Friday, November 18, 2011
Heart of Dixie
God granted me more blessings than most when he planted my roots into such a beautiful garden of a family. Each member embodys unique characteristics, but all together they are quite balanced and compliment each other. Members of both my mom and dad's sides are filled with such special and unique people. As I look back on my formitive years, each played a role in shaping my life. A few of the flowers in my garden have long stood out in particular.. tall and strong, like sunflowers, these members have set the bar high. My mom's father, my Papaw, has always been one of these figures for me and my sisters.
Although our military life meant growing up all over the world, our family roots were always deeply dug into the characteristic red clay of the Deep South. I have vivid memories of childhood visits to Alabama and Georgia... summers spent running in the fields of home grown veggies, chasing lightening bugs or hiding under the table while listening to older ladies playing bridge and drinking tea. Our life in Northwest Florida certainly mixes in some southern influence with the laid back "beach life" culture, but it is still quite in contrast to the rural "back home" we know exists only a few hours north of us. In recent years I have not been back as often to certain familiar settings that once felt like home. This week, however, my mother and I made a trip back up to the Muscle Shoals area of Alabama to see my grandparents after we got news that my Papaw suffered a stroke and was experiencing other life threatening turns in his health. It was a hard drive as we had such heavy hearts thinking about the impact my grandfather has made in all our lives and how greatly missed he will be when his time here on Earth is through. Yet, I feel some peace knowing how full his life has been and I can only hope he knows how much he is loved and appreciated.
During our stay, my mom was thankful to be there with her sister, her brother, and their parents - all under one roof. They have such beautiful memories and experiences, collectively bonding them together. It is just sad that sometimes it takes difficult circumstances to pull us back together. I was happy to hold my grandfather's hand and feel embraced by the love of their home. I am glad he decided to leave the hospital, stop the invasive procedures and just go home to where he feels comfortable and loved. He is certainly effected by the stroke and other health problems he is suffering but his general demeanor was quite himself during our stay. He could not form very many clear sentences but seemed receptively to understand most of what was being said to him. I was suprised when he was looking at pictures of my children and all of a sudden was able to clearly ask me about Samuel. It was like a cloud lifted for a moment and he had more control of his speech.
We had to return home late yesterday. As we began our drive back I decided to stop for a few pictures of my mom's small hometown and later to capture some of the roadside beauty found along the back roads of Alabama. My first pictures were outside the home of Helen Keller. Helen Keller's birthplace and childhood home is not far down the road from my grandparent's home where my mother grew up. I remember watching outdoor plays of the Helen Keller story portrayed behind the home. I never really thought much about the significance of that small town girl and how she overcame the great personal challenges of her disabilties while inspiring others. I know the significance was not lost on my mother as we pulled up and she pointed out the well where Helen first learned from her teacher how to say the word for water. It made me further thankful for the services and therapy that Samuel has been able to receive. In many ways, this small town Alabama child's life played quite a role in why those services are more readily available now and why there is hope for a quality of life for all children.
Driving home, I was amazed to see so much cotton growing. It is November, afterall and was 34 degrees when we first got on the road after stopping halfway for the night. To glance quickly out the car window at these fields you would think you were seeing snow.. I guess that is about as close as I am going get to snow this year.
Views from Tuscumbia and on the way home..
Overall, I left a big piece of my heart in Dixie today. I am especially thankful for the family up in that area who are always so supportive of my grandparents. I am praying for continued faith and peace for my grandparents while taking life one day at a time. I am also praying for healing for Sam as he is getting over yet another bad double ear, sinus and eye infection. I look forward to Thanksgiving this coming week. We have much to be thankful for this year.