Daddy’s 80th Birthday

My daddy died a couple of weeks after his 68th birthday, in 2006. Pancreatic cancer. Today is his 80th birthday. It makes me sad to think he has been gone so long and to think about what he has missed, but it makes me happy to think how happy he would be that my brother and I have remained close. He would be happy to know my brother and I have great relationships with our extended family, and he would love that I have come to know our cousin, Ardrue, over the last couple of years.

Daddy worked hard to make sure we had the things we needed and most of what we wanted…within reason. He was practical, but some indulgences were allowed. According to Aunt Katie (Daddy’s younger sister), Daddy was a quiet young man…and serious, making it interesting to me that he made a living in sales and was good at it. He had to step outside his comfort zone (quiet) and talk…convincing companies to purchase his product. I don’t remember him as quiet. At home, he was jovial. He loved telling stories about his childhood. He loved goofy jokes, and he loved wordplay. He mellowed with age, so I can only imagine what fun he’d have been if he had made it to 80.

My nephews were crazy about daddy, whom they called Big Ken (he was tall). My daughter was almost three when he died, so she doesn’t remember him, but she loved him. I think being a granddaddy was his greatest joy. After he retired, he had time to spend with them, and he laughed and smiled when they were around. When they were infants/toddlers, he spent a lot of time holding them in his lap, reading to them or talking to them. As my nephews got older, he played baseball with them, had Easter egg hunts, and let them pretend to be waiters at Cock of the Walk (a fried catfish restaurant) while he sat out on the back porch, repeatedly placing his pretend orders for hushpuppies and fried catfish.

img_7188

My 2-yr-old daughter enjoyed Easter egg hunts with Big Ken too…all year. Other times, he would take spoons outside for her to dig in the dirt. He had built a bridge across the Civil War mound in their front yard, so my daughter spent a lot of time running back and forth across the bridge. Daddy was amazed that she never stopped running.

Today, he’d be proud of his grandsons…one working hard in college and the other making his way as a writer. He would enjoy watching my daughter play sports.

When we were growing up, he enjoyed watching sports on TV…there was always a baseball or basketball game on. If sports weren’t on, he was likely watching Sanford and Son, Cheers, All in the Family, or The Jeffersons. He loved to laugh, and those shows made him laugh, without fail. As for dramas, he loved Lonesome Dove, and one of his favorite movies was Cool Hand Luke.

He peppered his language with things we called “Bascom-isms,” named after a place he lived as a little boy, Bascom, Florida. I wish I had written them down over the years, because they’re difficult to remember. I was reminded of them recently, when I posted on Facebook a picture of the sun shining while it was raining, and captioned it, “The devil’s beating his wife.” It was something Daddy said, and lots of people from the south say it. We learned it as, “The devil’s beating his wife with a frying pan,” while others apparently said, “The devil’s beating his wife behind the door.”

Here are some things Daddy used to say:

Ned in the first reader. Daddy said this all the time. I called Aunt Katie to confirm the meaning. In our family, Ned in the first reader means someone who is poor at what he/she is doing. It means Ned never advanced beyond the first reading level, meaning he wasn’t good at reading or he wasn’t very smart. For example, let’s say Suzy and Jane are doing the same job, and Suzy gets three times as much done as Jane in the same amount of time. Daddy would say, “Suzy makes Jane look like Ned in the first reader.” Or if someone is trying to learn to sew but can’t even thread the needle, we might say, “Bless her heart. She’s like Ned in the first reader.”

“Don’t care” has neither home nor master. This is something Daddy would say if we answered, “I don’t care.” I think it means that if you “don’t care” about something, then you stand for nothing. You should always care. Daddy’s mother used to say it to him when he was growing up. She was right. We should never say we “don’t care.” Maya Angelou once said, “Can’t Do is like Don’t Care. Neither of them have a home.” The meaning is the same…you should never say you can’t do something, and you shouldn’t say you don’t care about something.

You can make three days (or any time reference) standing on your head. This was Daddy’s way of saying “you got this.” If we had three more days of exams, it’s something he would say to remind us something was do-able.

I hope my brother will call me and remind me of some of Daddy’s sayings, because I feel like we keep his memory alive, in part, by keeping these sayings alive.

If Daddy were here to celebrate his 80th birthday today, I would call him and sing the birthday song from The Little Rascals. The episode is called Feed ‘Em and Weep, and it’s about Darla’s friends bringing gifts to her dad on his birthday…when all he wanted was a quiet evening with family. Daddy thought Alfalfa and Spanky were hilarious, and he looked forward to my singing every year…and we would laugh. To see the clip of the song, click here.

Today we celebrate his birth 80 years ago. He loved sunflowers, just like Mother did, so we will use some from our yard as our centerpiece for the day, and I’ll have a tomato sandwich. Maybe I’ll make the Sour Cream Pound Cake his mother used to make. Our cousin, Ardrue, gave me the recipe last year, and it is delicious.

Advertisements

An Old Friend and a Cute Waiter

winter-4-1381710-639x424

Presidents’ Day is behind us for 2018. It’s a long weekend that usually isn’t too memorable. In 2013, it was memorable. My friend, Angela, and her daughter came from Montgomery, Alabama, to visit us in Charlotte. Her daughter was ten at the time, and mine was nine. We wanted to have fun with them but also have plenty of time to chat. It turned out to be an awesome weekend, and we still talk about it.

Before they came up, Angela and I planned things over the phone. My daughter loves Great Wolf Lodge in Concord, NC (if you have kids, you need to check it out, click here), but Angela’s daughter had never been. We decided that would be our first stop. After numerous visits, I realized it’s a great place for kids to play while parents relax. *More info about Great Wolf Lodge at bottom of page*

They arrived on the Friday of Presidents’ Day weekend, and we drove up to Great Wolf Lodge, where the water park is indoors, and it’s always a balmy 84 degrees. Angela and I have been friends since college, more than 30 years. Our favorite activity is catching up and laughing about old times. So we did. The girls had fun in the water park.

After a night or two in the warm temperatures of Great Wolf Lodge, we drove from Concord, to Boone, NC, to enjoy some snow tubing. What a weather change it was! On our way to Boone, we encountered what we, two Alabama girls, called a “blizzard”!
IMG_8732

When we arrived at our hotel in Boone, temperatures were in the single digits. We had a reservation for snow tubing the next day at one of the local places.

The next morning, we got up, planning to go tubing, but when we called to reconfirm, they had halted operations due to high winds. We decided to visit some shops in downtown Boone and get some extra gear, since it was colder than expected.

When we all got hungry, we stepped into Macado’s, a casual restaurant in downtown Boone (for info on Macado’s, click here). It was staffed by college students from Appalachian State University, and one of the waiters took us to a table. He came back a little later and introduced himself as Ricky (I remember names really well), stumbling over his words a little. He then apologized, saying, “I’m sorry. I’m a little off my game today. I had a car accident on the way to work, and to top it off, I have a date tonight with a girl who’s way out of my league.” It broke the ice; we chuckled and of course, sympathized with him.

ehud-neuhaus-108369

He turned out to be very sweet and attentive. The girls ordered straight from the kids menu. Mine is a picky eater, so she ordered a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and french fries. Ricky asked, “Want me to cut off the crust?” My daughter’s face lit up, “Yes!” He won the moms’ hearts with his car accident/out-of-my-league-girl quip, and he had just won the girls’ hearts with that question. Their faces lit up again when he delivered their hot chocolate “with extra whipped cream and marshmallows” he said he made specially for them. I don’t even remember what Angela and I ordered, but we were happy.

christopher-flowers-234182

We enjoyed our meal and shelter from the cold for a while. I called another snow tubing location (Sugar Mountain Resort, for info, click here) and found out they were open, so we decided to get moving. Ricky brought the bill. Angela and I discussed it and decided to try to turn his day around. We left him a fat tip…hoping he’d be able to take out-of-his-league-girl on an impressive date. And then, we left, thanking him on our way out the door.

Stepping back into the frigid temps was a shock to the system, even in all the gear we were wearing, but we were on a mission to go tubing. The wind stung my face and made my eyes water. We were about a block from the restaurant when we heard someone calling behind us, “Ma’am! Ma’am!” We turned around to see Ricky, wearing his uniform and no coat, chasing us…in single-digit temperatures and strong wind! I thought for a second I must have left my credit card behind. Then, I heard him calling, “Thank you! Thank you so much for the great tip!” Oh my! So sweet. I yelled through the wind while waving for him to go back to the restaurant, “Our pleasure! Go back inside! We hope you have fun on your date tonight!” He smiled, waved, and ran back to the warmth of the restaurant.

We walked to our car, smiling. He made our girls happy with special crustless PB&Js. He made us, two middle-aged moms, happy by being so sweet to our girls. We made his day a little better with a generous tip.

IMG_0172We had a great time tubing that afternoon. The girls had a blast. Angela fell and bruised her knee. I almost got thrown out of the tubing park for not braking soon enough on the run when I was racing Angela. (There was no way I was going to let her win.) Over the loudspeaker, “Ma’am, this is your warning. If you cross the black line again, you will be removed from the park.” Eek! Good times!

Angela and I relive that weekend when we talk about old times now. We will never know what happened to Ricky. It has been five years, so I’m guessing he has graduated from App State by now. Most importantly, I hope the out-of-his-league-girl realized how awesome he was when they went out that night.

Chances are, Ricky was way out of her league.

 

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Cheers to Ricky and all the hard-working college students like him!

 

If you like Kelly Mattei’s Favorite Things, please share with friends and ask them to follow my Facebook page and Instagram page too! Please send “favorite things” suggestions my way!

XOXO,

Kelly

**Great Wolf Lodge, Concord, NC, is a hotel/indoor water park and much more. The whole place is geared toward families, with activities, restaurants, swimming pools, an arcade, a bowling alley, Magiquest, shops with fun souvenirs, and special activities during holidays. If you haven’t been, it’s a great place to spend a weekend with your family. It is located just down the road from Charlotte Motor Speedway. The water park is only open to families who are hotel guests, and it offers swimming pools, water slides, a wave pool, and a special area for smaller children. You can make reservations online at http://www.greatwolf.com. Rates vary based on availability, so on busy weekends, the rates can be astronomical, but on less busy weekends, you can get a room for less than $200, and that includes your water park passes. 

 

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA