Good Beginning Bittersweet Ending
By: Verner Reid
Time has a way of escaping without much notice. Already it is September, the end of summer. The days appear cooler and shorter even in its early stage. School children have either returned to school or they soon will. Although, I rue summer's ending I have a mountain of memories to sustain me during the next six months of snow, ice, sleet and bitter cold (UGH!) that will soon greet us.
During my time off in August ( I want to say it was a vacation, but I did not get paid, so for me it was "time off") I spent nearly two weeks in Alabama with my son Parrish, his wife Deitra and my granddaughter Makayla who lives in Chicago with her Mom, two sisters and an older brother. Makayla is her mother's only child by my son.
Early Tuesday morning August 10, we took the adventurous ride to Midway airport via the Red and Blue Line trains. I ride those trains daily to work, but never thought of it as an adventure. However, this ride was different. I was on my way to another state and city, out of town and not just to the "Mall" code name for casino, in Buffalo Michigan. Therefore, all of the sleeping derelicts, stale whiskey breathing, pushing, crowded passengers, loud cell phone talkers and hollowing babies was missing from my work day itineraries. This ride was fun!
Since it was my first time taking public transportation to ANY airport; I was mindless of what to do once we got there. But with me was Makayla, an eight and a half year old going on twenty, chatter box, witty, wise, and precocious, who knew exactly what to do. No one could guess it was as new to her as it was for me. I became the metaphorically blind person and she was the guard dog leading me to the right places. I was in awe of her insight.
Everything went right! Travel was great except for the small two passenger seated airplane and Makayla's need to talk until she got to Mobile. She did not miss an opportunity to tell passengers individually and collectively that "I'm going to Alabama to see my DA-DEE-EEE." Then she sang "I'm going to Al-a-Bam-ma to see my DA-DEE-EEE and Pun-ki-nn." Passengers smiled at her, asked her questions about her dad and Punkin (step mom's nickname) and gave her treats. Anything to shut her mouth. But that did not stop her. She kept the mantra going until we got to the airport in Alabama.
THE WEATHER WAS STEAMY, AND HOTTER THAN I IMAGINED HELL TO BE! Parrish came to get us during his lunch hour; both he and Deitra were working. Parrish could not get extra days off because he had used up all of his sick and personal time when he became ill in June with gallbladder problems. We arrived on a Tuesday. His off days are Friday and Sunday. Deitra, is a meteorologist at NBC Channel 15.
She had completed her fifteenth day of work without days off due to hurricane threats, and from taking over for her vacationing boss. Our arrival coincided with her regular off days and her extra off days for working for her boss. That was great!
Parrish took us to the house so he could return to work. Goldie the dog greeted us like we lived there everyday. We looked into the refrigerator for food. There was none! Usually, when we visit we go from the airport out to dinner. That did not happen this time.
Both Makayla and I were disappointed! Within fifteen minutes after we got to the house and Parrish left to return to work, Deitra telephoned. I was excited and happy to hear her cherry voice. "Ma, there is food in the frig that should hold you until I get home and we can go out to eat." I laughed out loud. All I had seen in the refrigerator was lunchables, hot dogs and lunch meat. That was the "food" she was talking about. She laughed at me and my sarcastic remarks I made about the food. "Oh, my goodness, we have spoiled you," she said.
She then explained that she would have off days soon and Parrish would spend mornings with us. I made sandwiches for me and Makayla. It was good I did because Deitra had to work later than she thought. I was asleep when she came home. From that day forward though things perked up greatly. A plan was mapped out. The first few days I would keep Makayla before she took off three consecutive days as a consequence for covering for the person who is responsible for her pay check. We went shopping for FOOD. I cooked. We had breakfast together, all of us, almost every day. We eat out at least three times a week. Parrish would meet us for dinner during his lunch time. It was great the way everything was arranged.
One day when they were both off we went to a water park so close to Florida you can spit into it. They had an awesome time. I worked my crossword puzzle while they frolicked in the seemingly endless water rides.
I discovered that my daughter in-law is self -conscious about wearing a swim suit. I was astounded. She literally took one of Parrish's undershirts to cover her body that was clad in a clinging unadorned black two piece swim wear. She looked stunning.
Yet, she did not feel confident. I said to her if I had brought my own bathing suit I wouldn't have a problem displaying my body which is more pear shaped now than it ever was. We laughed at that and she took off the undershirt for a while, but then it went back on again.
That same day we left the water park we stopped at their church. Now, here is where the shocker of my life took place. Deitra had keys to the church so we went inside. Two men were waiting for us to arrive.
They put on a CD/DVD or whatever the darn thing is called, and my son and those other two men, with my son's wife as coach began to PRAISE DANCE. Yes, I said it. "PRAISE DANCE!" It took a moment to register, but when it did. Oh, my God! It was so overwhelmingly, spiritually beautiful. I basked in amazing joy of that phenomenon momentous occasion. Makayla's "Grammy, are you crying?" switched me back from the trance that held me hostage as I watched Parrish's face transcend with the music and his choreographed body movement that blended perfectly with the song that played.
Honestly, I really did not pay much attention to the lyrics. My eyes were glued to my son and his wife. I reached up to touch my face. The beauty of my son praise dancing and his wife as lovely as a butterfly and as lithe as a ballerina, angelically, gently, and gracefully coaching them was mind-boggling. Their awesome dance steps were in such rhythmically concert that I wept.
The family of the other two men were unaware they were practicing to perform on Men's Day at the little church that sat leaning on a small hill which faced the partially graveled, brown grassed, weedy, parking spaces. Rumor had it that the wife of one dancer was looking for him on a practice day and he had to lie about his whereabouts. Makayla and I would miss actual Men's Day performance on Sunday. We were leaving that Friday.
Would you believe that same day, (we were multitasking big time), we stopped at Target or Walgreens's I am not sure which one, but Makayla needed some flip flops, this might have been the day before the water park, the exact day matters less. What happened is hilarious.
I noticed Deitra parked in the Handicap parking space. She and Makayla got out and went into the store, leaving me. I thought she had special privileges being a local news celebrity. So, I sat and waited rather comfortably, because she left the air on for me. When they returned I asked if she had special permission. I know in Chicago she would have gotten a big fat ticket for that. She said to me. "No, I left you in the car." I laughed uncontrollably. As the senior citizen, I was the handicapped sign. That was funny.
I don't know whether that is a rule in Mobile, or just my daughter in-law's rule. I was the handicap sticker at least three times after that. The third time I realized I was not the only one left as a handicap sign. Deitra parked on one side of a space and I noticed directly in front of me was another substitute disable symbol. It was a Big Dog sitting in the driver's seat of a pick-up truck.
I stared at the dog and it stared back. Soon the owner/driver of the truck came out, a white guy; he took a look at me sitting in the handicap space in a car without a sign and he laughed and pointed at me and his dog. I laughed too. He said nothing neither did I.
We just had a hearty laugh. There was no need for words, our owners had left both of us, a human and a dog, as handicap symbols. Hilarious!
During our stay we took trips to areas we had not been before. It rained a lot and it was humid a lot. I saw a video of Parrish on a local television program discussion as a "concerned citizen" the criminal eliminate in Mobile. That was surprising to see and satisfying to hear his viewpoints on community issues.
I must comment on how unpretentious my daughter- in- law is. We were down town sightseeing. We ran into one of the female anchor person's at NBC News 15. She asked if we had been to a certain point of interest. Deitra said no because we did not have tickets. The lady told her she did not need tickets. Her words were: "You are a diva… a celebrity, you don't need tickets. Tell them where you work, show your ID…." Deitra smiled and thanked her nicely. We both knew she was not going to do that. Somebody mentioned that when Deitra is asked for an autograph she turns around to see who the person is talking to. That is one of her many defining qualities.
Let's not forget Miss Makayla Whitney Reid. People down there embrace her like she lives there. One of her friends, (Makayla's) is an attorney and her husband, an architect, made a special lunch date to spend some time with her. That made her feel so special and much like the princess her daddy calls her. We did not have enough time to accommodate all of the people who wanted to see her, but her stepmother and dad did their best to make sure she saw adults and children who wanted her to be with them.
Each visit with my son and his wife in Mobile Alabama is an awakening one. Makayla and I have taken a trip every summer down there since she was four years old. She spends the entire summer when her dad and his wife can arrange their schedules to accommodate her camping days with late afternoon Kinder Care. They are such a non-typical, untraditional family when they are all together. They have come a long way, making adjustments, sharing and caring; traits that are still in the developing stages.
As with everything, including seasons and trips, they end. My granddaughter and her Grammy had a marvelous time until it was time to leave. My son and wife had a surprise for us. It was a secret they had chosen not to share with me for fear that I would tell Makayla.
The surprise backfired. For months arrangements with her mother for her to live in Mobile with Parrish and Deirtra, and go to school there this fall turned into hard feelings, disdain, mistrust, anger and extreme disappointment. Her mother changed her mind at the last minute. They thought the verbal agreement was signed, sealed and ready for stay. They had mentally, physically and spiritually prepared for my granddaughter to live with them.
It was an extremely difficult trip coming home. My heart was heavily laden. I was clueless as to why Nemrac, Makayla's mother, changed her mind. However, I did think she should have let them know she had before Makayla was told.
The smiles and laughter we had shared from the beginning ended with heartbreak and sorrow for her. She sobbed uncontrollably whenever she thought of her dad, punkin, Goldie and going back to Chicago to school. Quite differently from our trip there. I did my best to console her. Then I decided to let her cry it out. I said nothing negative about her mother, but I wanted to. I wanted to know the story behind her mind change. It had to be a good one for her to allow her daughter to feel so much pain.
We arrived at Midway late Friday night August 20th. My son Kevin came for me and Makayla's mother came for her. I wanted to be home for my friend Alberta's wedding on Saturday, so I did not engage in a meaningful conversation with Nemrac. I went home thinking of the disappointment my granddaughter had to live through. It was no satisfaction to me knowing that it was simply one among many of life's vicissitudes she'll face as time progresses.