Monday, November 28, 2011

Goodbye Turkey; Hello Christmas

Many things did go better during this last full week of November. Only two days left now until the Christmas season. I drove home from Katherine’s last night enjoying all the beautiful lights so many people put up over the weekend.

We celebrated my birthday last Wednesday when Gerry, Vickie, and Geri Ann arrived from Georgia. Gerry phoned from Paducah and said to meet them at Steak and Shake (Geri Ann needed to visit it just once while in Illinois) and he’d buy my birthday dinner. I was already preparing to see Katherine, and Gerald went with me to meet them. So Gerald brought Katherine in her van, and Sam went ahead with me. Erin came over from her house. It was such a leisurely relaxed reunion—a perfect start for the holiday. The annual Turkey Tournament at Crab Orchard High School began that night, and our family was involved since Gerry and Vickie’s nephew Drew Johnson, a senior, is one of the basketball stars again this year. I stayed home and rested while Gerald and the Gerry Glascos joined the Johnsons to cheer our Trojans on.

Later that night the Eilers arrived--actually it was Thanksgiving morning. Fortunately they ran late or the house might have been locked when Brian dropped off Brianna and Trent. (No, let me correct that. I think Trent arrived later at their camper with Mary Ellen, who had been tied up in Springfield with someone’s paper work) Sometime Sam arrived, of course. I can’t even remember when. People were coming and going to our house and to and from the Taylor camper, the Cedar house, and Gma Shirley’s house.

But in the confusion, the important things happened. Jeannie got in her bike ride and then went to help David get Katherine ready, which was a good thing since her wheel chair control broke and created a crisis. (On top of everything else, David now has the coughing cold that has plagued Katherine and me.) Mary Ellen was busy helping me in the kitchen. Younger grandkids—two now in college, two in high school, and Cecelie in 7th grade were rapidly involved together with their latest projects. Those six are the ones who always sit at the kitchen table.
I didn’t have Gerald put in the extra leaf since the Archibalds were celebrating Thanksgiving in the Chicago area with Bryan’s family. (The new table that can be expanded was bought before holiday time last year to accommodate great grandson Aidan, who certainly thought he belonged at that table with the big kids.) Our engaged couple Leslie and Mike arrived from Nashville even though they had to drive back that same evening. Erin was in and out all weekend, and those three were at the young adult folding table, so Erin finally got to meet Mike. Since Mike is an only child, we were wondering how he could stand the noise at our house, but he took it in stride.

Everyone had brought in food and colas including the deviled eggs that our kids had a lot of fun planning. (Thanks, Vickie, they were good.) We feasted all weekend on all the pies I had prepared and all the wonderful goodies Jeannie brought down from Freeport—and on Saturday we were able to enjoy her cauliflower salad she had planned. Mary Ellen’s casseroles are always delicious, and by the time the buffet and two narrow fold-up tables were filled up with food, we definitely had a feast—with so many left-overs for the rest of the weekend that thanks to the Walt’s pizzas that Gerry brought out Saturday night, we never even got around to the chili Jeannie brought. So it is in the freezer for the next clan gathering. I tried to lure everyone to have a bowl of chili after church yesterday morning along with my meat loaf—but they were all eager to get on the road to get back home in the heavy holiday traffic.

On Friday, the Eilers went down to Nashville for another Thanksgiving dinner that Leslie prepared in her little apartment. I think her co-workers helped her with part of the preparation, but I was impressed that she could do this. Mike’s parents had arrived from Ohio, and the two families that are merging in June had this special time together and even managed to see the beautiful Christmas lights at the Grand Ole Opry Hotel. Once again the Eilers arrived back at the farm long after midnight to fall into bed—but I suspect Trent, Brianna, and Sam were still up and going strong to greet Elijah and Cecelie. I didn’t ask; I went to bed at eleven.

People were going to the Turkey Tournament Friday and Saturday, and Jeannie got in a bike ride both days as well as doing some investigation on wedding bouquets. Rick was able to visit his Carbondale friends. The teens enjoyed running into town to eat and shop. They persuaded Mary Ellen to go with them to Carbondale on Saturday. Someone’s new board game soon took up half the dining room table. Gerry visited friends and was given a squirrel dog by Steve Smith, so he not only took the dog out but was very excited to be able to take Aidan and Bryan when the Archibalds arrived. I think there are still squirrel in the garage fridge. I better move them to the freezer too. (Maybe during Christmas break I will get the courage to cook them and the mushrooms from Arkansas that Steve sent us.) Son-in-law Brian finished combining the last small plot for our neighbor Scott, and Gerald hauled that corn to the elevator this morning.

Saturday’s biggest attraction was the Archibalds’ arrival with their three sons. Maddux had to immediately get out his Batman Cave from their car to show everyone. His 3rd birthday is not until December 11, but his northern Illinois family had given him an early party with a Superman birthday cake. (The Batman Cave adorned our living room the rest of the weekend and was popular with everyone.) Bryan just shook his head at their car loaded to its limit—and it not even Christmas. Little Payton,18 months, got up his nerve to pet the new squirrel dog Gerry had tied in the front yard, and all of us loved seeing the boys cavort with Ribby, Erin’s newest puppy she had finally brought over to meet us.

In addition to the championship Turkey Tourney game, Gerry and Vickie’s bunch had two local family birthdays to attend, so they and Gma Shirley, who had come to greet the Archibalds, were soon scattered, but Gerry and Geri Ann came back for the night. (We won the tourney, btw.)

I stayed up way after midnight to enjoy the games and final talk in the living room. Geri Ann and Sam had us laughing their jokes. Gerald shared his funny boyhood stories when he and his brother Kenny were Boys of Woodcraft and participated and marched in the adult rituals wiih axes on their shoulders. Their father wanted them to be serious. My favorite Saturday nighr memory, however, was the game when Rick played the part of the Great Houdini and enlisted Aidan, 5, to be his assistant. Aidan was more than adept at imitating Uncle Rick in costume and manner. I think we may have another actor in the family.

Families began to leave Sunday morning, and the last two groups left before lunch. I noticed though that the mothers all picked up and folded the blankets and sheets all over the place and neatened things. (There were nine to fourteen sleeping here each night.) Mary Ellen left the downstairs towels all folded neatly as only she can. Gerry had washed them, and Rick put them into the drier. (The kids are pitching in more all the time because they think I am getting old. Of course, I am not despite the birthday, but I appreciate all the help.)

Well, today's mail brought our first three Christmas cards, and I better quit writing and go upstairs to read them.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Things Gone Awry

This evening our granddaughter Brianna was again in concert with the Illinois Music Teachers Association annual performance at Eastern Illinois University at Charleston. She had been there all day practicing with the other band members from throughout the state. Since I did not get to go last year, when I first heard the date, I was hoping we could arrange to drive up for this. But nature had other plans for me this week.

After almost two weeks of coughing, last Saturday I cancelled joining other Writers Guild members to sell my book at the annual Autumn Fest at John A. Logan College. Since I did not expect to sell more than a book or two, this was to be a social event for me as I enjoy being with the other writers and seeing people I know in the crowds who attend. However, I knew I would not want to sit by me even though I was coughing much less and did not think I would be contagious. Knowing I could sleep in, I went to bed with happy contemplation of using the Saturday morning at home to catch up with all the things my lack of energy from the coughing cold had caused.

Alas, I did not sleep in. Even before Gerald woke up, which is always early, I was awake with terrible pain in my neck. I told him I needed someone to go google neck pain and figure out what was wrong with me. In my pained and groggy mind set, the only malady I could think of was infantile paralysis and I was pretty sure my polio shot was still good. Gerald assured me I was correct that it was not infantile paralysis, and later I found a google print out on neck pain by my pillow. First, however, he had grabbed the heat pad and put it under my neck and I did go back to sleep for a couple of hours.

When I woke up, I learned the hard way how dependant we are on our necks. Every step, every head movement in any direction, seemingly every word spoken caused my neck to hurt. A lot. A wry neck was not in my plans for the day. I already had a standard checkup scheduled with my doctor on Monday, so I was not about to venture to ER about my sore neck. Instead I just slept and moped and worried a bit about all the stuff not getting done.

I did run in to Katherine’s that afternoon, but I warned her when I got there, that I probably would not be much help. I had not realized not being able to turn my neck freely would handicap my driving as much as it did. But I went to town on back roads and was super careful and made it safely.

After her 3 p.m. lunch, we watched television together and I promptly went to sleep again. If I could stay asleep, I did not have to feel the pain. Again I drove home the back way and very carefully. I went to bed early. I craved sleep to block the pain. I can’t take aspirin because of being on a blood thinner, so I really did not have any meds to take.

We had planned to go to our church’s annual Thanksgiving feast Saturday night. I knew I could show up empty handed for the pot luck, but the pain made me sick all over, and I did not feel like being around people. Gerald had gotten involved with our son-in-law Brian who had finished his own harvest and volunteered to help our neighbor Scott combine a soybean plot he had on the field between our homes. (Scott had just had surgery.) I fixed Gerald a sandwich and left on the kitchen table and a can of soup heated on the stove and came down to watch the Republican debate hoping Gerald’s recliner might prove comfortable. It didn’t, and when Brian and Brianna came down to see how I was doing, of course, I couldn’t even turn my head to look at them. I moved to the couch to support my neck better, but I went to bed early.

The next morning I figured that I might as well hurt at church as to hurt at home, so Gerald and I did go to Sunday School and worship service. I’d told him he could take us out to lunch before we went by Katherine’s because I did not feel like cooking. I was pleasantly surprised when the pastor announced that there had been so much left-over food from Saturday night that volunteers had offered to serve them up for anyone who wanted to stay for Sunday lunch. So we stayed, and I felt as if we had gotten in on the Saturday evening’s celebration a little bit although when I heard about the program and some good things that transpired the night before, I knew we had missed a special service. (A man who had been on the wagon for many years and just now lost his job had a downfall. He had seen our church’s lights on and came to the service and was embraced by friends and congregation. Everyone had been glad our lights were glowing that night.)

Not only did we get a free lunch at church, we also got a bag of turnips. Charles Graves had brought a large box to share and even the bags to put them in. I fixed some the next day, and we will have turnips for Thanksgiving although Gerald and I may be the only ones eating them.

Later on Sunday, Katherine felt up to going to her church’s evening service, so after a lazy afternoon at home, we took her in her van while David rested. We picked up Sam at church and even went to the Dairy Queen after the service. Katherine had not been able to go for a long time, so the service and getting out of the house was good for her. I sat as quietly as I could to keep my wry neck still and knew I’d sleep good when I went to bed—quite early as soon as we got back home.

Gerald kept his dentist appointment Monday morning, and then he took me to my doctor appointment that afternoon at 3. Afterwards we went by Katherine’s and visited with her. We kept trying to kill time in order to pick up the pain pill and muscle relaxant that my doctor prescribed for me. Somehow, the prescription order did not arrive, and then we were under a tornado watch and it was beginning to storm, and we decided to go on back to the farm rather than risk being in hail or wind. Gerald swung though a drive-in to get us a bite for supper.

Soon I was in bed asleep again. I called the pharmacy when it opened on Tuesday hoping my meds were waiting. I was told a couple of other orders were ahead of mine but they should be ready in an hour or so. Gerald ran in and got them for me and finally before noon I took my first meds. The doctor had warned me that they would make me sleepy. Since I was sleeping as much as possible anyhow to not feel the pain, that sounded good to me.

By Thursday, most of the pain was gone and I could turn my head--not perfectly but much better. Yet all I wanted to do was sleep. Vaguely I remembered that I’d planned all kinds of work for November when we returned home from our trip to Georgia but between first the coughing cold and now the stiff neck, none of that work had been accomplished. Although I very much wanted to go to Writers Guild that night, I did not think it wise to drive that far as sleepy as I stayed. I went to bed early and slept.

Yesterday morning, I did not take my meds because I needed to drive to town to meet up where the Woman’s Club was getting in their orders for frozen braided bread—an annual fund raiser. Afterwards, I shopped for some needed groceries including canned pumpkin for Thanksgiving pies. Usually I cook a pumpkin after using it for fall decoration, but I never got around to acquiring a pumpkin this year. I thought after lunch that I would clean the kitchen and take my last pills since I was so much better. And then after a nap, I might start making pies.

I was still at the lunch table when the phone rang. Katherine’s aide had taken her to Carbondale that morning for an appointment with her urologist as she could tell that despite two rounds of strong antibiotics she still had infection. The doctor would not let her come home, but put her in the hospital where she could be closely monitored during the next round. So I skipped that final dose of meds that I planned to take and went to her house where the outstanding aide had brought home the van and gathered items needed to be taken back to the hospital.

Sam was going to a weekend youth retreat with his church, and a friend was to pick him up to take him to the church bus. I was there to explain where his mother was and that she said to tell him that she was fine. Sam and I were both trying to phone her then, but her new phone, which has been very cranky about only working part time, would not let us get through to her even though I had called her earlier. Then Gerald and I took her stuff over to the hospital at the end of the afternoon. I was delighted to see the care being given her and finding out that she was going to have a good many tests she had needed but had been unable to arrange.

This was supposed to be David’s big deer hunting weekend at his friend’s farm with out-of-towners coming down for the annual family ritual. He had arranged for someone to stay with Katherine for the two nights that he would be away. By the time Katherine had gotten a garbled text to him that she was in the hospital, David had already gotten a 9-point buck and then a nice-sized doe. All he had to do was butcher them, and their winter meat supply was accomplished. He certainly did not expect his wife to be in the hospital; but as Katherine said, this weekend was probably as good a time as any since Sam already had a scheduled activity and David had not planned to be at home either.

We came home around l0 last night. Gerald went on to bed. I ate a bite of supper and checked email and surfed and evidently fell asleep at the computer. At 1 a.m. I went to bed and decided to take those two final pills I had laid out. At 11 this morning, Mary Ellen phoned and I stumbled out of bed assuming it was 8 or 9. Well, obviously I was not going to get much work done before lunch, so I thoroughly enjoyed a rare phone call from her. (Our kids keep in touch with Gerald by phone regularly and he reports the highlights to me, but I like the occasional long talks that I get.)

Gerald left to visit with his brothers in Union County and have lunch with Keith, so I ate a combination breakfast/lunch and read the morning paper. I was still in my pajamas at the table when granddaughter Erin came by for a rare visit since she is so busy right now with all the softball practices and recruiting trips that her job requires. In addition to this, she must take a great deal of therapy for her wounded leg. I thoroughly enjoyed her visit before she left to go on down the road a way to visit Gma Shirley, her other grandmother. While Erin was here, Jeannie called for a brief visit and talk about Thanksgiving before she went for what she expected to be her final bike ride in northern Illinois before she puts her bike into winter mode for “riding” inside the house. She has challenged Erin to a bike ride Thanksgiving morning.

I went back to the kitchen and started doing some of the many put-off chores—cleaning and sanitizing the hummingbird feeders Gerald had brought in and I had been ignoring, putting groceries away that had sat on the counter across from the pantry, all those kind of things. I finally started on the pie dough and put a bowl into the fridge for the next step tomorrow. I cleaned the kitchen and garage fridges enough to not be ashamed of them next week although certainly not as thoroughly as I ordinarily have done in past years. Then I brought up the frozen turkey to start thawing in the garage fridge. By this time, Gerald was home and had a nap, and I fixed us a bite of supper before we prepared to go to the hospital to visit Katherine.

Because her phone was not working, I phoned David to see if he had taken her special pillows that brace her neck and help her legs. I did not want to have to go by her house if she already had them taken to her. He said he was on the way back to the hospital again and had the desired pillows in the car. I told him we’d see him at the hospital.

But again things went awry. We had gotten as far as Marion when Gerald’s phone rang. On the other side of Crab Orchard Lake just before Ike’s Honda, David had hit an 8-point buck which tore up their car—the Civic Honda they love so much. Would we stop and get the pillows? He had called the police and a wrecker which would tow the car just around the corner to Ike’s. We got the pillows, and Gerald told David we’d be able to pick him up after the wrecker arrived. But David said his friend Jim would come and get him. So we left him stranded by the highway just as the police arrived. The traffic was so heavy that the odds were slim that David’s car was the one the buck chose to assault, but that is what happened. We went on to visit Katherine, and she had a hard time figuring out that I meant the third deer had hit David rather than vice versa. She was already using the pillows by the time of her second visit of the day with David—by phone this time. He had called Gerald to tell him that both the wrecker and Jim had arrived, and by the way, he told Katherine that they had figured out her phone trouble. We did not get to ask for that explanation because we left when a therapist came in to give her a breathing treatment.

I have found out that many people have had stiff neck trouble—many much younger than me. The stories have been interesting. I realize I am blessed that I’d never suffered this before and that mine has cleared up as soon as it has. Now I am expecting things to go better for the little that is left of November.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Geri Ann Glasco signs for University of Georgia

If you are following Geri Ann's softball career, check out this story and the quotes from U of G's head coach Lu Harris-Champer:

Monday, November 14, 2011

Lacey and Geri Ann

Theodore, the shih tzu, greeted us Thursday night proudly wearing a Saluki bandana around his neck. Inside the Newbold house, family members had on their identifying T shirts as Saluki Mom or Saluki Sister. The evening’s honoree, Lacey Newbold, had a shirt that explained how many bulldogs, wildcats, and other mascots there were in the sports world and then explained on the back of the shirt that there was only one Saluki. As a Saluki alum, I could not have been more pleased that Lacey had signed a national letter of intent to play softball next year for Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Lacey is the first female athlete to sign for a Division I school from Crab Orchard High School, our small rural school district located in the tiny village of Crab Orchard. She is a three-time All-South and two-time Great Egyptian Conference most valuable player and was named to the first team All State Squad last year. It will be exciting for fans to see her play her final senior year next spring before we have to travel to Carbondale to watch her skill. Her family and best buddies had been invited to celebrate the achievements of this beautiful young lady, and it was fun to see the replays of the previous evening’s newscasts when she signed for the Salukis and Cierra (C.C.) Hutchinson signed for Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Our granddaughter Geri Ann down in Georgia, where their high school softball schedule is completed in the fall rather than next spring as in Illinois, had also signed that day for the University of Georgia. After winning the AAA division state championship, the very next weekend Geri Ann was playing with her travel team Southern Force. I was exalting that they had beat the California Bat Busters. Then this past weekend on Saturday, she did double duty traveling back to Columbus for Georgia’s high school all-star tournament. There she played three games, and in one game was able to pitch four innings with nine strikeouts. Having to leave early to get back to Watkinsville for the Southern Force tourney, she hit a home run, hugged her coach, and their family hurriedly took off for home, where she played two more games that evening.

Today’s young athletes have more playing time and more experience by the time they leave high school that was ever possible just a few years ago. I do not know if that is always a good thing, but for their skill level it certainly is. They often have to decide early which sport to concentrate upon and what other extracurricular activities they have to sacrifice.

(There are exceptions, of course. Right under that story in the sport section about Lacey and C. C., was a story telling us that local baseball standout Lucas Hileman from Anna was urged to join his school’s football team. A transfer to Indiana State after a year playing baseball at Baylor and a year at John A. Logan, Hileman, who will be a senior outfielder, acted on the suggestion by his strength and conditioning coaches that he should help out the Sycamores, who had a linebacker who was punting out of necessity. Hileman, 21, walked onto the football field, and helped Santino Davis go back to defense. In 28 kicks this season, he is averaging 41.9 yards per punt. Although Hileman was named Southern’s Baseball Player of the Year back in 2008, he also played six different positions on his high school football team.)

Dean Newbold, Lacey’s father, enjoys telling about Lacey and Geri Ann, when they were very young pitchers for their summer teams and played against each other. Lacey was playing for Creal Springs and Geri Ann for Johnston City. Each little girl wanted to beat the other one. One pitched, and the other got a home run. Dean said a big tear ran down the pitcher’s cheek. The next inning the other girl pitched only to have the opposing pitcher also hit a home run—and another tear ran down the second pitcher’s face. That was years before their playing together on Southern Force.

They have both come a long way to be playing next year for Division I schools, and we are so proud of their hard work and accomplishments.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

First Cold of the Season

Fall pleasures have been severely diluted by my first cold of the fall-winter season. GRRRR.

A week ago I started thinking I had a mild cold, and it grew more obvious in a couple of days. During the day, things weren’t so unpleasant. There was little runny nose with this cold. No fever. Then the coughing became extreme at night, and I had no left-over cough medicine from last year.

I figured the whole thing would be over by now—aren’t colds supposed to run their main course in a week? Or did I make that up? But, man, by the weekend, I felt bad. I would wake in the middle of the night and not be able to go back to sleep because of coughing. I had not replenished my cough drop supply yet this fall either, and I was getting nervous I might run out of those. My sides would be sore from the coughing.

The next day things would seem better, and I figured I was on my way to recovery—only that night to go to bed needing sleep but coughing would make that impossible. I’d leave our bedroom lest I kept Gerald awake. (Going to bed at l0 p.m. was a definite sign of how bad I felt. I usually blog or play on the Internet until midnight and then go to bed.) I’d grab a blanket from the closet and transfer to the living room couch where I could sit up when I needed to cough. By this time, Gerald had taken me to the drug store and I was taking cough medicine as well as sucking on a new supply of cough drops.

During the days, my thoughts have been hazy, my energy level very low, and my ambition to do more than absolutely necessary non-existent. I’ve made the bed, put simple unappetizing meals on the table, tried to keep up with the laundry, finished re-reading The Tipping Point, and not much else. I had forgotten most of what I had read in that book and wanted to refresh its content in my mind. It would be valuable to think you could know how to start a social epidemic to effect good changes. The book is fascinating, but I have not been able to figure how I could apply Maxwell Gladwell’s ideas. So I guess I will just have to rely on stating my opinions on matters I consider important and hope my opinion influences anyone it is supposed to influence.

Because of my low energy level, I have sat in front of the kitchen television more than usual as I took long lazy breaks from the small amount of kitchen work I have done. (I still have some groceries from last Wednesday’s monthly shopping trip to finish putting away.)

Hearing the Penn State horrors and all the accusations against Herman Cain have made that TV listening unpleasant and mind-boggling. Because I do not want a nine percent national sales tax, I did not have to make up my mind on Cain’s innocence to decide if I would support him. Yet probably like most women, I would not want him even to be a major-party candidate if the four women’s accusations are true. So if she is telling the truth, I greatly admire Sharon Bialek’s courage in coming out publicly to defend and support the other three accusers. She came forth knowing she would be attacked, and any past mistakes will be made public. Most women cannot afford to live through the attacks that come if they publicly announce sexual misconduct.

And other than a desire for notoriety, I don’t see any reason for Bialek to be lying. Yet for many people, a few days of fame is very seductive. I suppose some rich person opposed to Cain might be paying her to make up this story, but I think that while that is not impossible, it is unlikely. Nevertheless, many many people lie for reasons we cannot understand. And I think I know enough of human behavior to know that four women could be lying. Or four men. For a woman to lie about this sort of thing strikes me as a serious offence as what she is accusing Cain of having done. (He did stop and take her back to her hotel as she requested.) To destroy a good man’s reputation is a terrible deed.

Someone has suggested that it would be possible to check with the hotel in question to see if Cain did pay for an upgrade to Bialek’s room. I wonder if hotels do have access to that ancient a record. Or if the restaurant association has such a record that their CEO used funds to do this. A reporter might dig for those facts.

Anyhow I will definitely be listening to Cain’s 5 p.m. news conrference. I hope he tells us he is willing to take a polygraph to help clarify that these four women have lied about his behavior. If he fails the polygraph, I hope he steps out of the political race and resigns as associate pastor of his Atlanta church.

I hate it that the youth of America have to hear about such scandals on the news. They deserve so much better from the nation’s adults.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Super Man, Super Wins, and a Super Vacation

Gerald and I left Woodsong on Wednesday as soon as we finished the lunch I’d carried in from town. Bags had been packed early in the morning, and the trunk was loaded with folding chairs and bags. I’d laid out the sun screen, and our straw hats were in the car’s back window ledge.

We met our nephew DuWayne at Vienna and spoke briefly to his daughter Andrea who’d brought him there. Then the three of us were off towards Columbus, Georgia, in Muscogee County and just north of Fort Benning. We were headed to the South Commons Softball Complex, where our granddaughter Geri Ann would be playing with the Oconee High School team, which was one of the Elite Eight teams striving for the Georgia High School Association AAA state championship.

Oconee had won this championship for the seventh time in 2008 when Geri Ann, fellow pitcher Courtney Poole, and catcher Caitlyn Glenn were freshmen. After not getting to Columbus the next two years, these seniors were determined to win the championship again and were excited to say with the rest of the school: We’re back!

The roadside kudzu and the Winn Dixie, Publix, and Piggly Wiggly groceries let us know we were in the South. The fall leaves were lovely all the way down to Athens, Alabama, where we spent Wednesday night. Like everyone but the bravest independent souls in Southern Illinois, our family members are all St. Louis Cardinal fans, and were having fun arguing with Texas kin folk supporting the Rangers. We searched the motel TV for Game 6 but found out rain had cancelled it, so we went to bed early. After a fine breakfast at the motel Thursday morning, we only had a short drive until we crossed over the Chattahoochee River to arrive in Columbus in plenty of time to meet up with family after we stopped for a hearty lunch at Shoney’s knowing we’d be in the ball park the rest of the day.

Soon we were hugging our son Gerry and wife Vickie, Geri Ann, her sister Tara, and our great grandsons—almost three Maddux (AKA Super Man) and beautiful Peyton who is no longer a baby but a little boy. I wanted to also hug Aidan, the great grandson who is now in kindergarten, but he ran away and looked back grinning. (This brings memories of Gerry who shyly ran from his Gpa Ern the first time we came home after moving away.)

Unlike Gpa Ern who chased Gerry down much to Gerry’s delight, I did not dare chase Aidan. The wide sidewalks at this complex are bordered with steep little custom-made hills that hold welcome shade trees beside the playing fields. The hills provide good viewing for those with lawn chairs but are covered with slick pine needles that everyone warned me about. This softball complex was where the practice games for Women’s Fast-pitch Softball took place prior to the medal games at the Columbus Golden Park when Atlanta hosted the 1996 Olympics.

After the greetings and salutations and admiring Maddux’s Super Man uniform and his Spider Man backpack which he found necessary to bring, we soon headed to the nearby stadium for the opening ceremony. GHSA has five divisions for its softball tournaments—A, AA, AAA, AAAA, and AAAAA. All eight teams in each division marched in proudly at the stadium and we heard a beautiful rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner.” After the pomp and ceremony provided for parents’ photo taking, we were free to start watching Georgia’s best softball teams. With Gerry’s guidance, we knew where to spend our time until our 3:30 game with Veterans High School from Warner Robins. By then, Tara had changed Super Man’s shirt to an Oconee fan T shirt.

Courtney pitched the first game. The southern sun beat down intensely, and since I’d stayed inside most of the summer because of our extreme heat, I got my first slight sunburn on my face and remained red-faced throughout the tourney. Oconee ended the 8-0 game in five innings, and I saw Geri Ann make her 23rd home run for the season.

We grabbed a ball park hot dog to eat as we watched Geri Ann start as pitcher in the 7:30 game against Heritage-Caboosa High School. After a slow start, Courtney was brought in, and we won 6-5 and knew the pleasure of seeing Caitlyn hit a three-run homer. In one of these first day’s games, Courtney hit two home runs, so all three seniors had hitting moments to remember when the first day ended.

Feeling good about our two wins, we went to our motel rooms for the night and planned to watch Game 6 of the World Series. We were emotionally prepared for Game 6 to be the end of the St. Louis Cardinals. We were not prepared to see the game go to an 11th inning victory 10-9 over the Rangers thanks to the David Freese homer. We fell asleep tired but happy over the day’s super wins.

I told Gerald that I’d sleep in Friday and he could come back from the ball park and get me in the afternoon. I knew he and DuWayne would want to see all the best players that Gerry would be following throughout Friday, but I didn’t want additional sun damage and also needed to save my energy for Oconee’s 5 p.m. game against Ringgold.

In fact, I barely got up in time before the breakfast room closed, but I was glad since I saw Tara and my three great grandsons there. They and Vickie went onto the games also, but I went back to the room to take a leisurely bath and then to read one of the books I’d carried with me. That turned out to be more difficult than I’d hoped. Leaving the room for the maid to do her magic, I moved to the couch in the cove above the downstairs lobby. Everyone down there seemed to be talking with their outdoor voices. Soon the housekeeper showed up with a very noisy vacuum.

I moved to the downstairs lounge area and soon another housekeeper and her vacuum joined me. By this time, Vickie had brought the three boys back to their room for an unsuccessful attempt at a nap, so she was taking them out for a drive to put them to sleep. (She said it worked.) So I enjoyed seeing those little guys again.
When Gerald came back, he confessed he had not slept well the night before and needed a nap, so I continued reading in the lobby. After his nap, he needed to do a couple errands and he figured we ought to find a restaurant rather than plan on another ball field hot dog for our supper.

We returned to the park just in time to greet our granddaughter Erin who had arrived after driving all the way from Southern Illinois with her Gma Shirley. They were delighted with being with family again just as we had been the night before. Aiden was soon in Auntie E’s lap and they were making plans for a doughnut date the next morning. Shirley was still high from the beautiful time they had together driving down through smoke-filled mountains glistening with sunlight through the rain. It was so good to observe Erin walking without crutches and most of the time without even a limp.

I claimed Geri Ann’s home run on Thursday night was for me, so I let her 24th home run in this game be especially for Gma Shirley. Geri Ann did a great job pitching, and we beat Ringgold 8-1. Having these two top-notch pitchers alternate pitching and playing first base has been one of Oconee’s great strengths. Courtney and Geri Ann began alternating as pitchers as freshmen when Oconee won that 2008 state championship. Although most of this evening game was played in pleasant weather, the last two innings were played in a light rain. I kept hoping they would call the game but there was no lightning and the game continued. Our hair was stuck to our heads, our clothes and shoes were wet, and the three little boys were not only wet but muddy.

We all met up in Gerry and Vickie’s rooms to watch the Cardinals and Rangers in Game 7 and enjoy the pizza and cola party provided by DuWayne. By this time, Tara had bathed the boys and dressed then for bed. Maddux now had on his Buzz Lightwood pajamas. All three boys were in great spirits with the kind of wild kinetic activity that comes as children wind down expending their last remaining bit of energy.

We enjoyed watching the little guys jump, roll, and wrestle around the room and across the beds as much as the game on TV. Tara refereed to make sure no one got hurt in all the bouncing and tackling. The noise level became pretty bad since they screamed in their rough and tumble play and we screamed at the game. Although it was early, we became a little nervous we might be kicked out of the motel, so we tried to quiet down. As the evening progressed, one by one, Tara took the boys off in the other room to sleep. Then we could only blame ourselves for any noise.

Gerry, Tara, and Erin have all played, coached, and given lessons, so being with them at any tournament means seeing lots of past players or their families re-connecting, catching up, and discussing old times with them. Their phones are filled with text messages, and Tara excitedly shared one: Alicia DeShasier, a Southern Force alum, had just won the gold medal at the Pam American games javelin event. We watched Game 7 with held breath until the end and again went to bed quite happily after a 6-2 score in favor of our Cards and the third win for Oconee.

I didn’t want to be late for the Saturday morning championship game at 11:30, so I was not much behind Gerald and DuWayne in the breakfast room. Ringgold and West Laurens were playing at 9:30 to see who from the losers’ bracket would play Oconee. The weather had turned quite cold over night, so we all layered on all the warm clothes possible and went to watch who won that game. It was West Laurens.

Tara’s husband Bryan arrived back from his headquarters in the Chicago area, and Oconee fans had made the three-hour drive down for this important game. Maddux was as socially involved with a gathering of little ones on blankets on the grass as Aidan has been for years now. By our game time, the weather was actually very pleasant despite strong winds.

If we lost for the first time, we would have to immediately play West Laurens a second time since this was a double elimination tourney. Fortunately, that was not necessary. Courtney was pitching. The crowd caught their breath expectantly thinking Geri Ann had made that 25th homerun, but the wind blew it foul. After no scores in the first three and a half innings, Brianna Dickens had a two-out single and then stole second base and scored when Savannah Stoker singled. In the seventh, Caitlyn got on base with a double and scored when Dickens made a one-out double. Molly White and Mattie Daughtery also made very important defensive plays; all these underclassmen contributing as they did is an indication Oconee County may be ready to begin another seven-year run as state champs.

Gerry could not have had a better 53rd birthday present than seeing Geri Ann’s team win Oconee’s 8th state championship. Without the need to play the 1:30 game, we were able to get on the road back to Illinois sooner than expected. We would have liked to take Gerry and family out for birthday dinner, but Oconee’s plans were still fluid for the champs’ dinner celebration, which was likely going to be on their way back to Athens, Georgia.

DuWayne assured us he was up to helping Gerald make our nine-hour trip in one lap, so we left at 1:00 and crossed back across the Chattahoochee into Alabama retracing our way on Route 280 through Athens, Huntsville, and Birmingham, and finally stopping for a leisurely lunch to celebrate victory at Ruby Tuesdays before we drove on through Tennessee, Kentucky, and met DuWayne’s wife Vickie at Vienna. We were in bed at Woodsong by midnight, and we rested up Sunday morning.

That afternoon I went in to visit Katherine expecting her to be planning on evening church as she had done the previous Sunday. But her cough had gotten much worse while we were gone despite the antibiotic she was on for another infection. I helped her get a light afternoon lunch. Her stomach has been torn up by meds, so she hasn’t wanted to eat. She jokingly said she had found out you can live on bread alone. Our sweet neighbor and her fellow church member Janet White had sent her a loaf of home-made bread and a jar of home-made grape jam. She found she could heat and eat that bread without it crumbling and causing her to cough as bad as her usual flax bread. So that bread and jam were a welcome dietary help. Sometimes she added cheese or an egg for protein.

Later after David and Sam went to evening church, I’d found and heated up a can of cream of chicken soup. Just then David brought in a huge baked potato for Katherine from an after-service pastor appreciation event. He smashed it with the sour cream she likes. She said the soup and potato turned out to be the perfect combination for her upset stomach. While the men watched a sports event in the family room, we watched TV in Katherine’s pleasant bedroom as she ate her late supper. I was able to spend the day with her again yesterday as Gerald took her in their van for an appointment, which he is also doing this afternoon.

Today I have been unpacking, washing clothes from the trip, catching up on the vacation packet of newspapers, and seeing who said what on Facebook while we were gone. Unless I am remembering wrong, it had been over two years since I was able to see Geri Ann play softball. To see her in this final high school tournament and have it turn out so well while we also celebrated Gerry’s birthday has made this a vacation to cherish.