The phone rang early one morning about 20 years ago waking me from a sound sleep.
“Lynn, it’s your mother.” I have no idea why Mom had to announce who she was, but when she did, I knew it was serious.
I sprang off the bed readying myself for some bad news.
“Well, your Dad is in the car heading to Atlanta!” she stated rather emphatically as if she were a bit miffed.
My parents lived in Crystal River, Florida, which is about an eight-hour drive from Atlanta. Why was my 80-year-old father driving alone to see me?
Just as I was about to ask my mother that question, she interrupted me and continued with her story.
“Your Dad, (he was mine now, she wasn’t claiming him) got it in his head he wanted to go to Copper Hill, Tennessee, to see if he could find some of his old friends.”
“Mom, didn’t Dad live there when he was about 13 or 14?” I said, now fully awake.
“I told him that idea was crazy and that he should not go, but you know how he is! He left at 5 a.m.”
I did know how he was because I am just like him. Once a Walker gets an idea, there we go. You can’t stop us. We are like a freight train on rocket fuel.
I went on to work and when I arrived home, there was Dad sitting at the kitchen table.
“What the heck are you doing, Daddy?” I laughed.
“I am going to spend the night here and go to Copper Hill and find my old friends tomorrow. I want to see if some are still there.”
The next morning, he was on the road by 6 a.m. to drive the two hours north.
I arrived home from work late that same afternoon and there was daddy sitting again at the kitchen table.
Shocked I said, “Dad, what are you doing back here? Did you not find your friends? Are you OK?!”
“Yep, I found a few,” he spoke as he stared at the table looking a bit dejected.
“Well, why didn’t you stay for a day or two?” I questioned.
“Oh, heck Lynn, those people are OLD!!!!!!”
I laughed so hard I thought I was going to collapse.
Of course, he was the same chronological age as they were, but mentally Dad was still 13. He never saw himself old or grumpy. Yes, he had physical ailments, but they never deterred him from being who he always was.
His spirit roared and laughed all the way to heaven’s door.
People have always said “laughter is the best medicine.” I believe that to be true. I was raised with a bunch of folks that believed that God gave us laughter to help us through the tears and keep us kicking.
How many times have you run across or know grumpy old folks? They worry about everything. They worry about getting to the doctor on time, or are scared to death of dying? How many times have you seen relatively healthy older people sit down, and refuse to get up?
My grandmother always complained about those that did. She would say, “Shoot, don’t they know they are gonna’ die? Why worry about it! They ought to enjoy the livin’ till they can’t no more!”
She continued, “Why, down at the senior citizens’ club, they gave up bowlin’ because they thought they were too old! Shoot, I’m so mad at ‘um I could spit! Shoot, I am the oldest one and I want to bowl!” She was just a hoot and stayed young her entire 97 years.
I have the vaguest memory of my great-great-grandmother, Lou Ray Walker, who lived to be almost 100, laughing when she realized I was in the room being held in my dad’s arms. I don’t know why I remember that. She was blind, but knew I was there. Her spirit still could see.
I recall the laughter at family reunions and stories being told among the relatives. They laughed until their bellies shook and their cheeks turned red just like Santa Claus.
Now that I am in official senior citizen territory along with a bunch of other baby boomers, we have to keep on laughing. We have to think of ourselves as young, vital, important and really cackle out loud.
I have told my children if I become grumpy, just slap me silly. I don’t want to leave this earth with a frown. I want to leave this earth with a laugh just like my Lou Ray who found joy in things she could not even see.
None of us should be so afraid of dying, that we lose the art of living well. We must never think of ourselves as “done.”
My cousin Bobby is older than I am by a few years. He is an accomplished, still practicing attorney. He will send an email occasionally with a sentence or two that makes me laugh out loud with his humor.
He, along with so many of us, have survived some tough times and tragedies. Sometimes, we have to dig deep to find joy and hope again. Nevertheless, we have to dig. It is our job to never give up, never give in and never become grumpy and old.
If we do, well — shoot, that would be ridiculous!
Lynn Walker Gendusa is a former LaGrange resident who currently resides in Roswell. She may be reached at [email protected]