An Untitled Post About Mama

We just found out that my Uncle Paul has leukemia. They sent him home saying there was nothing at this point that they could do and hospice was called. They gave him somewhere in the neighborhood of two weeks to live. That was a week ago. Uncle Paul is the husband of my Aunt Frankie who is one of my mother’s older sisters. Before I get into the subject of this post, let me give you a little history about my mother’s family.

My mother, Dorothy Louise(Barber) Hankins was born in Montgomery in 1929 accompanied by her twin sister Doris. Doris somehow got the nickname of Bunny and for the twenty-one or so years I knew her she was Aunt(pronounced like ain’t) Bunny. While there is nothing particularly unusual about that, consider that my mom and my Aunt Bunny were the youngest in their family. They followed siblings Myrtle, 1904, Alpha Iula, 1905, Wallace, 1907, Malvin, 1909, Maddie Lou, 1911, James, 1913, Ruth, 1914, Ruby Gladys(Aunt Pete), 1916, Alice, 1918, Jasper, 1920, John, 1921, Bill, 1924, and Sarah Francis(Aunt Frankie), 1926. For those of you keeping score at home, that gives my mom 14 siblings. Her parents, my grandparents, James and Viola, were born in 1878 and 1879 respectively. Needless to say I never had the opportunity to know either of them.
When I called my mom to get all of her brothers’ and sisters’ names she told me that Aunt Frankie had called at 4:30 this morning(Tuesday, March 23rd) to tell her that those attending to Uncle Paul had removed the various devices that have been helping keep Uncle Paul alive. As I write this, my mom sits and waits for the call that will bring the news that Uncle Paul is gone. She expects it. She has waited for calls like this before. She can’t be there with Aunt Frankie. Age, arthritis, and a broken leg several years ago have left her unable to walk and even a short trip to Montgomery would be a taxing one. I can’t help but think that she really wants to be there with her one living sister to comfort her as she waits for her husband to pass into eternity. I wonder what she is thinking as she waits.
You see, my mother, the baby of her family, has lived to see her father, mother, seven sisters, and six brothers die. There’s only mom and Aunt Frankie left and Aunt Frankie is about to lose her husband. The death of a loved one is never easy under any circumstances. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be endure the death of someone as close as a parent or a sibling one time, much less fifteen times. When her twin sister died, she said it was like losing half of herself. They had been together, literally, from the moment of conception. It broke her heart.
What I have wondered over the last few days as we have waited to hear the news of yet another death, is if my mom ever feels lonely. Not that there aren’t people around. She lives next door to one of my three sisters and all of her children live within ten or fifteen miles of her. She has seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren whom she adores and who adore her in return. And she still has my dad, too. It just seems as though there might be a kind of loneliness that goes along with being one of the last two survivors of one’s immediate family. It makes me feel lonely for her and I want to ask her if she feels that way. I don’t think I will, though. It would probably make matters worse since my emotions often tend to get the better of me. She probably wouldn’t tell me anyway. That’s how moms are. At least mine is that way. She always looks out for everyone else first.
My mother knows Christ and she knows that she’ll see the loved ones she has lost who also knew Him on the other side of this life, in Heaven. But for forty-one years she’s protected me, the baby of our family, from as much pain and heartache as she could while enduring much herself. Now that I’m older and I consider what she might be feeling as she faces the death of her brother-in-law who, by the way, has been married to her sister for over sixty years, I want to protect her. I don’t know what I could do, really, but I feel lonely for her. Maybe that’s all I can do. Maybe if she knows that, it’ll be enough. Maybe.

What’s Wrong With Prattville?

I was having a conversation with someone late last week regarding the direction that Wetumpka is heading as a city. We lamented how unfortunate it was that Wetumpka’s city council has had a less than stellar last year or so, but also expressed hope that the recent positive changes in the behavior of this administration were a sign of better times ahead. The person I was talking with has been involved in the inner workings and business of more than one municipality over the years, including Wetumpka, and has a wealth of experience and knowledge on such things. One thing she said kind of bothered me, though. She said that there are a handful of people who have at least a modicum of influence on some city officials who told her that they didn’t want Wetumpka to be another Prattville. I recoiled with surprise and asked her what was so wrong with Prattville. Neither of us could find any glaring faults with the Fountain City.

I am old enough to remember when a drive down Cobbs Ford Road would take you past not much more than one little gas station and a bunch of trees. I think it was the Jet Pep(I could be wrong on this point) and it is still there in the midst of a booming area of the city. My family and I live right in the middle of Wetumpka and what used to be a Friday night drive into Montgomery for dinner or a movie or maybe a little shopping has now often become a drive into Prattville for the same thing.  Much of that part of Prattville is in Elmore County and I like the idea of spending my money in the county in which I live. I like the idea of spending my money in the city in which I live even more but Wetumpka doesn’t have the offerings of Prattville, at least not yet.

Prattville has landed more restaurants and retail stores of varying kinds than I can list here but a few spring immediately to mind because of my personal affinity for them. Bass Pro Shops is a place my kids LOVE to visit even though we’re not particularly outdoorsy. It’s like going to an amusement park for them. We often visit there after having dinner at McCallister’s or Zaxby’s or Moe’s. If we are craving a “sit-down” meal with a bit more atmosphere we can choose from Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, or Tokyo Japanese Steakhouse among many other choices. There’s Target, JC Penny, Belk and other stores for shopping. There’s a nice, clean 12-screen movie theater and we can drive just down the street to Bruster’s for ice cream before we head home.

A quick glance at Prattville’s website shows that they have a Department of Leisure Services which offers such diverse offerings for its citizens as a mime workshop, Bark in the Park for pet lovers, a fishing seminar, fitness classes, Kid’s Springfest, a teen self-defense class, and many other activities for everyone from children all the way up to senior adults. The city seems to want to provide plenty of activities to keep the people who live there busy if they choose to be.

How in the world could anyone find any negatives with these things? The only thing I can figure is that some folks would prefer that Wetumpka not get any bigger than it is. The fact is, at least as I see it, people are discovering Wetumpka and are moving to our area to enjoy the great quality of life that we have here and as great as that quality is, it can still get better! I think there is a need for more family oriented activities. Maybe an occasional outdoor family movie night down at Gold Star Park. Perhaps a concert of some sort every now and again. The courthouse steps and our downtown area is a great place for something like that. As I write this, I am sitting across the street from a beautiful civic center that in my opinion is a bit underutilized. My children loved the character breakfast the city sponsored there back in December and I think that city officials should try and do more things like that since we have such a great facility for such activities. My multi-talented wife has expressed a desire to start some sort of civic chorale or something along those lines. Stealing a line from Nike, I told her she should just do it! I think it’s a great idea and would draw a lot of interest. She is just the person to head up such an undertaking!

I’m not saying Wetumpka should try and be just like Prattville and I’m not saying that they are perfect. What works for them may not work for us. What I do know is that Prattville has made great strides over the years to be something more than just a bedroom community for Montgomery and they’ve been quite successful at it. I think Wetumpka has also moved in that direction and I hope that city officials and those who live in and around Wetumpka desire to see us continue to head in that direction. I love living here and it’s a great place to raise a family! Hopefully in the next few years we’ll be able to do many of the things right here in Wetumpka that we now have to go elsewhere to do. Wetumpka has great potential! We’re not called the City of Natural Beauty for nothing! I say we sell ourselves as such and do all we can to make life better for ourselves, our children, and generations to come! There’s no time like the present! On your marks, get set, GO…

Nothing More Than a Disjointed Rant Before My Head Explodes

This president and at least 212 members of the house of representatives are the most arrogant, selfish, elitist group of people I suppose I have ever had the displeasure of knowing about. For these people to even consider passing, much less actually voting into law, this bloated, ridiculously complicated, overreaching monstrosity known as a healthcare bill is quite literally more than I can comprehend! When I was in church work as a minister, I learned something very important from my pastor. When he joined the staff of the church I worked at he said that there were some changes that needed to be made for our church to grow. He also said that these changes couldn’t be made immediately, that it would take time. He said that even though you might get 60% of the people to go along with you, that still left 40% who were against you. His point was that even though something could get done with a 60-40 majority, it wasn’t wise to do so with 4 out of every 10 people not agreeing with whatever change you wanted to make. This president and this congress could learn a thing or two about politics from my pastor.

After seeing Bret Baier of Fox News interview Mr. Obama last night it is obvious that the president himself doesn’t know what is and is not in this bill. He dodged and danced around practically every question he was asked and never once provided a straight answer. This is likely because he has no real idea of what is even in this bill. This man was not prepared to be president and I can’t believe he was able to dupe so many otherwise intelligent people into voting for him. He seems to care more about being a celebrity than about the will of the people. I think he would be a perfect fit to reprise the role formerly played by Alicia Silverstone if there is ever a  Clueless 2.

Anyone who votes in favor of this bill is, quite honestly, doing a disservice to the political process of our country that borders on being downright treasonous. They don’t care to hear what the majority of people in this country have to say about this bill. They don’t care to answer our questions and they are thumbing their noses at us and basically telling us that we are too dumb to even realize how important it is that this legislation is passed. I can only say that my hope is that every last one of these people pay a heavy, heavy price the next time their name appears on the ballot. Morons.

My Eight Year Old Prefers Marlboro Lights(Not Really)

I recently got an email from a friend who asked if I had eaten at a new restaurant in town. I told him that I had but that I hadn’t been back. Not that the food or service was bad, but…well, I’ll let him tell you:

“Me and (his wife) and the baby were gonna’ eat there the other night but when we asked for non-smoking it was in the same room as smoking. The whole room was a cloud of smoke and we just said no thanks, we will go somewhere else! I mean at least put those of us that choose not to expose ourselves and our 4-month old to floating cancer in another room!”

I understand where he is coming from. My family and I don’t patronize restaurants where we are forced to share the air with those who choose to smoke and are allowed to smoke in the same room with us. Sometimes that means driving out of the way but it is worth it not to have to inhale someone else’s airborne toxins. Certainly, any adult who chooses to smoke has every right to do so, but shouldn’t my family and I have the right, as non-smokers, to not inhale secondhand smoke? It has been well documented that secondhand smoke poses a serious health risk to those who are exposed to it. If you were at a restaurant sitting a few tables away from someone who had had several beers, you wouldn’t like if they kept walking over to your table to burp in your face. All you wanted to do was to go somewhere and enjoy a nice meal and relax and having someone blow their previously inhaled air into your personal space would not only be a bit disgusting, but would probably also diminish your enjoyment of your meal.

This is not an indictment of smokers. I once was a smoker myself. I have friends and acquaintances who smoke. Smokers aren’t bad, evil people. The habit of smoking, however, is dangerous and those of us who choose not to smoke shouldn’t have to involuntarily. Especially our children.

I hear lots of business owners, particularly owners of restaurants, who say that a smoking ordinance would hurt their business. May I ask a question? If you allow smoking in your restaurant I know that my family is not the only family who will choose not to eat there. How is that not hurting your business? My family eats out almost every night of the week, too! The city of Montgomery has a smoking ordinance which allows restaurants to choose whether they will allow smoking or not. If they do, then the whole restaurant has to allow smoking. There is no non-smoking area at all. Outback Steakhouse is a non-smoking establishment. In fact, they chose to be non-smoking well before Montgomery’s ordinance was even enacted. If you happen to drive by there on a Friday night around 6:30 or so, take a look at how many people are waiting outside for a table and you will see quite a crowd. It would appear that being a non-smoking restaurant hasn’t hurt their business at all. I might even go so far as to say it helped their business!

Has the time come for Wetumpka to consider some sort of smoking ordinance? Would any council member be willing to address this subject? Would there be a great hue and cry against such an ordinance? Is it even an issue people care about? What do you think?

From the "Where There is Smoke" Department

I thought those of you playing along at home would find this little story very interesting. Especially those who took umbrage with my insinuation that gambling fosters and even encourages corruption. It will be more than a little interesting to see how this drama plays out. The Sweet Home Alabama bill, had it passed, would have stood to be much sweeter for some than for others. Namely, certain politicians and gambling bosses. Don’t think for a minute we’ve seen the last of this sort of chicanery, though. Anyway, read on…And thanks for the link, Troy.

Tax returns show Langford hit many jackpots

Walt Disney World: The Happiest Place on Earth(Almost Always)

My family and I love Disney World. Disney World is awe-inspiring and thought-provoking on many different levels. Our last trip inspired me to create a new marketing slogan for WDW. “Walt Disney World: Where Parents Come to Spank Their Kids in Public.” I’ve never seen more crying kids at any one place than I have at Disney World, the happiest place on Earth. That has more to do with the fact that the kid wants to do what he/she wants to do with no consideration for anyone else than it does with bad parenting, but then again, isn’t that what kids get paid to do? Because moms and dads love WDW too, the child’s selfishness results in a battle of wills between the kids and parents. My kids have probably been spanked more in their four trips to WDW, a total of about twenty-five days, than they have in the rest of the time they weren’t at WDW! Tear-stained faces and snot-bubbles from crying notwithstanding, we still love that place and I can’t imagine letting a year go by without us taking a visit there.

A favorite of ours at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is Kilimanjaro Safaris in which you ride in an open air truck through a replica of an African savannah. As is always the case with Disney, they spared no expense in making the landscape incredibly realistic. You’ll see animals native to Africa like lions, giraffes, rhinos, elephants, hippos, wildebeests, zebras, and many others. On our last trip, I happened to see a bird that was very familiar to me. It was a mockingbird. Having never been to Africa, I can’t say with any degree of certainty that mockingbirds don’t live there. My gut feeling is that they probably don’t and that this bird had meandered, perhaps from some lush, green park in Kissimmee with swings and monkey bars and children playing under the watchful eyes of their mothers, into a place he was totally unfamiliar with, with animals he had never seen before. Into Africa of all places! Can’t you imagine what must have been going through his tiny bird mind? “Man! I flew a lot further than I thought! That tailwind was something else!” “I wonder where that cow got that body armor?” “LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THAT PILE OF DUNG!” “Hey, it’s a big, gray Mr. Snuffleupagus!”

He is a bird though, so maybe he just flew down and landed on the ground and started eating bugs, oblivious to the world around him. I have seen a mocking bird fly into a sliding glass door on numerous occasions so I could be giving the bird more credit than he deserves. I also once saw a guy named Bill, who held down a regular job and knew how to work on cars, walk into a sliding glass door even after he was told by an onlooker that the door was locked, so who really knows? The bird could be smarter than we think.

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