After church we look up at the sky—clouds, brewing overhead.
A quick decision. We’ll go to the Dollar Store, less than 10 miles away. A little food at home, but the last remnant of Hurricane Barry is coming our way.
While driving through the mountains—too steep for habitat—my husband suggests we just stop and eat at the Norfork Café, then go to the store.
I translate that into “no cooking required.” I’ll take it.
At the café we still check the windows to monitor the clouds, rolling and ominous. We do the easy thing and order the Sunday Special from the menu board.
As we finish eating, a man seated behind us recognizes me as the poet who wrote a poem about his aunt. He turns to face us, and when I realize who he is, we exchange greetings. Then he turns to my husband and apologizes for having taken so much time from me on a previous occasion.
Hey, you probably know how easy it is to get lost on time when talking about family.
We’d been chatting about Bernice Warren, his aunt.
I, too, enjoyed that conversation. And I love how he claims the town of Norfork, family, friends. They are his people.
My husband assures Lee that he was not one bit offended, and that I am the sort of woman who knows how to shut the conversation down if I want to.
I listen, smile, and nod.
Lee then tells us he is not that far from 90 years old. And he’s still talking and making such good sense. Excitedly, he tells us that his cousins are coming—coming to town, but maybe coming to meet me!
What? My eyes grow big.
“Well,” I say, “I want you to call me when they come. I’d love to meet them.”
My husband goes to the counter to pay the ticket. “Lee,” I say, “I can’t believe you are anywhere near 90! Really, you look amazing. You give me hope.”
This man has managed to become who he truly is. His feet are on the ground, and he seems happy each time I see him.
That’s it. It makes me happy to see someone his age enjoying life.
It just puts everything into perspective. All the foolish mistakes I made in my teens and twenties, mostly under the influence of Elvis and the Beatles, e. e. cummings, and William Shakespeare.
It was decades before I dug deep into Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, discovered counseling groups, Al-Anon, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Life’s experiences, a pastor named Ray Francis, and the right books had a way of putting my feet on the ground.
All this, to say I learned the same love thing that Lee spills over to the world. The real trick is to become who God means for us to be. That’s the challenge, I suppose. More than enough of a challenge for me.
But when I’m me, that’s when I feel most comfortable in my own skin.
My husband and I climb back into the car, look at the clouds again, then at each other, and he says, “I really don’t think we need to be going to the store right now…and a little nap is calling me.”
We laugh and head home to goats, dogs, and garden phlox, where we can drink in the charcoal colors of the sky until we feel drunk on the darkness and rain coming.
P.S. Thank you for Shares and Comments. It’s as though you are carrying my children in your arms. Bless you.
Norfork Café in the town of Norfork, Arkansas, on Hwy 5. Photo taken by Pat Durmon, July 20, 2019.