Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Road We Traveled

Nelson's dad and mine grew up together and were good friends, so our families visited back and forth when we were tots. Terry and I were excited beyond words when they came calling.
I don't remember too much about those times, since we were all so young, but I do remember Mother and Hazel chattering as they cuddled our youngest siblings on their laps. And I remember several of us running around and around the dining room table, giggling and falling; getting up and giggling and falling again.

"Y'all settle down," Daddy said.

"Straighten up," said Bud.
Nelson and I once went on a date (junior year, as I recall), along with Pitty and his best friend, Benny. Crammed in the cab of his little pick-up truck, we hung on for dear life as he whizzed up and down those gravel roads in Carlisle County at breakneck speed.

"Whoopee!" he laughed, "Hang on to your hats!"

It was smoother riding when we reached the blacktopped road. And when we got to Bardwell we headed north on Highway 51, ending up in Cairo at the Whataburger stand, where we enjoyed the biggest burgers we had ever laid eyes on. (That was before Ray Kroc even thought of a Big Mac!)
After graduating from Carlisle County High School, we attended Draughon's Business College, along with Roy Wayne, Sarah Mae, Mike. And my husband, Carroll. Who became his life-long friend. After graduation in 1960, he, Mike, Carroll and I all went to work in Chicago, me at Illinois Agricultural Association; he, Mike and Carroll at IAA's affiliate, Country Companies.

Nelson met his future wife, Pat, at Country Companies. We spent time with them in those early years, occasionally traveling down to Carlisle County together, and one night we all gathered in Pat's little apartment and played cards. She decided to make popcorn but got distracted and dumped too much in the pan, so kernels were soon popping in mid-air and spiraling across the kitchen.

We ended up in a popcorn fight.

In 1963, shortly after Nelson was drafted into the Army, he and Pat were married. And when they came home on furlough, Roger and Sharon threw them a big party. Near the end of the evening, Roger turned the stereo to full blast and put on Chubby Checker's Limbo Rock. (For you young'uns who aren't familiar with the Limbo, it involves a dancer attempting to bend low enough to stay below a stick held by two people. Although the dance is easy, it requires practice and concentration to dance your way under that stick, particularly after it is lowered.)
Everyone did well, and much to my surprise, I was able to do it, even when the stick was very low. (I was much more limber back then!)
I lost touch with him and Pat after Carroll and I parted ways. The last time I saw them was at our high school reunion in 1993. And although I had heard he was often in pain from the arthritis he suffered for years, he was the same Nelson I had known all my life.

"Hey, Brenda," he said, a twinkle in his eye, "Remember our last reunion, when Zip got up on the table and took our picture and he didn't have the shutter open?"

We had a big laugh over that one.

I knew Nelson had been in declining health for years, but on January 10th I was shocked and saddened to learn of his death at Northwestern Medical Center in Chicago where he had gone for treatment after suffering a stroke. And since then, I've been thinking of Pat, daughter Netia, son Perry, their grandchildren, his mother and siblings. My deepest sympathy and prayers go out to them.

He was interred in Roselawn Cemetery, outside Bardwell, just off Highway 51. So now he lies near the road we traveled when we were all so young. And when I think of him now, I see him as he was then: a friendly, happy boy with a twinkle in his eye and a smile for everyone.
"Whoopee!" he laughs, "Hang on to your hats!"


Sandra Ree said...

What a wonderful tribute, Brenda. I had family over this weekend and they enjoyed reading your blog. I was happy to share you with them. :)

Brenda said...

Thanks so much, Sandra!

All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley