Monday, April 30, 2007

The Season

It has officially begun.

Yesterday, I received my SEVENTH wedding invitation in the mail.

Don't get me wrong, I love attending weddings. They provide the unique opportunity to drunkenly gorge yourself on fluffy cake while dancing to live bands and shamelessly flirting with other "unweds".

But this is where my attraction ends.

For whatever reason, I was never the little girl to dress-up and play "wedding" with her friends/dolls/siblings/anything that would cooperate at the "alter". I was too busy playing kick the can with the neighborhood boys, building houses for caterpillars and skinning my knees.

To this day, while some females light up during discussions of flower arrangements and dress cuts, my eyes tend to glaze over. While other females gush over cake stands at bridal showers, I can be found gazing out the window, wishing I was driving through the sunshine with wind whipping through my hair and Stevie Nicks crooning over my speakers.

I often feel like an outsider in the world of nuptials. Like an underdeveloped middle-school boy who's friends have become interested in girls overnight; he gets the attraction, he just doesn't feel it himself. Come ON guys! What's the big deal? They're just stupid GIRLS.

Maybe your mind frame changes when you meet that person who you want to stand beside at the alter. Maybe a "first dance" to a sappy, overused love song isn't so heinous when you're dancing with your perfect match. Maybe flower arrangements and dress cuts suddenly become synonymous with hope and happiness.

Or MAYBE, if I'm honest with myself, the only thing I'm truly looking forward to about my (very) future wedding is calling my mother in the midst of frenzied wedding preparations to ask if Port-a-Potty rentals will put us over budget. And then giggling as her head explodes in complete disbelief.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Best I'll Ever Be

Yesterday I said goodbye to the greatest man I’ve ever known.

My incredible granddad died unexpectedly last Friday at the age of 84. And left me shell shocked. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that my last blog post was about my love for him. If I had only known at that Easter lunch that that would be the last time I’d see him alive, I would’ve stayed for days. But instead I’m left aching to hear more of his stories. Stories that will now never be told.

My grandfather was my rock. He was one of the greatest men in the greatest generation our country has ever seen. He lived and breathed integrity. He was gentle, yet commanding. Respectful, yet vivacious. Mirthful, yet deep. He’s been the best example, the best champion, and the best friend a girl could ever hope to have.

As funerals go, his was…nice. Over 500 people came to pay their respects which was powerful to see, to know that he’d touched that many individual lives. Unfortunately, I spent the entire time feeling as if I was trapped in a fishbowl. All I wanted to do was lie in my high school bed and sob like a little girl, but I dutifully shouldered my responsibility as his oldest grandchild and welcomed his guests. I received countless hugs from virtual strangers and tried to ignore their curious stares. As if I was a battered car wreck victim being hauled into an ambulance on the side of an interstate instead of a heartbroken young woman who’s entire world had shifted overnight.

But this story isn’t all sad. Whatever your beliefs are concerning an afterlife, the strangest thing happened to me on the way to his funeral. Something that lifted me up and forever tinged my memory of him with wonder.

I left Nashville Monday morning in a cloud of misery and dread. I knew that as soon as I arrived home, his death would fade from being dreamlike into stark reality. About 45 minutes into my trip, one of my tires blew out on the interstate. I have no idea how, but I managed to guide my car to the shoulder without hitting anyone.

I sat stunned on the side of the road for a few moments and then laid my head on the steering wheel and sobbed. I couldn’t believe that such shitty luck happened on that particular day.

Just when I’d managed to pull myself together and had started out on my hike to the nearest gas station, an older man pulled up behind me in a giant moving truck.

I’m sure I looked a mess—helpless, windblown and tear-streaked. But he gave me a kind smile and in an almost unintelligible stutter, asked if he could be of assistance. I resisted the urge to throw my arms around him and simply asked if he could help me change my tire. Because I already felt like the most pitiful thing in the world, I refrained from telling him where I was headed…

In no time flat (ha!) he got me back on the road. I burbled my gratitude and offered to compensate him for his efforts, but he just smiled. As he climbed into the cab of his truck, his stutter fell away and he said clear as day, “just consider me your guardian granddad”. And with a wink, he drove away.

I stood on the side of the road in silence as a chill crept up my spine. Then I threw my head back and laughed. Coincidence or no, it was perfect. It made me feel both exhilarated and protected, just like I did as a little girl when he would toss me into the air and then catch me in his strong arms.

Robert Clay Evans, you will be missed. Missed in a way that aches and forever feels empty. But in subtle ways, your spirit still lives on. It lives on in good samaritans willing to help the helpless. It lives on in your surviving family members who will tell your priceless stories for generations to come.

It lives on in your oldest granddaughter’s heart as she continues to be your biggest fan.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Oldies But Goodies

Several years ago (as shameful as this is to admit), I viewed visits to my grandparents' house as a necessary chore filled with mind-numbing questions. (What classes are you taking? Have you been to any fun dances? Are you sure you're getting enough to eat?)

I'd answer their questions robotically, all the while hoping my grandad would slip me some "gas money" on my way out the door.

But as I've grown older, I've begun viewing visits with them more as a refreshing pit-stop instead of just a speed bump on my fast-moving social calendar.

I can spend hours listening to their stories while attempting to catch glimpses of what they might've been like at my age. During rare moments, their gray hairs and wrinkles are stripped away and I'm left feeling like I'm chatting with close friends. Friends who straight up make me LAUGH.

Remember in Steel Magnolias when Clairee says, "If you can't say something nice, come sit next to me"? That's my grandmother to a tee. Especially in church. (If that woman doesn't stop showing off half her bosom, my Sunday School class just might nickname her "Trudy the Tart"...bless her little heart.)

While I have the utmost respect and awe over the great lives my grandparents have led and there is admittedly no other couple I'd rather swap gossip or old stories, it's hard not to laugh at their absolute bafflement of modern technology.

For the simple fact that I'm under the age of 50, I've been deemed their personal technology wizard. Every time I visit, they have questions about "the intranet" and lists of numbers that need to be programmed into their cell phone.

Last weekend while home for Easter, I decided it was high time they became a little technologically savvy themselves. So in a crash course of the 21st Century, I introduced them to their PICTURE PHONE (which they didn't even realize they had).

In several minutes flat, I'd snapped pictures of every family member in the room and set them to appear when each individual called. And if that didn't flabbergast them enough, I took a picture of them on their phone and text messaged it to my phone.

Judging by their amazed reaction, you'd think I set fire to the living room carpet with my eyeballs...

In the days following my "cell phone sorcery", I received multiple whispered phone calls from my grandmother to the effect of, "Can you please call me back? I'm at the Senior Center and want to see Doris' stunned face when your picture appears!"

Next up? Mastering the universal remote.

Bless their little hearts.