Just in case …

The call came as I was helping my dad get ready for my mom’s funeral.

“Can you find the angel that Darren gave momma? I want to put it in the casket with her.”

It was my sister Angie. Her husband Darren bought little stone angels for each of us before he succumbed to cancer three years ago. The  inscription on it says, “I will never leave you …” Mine is on my dresser at home, right next to my change dish.

“No problem,” I answered. “Do you know where she kept it?”

“It’s either in her purse or in her jewelry box.”

“I’ll find it,” I said before hanging up.

We had to leave for the funeral in a little more than an hour. Plenty of time to find the angel and help daddy.

Mom’s purse was where she always kept it, next to the end table that sat between her chair and daddy’s. There was just an empty space where her chair had been, a casualty of moving a hospital bed into the living room as her cancer worsened. The hospital bed was gone now.

Mom always kept her purse nearby, just in case something happened. One of my favorite pictures from my wedding is of my parents dancing. You can see momma’s purse strap on her shoulder.

The purse she had now is a lovely Coach purse that my youngest sister Chuty bought for her last year. I went through all of the compartments.

She kept things in it that she might need one day. There was balled up tissue. Lots of it. No telling what it was used for, but if there was still some use to something, momma held on to it, just in case.

There were pennies and nickles and dimes, a few quarters. Various scraps of paper. A couple of ink pens. Her ID and her wallet.

Momma hadn’t driven in decades, but she kept a set of keys in her purse, just in case. And cough drops. There were a dozen or so cough drops in there. Sugar-free.

Momma never went anywhere without cough drops, even after the nurses told her to quit eating artificial sweeteners after the cancer spread to her liver. We found even more in the compartment of her walker, where she also stashed the chocolate candy the nurses told her she shouldn’t eat, too.

Momma smoked most of her life, only quitting after her heart attack seven years ago. She had COPD and was on oxygen since the heart attack, taking breathing treatments three or four times a day. But she always blamed her cough on allergies. Cough drops made her feel better.

No stone angel from Darren in the purse, though.

My dad pointed me to momma’s jewelry box on the dresser in their bedroom. Sitting on top was the As Seen on TV hearing aid I gave momma for Christmas.

Her hearing was failing her for years but she wouldn’t see about getting a hearing aid because Medicare doesn’t pay for hearing aids.

When I had to upgrade from one hearing aid to two about four years ago, she wanted me to give her my old hearing aid. It was a form-fitting, in-the-ear model, built using a wax impression of my ear canal.

“It won’t fit your ear,” I could hear me telling her and wishing now that I had given it to her. (This may come as a shock, but I can be a know-it-all, sometimes.)

“Plus,” I continued in the conversation running through my memory, “it’s programmed for my hearing problems, so it wouldn’t really help you without changing the programming.”

This past Christmas, I picked up an As Seen on TV hearing aid model that she saw on TV and said she wanted. I gave it to her for Christmas. I have never seen her smile that big before. I have a picture of her opening the present. I’ll cherish it forever.

Did it help her hear better? I doubt it, but she kept it on her jewelry box which made me smile and softly cry at the same time.

Darren’s stone angel was just inside her jewelry box. I picked the angel up and put it in my pants pocket. I put the jewelry box back where momma kept it and started to put the hearing aid on top. But in a last-second decision, I pocketed it, too.

I finished helping dad get dressed and just before we left the house, I took some of momma’s cough drops out of her purse and put them in my pocket.

We got to the church with plenty of time to spare. I handed Angie momma’s angel as we entered the church’s side door. The funeral directors brought momma’s casket in and opened it for the family viewing.

Momma was beautiful. She was wearing the dress my sister Wanda gave her when mom and dad renewed their wedding vows in the same church almost four years earlier for their 60th anniversary. Her hair dresser, Lori, did a great job on her hair and momma looked 30 years younger without worry creasing her brow. My mom was a notorious worrier.

Angie put the angel under momma’s clasped fingers and kissed her.

As I leaned over to kiss momma, I tucked the hearing aid and cough drops under the edge of her pillow.

“Just in case,” I whispered as I kissed my mom goodbye.

When I was a kid, this was my favorite time of the year.

All the new car models came out in late September, along with all the new season of TV shows.I think they were timed to coincide and can still hum along to “See the U.S.A. in a Chevrolet.”

Football season started this time of year, followed in a few weeks by the start up of the sugar cane harvest. That always brought Leighton Sugar Mill’s melodious steam whistle. A long, low blast waking us up at 6 a.m. and another calling us home at 6 p.m. every day of the week into the end of the harvest in December.

The Sears Christmas catalog wouldn’t be far off either. It was as thick as the New Orleans phone book, jam-packed with hopes and dreams. I’d read it by flashlight under the covers late into the night.

Fall was in the air and it was exciting.

These days, not so much.

New car models come out with no real rhyme or reason, driven by market studies.

New TV shows come and go. Sure, the new season starts in the fall for some shows. But the shows I really like,  Downton Abbey, Longmire, Big Brother and Under the Dome, debut midseason. Duck Dynasty manages to cram two seasons into a year these days.

The nearest sugar mill is 600 miles away and I haven’t seen a Sears Wishbook in 20 years.

All is not lost, though.

I got the new Harbor Freight Tools sales catalog in the mail today. You can get a welding helmet for under $30, decent sized solar panels for under $50.

I think I’ll grab a flashlight and read it under the covers tonight.

Yeah, though I walk …

This Virginia Tech fan is my new hero …


Virginia Tech wins at Ohio State

This is art:

Howick, South Africa

This ain’t:

Riverside Park, Nashville, Tenn. (proposed)

 It’s a twisted piece of metal that Nashville will pay $350,000 for (the equivalent of the cost to build 7 houses for the homeless).

This is art:

Bank of America Building, Nashville, Tenn.

Chet Atkins. Nuff said.

This ain’t:

Music City Roundabout, Nashville, Tenn.

They’re painted poles stuck randomly in the ground at a cost of $750,000. (That’s equivalent to 15 houses for the homeless).

This is art:

Riverside Village, Nashville, Tenn.

This ain’t:

City Hall, Nashville, Tenn.

 I have no idea what this is, but the city paid $308,000 for it. (There’s a matching piece to this on the other side of the park.) That’s the equivalent of 6 homes for the homeless, which anyone could look at and not ask what they are.

I have a simple rule. If you have to ask, it ain’t art.

So you tell me, art or a rock on bent pipe?

Edmondson Park, Nashville

Remote possibility

Add this one to the old dog, new tricks file.

I dropped my keys for the umpteenth time last week and finally broke the car remote off my key chain. Carrying the remote around separately from the key chain proved to be a major pain, so I went looking for a McGuyver-type solution that involved a flat key chain and Gorilla Glue.

Gorilla Glue is my new duct tape. I use it to fix just about anything, like my phone’s belt clip holder after the clip tore away from the holder two days before my trip to Louisiana last week.

I told the clerk at AutoZone what I was looking for and he said they didn’t have any key rings like I described, but they did stock new shells for old remotes.

I took a certification class in replacing auto remotes when I had a locksmith business 10 years ago. But in the seven years since I closed my business, I haven’t kept up much with new developments, which is when I think the remote shells came into existence.

Alas, AutoZone didn’t have one that would work with my 15-year-old car, but eBay did.

Why not just buy a new remote? A new remote for my car cost $120 and you have to reprogram the car. I bought the new shell for $7 on eBay and no reprogramming was involved.

Of course, while I was waiting for the new shell to come in, I misplaced my remote, so I didn’t have it to use during a recent trip to visit my parents. Luckily, I found it today.

The remote was holding on by a hair for the longest time, but the ring holder finally broke when I dropped my keys last week.

Pry open the old shell using the notch on the opposite end of the ring holder. (Use a screw driver if one’s handy. You could really hurt yourself using a pocket knife if you’re not careful.)

This is what it looks like after you pry the shell open. You can do this if you just need to change the battery, too. If I had a new battery with me this morning, I would have changed it out, too.

Open the new shell and lay it out next to the old so you can keep track of which way the circuit board goes. (Mine also had a helpful “Ring Side” directional aid, too.)

Carefully take the circuit board out of the old one and put it in the new one. It’s probably a good idea to do this with something underneath, like this note pad, so that it doesn’t fall to the floor and break if you drop it.

Snap the two sides together and you’re finished. There’s no need to reprogram because you’re using the same circuit board.

Then, throw the old shell away. You’ve got enough clutter in your life without stockpiling more broken car junk.

All keyed up

As soon as I pulled away from the apartment, I realized my keys weren’t in my pocket.

I have a ritual I do several times a day to make sure I still have everything I need to have to get through the day.

Hand on my right hip at the belt line to make sure my cell phone is still with me. Reach across to the left hip to make sure I have my work ID clipped to my belt. I need that to get off at my floor from the elevator. Hand up to my shirt pocket to make sure my hearing aid remote is there. Then hand down to my right thigh pocket to check on the keys.

Everything was in its place this morning except for the keys.

No keys in my pocket. Shit.

Keys would be important to me, even if I didn’t used to own a locksmith business. I have the key to my apartment, the key to my property, the key to my post office box, the key to the padlock I haven’t been able to find since the move three years ago. There’s the key to the apartment complex mail box that I never check because I use a PO box downtown by my office. Then there’s the garage lock key for my former house that didn’t really lock the garage but does lock and unlock my mom and dad’s storm door on the carport. And my car key and lock fob.

No keys in my pocket. Shit.

How am I going to lock the car when I get to the office, I wonder to myself. I damn sure won’t be able to get anything out of the trunk, like my lock-pick set, which would come in handy right now thankyouverymuch.

Will I even be able to lock the car since I don’t have the keys to unlock it?

The car.

I’m driving the car.

Driving. The. Car. Can’t do that without keys.

Those keys in the ignition right there.


Man, it’s tough growing old.


My kitchen is a mess and I know why. I own too many plates and bowls.

When I moved into my apartment almost 3 years ago (time flies), I built my kitchen from scratch. I had a knife, fork and spoon from my camping kit, an 8-inch fry pan and a 3-quart saucepan that I used to boil water to make iced tea.

One of the first things I bought when I moved in was a set of dishes. But I couldn’t really find anything I liked, so I settled on a set from Big Lots. The plates had a rim that made it hard to cut things on and the bowls were too deep for me to make egg salad the way I’m accustomed.

I made do, always keeping an eye out for something better, like the Blue Willow plates my ex and I collected when we were engaged and newlyweds.

Who knew I was so picky about plates? I couldn’t find anything I liked for almost two years. Then, while visiting the Dirt Cheap store in Picayune, Miss., on my way home from Louisiana one time, I spotted some Blue Willow plates. Aisles of Blue Willow plates actually. Dinner plates, salad plates, cereal bowls, soup bowls, serving dishes. Aisles and aisles of them.

And they really were dirt cheap. I ended up buying service for 8 and it cost me a little more than $30.

I was so proud, I shouted out my new find on Facebook. Life was grand.

I came home from the property tonight and there those Blue Willow plates sit. The sink is full of big plates, salad plates and cereal bowls. (I didn’t buy the soup bowls because I thought it would be kind of pretentious to have two kinds of bowls.)

Why are they sitting there? Because there are still clean plates in the cabinets, silly. No need to wash them right now. I’ll wash them tomorrow.

But as we all know, tomorrow never comes. So the pile gets bigger each day.

What’s a guy to do (other than get off his butt and load the dishwasher?). I’m getting rid of half of my dishes, that’s what. I don’t need them.

Since the spring, I have been working to simplify things. I’ve ripped all my CDs and have them stored on my computer and backed up on a portable hard drive. My favorite songs are on my phone and my MP3 player. I’ve only bought e-books for the past two years and all the magazines I get are digital.

I have more clothes than I need. I have books that I will never read again. I can go a month without washing underwear and never wear the same pair twice.

It’s time. First thing tomorrow.


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