November 27, 2018

jacky and johnnie

This past Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, my wife and I drove—south to north—up Interstate 35.  We started in San Antonio and ended up in the beautiful village of Georgetown, Texas, my hometown and the place my father and stepmother live their idyllic lives as retirees.

Of course, there was food—they don’t refer to Thanksgiving as “turkey day” for nothing—so we ate it.  And we drank.  And we sat around long after the vittles had been consumed and were snaking through our digestive systems.  And while we sat and let the nutrients do what nutrients do, we talked and laughed and reminisced and smiled at one another across the dining room table.

Off and on, between gorging ourselves in ways that distended our already distended bellies, we watched football and took discreet naps while sitting heavily on a couple of large L-shaped sofas.

We woke up Saturday morning and Janie, my stepmother, suggested that we drive up to Burnet, a town located in what Texans call “the Hill Country,” to visit Jacky, my dad’s youngest brother, and Johnnie, his wife and survivor of cancer, a disease that had caused her to lose her hair but none of her spunk.  Everyone thought it was a great idea.

Everyone in the family knows and openly talks about how Jacky has become something of an eccentric.  He doesn’t like to leave his house very often except to hunt and fish.  He gets up at 4 a.m. every morning and is obsessively clean to the nth degree and beyond.  In fact, he has a large workshop behind his house and those who’ve seen it jokingly say that a person could eat a meal off its concrete floor.

The result of all this was that I expected our visit to be somewhat awkward.  This expectation was exacerbated by the fact that this would only be the second time I’d seen my aunt and uncle in the last twenty years.  So I sort of knew what to expect but sort of didn’t too.

After an hour of driving, we found ourselves in a wooded area not far from Lake Buchanan.  We parked in the driveway, were met by Jacky and Johnnie in the front yard, and then were escorted through the house and out the back door where we all took seats on a lovely screened back porch.  I spotted a rustic rocking chair and made a beeline toward it.  We all took our seats and then began to ooh and ah about our surroundings.

The backyard was huge with several large cottonwoods and oaks, all of them shedding leaves in the autumnal breeze.  Johnnie said something about how this was their favorite place to sit and be still and quiet.  She also mentioned how this was medicine for her psyche.  She said they ate out here and even slept out here when the conditions were right.  I understood how all this could be true as I felt myself decompressing and unwinding.

There was a large and melodious wind chime hanging next to me and I mentioned how pretty it sounded.  Johnnie then told the story of how they’d come to own it.  According to her, on the day they were coming home from her mother’s funeral, Jackie, knowing that his wife was feeling profoundly sad, stopped at a roadside market and bought it while she sat in the car.  Upon returning to the vehicle, he handed it to his wife and said, “This is a little something from me.  I hope you’ll think of your mother when you hear it.”

So, on the afternoon of our visit, we sat and listened to the chime while Johnnie told this story.  One or two times, during her telling, she paused and wiped, using the back of her hand, a tear a two that had rolled down her cheeks.

It was a sad story but a beautiful day, made even more so by wonderful fellowship among kin and kindred spirits.






Several Thousand Tasty Words

I’m adjusting very well to living in America again. I say this because I keep having these moments where I look around and think, “I feel so wonderfully contented!” Such an experience occurred yesterday as Azza and I were sitting on the front porch and watching a cold summertime rain fall. After a particularly bright flash of lightning and then the delayed rumble of faraway thunder, I shuddered and felt completely overwhelmed by the beauty of my surroundings. I didn’t ruin it by trying to verbally express what I was feeling. I just sighed and quietly enjoyed the moment.

I’d like to share a bit more good news but of a different sort. It looks like I’ve landed a job, but I can’t write about it here because Azza would be very mad if I did because the contract is being prepared (as I write this) and thus I haven’t signed it yet. She believes it’s really bad luck to share good news prematurely. So, in a bow to her and her superstitions, I’ll just say that things are about to look up on the money front.

This past weekend, Janie, my stepmother, suggested that we drive over to a place called the Oscar Store, in what’s left of Oscar, Texas, to eat lunch. So we loaded up in the KIA and drove north and a bit east on Highway 95, with Georgetown as our starting point. This route took us through beautiful farmland—of a rolling-hills sort—and a handful of little Central Texas hamlets with names like Weir, Granger, Bartlett, Holland, Sparks, Little River-Academy, and Heidenheimer.

Route of Our Trip
Route of Our Trip

After about forty-five minutes or so, we pulled onto a little off-the-beaten-path road and into a grove of huge oak and pecan trees. Nestled amongst those mammoths was a sprawling structure made of repurposed barn lumber and tin. (There’s no telling how many rickety structures gave their lives so that the “store” could be born.) Actually, this page gives a bit of history on how and when the place came to be.

To make a long story short, we entered the eatery, took seats, looked at menus, ordered food, scarfed it down, paid our bill, bemoaned our bloated conditions, and then took off. We also wandered around, took a few photos, including some of a helicopter that was parked nearby; well-to-do patrons had used it to fly in to the restaurant. Because a picture really is worth a thousand words, I’ve included a few photos here.