Folks, I have a little story to share with you, but I need your input. I think this would be a good idea for a lengthy story or a novel. Please let me know what you think.

Here goes.

Chick was a young man from upper New York state. Kitty was a southern belle from Albemarle, North Carolina. Even though they came from vastly different backgrounds, they met at college at Atlantic Union College in South Lancaster, Massachusetts.

They dated for two years in college and got engaged. She went back to Albemarle to plan the wedding and Chick stayed in New York to work at several jobs.

While Kitty was back home, she could not understand why Chick was not staying in touch. This was a time before the Internet and cell phones. You either used a regular phone or you wrote letters to stay in touch. And, Kitty was not hearing from Chick at all.

After quite some time, Kitty became so frustrated at the lack of communication from Chick that she called off the engagement.

With the engagement no longer on, they each went their separate ways. Kitty’s dad was a Southern lawyer who did quite well. Behind the scenes, Kitty’s mom orchestrated a match between Kitty and local boy Jim, who had just returned from the Navy. After a brief courtship, they married. They moved to Mexico where Jim attended medical school.

They had two children, Vicky and Jim. Kitty settled in as a wife and mother.

Chick left college, moved to Florida, and, after a brief stint in the service, met Liz.  They married and moved to upper New York state and he took a job with a brand-new company, called IBM.

Over the years, Chick and Liz had two children, Lee and Charla, and he climbed the corporate ladder, doing very well with IBM.

All the while, Kitty stayed in touch with her college roommate, Virginia. Chick stayed in touch with his friends from college, Andy AND Virginia, who married.

Over the years, Kitty and Jim and Chick and Liz and their respective families lived their lives.

After the usual transitions that families go through, raising kids, sending kids off to college, enjoying the empty nest and growing older, Jim died.  That was about three-four years ago. About 18 months ago, Liz died.

Kitty continued to live in Albemarle as a widow and Chick as a widower was in Florida when he was not taking his RV all over the country.

Now, as Paul Harvey would say, here is the rest of the story.

Seems that when Chick and Kitty were engaged, Chick did indeed write passionately and often to Kitty. Many letters and sometimes more than once a day.

But, Kitty’s mom, who did not approve of the relationship because he was a Yankee, was the routine gatherer of the mail in the household and hid the letters from Kitty. But Kitty’s mother did keep all the letters.

One day, Kitty’s mom told Kitty that she had intercepted the letters from Chick when they were young. She had hidden them from her because she did not want her daughter to marry a Yankee. She gave Kitty the letters.

Flash ahead to present day. Andy and Virginia were hosting Chick in their home in Florida for his 80th birthday this past March. When Kitty heard about the visit through Virginia, she mailed Chick’s favorite cake, a German chocolate one, to Andy and Virginia’s home for the birthday, which facilitated a conversation.

Virginia was able to tell Chick a long-held secret: that Kitty had always loved him.

Then the phone calls between Chick and Kitty began and the letters resumed and were unintercepted. They got through to Kitty this time.

Does this sound like a great story for a novel? I think so. There is just a slight twist: this story is not a novel; it is true.

Chick  and Kitty were married yesterday in Albemarle, North Carolina in the swing they sat in decades ago when they were planning their future. Kitty never got rid of the swing. Andy and Virginia were the best man and maid of honor.

Some dreams are worth holding onto forever!

Best wishes to Chick and Kitty!

 

Three years ago, Patti and I left our home in Austin to go to a wedding in Florida. We had time on our hands so we decided to get there in a roundabout way. First, we went to Dallas and then wove an interesting path through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia before we arrived in Orlando. Along the way, we drove past Vicksburg, some 60s civil rights sites in Mississippi, Selma and Montgomery.

We were both very excited to take a trip through the South. Neither of us had traveled through much of the South since we were college students, which was many, many years ago.

It was very interesting to take these routes to Orlando. I should in my heart know that the South in 2009 is not the same Old South that existed in the late 60s. When I was younger and going through the south, there were fewer interstates and more two-lane blacktop traveling. Consequently, then the following was a fairly common site: trashy wooden shacks with open windows looking like they were about to collapse at any moment, but there was a shiny brand-new Cadillac parked next to the house.

I remember visiting a college friend of mine in Pahokee, Florida shortly after I graduated from college in 1972. He took me to a local bar.

Not the same bar I visited

The bar was on this dirt road at the outskirts of town. It had two doors at the front of the solitary building. One door had no markings, but the other door had “Colored” printed over the door. Inside, there was a bar that ran the full length of the building. There was some makeshift sheetrock feebly installed about three-quarters of the length of the building, floor to ceiling. Where the sheetrock met the bar, the feeble installation continued to the wall behind the bar, but the sheetrock was open about one foot above the bar. There was just enough of a clearance that the barkeeper at the larger part of the bar could push a glass of beer under the sheetrock to the barkeeper that tended to the black customers in the other part of the bar. If you stood at the bar, you could  look under the clearance of the sheetrock and see the customers on the other side of the bar.

In 2009, of course, there were more interstates, and fewer shacks to see. But what we did see was just as disturbing. As we drove through the towns and cities along the way, it appeared that every town and city had its share of Home Depots, Wal-Marts, Lowe’s and other national brand retail centers. The South along the routes we took had become so homogenous, so bland and lacking of character or distinction.

But what made this experience a profound experience was we listened to John Grisham‘s Ford County along the way to and from Orlando. If you are familiar with this Grisham book, you know it is a series of short stories about the South and the interesting characters who live there. As we traveled, we listened to these stories, soaking up every syllable, since Grisham himself was the narrator.

By the time we returned to Austin, we felt like we had fully experienced a new Southern experience. We ate the local food, we stayed in small hotels and occasionally would get off the interstates to look for those shacks, all the while John Grisham was narrating the stories over the car’s speakers. It was such a profound experience, and one we truly value to this day.

This is a very long prelude to a similar experience I had today.

For the past two-three weeks, I have been taking Gillis on walks — trying to work off some of his endless supply of energy. About a half-mile from the ranch house there is a park. The park has  4-5 soccer fields, some playground equipment and a hike/bike path that goes along a small creek.

I’m getting Gillis used to walking on a leash and, particularly, paying attention to walk to the right of the person holding the leash. At first, it was very chaotic, but lately the pooch is starting to understand.

Some days I take my iPod, and some days I don’t. Usually, we walk the almost-two-mile distance and rest on a bench at the park for a few minutes before heading back. While we rest, and Gillis usually sits on the bench, too, I watch the starlings dart up and down over the soccer fields, watch any rollerbladers, hikers or cyclists who may be on the track with us. Mostly, it is very quiet. There are fields of wildflowers and trees along the creek. These trees look like the Monterey Oaks that someone might see along Pebble Beach in California.

After we get to the bench, I can sit for quite a while, just listening to the birds and the breezes wafting through the trees. It is bliss.

Gentle on My Mind

Earlier in this posting, I mentioned how it is possible to have an experience and with a little added touch turn it into a profound experience. Well, today, I took the iPod and shuffled a bunch of Glen Campbell songs from when I was in college.

Just at the point that Gillis and I got to the park bench, Glen Campbell began singing “Gentle on My Mind.” I guess I suffered a sensory overload because the lyrics of the song, the rhythm of the music, the melody and voice of the singer struck me as in pure synchronicity with the breezes blowing through the trees, and the birds darting above the soccer fields.

For those brief moments, nothing else mattered in the world. I wasn’t thinking about the cancer, didn’t care about bills or what I had on my To-Do list for the day, nothing. For the length of that song, I felt like that was where I was supposed to be at that moment, experiencing those feelings of joy. comfort and contentment.

I don’t think I am alone in experiencing these emotions. Others have had similar experiences and written about them much more eloquently than I have here. My wish is that everyone I know can find that similar experience and have that feeling of pure bliss and contentment — if you have not already experienced this joy.