most of the current church membership knew my parents but did not know me or my brothers. Mom was a bit of a character, unafraid to speak her mind and strong-willed. From those members we did not know, we heard enough stories to convince us that these people knew Mom well, and loved her.

Mom with her first great-grandchild in 2011.

Our family took over half of Birmingham’s Bottega Cafe that evening. My bothers and all the nephews and nieces, their spouses and children, were there. Our two daughters, though, could not be there, having had to drive home after the memorial service to return to jobs and children. After the sadness and stress of the day, it was great for us all to get together for some fellowship and great Italian food. The next day (Friday), my brothers and I (and wives) headed over to Mom’s house to resume the cleaning out that had been going on sporadically ever since we had moved Mom into an independent living apartment in 2014. The house is a late-1950s three-bedroom ranch with a full basement, and my brothers had done a pretty good job of clearing out the kitchen and much of the furniture, but the nightmare was going to be in the basement. My father had finished out the basement, adding a family room, bedroom, bathroom and second kitchen, in addition to the garage. After all the kids were gone, my mother had turned this area into her “office” and a storage facility for everything that my parents — and grandparents — had collected since the early 1900s. I wouldn’t technically classify it as hoarding, but apparently Mom never threw anything away that might be considered an official “record” or correspondence. There were filing cabinets filled with bank statements, some for accounts which had been closed decades ago; copies of old minutes from church conferences from when Mom was the church clerk; and company memos from when she was an HR executive assistant before she retired over 30 years ago. There was furniture from my grandparents’ house. There were four PCs, because Mom thought she might have forgotten to move something from an old PC to a new one. There were storage boxes full of old newspapers and photos of people that nobody still living knew the names of. There were mounds of “stuff.” And since there might be some personal financial account information or ID numbers hidden in all the stuff, we had to go through it. We ended up with several storage bins of papers that I took to be shredded. I emptied two full 4-drawer commercial filing cabinets, examining every sheet of paper. I brought home four boxes of genealogical records, hoping some day to sort through them and distill them into our family tree. We slept on air mattresses Friday night, and resumed our task on Saturday. By lunchtime, we were exhausted, and we’d barely made a dent in the stuff. There were still dozens of boxes stacked on shelves in the garage. We were tempted to just throw them away unopened, but who knew what might be in them? With the way our parents (and grandparents) stored things, they could contain anything — though we did rule out finding Jimmy Hoffa. We would have to come back later, probably many more times, to completely empty the house.

Suzy and Mom

We left Birmingham Saturday afternoon and returned to Newnan, to stay with other friends on our way back to Saint Marys. On Sunday morning, we strolled into our old Sunday School class at church and seated ourselves quietly. It took several minutes before our classmates realized that they hadn’t seen us in 16 months. We gave a brief recap of our time on the water, and expressed our hope that we’d be returning in the future. After Sunday School, still following our former routine, we went to the choir room to robe up and take our old seats. We got a great reception from our Music Minister when we walked in. She was wonderfully surprised. Seems the choir was short a soprano and a bass that morning, and we filled the gaps. The anthem was one we had sung several years ago, so it only took a minute to get up to speed. Our presence in the choir loft was noticed, so after the service we got to chat with many good friends who stayed to speak with us.

We love Saint Marys. It is our cruising home base and we have good friends there. But Newnan and Central Baptist Church will always be home, whether we ever get back there or not.