Respect prevents me from calling him an old man. Yes, he's lived 81 years on this planet. He sometimes loses his sense of time and place. He moves slowly, sleeps a lot and takes a long time to get out a vehicle. That's especially sad because - aside from faith, family and country - vehicles have been his life. But there's one time when he's no longer slow. There's one time when he practically jumps out of a car and hits the ground running, knowing exactly where he's going. It's when you take him up a road that the rest of the citizens of Bibb County, Alabama probably mostly ignore. At the end of that road, when it turns to gravel, sits an old country church and a cemetery on a hill. There's no fear of falling when the walking stick he calls "Slim" barely touches the ground, guiding him over sweet gum balls and uneven earth to get to the spot where his mother's buried. A man can live to be a 100 but any walk that ends with him being in proximity to Mama is made expeditiously.
In our younger years, they hold us when we're hot with fever. There's nothing that calms like realizing your mother is in your bedroom in the middle of the night, ignoring sleep because she could hear the way you're sneezing, wheezing, coughing or shivering. Then, no matter how many years pass, all food is judged by the way Mama cooked it. All flowers, in the springtime, are remembered as "the ones that Mama planted around her front porch" or "down there by the mailbox." Days of the week are remembered as the ones when she walked up a certain street in a very small town to have her hair "set" so that it'd look good come Sunday morning. Our Daddies are special and have another world of things they teach us. But they don't become the one thing that turns us into mush when someone mentions their name after they're gone.
I watched him for a minute, and I thought he would cry. But he just turned and looked at me and said "that was my Mama, Tim." I said "yes, sir....I know." There were headstones in that old cemetery proudly regaling their service to the "Confederate States of America." He noticed them and said "yes, that's interesting." But then he turned and headed back down the hill, again looking old and slow and in need of assistance dodging those sweet gum balls. He rushed up the hill to feel that spirit that gave him life on this earth. He walked back down, again an old man, hoping that a bunch of gospel hymns are true and he'll walk with that sweet soul down streets of gold someday. I think right now he'd settle for one of her biscuits and a bowl of 'fields and snaps" that she cooked whenever he came home hungry, be it from high school football practice, college or the Army. .