Category Archives: Life choices

Facing my fears plus other observations on Ghana

We got up early today and traveled out to the Kakum National Park.  No one will believe this but I am TERRIFIED of heights. I have been obsessing over the rope bridge at Kakum National Park since our very first planning meeting.  One way or another, I was going to do it.

Anyone who knows me well knows that besides a fear of heights, I have some social anxieties and I have to push myself sometimes.  This entire trip has required me to push myself outside my limits, but now I’m comfortable with these people.  At dinner last night, John and I were teasing each other about going across the bridge, and I told him if I could then SURELY he could cross the bridge.  There was a fair amount of trash talking and ultimately neither one of us could get out of crossing that rope bridge, 100 feet in the air, over the tops of trees.  There are actually a totally of 6 or 7 bridges.  I’m not sure how many, but there are a lot!

We got up to the bridge and there was no question that I’d do it, but I was so scared.  I can’t even describe my level of fear.  “The only thing you have to fear is fear itself” was said by someone who never looked down from a rope bridge in Ghana.  But we’re on this pilgrimage together, and nowhere was that more evident than today on the bridge.

In our group was a family from the UK with four children, one an infant in a carrier strapped to the front of the mom.  She’s currently teaching in Egypt and they’re here on holiday, and they all went over!  Do you think this made me less frightened?  No!  Not in the least!  I didn’t even think about them.  Instead, I obsessed over the number of people on the bridge.  The guide told us that the maximum was five.  FIVE!  Whatever happened to the elephants they said went across the rope bridges to test them?  Surely five of us wouldn’t weigh as much as an elephant!

I took the first step, petrified.  I started reciting to myself the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostle’s Creed, the 23rd Psalm, and all the other prayers I’ve ever memorized throughout my lifetime.  Then I started singing to myself.

Whether Shanna and Sharon have superhero hearing is something I’ll never know for sure, but Shanna said look at the back of her head and step with her.  I counted every single hair on the back of her head.  She stepped and I stepped.  Then Sharon started asking me questions.  I didn’t forget my fear of plummeting 100 feet to my death, but I was distracted enough that I can’t remember the exact number of bridges that I crossed.  I just know it was a lot.

John and Gale also made it across, and the three of us joined hands to help hold each other up as we went up and down the hills through the jungle.  I had left my cane in the bus and I am so proud of how well I did.  This entire trip has been one giant leap of faith after another.  I’ve made new friends and I’ve learned a lot about myself.

But I never need cross another rope bridge again in my life.

What am I going to do with my Dad?

For the record, I’m really talking about my dad’s ashes.  My dad died in 2016.  He is sitting in an urn in our living room, and I seem to get some sort of odd comfort in knowing where he is.  I didn’t really give this question much thought until our Boxing Day party, when a friend asked me who was sitting on the fireplace.  It took me a minute to realize he was talking about my dad.  This led to a discussion of scattering ashes and how to memorialize someone who has been cremated.

I love cemeteries.  I’ve been actively involved with Riverside Cemetery since we moved to Macon.  I love to go out and walk and look at the graves.  I love knowing where my grandparents and great-grandparents are buried.  But what am I going to do with Daddy?

At some point, my dad told someone he wanted his ashes scattered at Hanna Park in Jacksonville.  He might have told me; to be perfectly honest, my memory is fuzzy on some things.  There were a few things I really wanted to forget.  But I can’t scatter him.  I just can’t.

Part of it is the issue of memorializing, and this was my friend’s objection to scattering.  I find comfort in bringing flowers and going to the cemetery.  If I scatter him, how will anyone know where he is?  How will anyone remember he was even here?  Will anyone care?  Who will remember him when I’m gone? How do we memorialize him?

My step-father’s ashes are at the National Cemetery in Salisbury, North Carolina.  I told my mother we could put the two of them together and then I would only have to make one visit.  I thought it was pretty funny but my mother didn’t.

I am the person who makes decisions.  My daughter and I planned my father’s funeral.  My brother has not been involved and has said he really doesn’t care.  I care enough for both my brother and me.

I just don’t know what to do with Daddy.  Do I scatter him, as he wished?  I’m not ready.  But he deserves to be memorialized somewhere.  I just don’t know where.

Suzanne

The Saga of the Missing Cat

In anticipation of my husband’s birthday party and 100 guests walking in and out of our home, we decided to board our cats with Plantation Animal Hospital, the veterinarian we had used for over three years in Macon, GA.  You can imagine our surprise when, on Friday afternoon, someone from the vet’s office called and asked us to come as soon as we could.  She was apologetic when she explained one of our cats, Chanel, had escaped.  The person who was moving the cats from their individual crates to the kennel had left both crates open, and at the same time had left a door to the outside propped open with a rock.

Chanel always tried to escape outside and this was exactly the reason we had decided to board them.  They would be safe, right?  Wrong. We made our way to the vet’s office and walked all around outside, calling Chanel and looking for signs of her.  Heartbroken, we went home after an hour of futile searching.

By Saturday afternoon, we were frantic and had exhausted our search efforts.  We posted photos and notices on social media and animal rescue sites, but we heard nothing. At 2:00 p.m., my very sad daughter posted a negative review on the veterinarian’s website, and got an immediate response:  they had found our cat and she was secure inside.  Soon after, I got an apologetic email from one of the vets, Dr. Susan Howard. It would be too little, too late.

Early Monday afternoon, my husband went to pick up the cats and bring them home.  You can imagine his surprise when our grey and white female cat had been transformed into a black male cat!  Surprise quickly turned to anger.  I was on a plane already for a business trip, so I was of no use.  All I could do was worry.  How could this be?  I had sent them photos of the cat.  They had records of the cat, so how could they confuse a black male with a petite grey female cat?  Had anyone even seen our cat?   Don’t cats have medical records?  Especially when this has been her vet for over three years and she had been boarded in the past?

We had two cats at the time, Chanel and Valentino. I had Chanel from the time she was a kitten and I inherited Valentino as an older cat, from my cousin, and he was not my favorite cat.  I had him only because my cousin’s dog kept trying to eat him, and I took him to keep him from going to a shelter.  But we never connected.  One of our grandsons said we needed to respect him anyway, because he was a cat. I could have dealt with losing Valentino, but not Chanel.

 On Monday night, four days later, and we still had no Chanel and no answers.  Chanel is the best pet I’ve ever owned, with the possible exception of my horse, and I was so angry.  Two weeks passed and still no answers.  Animal rescue groups shared my blog post and Plantation Animal Hospital blocked me on Facebook and Twitter.   My friends persisted in sharing “wanted” posters and in calling the vet.  I was heartbroken.  The vet used my photo and made a reward poster, which was shared throughout the area.  $500 for my cat.  They needed to do that.

Three weeks after Chanel disappeared, someone found her and claimed the reward.  She weighed less than 5 pounds.   The vet gave her IV fluids and checked her thoroughly.  We were finally able to bring her home.

This sounds like old news, and maybe it is, however just this past week I have had two friends who have had bad experiences with this same animal hospital.  I’ve had other friends whose cats have been lost by vets.

We’ve since found another vet that we like and Chanel seems okay with him.  The office is nice and they get us in fast.  I like them.  Two years later and we still don’t board Chanel when we travel.

I wish I could tell you how to find a good vet.  Get recommendations from trusted friends and read the reviews online.  Meet the doctor and the staff and ask questions.  Veterinarians are so specialized now and make sure the doctor you choose is comfortable with your breed.  You and your pet should both be comfortable.

What an experience!

 

Revising my father’s eulogy

I began the eulogy by saying the Webster Marlowe his friends in Palatka knew was not the same man I knew as my father.  I think I truly believed that until last Sunday, before I received a call from Patty.

Sunday started out like any other.  We woke up, showered, and went to choir rehearsal at Christ Church.  It should have felt good but it didn’t.  I didn’t feel right.  I wasn’t happy to be there.  It wasn’t anything particular; I knew the music and I love our choirmaster, but I just felt off.  I got the car keys from my husband and told him I would see him after church.  He was concerned, but I told him I was okay.  I just needed some time.   I needed to be.

I went out to the car and as soon as I opened the door my cell phone rang.  It was a number from Jacksonville, Florida, so I assumed it was Mayo Clinic or something.  Normally I would decline the call, but I hit the button and said hello.  The caller said she found my name when she was searching online for my father, Webster Marlowe.  Patty had been on a trip to Haiti with him and she found my blog post.  She said her plan was to build a hospital in Haiti with Daddy’s name on it.  She said she was honored to have helped him.   She talked of his hard work and his compassion.  The more she talked the harder I cried.  Then she gave me the phone number of another of Daddy’s friends, Donnie.

Donnie opened my eyes.  I knew my dad as an entrepreneur, a business owner, and as a person who was highly creative, but I never connected this with the man who seemed to be obsessed with Haiti. When I heard the story, though, I knew. It clicked.  Daddy was never one to turn down someone in need.  If a problem needed solving, Daddy would figure out how.  My mother reminded me how he once fixed an oil leak on our Cadillac by running a hose from the leak back into the engine.  My dad could fix anything.

On his first trip to Haiti, his job was to do handyman type work for the Baptist church.  He was to fix broken hinges and rehang doors; he was to do anything that required a hammer and a saw.  As he was working, a man approached with a wooden leg and carrying a piece of wood.  “Can you help me with a new leg?“ the man asked.  Daddy told him he didn’t know anything about that, but the man insisted that with his hammer and saw, Daddy had all the tools he needed.  The next morning Daddy was met by a larger group of amputees, each carrying wood and asking for help.  Webster Marlowe did not know how to say no to anyone who needed help. I’ve known this my entire life.

 

Donnie taught my dad how to use composites to make the legs and introduced him to a prosthetist in Gainesville who could help train him.  Someone else donated titanium.  Titanium! I introduced him to a prosthetist in Georgia, though I was never crazy about Daddy going to Haiti.  The demand grew and over the next 20 years, Daddy fixed and replaced all kinds of legs. He would get emotional as he talked about people who had worn out their legs, children coming back when they had outgrown their legs, and especially when he talked about how the demand outweighed his ability to supply.

While the Webster Marlowe of Palatka didn’t wear suits to work and didn’t drive the latest cars, he really was the same compassionate and caring man whom I called Daddy.  I’m closer to understanding why he was so drawn to Haiti, but I’m not quite there. What I do know is that my dad was a remarkable individual throughout his life, and maybe that is enough.

Making Connections

We were invited to a GPB dinner on Tuesday evening to share our ideas on one of our favorite shows, On Second Thought.  The show is taking a new turn, as the previous host stepped down for a new and wonderful adventure.  One of the reporters said she was from a small town in North Carolina, and I said I was from a small town outside of Greensboro.  She said she was, too, and it turned out she is from Trinity, about 15 miles from my home.  Trinity has a small airport, Darr Field, which is where I had my first flying lesson that really ignited my passion for aviation.  It was a wonderful conversation and we talked about some of the things we love about North Carolina.  We left with sense of just how connected we all are and how small the world really is.

And then today I received an email today from a man whose grandfather owned our (my!) airplane before my dad bought it.  He talked about flying with his grandfather to a baseball game between Kansas City and the New York Yankees, and how he got to see Mickey Mantle play.  I told him how Daddy flew my brother to Baltimore to see the World Series, around 1970, and how they flew to Indianapolis to the Indy 500.  He told me that his grandfather purchased a Cessna 210 after he sold the Cessna 172, N7214A, which he had owned in a flying club with three other pilots.  I told him how I stripped all the paint off the plane so that Daddy had no choice but to paint it yellow and white, just like I wanted.  He told me he was a commercial pilot and flew crop dusters.  I told him that was what I always wanted to do.

I’m always amazed by connections and how small the world truly is.   But right now, I just want to call my dad.  I want to tell him about the email and I want to tease him about taking Robert to the World Series and the Indy 500 instead of me.  I want to hear him laugh about losing his airplane the day I had the flying lesson at Darr Field.

I just want to remember.

 

 

Opening Doors

It isn’t the same and I won’t pretend it is.  But last year has been on my mind, a lot lately.  Maybe it is because hurricane season is gearing up, but I’ve also heard some snarky comments like “if you think these families ought to be together, then why don’t you open your home.”  Little do they know that our home is always open to people who need a place to stay.

When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston last year, it was easy to post on Facebook that anyone who might be evacuating could come to our home and stay.  I knew no one would come.  No one did.  Then came Irma and I knew I had to do something.  This could be bad but did I really want a bunch of strangers in our home?  I emailed my cousins first and they were all fine.

We started hearing how there were no hotels in Georgia.  This was not going to be good.

So up went the Facebook post.

Now let me add an important part of this story.  Bob and I were leaving on Thursday for  Maine for a weekend writing workshop.  We were spending the weekend with some of my favorite people and that meant my daughter was going to be in charge.  Totally in charge of everything.  I left her a credit card.

Our first guest came on Wednesday.  He is an attorney in Ohio and his wife is a dear friend of mine.  They have a home in Florida and he had to get home.  There were no flights and there were no hotels.  He arrived late Wednesday night, we ordered a pizza for him, and we sat up late getting to know our new friend.

We left on Thursday and on Friday I got a Facebook message from someone asking whether we still had room.  I said yes and gave him Jodi’s phone number.  In hindsight, I can see how people would question my sanity.  I had no idea who these  people were.  We had no mutual friends and we have still not figured out how they got my contact information.  They had two elderly cats, and his son had been killed in Afghanistan.  His son’s birthday would have been on Sunday.  They had been to one hotel on the way up but it had bedbugs, so they had spent the night in their car.  Then they found us, through someone who knew someone who knew someone…

I got a message from Afghanistan on Saturday of the writing workshop.  “Do you still have room? My friend’s sister and her family needs to evacuate.”  I called him and told him yes, we would make room, and I called his friend and gave him Jodi’s information.  She took it from there and I went back to my writing workshop.  They arrived a few hours later, the husband and wife, their son, their son’s friend from college, and two small dogs.

My daughter texted me later and said that her friend from South Georgia needed to come, also, with her two children.  That whole friendship deserves its own blog post and I’ll just leave it at that.  We ended up with 15 people in our home, from three continents.

We took a chance and opened our doors.  We’d do it again.

Winning the Lottery

I won the lottery this week. Not the Georgia Lottery, but one even better than that.  I’d have to play the lottery to actually win, and I can’t really see the value in that.

This week, I got to spend time with my mom, I introduced one of our grandsons to one of our favorite books, I had a picnic with a new friend, I started physical therapy for my knee, I went on a walk with another new friend (or I tried), I saw a movie with Michael, AND I made another new friend.  The icing on the cake was finding out I could go to college in Georgia for free.  Age does have its privileges.  Can you imagine a better week?

Let’s start at the beginning.  My mom is always fun and anyone who knows us knows we love road trips.  We just came back from a successful road trip with Sloan, another grandson, and he liked our habit of listening to audiobooks on the road. With Jacob, a somewhat reluctant reader, we chose “Skink, No Surrender,” by Carl Hiassen.  Carl Hiassen is one of our favorite authors and even his books for young readers keep us entertained.  Jacob laughed the entire trip and even asked to turn on the phone when we got inside. He couldn’t get enough!

We got home Tuesday evening and on Wednesday morning I had an appointment.  This was where I met my new friend, Mike, in the most unlikely place. We had already talked on the phone and I knew he was very helpful, but when we met in person we clicked.  You can never have too many friends.  He’s a smart guy, a social worker, and I’m adding him to our Boxing Day party list.  Not just everyone goes on that list!  Thank you, Mike.  I never expected to find a new friend that day, especially when the next lady who came in acted like I was some kind of nut case.

This was a very quick trip and I’m on a diet so I got three barbecue sandwiches that I intended to ration carefully.  I ate one for supper on Tuesday and I knew both needed to be eaten on Wednesday, but there was no way.  When my friend Lawrence said the magic words, I suggested a picnic on Wednesday.  The weather was perfect and we ate under a big tree at Wesleyan College.  The company was outstanding, even though we were both eaten up by ants and I’m still itching.  If you know me very well, you know I don’t share my barbecue sandwiches with just anyone, so you know Lawrence must be a very special friend.

Paige Parker is the best physical therapist in the world.  If anyone can help my knee, Paige can.  She worked miracles with my shoulder.  I’m highly motivated, but she pushes.  I’m optimistic.  Getting an appointment brightened my mood.

The best laid plans don’t always work out, and the rain prevented my walk with Hal.   I have so much respect for Hal Brickle and his work with the weekend lunch and I couldn’t wait to walk with him, so off we went. We got to the stop sign, and down came the rain.  I hobbled back to the car and he ran a little faster.  J

As I said, the icing on the cake was finding out I can go to college for free at state schools in Georgia. I’m particularly interested in the history program at Middle Georgia College, perhaps the music program there, the theatre program at Georgia College in Milledgeville, or if I’m really serious about studying, economics at Georgia State University.  For $49 per course, I can even go to Emory University.  I could get a BSN at Middle Georgia College, but I think I’m over that.  I think I want to do something FUN!  I may be the only person, though, who thinks public policy and economics sounds like fun.

First, though, let’s get some money coming in on a more regular basis. But this has certainly been a fun week.