Posts Tagged ‘Relationships’

My dog Jake leads a full and comfortable life. He eats well, exercises regularly, and naps often. Via a dog door, he has free access to a fenced back yard facing a woods full of critters. Plus, he and I go on daily walks around town, many of which lead to encounters with people, pets, and wildlife.

In addition, I talk to him a lot, probably more than most people would consider normal. (It’s a habit I acquired honestly. After I lost Paco, I lived alone for two years and had no one to talk to. When I adopted Jake, I guess it all came pouring out.)

Jake is a smart pooch anyway, and, for all the above reasons, he has quite an extensive vocabulary. You can tell when he knows a word. He comes to attention and his eyes widen when he hears it.

Here are some of the words and phrases he understands

Jake, Dude, Bubba (He knows all refer to him.)
Stay here
Come here
Gimme a kiss
Go outside
Go for a ride
Go bye-bye
Check the mail
You ready?
I’ll be back (Translation: the human is leaving me at home.)
You hungry?
Breakfast, supper (Translation: it’s food time.)
All gone
Donkeys (A herd lives a few blocks from our house.)
Duck (The City Park has a duck pond.)
Deanna (my ex)
Celeste (her dog)

There are certain other words and phrases he hears regularly, but probably doesn’t know what they mean. However, I’m sure he understands from my tone that all are meant affectionately

Good boy
Pretty boy
Ol’ buddy
Look at that beautiful tail
How’d you get to be so handsome?

In one way or another, I tell him he’s a good dog 50 times a day.

Jake doesn’t know the word horse yet, but if we go walking at the Heritage Farm a few more times, he probably will.




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My day usually begins when my dog Jake decides it’s time to get up, and he bounds onto the bed to roust me out.

The ritual is always the same. He briefly presents himself to be petted, then dives in to give my face a proper licking. Jake deploys his tongue with surgical precision. He alternates between the nose and whichever ear is closest, snuffling and wiggling joyfully.

Eventually, when I relent, he hops down and waits next to the bed, aquiver with anticipation. I roll out of bed, and we proceed to the back door so he can go outside.

One morning last week, as I stumbled into the living room and turned on the light, this sight greeted me.


That banana was supposed to be my breakfast. Sometime during the night, Jake had swiped it from the kitchen counter.

Scowling, I pointed at the banana. “Did you do that?” I demanded. His hangdog look was a clear admission of guilt.

I opened the back door, let him out, and picked up the banana. It was perfectly intact. Not a single tooth mark.

I wasn’t too surprised. Jake has stolen several things recently and not harmed them.

A few minutes later, as I was seated in my recliner watching the news, a glass of milk at my side, I shared the banana with Jake and pondered his recent penchant for counter-surfing.

When I first got him, we had a lengthy period of adjustment in which he had to learn the rules of the house.

Rules such as no shredding of books.


No stealing clothes from the hamper.


No swiping things from the bathroom trash cans, no absconding with kitchen towels, no digging holes in the back yard.

Over time, he learned what is acceptable and what isn’t. He became, I’m pleased to report, a very good boy who rarely gets into trouble.

Then, a few months ago, the counter-surfing thing started.

The first time it happened was understandable.

As I was about to reheat a plate of leftover meatloaf, the clothes dryer beeped. I took a moment to deal with that, but, foolishly, left the plate of meatloaf unattended on the kitchen counter.

When I returned, the plate was not only empty, but wiped clean. Not a spot of grease remained.

And it was totally my fault. No dog should be expected to resist unattended meatloaf. I looked out the window. Jake was patrolling the back yard as usual. I let the matter go and found something else for supper.

A week or so later, I found a kitchen towel on my bedroom floor near the dog door. Jake was in the back yard on patrol again. At least he didn’t take the towel with him. I returned it to its hook in the kitchen.

A few days after that, I made a trip to the grocery store and, as usual, unloaded the bags and put everything away in the pantry and fridge. At least, I thought it was everything.

When I finished, I went into the bedroom and found this.


Stealing the flour tortillas was especially gutsy. He snatched it from the kitchen counter while my back was turned.

Still, the package was intact. Undamaged. He could have ripped it open and gorged on those soft, delicious tortillas, but he didn’t.

What in the world was going through his mind? Did he steal the things, then suddenly think, Uh-oh! What have I done? and decide to scram before I found out?

Did he realize that eating the tortillas, or the banana, would be a serious breach of house rules? A bridge too far?

I’ll never know.

Jake and I communicate very well, as do most humans and their dogs. But, man, the limitations are maddening.


P.S. One notable and rather amusing feature of Jake’s fur is the presence of a distinct letter “C” on top of his head. A while back, I decided it stands for canine, but counter-surfer works, too.


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On the website of the magazine Psychology Today, I found a pretty good definition of psychoanalysis. It’s a bit intricate, but you can handle it.

Freud pioneered the idea that unconscious forces influence overt behavior and personality. He believed that childhood events and unconscious conflict, often pertaining to sexual urges and aggression, shape a person’s experience in adulthood.

Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis created the framework for psychoanalytic therapy, a deep, individualized form of talk therapy. Psychoanalytic therapy encompasses an open conversation that aims to uncover ideas and memories long buried in the unconscious mind.

Psychoanalysts employ specific techniques, such as spontaneous word association, dream analysis, and transference analysis. Identifying patterns in the client’s speech and reactions can help the individual better understand their thoughts, behaviors, and relationships as a prelude to changing what is dysfunctional.

As the final sentence explains, the goal of psychoanalytic therapy is to help the patient understand the subconscious causes of dysfunctional behaviors in hopes of changing them.

A few decades ago, I spent a year in psychoanalysis. I met regularly with a psychiatrist, and we explored what makes me tick.

It was a unique and, in many ways, strange experience. All that effort and professional firepower focused solely on me, my thoughts, my beliefs. Having my innermost self under a microscope was surreal and a little spooky.

How I ended up seeing a shrink is an interesting story.

Deanna and I got divorced in 1989. I’ve mentioned the split occasionally on this blog, including here and here, but never in much detail.

I don’t intend to elaborate now, except to say that, when she handed me the divorce papers, a part of me was surprised, but another was not. There had been signs.

She and I began to have disagreements, but all along, I thought they were transient and fixable. I never believed they were significant enough to end the marriage.

Deanna saw it otherwise. It’s a fact that the only person you can understand with even remote accuracy is yourself. And even that is an iffy proposition.

Several years before the divorce, she expressed an interest in seeing a therapist. I took it as a positive thing. If issues are bugging you, it’s good to try to understand and deal with them. She ended up going to a psychiatrist affiliated with Emory University in Atlanta.

Immediately, the doctor proposed seeing both of us, in separate sessions, to facilitate Deanna’s analysis. She said sessions with both marital partners is always advisable.

To be clear, I’m a believer. Freud had some nutty ideas, but his central belief that (1) experiences in childhood affect behaviors in adulthood, and (2) it pays to understand them — that makes sense to me. I certainly don’t object to the concept of therapy.

Nevertheless, I was hesitant. I felt no need to undergo analysis. I was confident no sinister, malignant demons lurked inside me. All my demons are minor and benign.

Further, there was the cost. For one patient, $70 or $80 per session was brutal. For two, it would be crippling.

On the other hand, two facts were clear. First, the doctor might be right that understanding me would help her understand Deanna. And second, if I declined, I would be seen as an obstacle and a villain.

I agreed to undergo analysis.

The sessions were casual and calm. No couch was involved. The doctor and I got along well, and, session by session, she went about the task of sizing me up.

At the same time, I got to know the doctor and her methods. Often, I could see where she was taking the conversation.

For example, she showed interest in how my dad was affected by his World War II experiences. (He was a bomber pilot, was shot down, became a POW.)

After the war, Dad suffered significant anxiety and flashback problems. He struggled with PTSD for many years until, late in life, he finally fought it to a truce.

The doctor wanted to understand how Dad’s condition affected the rest of the family, and me in particular, which I freely admit it did. It was the topic we spent the most time talking about.

In those days, Deanna was a stay-at-home mom. My modest salary sustained us. Under those circumstances, the cost of therapy was a significant financial burden.

To her credit, the doctor arranged a generous payment schedule that I could manage.

And ultimately, also to her credit, she announced that she had seen enough. She said continuing my therapy sessions was not worth the time and expense. We were done.

In effect, she concluded I was acceptably normal and stable and did not require her services. It was a veritable thumbs-up for my mental health, a seal of approval from a professional. I was shrink-certified.

I wasn’t surprised. And it was supremely satisfying.

Mic drop

I don’t recall how long Deanna continued therapy. I never learned anything about her sessions, whether they were fruitful, or how they ended. I never asked.

But I well remember sending checks to the doctor every month, slowly paying down the tab.

Then one day, long after Deanna’s therapy ended, a letter arrived from the doctor.

She informed me that a fire had swept through her office building, and many financial records had been destroyed, mine among them.

She and her accountant decided to declare my debt absolved. Roughly $1,000 was being forgiven and, I assume, written off on her taxes.

I mean no disrespect to Freud or his disciples, but that gesture did more for my mental health than all of the therapy sessions combined.




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Well, we have happy news in the Smith family: my son Dustin is officially retired from law enforcement. He served 20 years in the business, first with Family & Children Services, then with Athens-Clark County PD, then with University of Georgia PD.

As you can imagine, his work involved risks and challenges that were downright ugly. Now we all can rest easier about his physical safety and emotional well-being.

Dustin plans to focus on his new business, Sporting South Photography. Check out his website.

On Dustin’s last day with UGA PD, his wife Leslie posted this on Facebook:

“Today, Dustin retired from police work after 20 years. The first picture is from his ACC Police Academy graduation and the second is from UGA.”

Dustin 3-03

Dustin 3-19a

“He has served his community with dedication, loyalty and professionalism. He has made life-long connections and lost a brother. Thank you to everyone that supported him and prayed for him throughout his career.”

Dustin 3-19b

“He will begin a new journey with sports photography, that we hope will give him renewed focus and success, and maybe a little less stress.

“Congrats to you Sgt. Smith! Enjoy your next chapter in life.”

The lost brother Leslie mentioned is a fellow officer, Buddy Christian of ACC PD, who was killed in the line of duty a few years ago.

Dustin’s police career was filled with superlatives. He was not only a crackerjack officer, but also the kind of person you want to see in law enforcement: intelligent, empathetic, and compassionate. He recognized the importance of the work and the obligation to do it well.

That was apparent when he was named the Honor Graduate of his class at the Police Academy. It was apparent again when, in his first assignment on patrol in a section of Athens with a large Hispanic population, he went the extra mile and took Spanish lessons.

In time, Dustin was assigned to the Domestic Violence unit, a notably stressful job. But he was good at it, and Athens PD kept him there, even after the work began wearing him down and he asked for a reassignment.

Eventually, he was moved to Investigations, where he excelled again. In recent years, owing to his skills and years of experience, he ran the UGA PD Training unit.

Dustin told me some years ago that one of the toughest aspects of police work is knowing that half the people you contact on a given day hate your guts.

He probably wasn’t exaggerating. He had to deal with the worst people, on their worst behavior, often in the worst parts of town. As the cop confronting them, he was the enemy personified.

That’s why he and I see Athens differently. To me, Athens is the UGA campus, the special vibe of the downtown, the stately old neighborhoods, the Botanical Garden.

Dustin remembers rundown neighborhoods where a shooting, stabbing, or beating just happened. He thinks about dealing with drunk and belligerent frat boys and working on Saturday when the Bulldogs have a home game.

Maybe now he can get acquainted with a more positive side of the city.

Anyway, the page has turned, and Dustin starts his new life as a civilian.

And he promptly marked the occasion by making a delightful video that, in my humble estimation, knocks it out of the park. I can’t get enough of watching it.


That’s my boy.



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Homo sapiens! Greedy, pathetic fools with a genetic mania to destroy all the sanctuaries that feed their souls. Well, hell, I don’t give a damn if we’re blotted out. I don’t want to be a part of the human race when I see the pimps in government and the whores who do their bidding. I’d rather be a coyote.

— Katie Lee, ardent conservationist


Last November, when I heard about the death of the indomitable Katie Lee, the news hit me harder than I expected. I rarely respond so emotionally when someone famous dies.

Katie Lee (1919-2017) was an actress, folksinger, writer, photographer, river runner, and environmental activist. She was a nature lover and a glorious free spirit. To anyone with a heart and a shred of concern for the planet, she was an inspiration.

She certainly inspired me. I admired her passion, her dedication, and her willingness to live life her way. This is a woman who, at age 80, bicycled nude in downtown Jerome, Arizona, in tribute to a deceased friend. The license plate on her Toyota Prius read DAM DAM.

Consider what she did in her 98 years…


Kathryn Louise Lee was born in Illinois, the daughter of architect Zanna Lee and Ruth Detwiler Lee, an interior decorator. When Katie was three months old, the Lees moved to Tucson, Arizona. Katie grew up there and learned to understand the importance of the natural environment.

When cast in a play in high school, she discovered that she not only had acting skills, but relished the limelight. She had the added advantages of being likable, attractive, and uninhibited.


After earning a degree in drama from the University of Arizona, Katie moved to Hollywood, the mecca of the young and hopeful. She never attained major stardom, but she acted regularly in small stage and screen parts, as well as in dramas and musicals on radio.

In the 1950s, Katie also began writing and singing folk and country music. Due in part to her engaging personality and irreverent sense of humor, she became friends with many of the music stars of the time. Burl Ives reportedly said, “The best cowboy singer I know is a girl: Katie Lee.”

In 1953, after a performance in Tucson, Katie watched a home movie of a high school friend running rapids on the Colorado River. Katie was smitten, and she pleaded with her friend to take her on his next trip. He did.

Over the next several years, Katie rowed, paddled, and motored the Colorado and San Juan Rivers regularly. She became just the third woman to run every rapid in Grand Canyon.


She also became enchanted with Glen Canyon, upstream of Grand Canyon. “That’s when the 186 miles of pure Eden that is Glen Canyon captivated me and made me its slave,” she wrote.

Katie adored Glen Canyon’s majestic cliffs and intricate side canyons. She explored them all, bathing nude under the waterfalls. The breezes, she said, were like voices speaking to her. She wrote books and songs celebrating Glen Canyon and the crucial role of rivers everywhere.


Then, in the early 1960s, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation began constructing Glen Canyon Dam, which would generate power at the expense of submerging Glen Canyon beneath Lake Powell. Katie joined Edward Abbey, David Brower, and other conservationists who opposed the dam.

I had a cause!” she said later. “A cause that didn’t center on me-me-me. One that asked nothing of me, really, yet was far from mute. I’d never had a cause before, but now there was a place, almost a person, that needed my help.”


Attempts to block construction of the dam failed, but Katie Lee remained a constant voice in opposition to the dam’s presence for the rest of her life.

There are good dams that are built for the right reasons and in the right place, but this dam was built in the wrong place for the wrong reasons,” she later said. “When you kill a river, you kill everything around it for many, many miles.”

The only reason she didn’t blow up the dam herself, she often said, was that she didn’t know how.

After the dam was built, Katie used music, books, and film to disparage government bureaucrats for destroying Glen Canyon. Her protests were constant, fierce, and creatively profane. She became one of the national symbols of the movement to protect natural places from being destroyed in the name of progress.

When they drowned that place, they drowned my whole guts,” she said. “And I will never forgive the bastards. May they rot in hell.”

She refused to visit Lake Powell, calling it an abomination, and she never again rafted the Colorado River below the dam.

Katie was married twice. Her first husband was race car driver Brandy Brandelius. After his death, she married and later divorced businessman Eugene Busch, Jr.

For a time, Katie lived in Aspen and other Colorado mountain towns. She performed locally, singing and playing guitar, and was often seen driving her vintage Thunderbird.

When Aspen became too rich and haughty for her taste, she left. In 1978, at age 59, she set out on a trip around the world.


In Australia, she met Joey van Leeuwen, a Dutch immigrant 12 years her junior who worked at a furniture factory in Perth. The attraction was powerful and immediate.

By 1980, Joey and Katie were living in Jerome, Arizona, population 444, a quaint old mining town favored by retirees, artists, and hippies.

The names of Katie’s record albums through the years are revealing…

– Spicy Songs for Cool Knights, 1956
– Songs of Couch and Consultation, 1957
– Life is Just a Bed of Neuroses, 1960
– The Best of Katie Lee Live, 1962
– Folk Songs & Poems of the Colorado River, 1964
– Love’s Little Sisters, 1975
– Colorado River Songs, 1976
– Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle, 1977
– Fenced!, 1978
– His Knibbs and the Badger, 1992
– Glen Canyon River Journeys, 1998
– Colorado River Songs (Again!), 1998
– Folk Songs from the Fifties, 2009

So are the titles of her books…

Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle A History of the American Cowboy in Song, Story & Verse, 1976
– All My Rivers are Gone: A Journey of Discovery through Glen Canyon, 1998
Sandstone Seduction Rivers and Lovers, Canyons and Friends, 2004
Glen Canyon Betrayed A Sensuous Elegy, 2006
– The Ballad of Gutless Ditch, 2010
– The Ghosts of Dandy Crossing, 2014


Katie usually is remembered for her folk and protest songs, but many were humorous and satirical. Consider these lyrics from “Stay as Sick as You Are.”

I love your streak of cruelty,
Your psychopathic lies,
The homicidal tendencies
Shining in your eyes.


Stories about her abound, but nothing showcases the real Katie Lee, or is more revealing of her character, than “Kickass Katie Lee,” a 10-minute documentary made in 2016.

Katie’s partner Joey was a skilled woodworker, and he continued his carpentry work when he moved to Jerome to be with Katie. Over the four decades they were together, he made repairs, helped care for the city parks, planted trees around town, and served on several city boards and commissions.

Quiet and polite by nature, he had a special love of birds. He made paintings and wood carvings of them and even wrote and illustrated a book, The Birds of Jerome.

Joey was widely admired and respected, and he was seen as Katie’s anchor as she continued her activism into her 90s.

On November 1, 2017, Katie Lee died peacefully in her sleep. The next day, Joey van Leeuwen committed suicide. He was 85.






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“The Breakfast Club,” one of the old John Hughes teen angst movies, is about five high school students from different social groups who are thrown together in Saturday morning detention. The film asked if the bonds that formed among them would endure after the detention ended and they resumed their normal lives.

The movie’s theme song, “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” is based on that question.

During production, the songwriters searched for a band to record the song for the film, without success. Among the groups that declined was the Scottish band Simple Minds. Lead singer Jim Kerr objected to recording material not written by the group.

But Kerr’s band mates got him to change his mind. The result was a huge hit that topped the charts, introduced Simple Minds to the U.S. audience, and has been a staple at senior proms ever since.

“Will you recognize me? Call my name or walk on by?” Everyone can relate, in their school days and beyond. That’s why it resonates.

Simple Minds

Don’t You (Forget About Me)

By Simple Minds, 1985
Written by Keith Forsey and Steve W. Schiff

Hey, hey, hey, hey!
Ooh, woe.

Won’t you come see about me?
I’ll be alone, dancing — you know it, baby.
Tell me your troubles and doubts.
Giving me everything, inside and out,

And love’s strange, so real in the dark.
Think of the tender things that we were working on.
Slow change may pull us apart.
When the light gets into your heart, baby,

Don’t you
Forget about me.
Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t you
Forget about me.

Will you stand above me?
Look my way, never love me?
Rain keeps falling, rain keeps falling
Down, down, down.

Will you recognize me?
Call my name or walk on by?
Rain keeps falling, rain keeps falling
Down, down, down, down.

Hey, hey, hey, hey!
Ooh, woe.

Don’t you try and pretend
It’s my feeling we’ll win in the end.
I won’t harm you or touch your defenses.
Vanity, insecurity.

Don’t you forget about me.
I’ll be alone, dancing — you know it, baby.
Going to take you apart.
I’ll put us back together at heart, baby.

Don’t you
Forget about me.
Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t you
Forget about me.

As you walk on by,
Will you call my name?
As you walk on by,
Will you call my name
When you walk away?

Or will you walk away?
Will you walk on by?
Come on, call my name.
Will you call my name?

I say (la, la la la la, la la la la).

When you walk on by.



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In 1989, I arrived at an unexpected milestone in my life when I was slapped with divorce papers after two decades of marriage.

Slapped is the right description. I had no idea it was coming. I wasn’t guilty of anything, and, I eventually concluded, her reasons for leaving had little to do with me. People change.

But it happened, and it caught me off guard and left me reeling. In time, I coped and adjusted and moved on. I wasn’t the first guy to get dumped.

After several years, I began casually dating again. Some of those relationships lasted a while, some didn’t.

Happily, most of my dating encounters were positive. None became permanent, or even lasted long, but they were pleasant at the time. For the most part, good memories.

But not always. A few times, the women I met had issues — carried baggage in their lives that wasn’t healthy.

One turned out to be clingy and needy to an unsettling degree, as if her self-worth needed proving. The evening was awkward. I felt bad for her.

In cases like that, when the alarm bells went off and I felt uneasy, I distanced myself as soon as I could politely do so.

I suppose that’s how the dating scene goes, especially later in life. By then, everyone has a history. Kids and grandkids often are in the mix. Everyone carries baggage, some benign, some toxic.

I mention this because of an old memory that surfaced recently, a sad memory, about a woman I dated not long before I retired. At the time, I was living in the community of Between, Georgia. I moved there, fittingly, because it was located between work and family.

Her name was Carol. She was 10 years my junior, which was intriguing, and divorced for some time. She was an accountant for a large Metro Atlanta construction company, and she lived in a subdivision about a mile from my place. One of my co-workers knew her and thought we should meet.

So, I called her, and we talked, and we agreed to a Saturday lunch date at Ruby Tuesday.

The anticipation as I walked into the restaurant was intense. Blind dates will concentrate the mind, no matter your age.

I told the hostess I was meeting someone. She gestured toward a nearby booth, and there was Carol, smiling at us.

She was disarmingly attractive. Slender, stylish, coal-black short hair. My immediate prayer: that her personality would be as good as her looks.

And it was. She was charming, intelligent, interesting — superlatives all around. I tried to be my nicest self and not act too giddy, but giddy I was.

The reality, of course, was that we both were trying to make a good impression. This was our first meeting, much too soon to assess or understand someone. You have to be realistic and patient.

And soon, I got my first glimpse of the real Carol.

I had told her that my passions were hiking and kayaking, that I spent most weekends either on a trail somewhere or paddling. She replied that she had been canoeing a few times, but she was unable to walk very far because of an accident.

She explained that, several years earlier, she fell and broke several bones in her right foot. The injury never healed properly. She underwent surgery twice. She remained under treatment and was no longer in pain, but she was left with a slight limp.

She explained all this with great intensity. Her voice had an edge. It was clear that she was fixated on the accident and her situation.

When we finished lunch and were leaving the restaurant, I got to see the condition she described.

To my surprise, the limp was barely perceptible. I didn’t comment, but, to me, this thing she spoke about with such feeling seemed relatively minor.

To Carol, it wasn’t remotely minor. What happened to her was unfair, unacceptable, and anguishing. As we walked to the parking lot, I knew she was both embarrassed by the moment and furious that fate had dealt her these cards.

After that, we went out two more times. It was clear that she was consumed by the matter and the perceived unfairness of it. It dominated her life.

Maybe, in one rosy scenario, I could have helped her get beyond the bitterness and deal with her situation. But I knew almost nothing about her life and background, and I had no real skills to offer. Not without regret, I decided to walk away.

We all handle adversity differently. I’ve known people who faced significant life problems — medical, marital, financial — with grit and grace. They didn’t always prevail, but they handled their issues with dignity, maturity, and class.

I’ve also known people who found themselves in serious situations, but couldn’t cope.

At about the time I met Carol, I got a call from an old college friend who was working as a NASA administrator in Florida. Over the years, we had been in touch periodically.

He said he was the victim of botched renal surgery that left him damaged and in chronic pain. The doctor was incompetent. A lawsuit was in progress. He mitigated the pain with prescription drugs.

For the next couple of years, he called me every few months, stoned and miserable. As he rambled, usually incoherently, I sat quietly at the other end of the line. My role was to listen, not speak.

Apparently, his drug use got out of control. He lost his job. His parents took him in.

I dreaded his calls, but I took them.

Then the calls stopped, for reasons I can only guess. I was relieved and despondent at the same time.

What happened to Carol was less dire, but a tragedy nonetheless. She simply couldn’t find it within herself to cope with a problem that, in truth, amounted to bad luck.

That failure poisoned her as surely as any drug.



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Tune o’ the Day

The Beatles were, let’s face it, a musical and cultural phenomenon. From the time they emerged in the early 1960s, they out-wrote and out-performed everyone else in the business. Even if Beatles music isn’t your cup of tea, you have to acknowledge their amazing talent as songwriters and performers.

With me, of course, it’s personal. I was 17 when The Beatles burst on the scene. I grew up on Beatles music. I followed their careers and antics in real time over the years.

I could go on, but I wrote a post earlier this year that covered the subject pretty well.

My personal preference is for early Beatles tunes. At that stage, the lads were fresh, enthusiastic, and natural. And, as evidenced below, they weren’t above writing sentimental love songs. A mushy tune about romance is fine with me, if the song and performance have merit.

“If I Fell” is typical of the early love ballads from The Beatles. It tells the sad story of a fellow on the rebound, rejected by a girl he still loves deeply. It’s a beautiful song, performed with superb vocals and harmony.

John Lennon said this tune was his first attempt at a love ballad. Clearly, he had the knack.  


If I Fell

By The Beatles, 1964
Written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney

If I fell in love with you,
Would you promise to be true,
And help me understand.
‘Cause I’ve been in love before,
And I found that love was more
Than just holding hands.

If I give my heart
to you,
I must be sure,
From the very start,
That you
would love me more than her.

If I trust in you,
Oh, please,
Don’t run and hide.
If I love you, too,
Oh, please,
Don’t hurt my pride like her,
‘Cause I couldn’t stand the pain,
And I
would be sad if our new love
was in vain.

So I hope you see
that I
Would love to love you,
And that she
will cry
When she learns we are two,
‘Cause I couldn’t stand the pain,
And I
would be sad if our new love
was in vain.

So I hope you see
that I
Would love to love you,
And that she
will cry
When she learns we are two,
If I fell in love with you.


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More letters from Mom about life on the home front in the 1960s…


Friday night May 17, 1966

Dear Rock,

It was good to hear your voice the other night. When I answered the phone I never dreamed it would be you. When it rang, I grumbled my way over to answer it, wondering why Danny did not do so. He usually gets to it first. Anyway, thank you for calling. I hope we did not run up your bill too much.

Oh, how about this fancy writing paper? One of my Sunday School kids gave me a box of it for Xmas.

At the present time, I’m knocking my head against a stone wall trying to talk them into a little tolerance. I’ve forbidden them to use the word nig— in the classroom. I finally got one of the little girls who said she doesn’t like colored people to admit that she actually doesn’t know any.

The conversation got started Sunday morning because five negro girls have registered to attend the high school next year, but none for Suwanee Elementary. Melanie Owens said she was glad, because she didn’t like them.

Lee Ann Early said the most sensible thing, which gave me some hope. She came out with, “I don’t know whether I like them or not. I don’t know any except Big John at the 1-Stop, and I like him.”

It gives me the creeps to see these kids being brainwashed by their parents. I know I have no right to fiddle with their beliefs, but as long as they are in my Sunday School class, I don’t have to listen to it, and I can at least try to get them thinking in a Christian way.

I know I’ve got about as much chance of changing their little minds as a snowball in Hades. We’ll probably find a cross burning in our front yard some night. Oh well.

We are all okay. Danny is 12 feet tall. His voice is changing, and he hates it. Betty is growing up fast. She reads and writes as well as any of us. Smitty gives too much of himself to that bank, but what can you do. Lee comes home from Athens every weekend. He looks good. I am still not smoking, and that is a miracle in itself.

Much love,


Mom with the girls in her Sunday School class in 1968. Mom was still teaching.

Mom with the girls in her Sunday School class in 1968. She was still teaching.


Sept. 21, 1966

Dear Rocky,

I will not have time to finish this. It is 15 to one, and I have an appointment to interview the Brown sisters here in Suwanee. They are both up in their nineties, live in that old house on the left at the end of Sheltonville Rd.

Anyway, I am going to write a human interest story about them for the paper. Wish me luck. I don’t even know how to start an interview. I hear, tho, that all you have to say is hello, and they will talk a blue streak.

Well, I got the interview, and it went really well. Those are two of the neatest old ladies you ever saw, wonderful sense of humor, very friendly, memories like steel traps. One is 93, the other 96. I dread writing the story because they rambled on from thing to thing in no sequence. I’ll let you know how it turns out. I want to get Dan’s Polaroid to take a picture for the story.

Another chapter for my book: last Wed. I went out to go to Mama’s for lunch, and the car caught fire.

It had stalled, and rather than flood it, I waited three minutes. When I tried again — POP! she caught fire, flames licking out from under the hood.

While Lee threw sand on it, I ran for the telephone. I told the operator to get me the Suwanee Police. She connected me to Buford. The cop said Lady, I can’t send people all the way out there. I cussed him out, thinking it was the Suwanee PD.

Finally, he said to try Sugar Hill, which I did. They got here inside of ten minutes. Meanwhile, Lee and I had run our legs off getting sand and dirt to throw on the fire. The car was hot as a furnace. I expected it to explode any minute. The Sugar Hill police stayed until it stopped smoldering.

About that time, the Suwanee police car pulled up. Since I thought I had been talking to him earlier, and he was so snotty, I shook my fist at him and shouted “You needn’t come out now!” That made him mad, and he turned around and scratched off down the driveway.

When I found out my mistake, I called both the Buford and Suwanee stations and apologized. They towed the car to Osborne Chevrolet to get it steam cleaned to see the extent of the damage. I detest that car. Never have liked it nor trusted it.

Marie Everett is getting married. Donald is on his way to Vietnam. Daddy got a thousand dollar raise, but what it amounts to is another $60 per month. We will try to save some of it for income tax time.

Daddy is on one of his periodic diets. He started Monday and has done well so far. I don’t know how long he can lay off the peanuts, tho.

Guess I had better stop. It is time for the bus, and Betty and Dan will not let me write in peace.

I love you,




Mom’s letters, as I mentioned in the beginning, had been packed away for decades in a box in a closet. Why, after all that time, did I decide to drag them out? 

Because a few weeks ago, for reasons unknown, an old memory surfaced about the funeral of one of their neighbors. Maybe, I thought, Mom had the details in an old letter. She didn’t, I’m sorry to say. 

Let me explain something about funerals in the old days. Years ago, burial customs were different, especially in rural areas. Traditionally, the deceased was placed in a casket at home and a “wake“ was held. 

Family and friends came to pay their respects. They brought food. Some might stay with the family through the night. Burial took place the next day. 

The memory that surfaced was about a wake in which the casket was too big to fit through the doors of the house, so it had to be passed through a window. 

Twice. The first time empty, the second time occupied.

But I couldn’t remember the identity of the neighbor. I thought it might have been Rogers Brown, whose house was across the road from the Smiths, but I wasn’t sure. So I asked two people who were there, my brother Lee and my sister Betty. 

Lee said it was Rogers Brown, definitely. Betty said it was Grady Anglin, no question. 

Lee is a decade-plus older than Betty, so their memories of things are bound to differ. Probably, they’re both right. For all I know, caskets were passed through windows regularly. 

On a visit to Suwanee in April 1972, Mom and Dad help my son Dustin take his first steps.

On a visit to Suwanee in April 1972, Mom and Dad help my son Dustin take his first steps.

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More letters from Mom about life in the old days in Suwanee, Georgia…


June 12, 1965

Dear Rock,

Everything here is wet. It has rained for so many days I lost count. I feel like a swamp creature. We have hopes of clearing skies tomorrow.

Bible school is going on this week. We have all learned to hate each other working together in the church with the rain drumming on the roof. The kids have had to have their Kool-aid and cookies on the table in the back of the sanctuary, and well, you can imagine the crumbs, spilled grape juice and ice melting on the pews.

Brother Charles sat at home on his duff Monday and Tuesday. Claimed he did not know it is the preacher’s job to be at Bible School. Mrs. Gasser and I jumped on him and set him straight. He was there today and says he will continue to come. As I say, we have learned to hate each other, but it will blow over.

Outside of Martha Pierce, who almost wiggled out of it, the only people I could get to teach were Gloria, Mrs. Tate, the two Dianes and Peggy Puckett. Mrs. Tate got sick, so I have Helen DeLay in there now.

Martha and Peggy teach the juniors, Danny’s class. Today they made bookends out of plaster of Paris. Martha said Danny is a riot and keeps them all laughing. I said smart aleck is more the word for Danny.

Smitty took Old Shakey to Robert and had the brakes adjusted and had it oiled and greased. You ought to see the old thing. Daddy just loves it. It is black and looks like it might growl at you.

The other day, he went to Duluth to pick up some stuff at the farmer’s supply, and on the way there, the foot feed stuck. He said he was going wide open and couldn’t slow down. To stop it, he had to turn the ignition key off.

He would start up again, and it would go full blast, which really isn’t that much, then off with the key again. He finally pulled over and somehow fixed it.

Mrs. Hutchison spent the afternoon with me yesterday. She said that when Joe Jr. was 16, his dad put him to work with the construction gang, digging ditches. It was in the summer, and he had never done any hard work before.

One day he climbed out of the ditch and told the foreman, “When I get to be president of this company, I’m gonna fire you.” The foreman said, “Well until you do, you get back down in that ditch and dig.”

Joe Jr. was furious. That night, he told his daddy about it and said the foreman ought to be fired. The next day, Mr. H. called the foreman into his office and raised his salary.

Lee is on a date, Smitty is reading the paper, Dan is painting the bookends he made today, and Betty is asleep. I must get to the ironing board, as it is already after nine. I love you very much.


Betty and a struggling cat pose with Old Shakey.

Betty and a struggling cat pose with Old Shakey.


July 21, 1965

Dear Rocky,

Your letter was most welcome yesterday and gave me more than my share of chuckles. I laughed heartily all by myself.

There has been quite a lot of tragedy around Suwanee this summer. Remember Winnie Burnett, James’s wife? They lived on the corner of Level Creek Road and Main on the left, where they always had a pretty garden. Two boys, 13 and 9.

She had a breast removed a year ago. Then some knots appeared on her neck several months back. They operated, but the cancer had gone too far. I never saw anybody deteriorate so fast. Saturday a week ago, she was taken to the hospital and died Sunday morning.

Doyle Moulder also died. He was Bonnie Moulder’s son, 28, asst. principal at Lawrenceville Elementary. He was at a lake near Madison with his family, had his little girl on his back in waist deep water, and he just suddenly went under.

The lifeguard saw the child floundering and brought her back to shore. Poor Doyle was stone dead at the bottom of the lake. They said he had no water in his lungs, so they think it was a heart attack.

Dan Brown took Rogers to the hospital in Buford in pretty bad shape. The doc said he needs an operation that involves going into his head, a four-hour thing. Dan thinks it’s just a sinus condition, but I heard that Rogers went berserk last week and was out of his head. Poor thing and poor Dan.

Rock, you know how we’re always discovering wonderful characters around these parts. I have discovered a simply marvelous one that is hard to beat. And the funny thing is, I’ve been hearing about him all my life.

His name is Forrest Turner, and he was a great pal of Leland Harvey. The two of them probably spent most of their adult lives in prison, and they were famous escape artists, especially Harvey, although Turner had a pretty good reputation, too. They never murdered anybody. Just pulled robberies.

Anyway, while in prison, Turner learned a trade. He learned to make false teeth. Now he is out for good, barring future misdeeds, and he makes false teeth.

He goes to the homes to do the work. For some reason, he always goes at night. He charges $55 for a set, uppers and lowers, whereas if you get them done at a dentist, it runs $250 or more.

It seems that most of the rural population of Gwinnett County goes around wearing teeth by Turner. Everyone says he makes beautiful, good quality teeth. Frank lost his teeth on his trip to Florida, so he is going to call Turner to come out.

Last year, Margie Tallant got wind of it and went to the judge in Lawrenceville and tried to get Turner stopped. But so far, he is still making teeth. He lives in Decatur. He must be an old man, because I remember hearing about him when I was a child. He was always escaping and would stay on the outside, the object of a manhunt.

I’ll bet many a poor devil is going around with teeth who otherwise would be gumming it, if not for this guy. When you think about it, he has no middle man and probably makes a good living at it. For example, say the materials cost him $10 and he charges $55. Not bad.

Well, I need to go to bed. This new typewriter ribbon makes more mistakes than the old one did. Daddy’s vacation starts Monday for two weeks. He can hardly wait. We are not going anywhere. Will vacation at home.

I love you,


Mom and Aunt Betty check the progress of Dad's beard.

Mom and Aunt Betty check the progress of Dad’s beard.


More letters from home in my next post.


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