Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Passing of Macky: Life Is Uncertain. Death Is For Sure.

Sharon Johnston Park Campground, New Market, Alabama       Seven precious months passed in my sweet brother's life after we raced to the southeast from Washington state to north Alabama last summer. After spending several weeks near his home and seeing his slow but steady recovery, we moved on to our winter destination in Florida. Then in mid-march, we began the northward trek back into the area.

 A more healthy Macky and Me - October 2010
A bit of his medical history: The cardiologists had no other options available for Macky and they prepared (over prepared, really) him for death. One of them went so far last September as to say "You could live two days or two months" but Macky defied their well educated guesses and enjoyed another college football season, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year. We also were so blessed to enjoy an autumn family reunion while we were at the campground near his home. Over the winter he gained thirty pounds that were muscle, not water retention, and enjoyed being with family, attending more than a few of his granddaughter's high school basketball games. God is good and we are thankful for that extra precious time.

But late in March, Macky's body started again to build fluid and our telephone visits sometime had to be shortened because I could sense he was running out of breath. In early April, after a troubling visit to the congestive heart failure clinic, he was admitted to the hospital where fluid was drained and he returned home in about three days. That night, he fainted several times, but his defibrillator shocked his heart into some last, slow but steady beats.

A few days later, he enjoyed a final Easter with his wife, children and grandchildren. A week later, he was gone, dying in his sleep on the sofa in the living room. Donna and Shannon were with him. He was 64.

We were still in Gulf Shores, Alabama when I received word of Macky's death. It rained all day that day. Early the next morning, we pulled out and headed north where, once again, I asked my friend, Marilyn, to drive to Sharon Johnston Park Campground and get a spot secured for us. This is the campground that doesn't take credit cards and won't hold reservations without payment. As she had done last fall, Marilyn, drove to the campground, paid the fee and made sure we would be able to get into the park if we arrived after dark. It was raining here too, but allowed a break for us to set up the campsite.

Two rainy days later, following a kind and knowing eulogy by his pastor, Macky was laid to rest at the cemetery by the church where he and Donna were married. At the funeral home, the room was filled with crimson flowers honoring his love of University of Alabama football.  A bright red tie with University of Alabama "A's" was tied neatly at his throat.  Donna and Sherrie selected dozens of wonderful photos to be looped over and over again during family visitation.  Friends and family came and shared our grief.  The local bank president came by as did an old friend of Wayne's who lives in Huntsville and had met Macky once though we did not know it until now.

He was gone. The rain gave way again long enough for the burial. The air was cold though and I was glad I had several layers of clothes. I was reminded, as we made the long drive from the funeral home to the cemetery, of the southern way of stopping one's vehicle anytime a funeral procession is along the road. Not just private automobiles, mind you, but commercial vehicles and school buses too. This tradition gave me some comfort and reminded me why I proud to be from the South.

By some strange coincidence, our cousin on our Father's side and his wife were in town for a visit with their daughter, who lives in Huntsville. I let them know of Macky's death and the funeral services and they came, of course. I was thrilled to get to spend time with Louis, his wife, Rhonda and their daughter, Wesley, who it turned out, is a rocket scientist in Huntsville. Louis had not seen Macky in more than 40 years but his presence was so meaningful to me.

Wayne, Rhonda, me, Louis and Wesley
Following the burial, as is common in the south, a grand meal, prepared by the neighbors, was laid out for the family. Louis, Rhonda and Wesley joined us and were welcomed into Donna's family.  It was a bad day with a good wrinkle.

Donna, Sherrie, Shannon, Donna's Mother and Father. 
Rest in peace, brother.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Williston and Gulf Shores... Along The Way North

A bug creature
 who kept hanging
around our campsite
From Lazydays at Seffner, we took advantage of a end-of-season weekly offer at Williston Crossings RV Resort. We would be joined by Pam and Ernie, who left Seminole a week after us. They had relatives in the area and would get to see them and we would get to play golf.

Our site at Williston Crossings was nice, shady in afternoons and comfortable, but Pam and Ernie's site was extra special with beautiful lush grasses, shrubbery and a lovely view of the campground's covered bridge. I unloaded my bicycle and the dog's stroller and enjoyed riding the nice, smooth paved campground streets.  This is where I would put finishing touches on the room rugs and runners I had cut from our carpet remnants.

Williston Crossings would be a great place to spend the winters if it were a bit farther down Florida's peninsula. The town of Williston is in the west central part of the state and north of the the frost line. The folks here had several nights of below freezing temperatures this winter.

The weather was bordering on hot now but we managed to get in two days of golf. Our first outing was at Williston Highland Golf and Country Club which we imagined would be a real nice experience. No requirement for a T-time should have been the first clue that we might be wrong. We arrived to find the property in a state of terrible disrepair. The clubhouse was dark, musty and void of guests. The single employee who served as bartender, pro-shop operator and cook, prepared hot dogs and ham sandwiches for us and we devoured them with gusto.

After lunch Pam and I made our way through the darkened clubhouse corridors to the ladies room and found ourselves in hysterical laughter remembering how our friend, Sue, loves to have her picture taken in the lounge areas of well appointed, lavish country club bathrooms. She shares them with her sister for fun. We couldn't resist taking these pictures for Sue as we knew she would envy us today.

Pam is in awe at the beautifully appointed state-of-the-art lavatory.

A moment for me to relax in the sumptuous lounge.

Finished "freshening up" at the dressing table and ready to hit the links. 
If anything could be worse than Williston Highland's Club House, it would be the golf course. The grasses are similar to that found in poor cow pastures. Great clumps of asphalt, large swaths of dead grass and huge piles of unidentified sandy material dotted the course. It was a hoot but we enjoyed the play.

Ernie prepares to tee off... 
After about 12 holes, we called it a day. I had developed soreness in my chest caused by costachondritis I developed a few years ago. Hoping I could "work out" the soreness in my rib cage, I played with the pain but later regretted my decision. By bedtime, I could barely move my upper body and had to begin an aspirin regime that went on for more many days. I had to change my sleeping position too. No more stomach sleeping for now.

Another day we took a 45 minute ride out to Cedar Key along the coast just to while away the day. Years ago, Wayne and I had been to Cedar Key but I had forgotten most of what we saw there.

Cedar Key is an old fishing village, tourist trap and festival locale, hosting an art festival in spring and a fall seafood festival. There are a few regionally notable restaurants too.

Where we ate lunch. 

Pam on the left. Me on the right.
Pups in the stroller.
The daytime high temperature probably got to near 90 but a bit of sea breeze kept heat exhaustion at bay. A short walk around the island caused an insatiable appetite for ice cream which we finally did locate and devoured.

Handsome Pop takes a turn pushing the pups too. 
Our second day of golf was at at Grand Lake RV Park and Golf Course in Citra, Florida. This outing took us west beyond I-75.

Still suffering with costachondritis, I rode but didn't play. This course was in as good or maybe better condition than any we've played and I really wanted to play but couldn't risk worsening the inflammation in my ribs.

Teeing off at #1. Grand Lake RV Park has several park models, lots of space for transients and lots of trees throughout the property. They have a nice restaurant where we ate lunch before golf.

Located between Gainesville and Ocala, Florida, Grand Lake has a nice campground and golf course. Pam and Ernie had stayed in the campground last year but had not played the course. We found it to be quite nice -- green and well kept.

Pam, Wayne and Ernie, finishing up on #8
There were a few surprises areas of the Grand Lake course which Pam, Ernie and Wayne were surely not prepared. Ernie and Wayne both lost at least one golf ball in this deep, fenced rough.  Another hole sported a great ravine that ate a few more more golf balls. Good thing I wasn't playing this day...

Ernie: "Can't find my ball."
Wayne: "Let's go over the fence for it."
Wayne showing off his excellent "old dude" form. 
Proof that "Old Guys Rule".....
We stayed on at Williston for a few days after Pam and Ernie left. They would make stops at Mexico Beach and then Destin before meeting us at Gulf State Park Campground in Gulf Shores the week after Easter.

Wayne and I arrived in Gulf Shores a few days ahead of Pam and Ernie but couldn't get into Gulf State Park so we checked in at Anchors Aweigh RV Park until the spring break weekend was over. During this time, we enjoyed another nice but short visit with friends Frank and Beverly, who now live full-time in Gulf Shores. One of the best Mexican lunches we ever ate was with them at Cactus Cantina on the Parkway near their home. Shrimp with black beans and Mexican grits. Yum.

Frank and Beverly.  I didn't take this picture.
Actually I'm ashamed to say I failed to get a single picture of them.
 I stole this one from Facebook 
Pam and Ernie arrived after Easter and got to their campsite at Gulf State Park Campground while we were still at Anchors Aweigh. They also have friends who live in Gulf Shores so they got in several visits with them too.  Another good thing about our full-time RV'ing lifestyle is that we can visit with our friends all over the country.

Pam and I had planned, and looked forward to, eating at Lambert's, Home of Throwed Rolls in Foley, but we changed our minds when we learned how dreadfully long the wait would be... along with some poor reviews of the restaurant's service and food.  We did enjoy eating at Baumhowers in Orange Beach and King Neptune Seafood at Gulf Shores.

Another place we visited but didn't have anything to eat or drink was at world famous Flora-Bama, the beachside bar on the Alabama / Florida state line. I won't try to explain or describe this establishment. The photos that follow give a pretty accurate depiction.
This picture was taken in the Flora-Bama gift shop for our friend, Joyce.
Pam is holding is a large swimming pool noodle that holds liquid to be sipped through the straw.
Wayne asked Pam (upper right corner), "So where are all the bra-less women?" 

Ernie, Wayne and Pam turned their best sides to the camera. 
Our plan was to stay on at Gulf State Campground in Gulf Shores for a few days, but we got word that Pam and Ernie might have a buyer for their home and they will want to get back to tend to that business. They also want to stop in at Red Bay for service on their coach.

Wayne and I went for a rainy day of shopping when I got a call that my brother passed away. I was not surprised but I was not prepared either. I would never be. We left Gulf Shores the following morning, headed to north Alabama.