Monday, March 24, 2014

Celebrating Gerald

We started Gerald’s 84th birthday on Saturday by driving down to Union County to enjoy the brothers’ traditional birthday breakfast.  At JR’s on the square in Jonesboro, my hometown, we found a place to park in the very crowded southeastern corner—the same corner where buggies parked when Abraham Lincoln came over to the hotel and visited with the gathering there the night before his debate with Douglas out at the Fairground.  It was good to see all the cars, which meant that the square restaurants were crowded with hungry customers.

We entered and found brother Keith and nephew DuWayne drinking coffee  and holding our corner table for us.  Of course, we had to talk about Georgia’s softball win (4-3) the night before  in 10 innings.  Soon Garry and Ginger arrived, and the friendly  talented waitress who had been refilling our coffee cups, quickly took our orders and soon delivered them with no mistakes.  The place was filling up with men in jeans and work clothes ready to get a good hot breakfast and enjoy seeing their friends before they spent the day either working or loafing according to their age.  There were a few women present too, so Ginger and I did not need to feel uncomfortable.   

Soon our table was laughing and telling stories, which is the way birthdays are celebrated by these brothers. (When they get a chance to be present, the younger generation likes to be there just to hear them laugh.)  Always the knowledge that Kenny is no longer with us is in the back of everyone’s mind, but that knowledge makes being with each other more appreciated and important.   After breakfast, Gerald drove me down to see the beautiful new court house for my first time.

Mary Ellen had already called Gerald to wish him happy birthday and to tell us they were bringing our supper to enjoy together while we watched the 4 o’clock game between Georgia and Texas A&M.  So when we got back to the farm, I didn’t need to spend much time fixing us a light lunch.  Gerald had been watching the wind for days waiting for the wind to be from the north so he could burn off the native grass acres as the government requires.  Our son-in-law Brian came over with Brianna and Trent to help and they had a blazing fire going quickly and the job completed.  Trent is becoming quite a photographer, and he had it all recorded and ready to show by the time the game started. 

When Mary Ellen arrived with food ready to be heated and finished, she decided to cook and eat downstairs where we would be watching the game on Gerald’s computer. (When we sold our other house, the buyers did not want our kitchen stove or microwave, so we moved them  in to my combination  laundry room/office—the largest and messiest room in our downstairs.)   Between my office and Gerald’s is a large furnace /hot water heater area that was meant originally for a shop, but that was not needed since Gerald has a very large building outside for that purpose. The old fridge from the other house and a popcorn table fits easily in this room.   The grandkids were little when we moved here, and I set up an old door  for an art table for them surrounded with cheap plastic kindergarten-size chairs.  They loved their gathering place, and they have devised many projects down there—some secret and some we have shared. 
As they became high schoolers, I moved a discarded repaired table in to replace the now too-low door table.   Gerald moved over and installed a TV just for them to enjoy on the two discarded couches, where a couple of them have to sleep when all the beds are full.  I called it their den.  I suspect that the fact that the floor is concrete with some left-over carpet on part of it created an environment the kids know they cannot damage and they can be as messy as they wish.  Part of the present messiness  is the addition of another table we replaced a couple of years ago in the kitchen.  I kept the old table thinking a grandkid might need a table for an apartment, but so far that hasn’t happened.
Anyhow, I cleared off the unfinished photo books I had wishfully started on the project table, and Mary Ellen had room to set up dishes and birthday cake for Geralds’ party. Brianna had topped the cake with a tiny candelabra device that held red birthday candles.  Red was the party color scheme in honor of  Georgia’s red and black.  Grandson Sam and his girl friend Anna had joined us, and we spent the evening watching the game and eating.  When the grandkids got noisy laughing as they do when they gather, we chased them back into the family room, and they were quiet after that when they checked in on the game to see their cousin Geri Ann pitching.
We loved knowing that not only Gerry and Vickie, Tara, and Geri Ann were there in the College Station complex while we watched, but their Texas daughter Erin was able to join them.  (We had to forgive Erin for wearing her alma mater A&M clothing since we love the Aggies too.) We were right there with them all in spirit and also in disappointment when Geri Ann lost her first game of the season (4-2)  in spite of pitching a tremendous game.  
After the game, the four  young ones went off to go see Marion High School’s musical  up at the Civic Center. Mary Ellen and Brian left to  finish their dry wall project for a bathroom off their  hallway. We were left with good memories of a lighted birthday cake  and voices singing. (And yes, someone had to add “You belong in a zoo” at the end of our rendition of “Happy Birthday.”  That was in honor of Gerry’s boyhood version of the song. )

When I came home from church yesterday and saw Mary Ellen’s car in the driveway, I  wondered if the left-over roast I quickly stuck in the microwave would stretch, but I knew I could add sides to make it work.  But almost immediately, Brianna came up to tell me Mary Ellen had brought our lunch just like the night before. I joined them downstairs around the computer and Mary Ellen handed me a hot plate of yummy food.  This time we also enjoyed the end of the game  since we won 4-3. 

It was a good and very restful weekend with cards, phone calls, Facebook and  text messages throughout the day along with his  birthday breakfast and birthday supper party reminding Gerald how much he meant to so many.  

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