Sunday, November 15, 2009

Letters from Home - Rayleen's Wedding

Once again I find myself sharing the latest installment from my family. My cousin Rayleen was recently married, and Mom and Dad attended the ceremony, which was held in the thriving metropolis that is Batesville, MS. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend, but I can always count on the folks to fill me in when I miss something...

Dear son,

Hello, how are you? We’re doing pretty good. We’re in Batesville, MS this weekend. Your daddy’s cousin Junior’s daughter Rayleen got married yesterday so we’re down here staying at the Budgetel. Your daddy wanted to stay at one of them hotels that’s got that fancy toilet what washes your rear end (he saw it on the Travel Channel), but I told him they don’t have places like that in Batesville. Well, I wish you could have been here for the wedding. It was a real pretty service. Poor old Junior was worried about his little girl getting married right out of high school, but she and Carthel (that’s her husband, Carthel Higgins) just love each other to death. He’s a few years older than her (she’s 19 and he’s 26), but they get along real good. Junior said it was a blessing in disguise that Rayleen had to repeat her senior year twice, otherwise there’d have been an even bigger gap in their ages. Carthel’s daddy owned a farm implement dealership over in Pope. Now, just between you and me, Carthel ain’t a real good looking boy, or the sharpest tool in the shed, for that matter, but he’s a real sweet boy, and he’s got his daddy’s money and that’s made him a real prize to most every girl in Panola County. But, as he says, he was “took up” with Rayleen from the moment they met at the dealership. He was telling us about it at the reception.

He said she came in with her daddy one day looking for a hitch adapter for a bush hog. Their eyes met, and he fell “smack dab in love,” as he says. They dated for about a year, and then one Saturday night he took her to dinner over at the Tour Chef (that was where they always went for special occasions) and afterwards he told her he had to stop by the dealership for something. He pulled up and parked right in front of the dealership sign which, like most everything in Batesville, gets turned off at 7pm. He ran inside and turned on the sign so she could see where he had spelled out “Will U Marry Me?” in them little square letters. She said yes and they set a date right there on the spot. They chose April 29th because that’s Dale Earnhardt’s birthday and Carthel loves Dale Earnhardt almost as much as he loves Rayleen. Anyway, about a month before the wedding Carthel got in a fight with Earl Smoot over at The Beer Barn. Earl had always kind of had a thing for Rayleen, but she wouldn’t go out with him on account of he used to date her best friend Mandy Lynn’s younger sister Loretta and she had that scabies where you get them blisters on your privates and Rayleen didn’t want none of that mess rubbing off on her.

Anyway, Earl had been at the Beer Barn a pretty good while and had gotten good and liquored up. He told Carthel that he couldn’t make Rayleen happy with his daddy’s money and that what she needed was a man who made his own living. Of course, that got Carthel all upset and he took a swing at Earl. They fought for a few minutes, but they were both so drunk that neither of them got in a good lick. That is, until Earl smacked Carthel square in the mouth with a bottle of Wild Turkey. As soon as he saw what he’d done, Earl sobered up and felt real bad. He even called Rayleen to come get Carthel and rode with them over to the all night medical clinic in Oxford. On the way over, they all had a good talk. Well, Earl did most of the talking, what with Carthel having to keep a bar towel pressed up against his mouth and all. Do you know he had to get 14 stitches in his lips? Thank the Lord, they healed just fine in time for the wedding, but he lost all but three teeth in the front. Bless his heart, if he wasn’t ugly enough before (don’t go repeat that, now). Anyway, over the next couple of weeks Earl came by the dealership every day to check on Carthel and sometimes they’d go eat lunch together. They got to be real good friends. In fact, when the best man, Vinton McFarland, fell off his roof and broke his leg a couple of days before the wedding, Carthel asked Earl to be his best man. It sure was a pretty service. The reception was just as nice as it could be. Junior and them’s next door neighbor Velma Jenkins made a red velvet wedding cake shaped like Dale Earnhardt and Carthel was so happy he cried, bless his heart. They had bought a case of balloons to fill with helium and let loose out of a big old livestock water tank, but Rayleen’s younger brother Darnell and his friends got carried away with the helium and used most of it up singing them midget songs from the Wizard of Oz, so they had to just blow up the balloons by mouth. When they pulled the tarp off the tank to let them loose, they all just kind of sat there. Oh well, at least everybody got to take one home. After the reception, Rayleen and Carthel left on one of his daddy’s antique John Deere tractors. It was just beautiful. Even Earl cried. Well, I guess I need to wrap this up. We’re fixing to go downstairs and get us a continental breakfast. You take care, and we’ll holler at you again soon.


Mom & Dad

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank You, Veterans

I originally posted this on Memorial Day, but it's equally appropriate today.

On this Veterans Day, I dedicate this post to each and every veteran who has ever served or is currently serving our country. Allow me to offer you my thanks for the following:

For the days and nights you spent in a foxhole, trench, swamp, jungle, or desert

For being afraid that you might be killed while serving, and doing it anyway

For every war cry you sounded while taking a beach or a hill, a cry that was likely fueled as much by your fear as it was by your motivation

For every hour of sleep you lost because you were scared to close your eyes

For every time you woke up in a cold sweat wondering what it was you just heard

For every bullet you fired that found its target

For all of the ways you’ve been affected by having to take another person’s life

For every time you wondered if you were doing the right thing

For every grain of sand, drop of water, and clump of mud you shook out of your boots

For the time you spent away from the places and people you loved, and for each of you who never got to come back to them

For all the “first’s” you missed: the birth of your first child, their first steps or first words, or your first anniversary with your new wife or husband

For every school play, wedding, or funeral you didn’t get to come home for

For each of you who were denied a hero's welcome upon returning home

For every scar and every limp; for every wound, visible or invisible

For every time you were stared at because you were missing a limb

For every nightmare that you can’t stop having

For every right and freedom that we have

For every time you shake your head when those rights and freedoms are abused by those who didn’t have to fight for them and cannot even begin to fathom the cost

For your willingness to fight to protect this country

For all you have done, and still continue to do, I thank you.

If you know a veteran, share this with them. And thank them.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Through the Rain

This weekend Mary and I were planning to go to a fantastic Halloween costume party. We didn't make it. We ran into someone from my past Saturday afternoon while we were out running errands, and I was so incensed afterward that I completely lost my party mood. This person, who shall remain nameless, is completely oblivious when it comes to the ways of empathy or social grace. He is the proverbial bull in the china shop of etiquette. He is familiar with my employment history and knows that I lost my job in April of last year due to a corporate reorganization. He asked how we had been doing and how long I ended up being out of work. I told him a year. He said that that sucked. I agreed. He then proceeded to ask us if we'd made it. If we made it through the rain. If we kept our world protected. If we made it through the rain. And kept our point of view. If we made it through the rain and found ourselves respected. By others who got rained on, too. If those words don't ring a bell, they're lyrics from a Barry Manilow song. And he tossed them out with such cavalier indifference, it was just shy of mockery. And this is but a mere glimpse into how much of an asshat he truly is. This is how he chose to inquire as to whether we had survived the year of my unemployment. A year of feeling worthless because I couldn't find a job, despite applying for roughly two hundred of them. A year of wondering when, or if, it was ever going to get better. A year of buying groceries from Dollar General. A year of trying—unsuccessfully at times—to put on a brave face in front of Mary and then weeping after she left for work because I wasn't taking care of her. So to answer your question, you bumbling, boorish jackass, yes. We made it through just fine. And in the future, when you see me? Do us both a favor. Turn around and walk the other way.