Approaching Amarillo, we passed the numerous signs challenging us to eat a 72 oz. steak to get it free. We arrived in Amarillo early Monday afternoon and checked into our motel. Then we hurried to visit my sister Rosemary and husband Phil, whom we had not seen for a year.
(If you accept the Big Texan steak challenge, you have to pay $72 up front and then get a refund if you can consume within an hour the steak and the large meal that goes with it. Supposedly 8,000 out of 48,000 big eaters have done so and had their name put on the wall.)
I have no desire to eat such a steak nor to observe the participant trying--on a raised platform no less. Besides my sister Rosemary and husband Phil are such good cooks that we’d be silly to eat elsewhere. Rosie had a roast in a slow cooker all afternoon giving forth great aroma, and it looked wonderful smothered with gravy sauce on the platter at dinner and it tasted divine. So did everything else. As he does most nights, their grandson Shiloh joined us at the dinner table on his way home from work.
Rosie and I spent the afternoon talking as fast as we could to catch up on family news, and we looked at each other’s family photos. Their local daughters, Gloria and Candy, dropped in and out and their daughter Cyndi phoned to invite us down to Hereford the next night for dinner. Son-in-law Herman did not make it the first night, but he made a point to come after work on Wednesday night. Gloria’s granddaughter Allie Jean, one-year-old, was the highlight Monday and Tuesday night, but we also appreciated seeing Allie’s parents Jennifer and Trevor. Adorable Allie, a blond replica of Jennifer, showered us with kisses as she bid us goodbye each night.
Rosie does Tai Chi every Tuesday and Thursday morning, and I have gone with her sometimes, but this year I rested at the motel before our Tuesday afternoon visit preceding our trip down to Hereford.
Going to Hereford also means visiting The Gift Garden. Merle Norman Cosmetics and the gift shop at 220 Main Street is the three-generation establishment of Rosie, Cyndi, and Cyndi’s daughter Heather. We arrived shortly before closing time on Tuesday, and that was Gloria’s weekly day to be working there. They had recently redone the front entrance with a new sharp looking red awning and a painted-rock design Cyndi and Heather did on the sidewalk leading to their front door—with the city’s permission.
The inside was also completely rearranged and different than last year. Cyndi is an artist, and it shows at the store. Heather, our beautiful red head, is dramatic by nature, and that also shows. One of the most beautiful displays was Jennifer’s original crafts. Jenn has started Allie Jean Creations featuring pretty hair bows, tiny flip flops with exchangeable bows, lovely streamers for decorating hospital rooms for baby’s arrival, and fancy diaper “cakes” for gifts or for refreshment tables at baby showers. I loved looking, but such frilliness isn’t needed by our three great grandsons.
We didn’t have much time to shop, yet I hurriedly found some unique greeting cards and came away with a new supply. In earlier years, Rosie would bring down Thursday lunch for the family at noon and serve it in the back room. I got in on that once. She had to give up the tradition a couple years ago when she broke her ankle and started Tai Chi to recover, but she still does the store’s bookkeeping.
From there we traveled over to Cyndi and Jerry’s house, for all the yummy food Cyndi had prepared. We saw their major front lawn landscaping that they are doing, and we toured Cyndi’s back yard, which is one of her best artistic projects. We enjoyed the terrapins there. Inside was Sunny, the strikingly colorful parakeet. We heard Cyndi take a phone call from their younger daughter Tori, who with her husband Randy live in Oklahoma. Tori is almost through veterinarian school, and she was telling her mother about a diagnosis she had made. (Tori is my great niece who had her photo taken with tigers one summer when she worked with them.) Heather and Kelly and their four beautiful children were invited too to visit with their Illinois kin folk, and as always we got hugs coming and going from not just the grown ups but from Bret, Austin Philip, Cayson, and Autumn Rose.
Despite rain threatening, Austin put on his ball uniform and prepared to pitch at their 8:30 game. Since earlier games had been cancelled by weather, they were glad when this one was not called off—but Heather was hoping the needed rain would come after everyone got back home. It didn’t, but went south. Jerry had been called out the night before to repair lines, so I am sure he was grateful lights kept burning. We visited on the trip back to Amarillo and for awhile at Rose and Phil’s house before we left to turn in.
On Wednesday, Gerald took me over for an afternoon visit while Phil had an INR appointment and Gerald went to a favorite tool store and stocked up. We had really planned to go to down to Gloria’s and also phone granddaughter Tosha that we were coming to see the redecorating at her house. Then we realized the men had the cars. Candy was coming over and was delayed by an expected phone call, so Rosie and I were able to spend more talking time together. And that was good.
Phil had grilled barbecued chicken breasts to go with Rosie’s prepared dishes, and we sat down early to supper since Rosemary plays organ at the 6:30 evening church service on Wednesdays. Again we were able to visit with Shiloh, and I washed a few dishes before Rosie and I left for church. Doing the dishes is Phil’s usual contribution on Wednesday nights, so he finished.
Once a larger congregation, Grand Avenue Baptist Church has decreased as the neighborhood has changed. With many Catholic Hispanics and Asians moving in, the one-time building of a Lutheran congregation is now a beautiful fenced well attended Catholic Church. I have visited Rose and Phil’s church infrequently but enough that Rosie’s friends greeted me by name. After a shared time of prayer for stated needs, their interim pastor gave the best Bible study I have ever heard on one sentence of Jesus’ model prayer: Give us this day our daily bread.
Already feeling blessed by the service, I heard a man’s voice in the back ask to say a few words. He had come in late and not been noticed. The interim pastor readily assented, and the visitor stood and told his name and his story. He was in Amarillo from Virginia for the first time in 40 years for his 40th high school reunion. He had only been in this church once before, he said, and that was over 40 years ago at the funeral of his cousin who was killed in Viet Nam.
After that funeral sermon, his uncle had stepped out and he followed him down the aisle and heard the pastor saying, “Would you like to be forgiven for your sins?” He said he knew he had been bad, and he answered yes. In that after-service, he accepted Christ as his Savior and said it was the happiest day of his life. Soon he finished high school, his parents moved to another state, and he went away to college.
He met a young woman who was also a Christian and they were married. He said he had never been in church in his life, so his wife had to teach him all the Bible stories that children learn in Sunday School. He found out who Moses was. They had three sons, and he said two are now pastors. As he went by the church that night, he just felt he should come in and thank the congregation for what they had meant in his life.
People clustered around him welcoming him after the service, and he picked out the photo on the hall wall of the pastor who had been there 40 years before. “He had the kindest eyes,” he commented. Someone asked who his cousin was, and suddenly everyone was talking excitedly about this family (now passed on) that they had all shared heart break with at the youthful death of this son.
As we came out of the building, we saw the youth in the parking lot from their upstairs gathering. Rosie’s great granddaughter Desi was with them. We got to take her home and see Tosha’s house after all. And her husband Jeremy and son Eric—the little gregarious redheaded five-year-old that Rosie and Phil are privileged to take to Sunday School each week. Oh, and Tosha’s beautiful cats.
She did not know we were coming, but she had made a cake. A very special chocolate cake she had wanted to try, so she made herself an early birthday cake. She pulled it from the fridge and insisted we must take almost half of it home with us. It had chocolate pudding between the layers and whipped topping with maraschino cherries garnishing the top and looked luscious. (It was.)
By the time we got home, Herman and Gloria, Jenn and Trevor, and Allie Jean had dropped in to say goodbye to us, so Rosie sent home some of the cake with them and we still had plenty for the four of us. We planned to leave the motel early Thursday morning, so we were saying our farewells that night.
It was Rose and Phil’s 6lst wedding anniversary. On their 50th and last year’s diamond anniversary, their daughters did as much celebrating as Rose and Phil would allow. Rose and Phil aren’t big on anything that might be mildly ostentatious or that would call attention to themselves. Having kids, grandkids, and great grandkids constantly dropping in and phoning is their daily celebration of life.
They married knowing they would have to adopt to have a family, which was not easy with college and draft duty to complete before they could acquire the house and financial status that was required by adoption agencies in those days. Since older children were less likely to be adopted than infants, they decided to adopt older children. Eventually there were four girls raised in their home. The cake that Tosha sent home with us was especially heartwarming because she is the daughter of their late daughter Trudi, whom we lost in January 2002 to lymphoma. We didn’t get to see Trudi’s sons—Tydel and Philip Todd—on this trip. (Todd will soon be on his third deployment to Iraq.) With eight grandchildren and fifteen great grandchildren, Rose and Phil know their 61 years together has produced a fine heritage.
By 5:30 the next morning, we were on the outskirts of Amarillo heading home to Woodsong.
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