Friday, February 18, 2011

"And Now You": Remembering Deb

[My cousin, Deb Wilson, passed away today – February 18, 2011 – her birthday. We all process our grief in different ways – one of the ways I express grief is by writing. If you knew Deb, I hope this encourages you to think about your own special memories of Deb. I love you, Deb.]

Hey Deb . . .

I just found out that you have left us, and I wanted to write this to help me think about all the special memories I have of you.

I know it might be a while before you get around to reading this, because I know you are enjoying a special reunion with everyone there – your Mama and Daddy, Harold, David, Jimmy, B.J., and so many others. Lord, sometimes it seems like I have more family there than here – and now you. Please tell everyone there I love and miss them – especially my Boe.

Don't worry about trying to answer this letter – I'd probably end up like Nanny said she'd be with Boe. You remember that don't you? You, Nanny and me were at her house one Saturday night sittin' in the kitchen. I had just made the regular Saturday trip to Zaxby's to get us all something to eat, and we were just visiting.

I don't remember how it came up, but Nanny started talking about this cousin (I don't remember who it was, but I think it was a cousin on the Rice side of the family) whose husband passed away. Well, she was telling Nanny how she felt like her husband was still with her, went everywhere with her in the car, and how she would just talk to him and he talked to her. Nanny said she'd always say something like, “we went to the store, we went here or we did this.”

I was living in Florida back then when Nanny was talking to this cousin, and Nanny was wanting to come down and see Charlotte and me. Well, this cousin mentioned that she was going to Florida (she said it like “we are going to Florida”), and invited Nanny to ride down with them. Nanny said she told her she wouldn't ride with her across the street if her dead husband was in the car. “No sir,” she said, “I ain't goin' nowhere with you, and you can mark that down.”

I remember you and I both just cracked up. Then I said, “Well, what if Boe came here to talk to you?”

She said, “If Boe Mills ever comes here to talk to me, he'll be talkin' to his-self, 'cause I'll be gone. You know, I'll take off runnin'.”

Another thing I remember when I'm thinking about all the times we shared together is the time back in 1988, when I was in Rome for the summer. One Thursday night, we were all – you, your Mama, Mary, Nanny and me – just sittin' in Nanny's kitchen talking and playing dice. Somebody mentioned how they'd love to go to the mountains and Nanny said, “Well, let's go. They ain't nothin' tying me down.”

That settled it. We were goin' to the mountains that next morning.

Well, you and Phoebe went home to get packed, and way up in the night – Lord, it must've been after midnight, me and Nanny were sittin' around the kitchen table, and Nanny said, “Lord, I don't think I'm gone be able to sleep a wink, shore 'nuf. Why don't we just leave now?”

Of course, Mary had gone to bed and wasn't planning to get up at midnight to leave for the mountains, so when Nanny went in there to get her up, Lord, you shoulda heard Mary! I can't even write what all she said seein' where this letter is goin' and all. But you know Mary, so you know what I'm talkin' about.

Well, then she called up to your house, woke you and Aunt Phoebe up, and told you we were leaving right then, to gather up your things, and get down there. And I can hear your Mama saying, “Well, Eula!” just as plain as anything.

But, we got all packed up, and we all piled in that little white car Nanny had. I reckon it musta been 1 or 2 o'clock when we pulled out of the driveway. I drove, and here we went up to Cherokee.

Well, we pulled into Cherokee about 6 or 6:30 that morning, and of course by the time we got there all any of us wanted to do was sleep. So here we go a-lookin' for a motel room. Well, every last place in Cherokee, North Carolina, was full – I mean, we couldn't find nothin'. 'Course, Mary let Nanny know what she thought of her idea to leave in the middle of the night to come up to the mountains. I remember we were all pretty ill.

We had to just wait at one of those motels til somebody checked out around 9 or 10 o'clock, and they let us have the room as soon as it was clean. And I remember we all just slept the whole day away just about.

You know, that was one of the funnest trips I've ever been on. We had so much fun! I remember when we drove over the mountain to Gatlinburg one day on that trip. Nanny's car started overheating, and here we go tryin' to pull over on the side of the road going up this mountain., and there wasn't hardly any room before the road just fell away down the side of the mountain – no guard rail or anything. I remember Nanny and your Mama were as nervous as if we had dynamite in the trunk of that car. Of course, Mary got so irritated with them, she was fit to be tied – but she wasn't worried about fallin' off the mountain. And you didn't say a word.

But we did okay, and everything after went smooth as far as I remember. I know we all had the best time.

I will always treasure the time I lived in Rome a few years ago and you and I were next door neighbors and friends. I never felt closer to you than that time. And one of the things I remember about that time is the Sunday morning you called me to tell me something was wrong with Patches. I remember us all going over to the vet out in Armuchee, and him telling us there was nothing he could do, so he put Patches to sleep. One of the hardest things I've ever had to do was carry Patches out in the back yard at your house, dig the hole, and bury her with you standing there. I think we both cried all day that day.

I remember the times you and I went to Alabama to see different folks and the times me, you and Mama went out to eat.

I remember calling you every week when I was on the road. I don't think I ever called you without trying to mess with you on the phone. There was Mr. Sassafras telling you that you needed to come over to the Walmart in Lindale (and they don't even have a Walmart, do they?) and work a double shift to fill in for somebody on vacation. There was Rev. Mac Fleetwood calling you about $5 that was taken out of the offering plate at a revival when you were about 11 or 12 and asking for it back. There was attorney Bruce Shenanigan calling you investigating you for stealing some rich lady's identity up on Saddle Mountain and goin' on a spending spree.

You always just laughed and said “Allan, what are you doin'?” or you'd say, “Allan I know that's you.”

Well, I know you've got forever, but I don't want it to take you forever to read this, so I will end this here, and just say that I love you and miss you and I can't wait to see you and everyone else.