Mar 2, 2017

Good Friends

Laura had friends, as most people do. She had many-too numerous to mention in a post such as this.
We've had mutual friends throughout the years, the boys from the old school (think croquet), the Crowders from Mebane, the Jaycees in Newberry, etc.
Here, I'd like to touch on just a couple. While this does not discount any of the many people that she called her friends, these two that I speak of are ones that she held near and dear and kept in constant contact with.

Martha Suber
We met Martha in the early 90s while shooting a music video for the DARE program for the Newberry County School District Gifted and Talented Program. Martha had written a song called "I'm Too Cool" which was an anti-drug statement aimed at rural kids. Unlike most 'just say no' messages at the time, this one targeted kids who didn't live on the mean streets of a big city. While drugs weren't a huge problem for our county (thanks to programs like DARE and the excellent law enforcement this county has enjoyed), there was always a threat of drugs infiltrating this peaceful, rural community. A music video that targeted and featured local kids was the right prescription for getting the message out that drugs were not the answer. Martha had brought along a producer/director, Kimberly J Miller, recently from California into the project and soon we were rehearsing kids for the leads, scouting locations and gathering the equipment needed to accomplish our project. After many pre-production meetings, the shoot got underway. We had about 30 actors, singers and dancers rehearsed and ready to roll. While Kim directed and choreographed and I provided lighting and camera, Laura was assigned the ominous task of Line Producer. For those unfamilier with the term, a Line Producer's job consists of, well, everything else. Need a golf cart for a certain location? Ask the line producer. Need a crane for a certain shot? Ask your line producer. Need to ferry actors to and from locations? You get the picture. Laura was absolutely flawless in this position. Her proven sales ability allowed her to wheel and deal almost anything we needed out of local business owners and government leaders. For the crane, she had one day's notice. Next day the crane was parked exactly where we needed it. Awesome woman!
Martha, meanwhile, as the composer and guitarist/harmonica player, was also featured in the video. She had some downtime between takes and would stand with Laura to keep her company. They developed a rapport and soon became friends.
The shoot lasted over 30 days. Locations included the old Newberry Opera House (at the time still in a state of decay, Community Hall, a logging truck bed, basketball court, dairy farm, Wal Mart, an old barn, downtown Prosperity and Whitmire, SC and Martha's front porch. By the end of the shoot and edit, the four of us were exhausted. Kim and I worked on editing, finished the piece and picked a premier date and finally collapsed. It was decided that the four of us, by now fast friends, would take a trip to the beach to renew.
And so we did.
Since then, Martha and Laura became friends and confidants. When Martha moved to Virginia we would often visit her. While Laura and Martha hung out and caught up on life, I would travel the Civil War trails of the area. When Laura and I had some marital difficulties, Martha was her refuge. After Martha moved backed to SC, we often went over for 'graze and float', eating chicken and swimming. When Martha started playing gigs again in SC, Laura tried as often as possible to be there. I'd have to say that Martha was her closest friend since they had known one another so long. And then there's...

Rachel Moore
So Laura started working at a place called Medi Home Care as a receptionist. She got the job through her friend at a temp agency and the original offer was 25 hours per week while working for the temp agency. After that contract expired, she was to be offered a full time position with full benefits. Those assheads lied to her over and over and never gave her what they promised, which included health coverage...but I digress. There was a lovely young lady working there that Laura took a sudden liking to. She would come home with "Rachel" stories nearly every day, each story crazier than the previous one. Soon, I had to meet this Rachel. She was everything that I had heard and then some. Outrageous, outspoken, out there! Just like Laura. Soon, Laura was coming home with weird coincidence stories. "Did you know that Rachel and Dan lived in a log home? Did you know that Rachel has a sister near Winston Salem like I do? Did you know that her favorite food is..." Almost every day I would hear another strange coincidence that would link these two. They were almost like twins separated at birth. Next thing I know, Laura is calling her after work and chatting for hours. It became a regular thing. Next was "I'm going out for drinks with the girls". I was happy that Laura was doing more than just working and going home to TV. She had her regular Tuesday night trip with Martha to hear her and Freddie play in Union. The rest of the week was, if Fiona wasn't visiting, the girls were going out to dinner or drinks, or both. Laura was finally beginning to enjoy life again in a social way. When Ruth E passed away, Laura withdrew into a social shell. She was happy with family gatherings, and she was excited about her weekly trips and the occasional Saturdays with Martha at the pool. Now, she was getting out again, dining and drinking with new friends, bitching about work and I could see her coming back to life.
Just minutes after Laura passed away, I was standing in the ICU hallway next to the elevator. I was still in a state of shock and disbelief. I hear the elevator door open and  Rachel walks out, tears streaming down her face. "I'm too late aren't I", she says. I nodded. She grabbed me in a tight hug and we cried together.
Since then, we have talked and cried on the phone several times, and will continue to for the foreseeable future. Rachel and her husband Dan have found a place in my heart, thanks to the lovely Laura Reid.

Feb 19, 2017

Like Comets Come

The storms of life like comets come,
They bring with them the blues
They sting you with their mysteries
the scars they leave are clues

But when a whirlwind took my love
I could not turn the page.
My brittle heart had been laid bare,
to heaven fisted rage

Proverbial seasons - I'm aware, I'm aware.
But death is a season of despair, deep despair.

With the comet came the rains
The storm intensified.
With the rain came memories
brought tears to my tired eyes.

When that angel took my love,
I begged him for relief.
He said that I must travel first
to places dark and deep.

Grief has its stages - yes I know, yes I know
But death just enrages and it grows, and it grows.

The sky will once again be free
The signs will fade from view.
But I'll look to the heavens
In hopes that I'll see you.
Yes I'll look to the heavens
In hopes that I see you.

Thirteen Weeks

Since Laura passed November 30, 2016, roughly thirteen weeks have gone by.
There have been many changes.
I am on a new anti-depressant regimen that keeps me from having anxiety and panic attacks. This is good since it was such a panic attack that brought on a near-fatal heart attack for me. Don't need to add another one of those into the mix.
I have sought counsel from my doctor, who I've known for over 20 years and whose advice I trust. My last appointment, when asked the reason for my visit, I replied "I just want to sit and talk for a bit". My doctor is very good at listening and helping me with the stressers that one goes through at a time like this.
I have been working diligently on my home. Painting, moving things into storage, selling a few things, etc. But still not touching Laura's things. Those decisions will not be faced until at least June. I'm sticking by my promise to not make any decisions on her possessions for at least six months.
I cry a bit less now, not only because of the drugs, or the time that has passed. I'm getting to a point of remembering the good things that have happened for us over our forty years together. I'm remembering things that are near and dear to me, events that we shared, concerts that we've attended, family reunions, even some of the bullshit that we dealt with - together. The one phrase that constantly runs through my mind is when she would always say to me "we're a team - we'll make it through this together". It comforts me. I've known people who were married as long, if not longer than we were who never seemed to reach this place.
I still hear her voice. When I'm doing laundry, or trying to cook, I hear her guiding me (although she still has yet to reveal that secret ingredient that she used to put into her green beans). When I make a decision to move furniture in the living room I can hear her telling me to move it back a few more inches, or to the left a bit.
Some things that haven't changed - her stuff is pretty much where she left it. It was put there for a reason and I don't need to move it.
I still miss her very, very much. I'm still in a kind of shock that she was here and suddenly gone so quickly and unexpectedly. I still tell her daily that I miss her and that I'm sorry that I didn't know to get her to the hospital sooner. And I still let her have the last word when she told me "I love you more" as they were taking her into ICU that night. She did and I know it!
You can't just let go of forty plus years of a voice and a presence. And she was most definitely a presence!
I'm telling stories about Laura to some of my co workers and friends, some who had the pleasure of meeting her and some who didn't. She left many great stories for me to share; from her long-standing suffering as a Carolina Panthers fan and the obscenity usually screamed during the games to her legendary attacks on anyone who disrespected either one of her children (especially obnoxious high school coaches).
It's good that I can laugh when I share these stories. I also firmly believe that every time I think of her or utter her name that she is still alive, simply because she lives inside me.

There will never, ever be another like Laura Welborn Reid - and you can take that to the bank!

Jan 29, 2017

The Invisible Cat

Pom Pom. What a name!
It all began when I was considering a new roommate. Laura's passing left such a black void in my world, a dark and cold hole that only the spirit of another living, breathing being could begin to patch.
We have had cats before - or cats have owned us, I should say. In our eleven years in the cabin only two have resided with us. Gomez-the original and Gomez two. The original Gomez was a black and white kitty who was the last born of a litter. I wrote about Gomez before and won't go into detail here.
Gomez Two was found in a hollow log by two great friends who had come by the cabin for a visit. While we were not in the market for a new cat, this little abandoned fellow sorely needed a place to stay. After placing the kitty on Laura's chest, and the kitten's paws wrapped around her neck like a hug, Laura said yes and a kitten had a home. We charged Fiona with naming the new kitty. "Gomez two"
Gomez Two was insane - not the 'I'm a cat' type of insane. He took it to a whole new level. Scratching paint from the walls; jumping from the balcony to the floor below. Then, he escaped to the outside one day and suddenly he was an indoor/outdoor cat. Bad for us because, no matter how many flea collars and treatments that we applied, he brought the fleas in the house and they attacked with a vengeance. After that, he was an outside cat. Bad for him and Gomez the Original as our area has coyotes, hawks and other cat-unfriendly predators. We last saw Gomez Two one morning before going to work. We placed his food and water in the bowls, gave him a pat on the head and we were off. Gomez Two was not to be seen again.
Laura said "No more cats!"
I was in agreement with her. You get them, they become a part of the family and then you lose them. Not a good location for a small, outside animal.
So I decided, after Laura passed, that a live female presence was needed in the home. While trying to decide what kind of fish or hamster I would acquire, granddaughter Fiona told me that I needed a kitten.
So - a kitten it would be!
The lovely Peggy heard about this and took it upon herself to arrange it. She called me up and asked me to meet her at a place called Pawmetto Lifeline. - an animal rescue facility. I heard from the adoption specialist there that most of the kittens are rescued form 'Death Row', and my kitten was no exception.
I met Peggy, daughter in law Catherine and Fiona there and we started shopping kitties. Peggy had observed Pom Pom when she first arrived, a playful Calico mix with the softest fur that I had ever had the pleasure of stroking. After picking out three kittens to interact with, they brought Pom Pom to the room first. I think Fiona had already made up her mind that Pom Pom was to be the one. She even told the specialist that we didn't need to see the other kittens. I asked Fiona what we should name the cat. "She already has a name. She's Pom Pom". So we packed 6 month old Pom Pom in the carrier and drove the 40 miles back to the cabin. As soon as we opened the carrier, Pom Pom skedaddled! She found a hiding place under the sofa and there she would stay. Later in the day, we were able to pull her from under the sofa and we took her to the bedroom. There, Fiona placed her under the covers and crawled in with her, petting her and talking to her. Pom Pom seemed to like being under there...for a little while. As soon as Fiona lifted the covers, the kitten made a run for it and was gone. This time, under the china cabinet. Earlier, before we took her to the bed, I had shown her where food, water and litter box were located. As the days progressed, Pom Pom was an invisible cat. I could see the effects of little Pom - cat bowls almost empty, litter box used, etc. But no sighting. This went on for weeks. Every day I fed and watered her and kept an eye on the litter box. Every day I looked high and low for her. She was not to be found. No noise, no bumps in the night, no purring, no meows. After three weeks, Fiona visited again and we went on an adventure - find Pom Pom. We moved furniture, looked behind clothes hanging in the walk in closet, upstairs in the bathroom, underneath everything that we could think of - no Pom Pom. "She'll eventually come out granddaddy" I knew that Fiona was right. I was, however, getting a bit tired of feeding and cleaning up after what appeared to be an invisible cat.
"Maybe she has powers like no other kitten" I told Fiona.
"What powers?" she asked.
"Like Wonder Woman, maybe she has invisibility powers. She may be sitting right there in front of us but we can't see her".
"Maybe so, granddaddy. Maybe so".
And another two weeks went by.
One night as I came in from work, I saw through the window a golden blur which crossed the visible area between the walls of the foyer and disappeared just past my line of sight. Wow! I have a visible cat!
Two nights later, as I turned over in my bed to go to sleep, I felt a slight thump on the bed. Turning back over, I looked up to see a kitten standing on my bed. She slowly made her way up to my face and purred. I petted her, talked to her and she reacted by pressing her nose to mine. She stayed on my bed, jumping, playing and chasing my hand which was under the covers. When I would move to get out from the covers, she would run. So, for the next few nights she was a night time visitor. When I would awaken, she would become invisible again. That is until...this weekend. Fiona came to stay the night. While lounging in bed, eating pizza and watching a movie the little cat that could jumped on the bed from an unknown hiding place and started playing with Fiona. This time, however, she didn't take off when Fiona moved the covers and started playing with her. She stayed and played.
Next evening my family came down for a visit. "Look up there. A cat is hanging out of that rolled up carpet on the balcony", my sister observed. My brother went upstairs and started interacting with Pom and, next thing I know, I have a visible cat! This morning she was waiting for my brother when he woke up.
I'm not sure what this poor cat went through before being rescued from death row, but I think that I've finally passed the audition with her. Welcome to Fort Reid little Pom Pom!