Rain delay

July 10, 2017 - Leave a Response

Published by the Times-Georgian–July 9, 2017

http://www.times-georgian.com

by Joe Garrett

 

Noah got drunk.

As the first known drunken sailor, he decided to sip too much wine after a long 40 days and 40 nights surrounded by a bunch of stinking animals. Lord knows how many times he gagged after taking a whiff of cow manure, chicken poo and buffalo chips while he steered the ark.

Imagine being surrounded by every single animal on earth confined to an ark with no access to a yard of green grass to let these creatures take care of business.

Nothing is easy. No wonder Noah decided to unwind by pouring himself a cup or two of vino once he was back onshore. It’s what happened next that often gets some folks upset.

He passed out in his tent buck naked.

As we say when we finish reading a passage in the Episcopal church—“The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.”

This story is found in the ninth chapter of Genesis and I’ve been waiting for years to hear someone preach a sermon on it. Maybe Preacher Steve Davis will lose another bet with me and he’ll have to spend some office hours studying Noah’s indiscretions.

Hopefully, we’ll hear his sermon soon because this never-ending rain we’ve been having all summer is causing me to feel like Noah.

Precipitation is necessary and as the Oak Ridge Boys once sang, “It takes a little rain to make love grow.”

The lakes, of course, are a little fuller than last summer when we experienced a drought. However, the tomatoes aren’t tasting as juicy and one needs a second mortgage on his home to afford a basket of peaches. It’s already estimated Georgia will lose 80 percent of its peach crop this year due to the crazy warm winter and all of the rainfall.

I wonder if Noah ever sipped peach wine?

Although the story of Noah continues after he passes out, I’ll leave that interpretation for another day. Instead I’m going back to focusing on his hard work. After building a massive ship, spending 40 days and 40 nights with a bunch of animals including his own family while it never stopped raining, let’s give him some slack for his drinking.

He earned a vacation.

And I will follow his lead. For the next few weeks, you’ll have to read some of my old columns. In other words, I’m taking some time to recharge, refocus and turn off my brain as a columnist so I can return with better material than writing about a drunken sailor.

In the meantime, I hope the weather starts to feel a little more like summer so we don’t have to catch lightning bugs in the soggy, muddy grass outside our back door. Because if it doesn’t stop raining every single day, then I’m worried my neighbors will find me passed out in my front yard.

I hope I keep my clothes on.

Noah's Ark

 

Choppy waters

July 10, 2017 - Leave a Response

Published by the Times-Georgian–June 25, 2017

http://www.times-georgian.com

by Joe Garrett

 

There’s a reason their hair turns gray.

It’s tough being at the top. Somewhere along the way, these men who serve the highest office in the land as Commander-in-Chief will leave office a little whiter on the head than when they started. Through brutal media attacks, long hours and heavy decisions, it’s not surprising when POTUS leaves public office he crosses party lines and develops close friendships with other former presidents.

Nowhere is that more evident than national security. They simply know more than we do.

“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on,” said Winston Churchill.

I love transparency, but I probably don’t need to know all of their information. So, I’m no longer going to criticize these men whether Democrat or Republican when all the public may know are tiny fractions. If I was privy to all their meetings, then by all means I wouldn’t hesitate to share my opinion.

Anyone who has ever served in a leadership role understands criticism, controversy and often division come along with the job.

“I’ll never forget meeting with former Georgia Speaker of the House Tom Murphy when I was a freshman legislator and was having a difficult time,” said my friend David Hughes. “Speaker Murphy put his arm around me and said, ‘Young man, if you’re not in the middle of controversy and criticism, then you’re not doing anything.’”

Recently, we have seen more terrorist attacks throughout our world. When does it stop? As long as a large group of the world’s population doesn’t value life in any shape or form, the prospect for world peace doesn’t appear to be anywhere on the horizon in my lifetime.

Real change takes time. Real change takes sacrifice. Real change often means putting our egos to rest and doing what’s good for the whole, not just a few pieces of the pie.

“Three quarters of the miseries and misunderstandings in the world would finish if people were to put on the shoes of their adversaries and understood their points of view,” said Mahatma Gandhi.

Thank God for people who continue to lead and “dare to be different” despite the heavy emotional and physical tolls on them, their friends and their families.

As for the critics, go abide by the advice from Ted Turner to either “lead, follow or get out of the way.” Or, even better, heed the words from President Roosevelt, the one we called Teddy—

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Thankfully, we live in a country where we still have the freedom to become leaders in our homes, our jobs, our schools and in all aspects of our lives. However, I disagree with Teddy in part of his statement. Critics should count. Not all complainers are chronic.

Sometimes they’re right.

 

 

 

Daddy sang bass

June 18, 2017 - One Response

Published by the Times-Georgian–June 18, 2017

http://www.times-georgian.com

by Joe Garrett

 

I remember we’d leave early in the Georgia sunrise.

Patience was never his virtue. He knew if we hit the blacktop before the clock struck 6:05 a.m., the sausage and gravy biscuits at the Holiday Inn in Eufaula, Alabama would still taste fresh on our first stop.

With a full stomach, it didn’t really matter if Dothan was less than two hours away. My dad always insisted we stop again for smoked pork and a strawberry milkshake at Dobb’s Barbecue before we cruised south to the white, sandy beaches of Panama City Beach, Florida.

As the calendar switched to June, it was a rite of passage for my dad to take our family on vacation.

I’m one of the lucky ones and perhaps you are too. My father is still here. As a matter of fact, he’s always been here—and there. For more than 50 years, he worked hard to build an accounting practice that provided the necessary comforts of having a roof over our heads, food to eat, places to travel and most of all—his children the opportunity to receive higher levels of education.

He never missed our games or school events (we gave him a free pass during tax season). He taught me how to ride a bike and later drive a car. He helped me study for some crucial exams, and I give him full credit for helping me pass my college accounting courses. And yes—he even tapped me on the behind every now and then when I deserved it.

I inherited his love of music, his infatuation for Atlanta Braves baseball, and we both still believe Archie Campbell from “Hee Haw” and Tim Conway from the “Carol Burnett Show” are the two funniest men to ever walk the planet.

We are, however, quite opposites and nowhere is that more evident than our Sunday morning routines.

My Sunday mornings usually begin with a cup of coffee followed by a short walk with my dog or a bicycle ride with friends along the rolling hills throughout Burwell, Victory and Tyus. Afterwards my family either goes to church or we hang around the house relaxing while watching “CBS Sunday Morning,” a cooking show, ESPN or “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

In my dad’s household, church was never an option. We had to go and the only time we ever took a break was on our summer vacations. There’s a reason I still love the song “When the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there.”

Every Sunday morning, my dad would awaken first and be dressed for church and sitting in his chair with a newspaper in hand by 8 a.m. to watch the Happy Goodman Family, Dixie Echoes, J.D. Sumner and the Florida Boys on the “Gospel Singing Jubilee” television show.

“JUBILEE, JUBILEE—You’re invited to this Gospel Jubilee,” the high tenors from these groups would sing while my dad tapped his black wingtip shoes on the floor.

By 9 a.m. he turned the dial to Oral Roberts to watch the Oklahoma minister tell us “something good is going to happen to you.” Each week Oral appeared to have God in his hip pocket but very little cash. As Hank Williams, Jr. once said, “He wants you to give money to the Lord, but he gives you his address.”

It’s the little things one remembers most. I’ll cherish these memories forever.

Again, I’m one of the lucky ones, but I have something more.

As Anne Geddes once wrote, “Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad.”

 

 

 

 

Spelling bee

June 18, 2017 - Leave a Response

Published by the Times-Georgian–June 11, 2017

http://www.times-georgian.com

by Joe Garrett

 

 

After she correctly spelled “konditorei,” “heiligenschein” and “wayzgoose,” I’m glad she wasn’t in my third-grade class.

For a competition that spanned 11 hours, 12-year old Ananya Vinay from Fresno, California captured the $40,000 prize and bragging rights as she was recently crowned the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee Champion.

Vinay won the competition by successfully spelling “marocain,” a dress fabric that is made of ribbed silk or rayon and a filling of other yarns.

The bee began with 291 of the nation’s top spellers who survived the .000026 percent chance of more than 11 million students who competed in their classrooms.

It was a long way away from Mrs. Rooks’ Uncle Sam’s Spelling Bee.

In 1978 Diane Rooks challenged my class at Central Primary to compete in her spelling bee. Instead of squaring off against 11 million people, I only had to compete against about 25 of my peers. For the next nine weeks, my goal was to keep my name on the wall taped at the top of a cutout photo of Uncle Sam. Instead of the traditional spelling bee where you’re kicked out if you miss a word, this contest would crown the champion from whomever had the overall best score.

The slogan “I want you!” adorned the wall under Uncle Sam. I actually thought he wanted me to win.

Each week I watched names of classmate after classmate move lower on the wall for misspelling a word. If you won the grand prize, you earned the option of skipping the final exam and a free ice cream sandwich at snack time.

On the last week of the contest, two names were left for the championship title. My friend John Butler had only one miss during the entire nine-week period versus yours truly with a perfect score.

Our final spelling task was to write five words on a sheet of paper. My memory fails to remember four of those words but I’ll never forget the one that mattered.

“Verb,” said Mrs. Rooks in a calm voice. “Spell verb.”

“That’s easy,” I said to myself.

And then I spelled the word—V-E-R-D.

To this day I still don’t know what the word “VERD” means, but I’ve never since misspelled the word “VERB.”

As for John, he aced the final round and grew up to become a teacher and a preacher. He obviously had someone watching over him. Mrs. Rooks crowned us co-champions of Uncle Sam’s Spelling Bee, and for a little while I was unhappy while John grinned ear to ear.

It didn’t last long.

After biting into my free ice cream sandwich, Mrs. Rooks smiled at me and said “Great job!” I smiled back and took another bite.

Too bad ESPN wasn’t around to televise that.

Tinseltown

June 18, 2017 - Leave a Response

Published by the Times-Georgian–June 4, 2017

http://www.times-georgian.com

by Joe Garrett

 

My first stop in L.A. was for a chili dog.

The little wiener stand in Hollywood resembled Carrollton’s fried poultry gastronomic establishment Big Chic as I noticed the long line waiting to order.

“First time to Pink’s?” the old man standing behind me asked while I waited.

“Yes,” I replied. “I read where this place was voted the best hot dog stand in the country. I’m from a small town close to Atlanta and have long argued the Varsity chili dogs are the best in the universe.”

“Oh, just wait,” the man replied with a chuckle.

Located near the corner of Melrose and La Brea, Pink’s has served the masses its famous chili dogs since 1939 when Paul Pink wheeled his large cart to start his business while the country struggled amidst the Great Depression. Seven years later he would construct a building on the same spot that continues to thrive.

It is not unusual to see a Rolls Royce pull up to Pink’s (I did) as the place bills itself from a sign on the wall that reads “movie stars, well-known dignitaries, struggling musicians, businessmen, housewives, children…all have savored Pink’s Famous Chili Dogs.”

When I reached the counter, I decided to order the Marlon Brando, which was billed as a “superstar,” like The Godfather himself. It consisted of a 9-inch all-beef frank topped with mustard, shredded cheddar cheese, onions and chili.

It was a good, but a distant third place to the Varsity’s dog with a straight line of yellow mustard on top and the incredible chili dog from Carrollton’s own Brown Dog Deli.

As far as the atmosphere inside which has only nine tables, its walls were adorned with at least a hundred or more photos of celebrities standing outside Pink’s. It’s exactly how I would picture Big Chic if it ever added inside seating.

After leaving this celebrated culinary spot, I quickly toured Rodeo Drive, hung out at the Beverly Hills Hotel pool and eventually arrived back in Hollywood to take a picture of the famous sign and stop to have my picture made by the Roger Moore star on the Walk of Fame fittingly located at 7007 Hollywood Boulevard. Rest In Peace Bond—James Bond.

In the evening, I checked another item off my bucket list by going to Dodger Stadium to watch Clayton Kershaw pitch a gem. It’s one of America’s most picturesque ballparks surrounded by the San Gabriel Mountains in the background.

Finally, my night ended on the top floor of my hotel having a nightcap and a few tapas at Hollywood celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant, 24.

The morning would arrive too soon as my alarm sounded and it was “hi ho, hi ho” time to catch a train to San Diego and “off to work I go.”

I’m a sucker for travel. I love seeing places I’ve never been before even if it’s for only a few hours. And I love soaking it all in by watching people, marveling at the landscape and architecture. But there’s something special about finding a dive with character in any town I visit.

I’ve been lucky and have a job that allows me to see other places. As I type these words, I’m sitting on a bench at the Hotel Del Coronado overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was here Frank Baum wrote “The Wizard of Oz.”

For the last three days, I’ve been to La La Land and walked in the steps of the man who created the Yellow Brick Road. And despite soaking in the glitz and glamour of California life, I’m ready to return to Georgia.

I’ve stood in line at Pink’s, dined on Wolfgang’s cuisine and eaten some of the best authentic street tacos, mole and Mexican food in the world. Yet no matter how far I go or whatever I may see, experience and even eat, there really is no place like Carrollton and standing in line at Big Chic.

It’s where my people live. It’s where I call home.

Great expression of love

June 18, 2017 - Leave a Response

Published by the Times-Georgian–May 28, 2017

http://www.times-georgian.com

by Joe Garrett

 

Progress is never easy.

In order to obtain freedom for all Americans, our country was forced to endure a civil war. Through the tragedy of those times, America was able to truly become the United States of America.

We lost more American lives in the Civil War than in any other war in history.

All throughout time, brave men and women have been called upon to protect the very core of this great nation. They have sacrificed their comfort, their time and even their lives.

For a soldier to lay down his or her life in the protection of another is one of the great expressions of love.

In the beginning, Memorial Day was referred to as Decoration Day. It was the day set aside to honor those individuals who died during our nation’s Civil War, by decorating their graves. The soldiers who were lost were remembered on Decoration Day, May 30, 1868.

We now celebrate these brave soldiers’ ultimate sacrifice on Memorial Day.

One of the great leaders of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln, fully recognized the gravity of the situation our nation was facing. He sanctified the lives of those lost in the Civil War through his words when he offered the Gettysburg Address.

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it as a final resting place for those who died here that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do.

“But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have hallowed it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

“It is rather for us the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

During this Memorial Day holiday, may we all strive to add our feelings to those of Abraham Lincoln, and remember all those who have died in defense of the freedoms we enjoy everyday. And if you see someone this week who has served in our military, make sure to stop and tell him or her those two powerful words—“THANK YOU.”

 

 

Hotty toddy

June 18, 2017 - Leave a Response

Published by the Times-Georgian–May 21, 2017

http://www.times-georgian.com

by Joe Garrett

 

We sipped whiskey at Faulkner’s grave a few hours before midnight.

And it was good.

“Civilization begins with distillation,” the author William Faulkner once said.

Within a stone’s throw of North 16th Street in Oxford, Mississippi, the iconic Southern and American author’s tombstone sits in Saint Peter’s Cemetery. I was there last weekend to celebrate my niece Anna’s graduation from a fine academic institution.

One of the rituals for graduates of Ole Miss, along with Faulkner fans throughout the world, is to visit his grave at dark and open up a small bottle to commune with the legendary writer’s spirit. My two nieces Ellen and Anna and my sister-in-law Joy joined me for the outing.

Instead of flowers, the Oxford tradition called for us to leave the bottle empty from consumption on his tombstone.

“Pouring out liquor is like burning books,” said Faulkner.

For a moment, I felt a little tacky about leaving an empty small bottle of Maker’s Mark behind, but then it hit me—whiskey has played a role in my family history.

Paw Paw kept his white lightning hidden about a football field’s length in the woods whenever he needed to sneak away. If Maw Maw ever smelled liquor on his breath, he got what’s called in the South as a “good old-fashioned verbal shellacking.”

On the flip side, Maw Maw kept her stash hidden from Paw Paw in case she ever needed a little hot toddy whenever she felt congestion in her chest. Her recipe was fairly simple by adding peppermint sticks, honey and a little lemon to white liquor that could cure almost anything from a bad cough to the gout.

Maw Maw never felt guilty about keeping a little of her “recipe” stashed because by Sunday morning all of her sins would be washed away whenever she turned the AM radio dial to listen to a shouting preacher.

As for the Garrett side of the family, my late grandfather Leonas was once the sheriff of Carroll County. Since crime back in the 1950s wasn’t as big an issue as it is today, one of his main jobs was to go around busting up illegal moonshine stills.

Fast forward to 2017 and here were my grandparents’ descendants gathered together laughing, celebrating and having a great time in a dark cemetery in Mississippi as I shouted “Yoknapatawpha” as each one of us took a sip. I suppose at least one or two of them wouldn’t have been happy with us, but as my mother used to say—“Some people need to lighten up a little and have a good time.”

That’s what we did. We now share a memory we will cherish for the rest of our lives.

As for Faulkner, who loved to sip on a mint julep or a hot toddy, God rest his soul.

“My own experience has been that the tools I need for my trade are paper, tobacco, food and a little whiskey,” once said Faulkner.

We forgot the paper and tobacco, but we did devour some Mississippi farm-raised fried catfish earlier in the day. Hopefully, he was glad to have a little company on a warm Saturday night in his hometown. And as I walked away from his grave, I no longer felt a sense of guilt with the tiny bottle we left behind. I knew we had shared something special, and I think he would have understood.

Because Faulkner was a writer, too.

 

Closing doors

June 18, 2017 - Leave a Response

Published by the Times-Georgian–May 14, 2017

http://www.times-georgian.com

by Joe Garrett

 

The apocalypse is near.

The signs have been here for quite some time. It started several years ago when Carrollton lost the T-Burger fast food joint on Maple Street. Through the years, the list would continue to multiply. Casualty after casualty, the closings of numerous Carrollton iconic restaurants that no longer grace our city streets nor fill our appetites are often missed.

Burger Chef, Western Steer, Western Sizzlin, Bonanza, Front Porch, Ann’s Pizza, Young’s Drive-In, Greenfront, Spyro Gyro, The Mansion, Sue’s Steakhouse, Andy’s Steakhouse, Danyel’s and The Polar Cub—they’re all gone. And even The Happy Dipper, Ye Olde Soda Shoppe and Puffy’s Ice Cream Parlor have long closed their doors to feed us desserts. If my family wants to stop for ice cream, we no longer go to a creamery. We go to the gas station.

“In 1981, I was named Champion Soda Jerk after entering a competition at Puffy’s Ice Cream Parlor,” said community restaurant pundit Phillip Wiggins. “I made the best ice cream sundae. And I’ll never forget that time when the guy behind the counter asked me how I like my ice cream. I simply replied—‘cold.’”

Things change, especially in the restaurant business. Within the past few years, we’ve said goodbye to many more. No longer can I order a Scottish egg from Sunny Side Café, a pizza from Valentino’s or even the delicious thin sliced onion rings among the smoke-filled room from Millie’s.

I’ve tried to not join those folks who think the end of times is near, but last week another restaurant announced its closing to make me a firm believer of the ensuing apocalypse.

After 45 years, the Huddle House has closed its griddle and served its last gravy biscuit.

How does one say goodbye to such a Carrollton institution who has filled so many tummies with fried hash browns, sausage patties and scrambled eggs? Then again, how does one cope with the loss of so many wonderful restaurants through the years? The answer is simple—through poetry:

After school, Sue cooked my friends and me a giant hamburger steak,

While a few miles down the road, Spyro Gyro served curly fries up late,

One slice of the Mansion pizza filled my belly,

And I miss the biscuit from Sunnyside Café covered in Nellie’s jelly,

I took a date to Danyel’s before my senior prom,

While on Friday nights, Andy’s Steakhouse had more characters than The Palm,

I once knew a man who ate at the Huddle House and got into a fight,

And deciding to eat at the Wester Sizzlin or Steer, was a tough choice any weekend night,

The Greenfront, Young’s and Pollard’s were the kings of meat ‘n three,

I once met Vince Dooley at Burger Chef and I have the picture you can see,

Long live these Carrollton landmarks, we think of them now and then,

Even today I wish I could eat at the Polar Cub again.

Lamar’s legacy

May 11, 2017 - Leave a Response

Published by the Times-Georgian–May 7, 2017

http://www.times-georgian.com

by Joe Garrett

 

Lamar’s tomatoes tasted better than the others.

Every summer my wife and I crossed our fingers and hoped we would make the short list of people to slice one of his juicy, homegrown delicacies. Whether we sandwiched them between bacon and lettuce or toppled the tomatoes with a little mozzarella cheese and basil, we never were disappointed.

It’s the little things we remember the most.

I’ve often wondered if nature has a way of connecting to those who nurture it. In the case of Lamar Putnam, his gentleness and kindness to others somehow worked its ways into his garden. He worked hard and gave life all he had. Unfortunately, life wasn’t so kind in return.

On the morning of January 16, 2016, Lamar cranked his truck and left his home for a Saturday morning ride to go see some cows. He would never return. Somewhere along his journey, Alzheimer’s took control of his steering wheel, his mind and his body and he became lost. After a month-long search, his body was discovered.

It wasn’t supposed to end this way. As any family who has been affected by this horrific disease knows, Alzheimer’s is pure hell.

For the minutes, days and hours since the tragedy, the Putnam family has and will always struggle to cope with their profound loss. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching Alzheimer’s take away my own mother’s memory, the physical and emotional toll it plays on a family, friends and caretakers is often too heavy to absorb. One has to find a way to channel the grief.

You’ve got to get it out.

Oftentimes, it involves going to the cemetery and crying a river of tears, exercising to the point of exhaustion, painting, reading, writing and a thousand other things until one day the grief inside takes its turn towards healing. It doesn’t come all at once.

It comes in spades.

Through a lot of pain, talks and reflection the Putnam family has started that journey by establishing the foundation Lamar’s Living Legacy dedicated to helping individuals, families and caregivers of those battling Alzheimer’s, dementia and other personal adversities.

On Saturday, May 13 the family is hosting a benefit tennis tournament at Sunset Hills Country Club to raise money to kickstart a foundation for such an important cause.

“Through Lamar’s Living Legacy, we wish to help families through all of the human struggles they now face,” said Lamar’s wife Robin Putnam. “There are bills to pay, specialists to see, caregivers to hire, plans to be made. We now know that in many cases, there could be searches to organize, hands to hold and tears to shed. While the clinical research continues, Lamar’s Living Legacy is here to help, and support those in financial need facing the hardships this cruel disease brings into our lives.”

To learn more about sponsoring or participating in this important event for our community, visit the foundation’s website at www.lamarslivinglegacy.org.

For the participants involved in the upcoming event, Lamar’s life will be celebrated as they hit tennis balls over the net to raise funds for the foundation. For me, my tennis skills aren’t very good, but I’m still pretty decent when it comes to eating. And I’ll think of Lamar the next time I devour a BLT.

As the late Lewis Grizzard once wrote, “It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.”

First of May

May 1, 2017 - Leave a Response

Published by the Times-Georgian–April 30, 2017

http://www.times-georgian.com

by Joe Garrett

 

I took the day off and drove the boys across the state line.

It was the first of May and my son Will’s third birthday. My wife Ali was pregnant with our third child, past her due date and exhausted as any woman can attest when labor pains signal birth is near.

“I ordered Will a cake from Cheryl’s Bake Shop,” Ali said. “Do you mind driving the boys to pick it up?”

“I’ll never turn down an opportunity to drive to Ranburne,” I replied.

I loaded my two sons Turner and Will in my car and off we drove. We made a pit stop in Bowdon and filled our bellies on okra, black-eyed peas, fried squash and cornbread at the Southern Lady Restaurant. The waitress smiled at the boys and Will enjoyed the extra attention after she learned it was his special day.

“So, of all the places you could pick on your birthday, you decided to come to Bowdon and eat with us?” she asked Will.

He smiled and then took another bite of fried squash.

After eating a bowl of banana pudding, the boys and I continued our journey driving along the rolling hills of Alabama before reaching our destination to pick up Will’s birthday cake.

We decided to take the scenic route on our way back. As we entered the city limits of Ranburne, my oldest son Turner asked—“Dad, why are you driving so slowly?”

“Son, I’m going to teach you an important lesson early in life,” I replied. “Most of the world lives in a hurry-up, fast-paced style. I think God created cities like Whitesburg, Centralhatchee and Ranburne to remind us to slow down.”

We decided to stop in the small town with a population of 409 and visit my Aunt Edith for a little while before finally driving back home. Afterwards, I drove the boys through the countryside making a stop in Burwell to show them their grandparents’ graves before proceeding to the beautiful scenic views on Farmer’s High and Salem Church Road.

By the time we reached Tyus Road, I noticed their eyes begin to shut. I kept driving and for a moment enjoyed the peace and quiet while I looked through my rearview mirror at two boys sound asleep.

Eventually we arrived home and Ali smiled as she was determined to have a birthday party for Will. We called our parents and they came over to watch our son make a wish and blow the three candles on his Mickey Mouse cake.

Later that night we tucked our boys into bed. We followed shortly, but unlike our boys—we didn’t sleep late the next morning. Around 5 a.m., Ali tapped me on the shoulder.

“I think we need to go to the hospital,” she said.

She was right. Two hours and forty-five minutes later she gave birth to our third son Charlie.

It’s highly unlikely my name will appear on a Forbes magazine billionaire list or I’ll win the lottery jackpot in my lifetime. And that’s OK. Real wealth isn’t necessarily about money. Real wealth is about creating precious memories with your family.

Oh, how they linger and fill our souls.

 

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