Today I Met Mama Grinch…


Dearest Readers:

People are so interesting, especially during the holiday season. About 30 minutes ago, I was standing in the overcrowded line at Dollar Tree. I noticed a woman slowly pushing her cart into the line. She was an elderly woman with gray hair. Her face was wrinkled, reminding me of a crinkled road map. She had an angry smirk on her mouth. Maybe Santa Claus brought her a bunch of coal this year. She hugged the cart, probably for support. I could easily imagine this woman using this cart to keep her balance.  Of course, being the shy person that I am NOT, I spoke to her to let her know the end of the line was several people behind me.

She glared at me and spat: “I know where the end of the line is. You don’t have to tell me that.”

“Well excuse me, Ma’am. Happy New Year.”

When the second cashier opened a register, I kept my eyes on it. If that woman even attempted to break into the line to get service quicker, I was ready for her. Even with my boots on I knew I could move quicker than Mama Grinch. I was prepared to tell the cashier other people have been in the line longer than she. That woman is not the ‘next person in line.’

Was I wrong? NO. Was I rude? NO. I was prepared to speak up.

I was raised to respect my elders, but today – I think I’ve lost a little respect. My message to this slump shouldered, stout, grouchy Mama Grinch is simple: “Just because you are old doesn’t mean you need to be ugly!”

Think I’ll pray for Mama Grinch today, adding her to a growing list I pray for every night. Another little tidbit of advice taught to me by my maternal grandmother. As an elderly woman I never heard her be rude to anyone. As for Mama Grinch, maybe she needs to stand in a corner and change her rude, angry attitude.

Isn’t it sad to see so many elderly people so angry with themselves? Maybe Mama Grinch was all alone on Christmas Day.  So sad.

Yes, I’ll pray for all the angry elderly woman, hopeful she will find peace and happiness.

Happy New Year!

 

DSC_0027

Merry Christmas, 2017


Dearest Readers:

Today, December 24, 2017 is Christmas Eve. Today is also the anniversary of two of our dearest Friends, Joan and Jim Adams. May your anniversary be as special to them as they are to us.

If you are out and about in the middle of the insane Christmas rush, please DO NOT TAILGATE. I had too many careless drivers almost attached to the bumper of my car this week. So close, I could not see their headlights. Of course, if I had to stop suddenly all of you know what would happen. I simply do not understand drivers who love to drive that close.

Please, if you are driving, do not text and drive. Do not mess with your phone if you are driving. One never knows what can happen in the blink of an eye, or taking your eyes off of your driving.

May all of you have a safe and happy Christmas season. Yes, I say Christmas because Christmas is the holiday. The birth of the Christ child.  The ONLY reason for the season.

Enjoy your time with family and friends and please make every day special. We never know how long we will be here, so please do not take careless and foolish chances with your life or someone else’s life. Life is too short to rush it away.

May all of you have a wonderful Happy Christmas. I am hopeful 2018 will be a calmer, happier year for this household. Less drama. The years of 2015, 2016, and 2017 have been so stressful to me I have to remind myself to INHALE…EXHALE…BREATHE. INHALE…HOLD FOR EIGHT SECONDS…EXHALE…HOLD FOR EIGHT SECONDS…BREATHE.

At times, practicing the art of relaxation works. Other times, I want to scream. I simply must learn to relax again. After all, life is too short.

Merry Christmas to all of you, and Happy 2018. Another year is quickly ticking away.

Merry Christmas!

Happy Birthday, Walter Perkins – My Dad


Dearest Readers:

On December 19, 1914, two identical twins were born in Michigan. Lewis Eugene and Walter W. Perkins. Never did I have the honor to know Uncle Lewis. He died at 26-years-of-age from Bright’s Disease. I believe it is an inflammation of the kidneys. After his death, my father reportedly changed to a sad, miserable man. He and his identical twin were inseparable until Uncle Lewis died.

I lost my dad to esophageal cancer on July 6, 1999. I confess, a part of my heart died on that day. My dad and I were bonded. During his terminal illness, I visited him daily at the convalescent center and hospital, unless I was sick with my episodes of bronchial asthma.

Today, I would like to wish my dad and Uncle Lewis an early happy birthday in Heaven. No doubt, tomorrow will be a sad day for me; nevertheless, I will focus on the memories we made. Singing together. Teaching me to harmonize. Sharing my poems and other stories with him, and hearing him say on WCSC Channel 5 during an interview, “No. I’m not the writer. My daughter, Barbara, now she’s the writer!” My heart melted when I heard him say that. Finally, he was proud of me!

Our life together during my childhood wasn’t a good one. From the age of five-years-old, until I was 15, I served as the referee between my mother and my dad. Their marriage was a volatile marriage, filled with “I hate you…How I wish you were dead…I wish to God I’d never married you… You’re nothing but a bastard!” From both parties the hatred poured from their lips like steaming hot volcano ashes rolling vibrantly onto the grounds. Poisons. Poisons from lips without love or any form of happiness. During my childhood, I believe their angers, hatreds and tumultuous physical battles were protected within our home. I do not believe my grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and friends of the family knew about the dreadful, dangerous domestic battles my parents fought. Secrets. Protected, never to be shared, until now. I knew not to say anything. If I did, my mother would come after me, slapping, knocking and pulling my hair out. If I wanted to live, my lips must remain closed.

Finally, at fifteen, I stood between them for the last time, telling them one of you needs to leave this marriage and this house. You’ve always hated each other… The next day, my father packed up and left. My mother spat at me telling me she hoped I was happy now. Their marriage was over and it was all my fault.

I rushed into my room. Never confronting her. Never calling my dad. I pondered my heartache inside while praying I would see my dad once again, and I would sing with him again. He visited us after the divorce. He rushed to hug me, something he never did until the bitter divorce. Gone were the shouting and fighting matches. My father had finally found out he was a ‘better man,’ as for my mother — her poisonous tongue spilled hatred to me every time she could. Shouting matches. Slapping my face. Pulling my hair until clumps of my hair fell into her hands. Never did I share these shattered, horrifying days with anyone.  I was taught to be seen, but not heard. How I detested whenever we visited family members. I was told to “say hello. Give a hug and keep your damned mouth shut.”

And so, I did!

To escape the misery of my teenage years, I married at 17. After moving to Charleston, Dad and I became much closer. When he was 68, in 1982, we moved him to Charleston to be closer to a family member. I delighted in caring for him and visiting him in his apartment until 1988 when I had to find a job to save my home and family. My job was demanding, working 40 hours plus, including weekends.

In 1997, during the holidays, Dad became ill. In December, he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He chose to battle the debilitating cancer until his death in July, 1999. During that time, we made wonderful memories. I changed jobs, so I could spend more time with Dad. I watched the wonderful, happy man he became and I loved him even more than he, or anyone, could imagine.

The week before his death, he sat in his room at the nursing home, reading his Bible, praying for God to ‘take me home.’ He was spiteful with me. Almost cruel, according to his roommate, Mr. Dudley. Dad would move his hands, telling me to leave his room. Although it hurt, I swallowed my pride and listened to him doing his best to detach from me. He did not want me around when he died.

On July 6, 1999, as I walked towards his room, I met a nurse, pushing an oxygen tank. “Oh no,” I managed to say, “that isn’t a good sign.” She nodded and when she and I placed our hands on the door of Dad’s room, I knew the moment of his passing had arrived.

I screamed. Cried. Hysterically, I sat in a chair, across from Dad’s room and I listened. The nurse wanted to know if I wanted them to ‘bring him back.’ I said No. He’s a DNR. Please do not resuscitate him. Let him go. He was praying to die soon.

Nineteen years ago, according to birthdays, my father celebrated his birthday now as an identical twin. No doubt, he and Uncle Lewis have caught up and replenished their lost years. I can picture them singing in the Heavenly choirs, inseparable and happy together.

Today, I would like to celebrate Walter and Lewis Perkins, better known as the Perkins Twins a wonderful Happy Birthday. Now, 103 years-of-age December 19 will be a joyous celebration in Heaven. I can hear my dad singing harmony with Uncle Lewis, probably singing Amazing Grace together while celebrating their reunion and Christmas.

As for me, I will be busy wrapping Christmas packages and maybe going out to get more Christmas goodies for our pups and for Phil. I always keep myself extra busy on December 19. While I am happy for my father to be reunited with Uncle Lewis and with God, I miss him.

IMG_6059
Angel Oak Tree, a gorgeous tree embracing Johns Island, SC

Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday to the Perkins Twins. Oh, Dad — how I miss you!

In memory of:

THE PERKINS TWINS

Lewis and Walter – Identical Twins

Separated by death at age 26;

Reunited with God’s love at 84.

Holding the gates to Heaven’s Door.

 Missing and Loving you both —

Walter’s Daughter – Barbara

 

 

The Wake Up Call


IMG_0165

Dearest Readers:

During the Christmas season, I am thankful for all that I have. All that I have endured, and all that God has taught me on this wonderful journey called life. Today, I wanted to share an award-winning story I wrote years ago, during the Christmas season where I felt more like Scrooge or the Grinch, instead of who I really am. Sometimes, during the holidays unexpected situations occur where we respond and are changed for the better. The Wake Up Call is such a story and experience for me. Rushing to shop on Black Friday, I learned the true meaning of Christmas. Sharing. Loving. Taking the time to help others. Believing in God and the powers He shares with us every day. I hope you enjoy the story. Merry Christmas!

Arriving in Greensboro, I met Joan at Friendly Shopping Center. I parked the car in the first available spot and headed towards Hecht’s Department Store. I rushed across the congested parking lot waving to Joan standing by the door. The after Thanksgiving sale crowd was anxious for the doors to open, pushing, and shoving to get closer to the entrance. Joan and I moved aside to let an elderly woman in a wheel chair take our spot in line. This year, holiday sales and life in general meant nothing to me. I’d experienced the worst year in my life, watching my father melting away from the toxic poisons of esophageal cancer and chemo-radiation therapy.

“Crowds bother me,” I said. “I hate the rudeness of women when they’re searching for a bargain.” Joan nodded.  I turned my back to the street, noticing the trees decorated with bright lights. With exception of today, I’d forgotten Christmas was less than a month away.

“How are you doing now,” Joan asked.

“Okay,” I said, a little too quickly. “The trees are beautiful this year.”

I blinked several times, my eyes glaring at the spruce trees, melting snow on the ground.

“Just okay, huh,” Joan said. “It’s been six months since he died. If you need to talk, I’m here.”

Tears danced in my eyes. I looked away from her stare.

When the doors opened, I looked over my shoulder. Something caught my eye. Perhaps the uniqueness of the moment, the after effects of stress, combined with my desire to disconnect from life, forced me to see things in a different perspective. Something was lying in the road. Someone probably dropped a jacket, I thought, ignoring my discovery.

“Joan,” I said. “I’ll meet you in ladies wear.”

Curiosity of the image in the road captivated me, so I stepped aside.

I didn’t hear Joan answer me. By now, there were hundreds of shoppers pushing and shoving into Hecht’s.

While shoppers rushed for the early morning bargains, my eyes refused to leave the road. As I moved closer, I recognized the item by the curb wasn’t a jacket, but an elderly gentleman.

“He must be drunk,” I mumbled, moving closer to him. What if he’s dead? I can’t do this. Not again. I dialed 9-1-1 on my cell phone.

My mind rewound, stopping at the memories and heartache of July, 1999. That Tuesday evening in July I was late arriving at Sandpiper Convalescent Center. When I placed my hand on the door of my father’s room, a nurse intercepted me. Nurses were rushing around Dad’s bed.

“Can you get a pulse?” I heard someone say.

“His daughter is here. What should we do?”

Nurse Angie joined me at the doorway. Her eyes locked into mine.

“No, “I screamed. “No! Please God, No!”

Nurse Angie sat me down. She didn’t need to tell me what was going on. I knew the day had arrived, and although oncologist specialists told me in 1997 that I needed to prepare myself, I wasn’t ready to let Dad go. I still needed him in my life. He couldn’t leave me now. Not now.

Nurse Angie whispered. “He’s a DNR. Do you want us to do anything?”

I knew the definition of DNR, and I did not want to disobey my Dad’s orders of do not resuscitate. “I- uh – I can’t override his decision. Not even if it means—.” I couldn’t finish the words. Since childhood, Dad was my lifeline. Always ready to cheer me up. Always ready to teach me things. He and my grandmother taught me about God and prayer. Dad was the provider who taught me to stand up for myself and to speak my mind – but gently. Dad was the one who beamed with a golden halo when I sang in the choir. Dad was the one who encouraged me to reach for the stars. Now, my shining star was getting brighter, only at the cost of losing my helping hand.

“Dear God, give me strength,” I prayed. “Take care of my dad. Use his talents. Let him know I love him.”

A screaming horn brought me back to reality. I stared into the eyes of a driver. “Get the hell out of the way,” the burgundy haired woman shrieked. “I need to turn.”

I walked over to her. She had body piercings in her eyebrow and nose. “I’m sorry to inconvenience you,” I said. “There’s a gentleman unconscious in the road. I’m not moving him until EMS gets here.”

“Yeah, whatever,” she mouthed. “I’m in a hurry.”

“Aren’t we all.”

I kneeled down, touching the elderly gentleman’s forehead, feeling beads of cold sweat. His hair was thin, salt and pepper gray. His face was weathered, hands wrinkled but firm. “Dear God please. Don’t let him die. Not today.” My face lifted to the skyline.

His hands felt like ice. His body was thin. A gray beard covered his face. He wore a gold wedding band . By now, curious shoppers were moving closer to us. Removing my coat, I covered him. A young man with spiked hair removed his leather coat, bundled it into a ball, lifting the gentleman’s head.

“Does he have a pulse?” He asked.

“I didn’t check.”

“It’s okay. I’m a medical student.” He checked for a pulse, nodding yes to me.

The gentleman coughed.

“Sir, what happened?”

“I fell. I’m sick. My wife, Bernice,  wanted to be here early for the sale.”

“Where’s your wife?”

“I don’t know. I drove her here. I let her out by the door. I had chemo this week.”

I warmed his freezing hands with mine. “Chemo,” I muttered, understanding his weakness.

Joan stood next to me, touching my shoulder. “You okay?”

I nodded.

“Cancer,” I said. “You go shopping. I’ll stay with him.”

“Sirens,” someone said. “They’re coming.”

The man squeezed my hand. “Don’t leave me,” he said.

“Your wife. Where’s your wife?”

“She wanted to shop. She’s buying me some fishing tackle.”

“You must like to fish,” I said, hoping he’d remain alert. “Is there someone else we can call?”

“My grandson. Hank. His number’s in my wallet.”

The medical student found his wallet, dialed the number.

When EMS arrived, a pretty older woman joined us. She smiled at me and thanked me. “I’m Bernice. His wife. Thanks for helping him,” she said.

At lunch, I found myself able to talk. A sudden burst of adrenalin had me chatting non-stop about Dad’s terminal illness, forgiveness and death.

“When I was little, I was hit by a car. My Grammy said I was spared for a reason,” I said to Joan, sipping a steaming cup of coffee. “Until today, I never understood what she meant.”

“You really have a way with old people,” she said.

I laughed. “Not until Dad’s illness. I’ve never told you this, but my relationship with my parents wasn’t good. When they divorced, I was angry. Until Dad got sick, I couldn’t forgive them.”

I looked around the crowded restaurant. “Life is so short. So unfair. I guess I never took life and death seriously until Dad died. Now, I try to make the most of each day. I’ve started praying every night. That’s something I didn’t do for many years. I was living in a spinning wheel headed no where, until Dad’s illness.”

I laughed. “Thanks to cancer. I’ve never told you this, but my relationship with my parents wasn’t good. Until Dad got sick, I couldn’t forgive them.”

“Dad’s illness was a wake up call. His faith taught me to step out of that rat race and reach out to others. Two days before he died, I visited him like I always did. I didn’t want him to die without me there. On July 4th he was sitting in his rocking chair, reading the Bible. When he saw me arrive, he raised his voice, asking me what I was doing there. I thought he was angry, so I only stayed a few minutes. I didn’t visit the next day. Now that he’s gone, I realized he was detaching. He knew his days on earth were numbered. Maybe God spoke to him.”

“You were remarkable,” Joan said. The daily visits, the letters you wrote to his family and friends every month. The care you gave him. He was blessed.”

“I was blessed. People come into our lives for a purpose, and God brought Dad back into my life, forcing me to wake up. Rebuilding that relationship gave me the courage I need to live the rest of my life and to make a few changes. Just when we think the door has closed, God opens a window. What more can I ask for?”

My cell phone rang. The medical student shared an updated report about the gentleman in the road. He was stable. Bernice was by his side.

The experience of stopping to help a total stranger during that holiday season opened my eyes and heart to our purpose in life. Each life has a reason for existence. My grandmother always told me to look for rainbows when life gives us detours. As a child, I didn’t understand her wisdom. Now, older and much wiser, I appreciated her words.

When life brings rain, look for the rainbow. Grammy’s wisdom about God, along with my dad’s, was instilled forever inside my heart. This would be a Christmas to remember and cherish.

Merry Christmas!

-30-

Born in Columbus, Georgia, Barbie Perkins-Cooper is a talented, award-winning writer of screenplays, fiction, non-fiction, plays, and over 60 articles for regional and trade publications. Many of her articles have appeared in regional trade and travel magazines, health and beauty web sites, and newspaper publications. She began her writing career as a child, publishing a science fiction story during third grade in Atlanta, Georgia. Her areas of writing expertise include fiction, non-fiction, articles, plays and screenplays. In 2001, she published a complex memoir based on her father’s battle with esophageal cancer. The non-fiction memoir is titled, Condition of Limbo.

As a writer of accomplishment, she works diligently to achieve her goals as a professional screenwriter and playwright. She was selected as a finalist in the teleplay category with her screenplay, the Commish…The Signature Rapist. Additional screenplays were selected as finalist for the Chesterfield Writers’ Film Project and the Goldie Film Awards, Fade In competition, The Writers Network, and America’s Best, The Writers Foundation. In February 2004, she was awarded the Grand Goldie Film Award for her screenplay, Not My Papa.