I drift into but mostly out of sleep for most of the night. Dreams come like scattered rain showers on a hot day, and mostly I raise up on one elbow to see how far the clock has advanced since the last time I looked. At three, I get up and let the dogs out, the puppy Lucas overjoyed with the unexpected activity. A brief adventure in walking barefoot by moonlight and we all wander back into the house. The puppy Lucas has decided he will sleep at my side, even if I do not sleep at all. He likes to sleep with his back to me, stretched out, with maximum contact. When I shift he wakes briefly and shifts to match the new position. The Lokimutt loves his dad. Not even Bert was this devoted to my presence. At four I wake up thinking I’m late, and say to hell with it. Up it is.
I’m on the road before six, after breakfast, after showering, after feeding the mutts, and after wishing I was still in bed. The fog isn’t up yet, the traffic isn’t up yet, so why in the hell am I? The moon is a blurry marble in the cloudy sky, and the stars peek out from underneath their silvery sheets. Bu t I have a long road ahead of me, and the day will be long.
SR 133 stretches out as if the first real link between South Georgia and middle Georgia. I’m heading towards Albany Georgia to pick up US19, and then on to Americus Georgia, a place where I lived for a few months back in the early seventies. You didn’t know that, did you? I don’t think I’ve ever written a word about Americus until today, simply because I compartmentalize my life a lot. I don’t write very much about this part of my life because I never really got a chance to find out what it might have meant to me. It ended even as it began, and so there wasn’t anything to write home about.
I couldn’t write about Americus without it leading to me writing about Leslie Georgia, and therein lies the problem. Leslie, back when I was a kid, was home to about five hundred people. It’s population is about the same now. If I write about just one or two people I would be revealing much about the rest, I’m sure. But this isn’t about those people. This is about my mom.
Back in 2003 my material grandmother died. She was my last grandparent, and died at age 90, when I was 43. Honestly, she was more out of it then in it for the last few years of her life, and her death was a relief to her, and to the rest of us who remember her as a healthy and hale farm woman who helped carve out a living out of the South Georgia earth. Today, October the ninth, is her birthday, and for reasons not even the Gods of Coincidence can explain, work has sent me to Americus Georgia. The odds of me being sent to this place, of all places, on this day, of all days, is serendipity on an order that defines rational thought.
I usually send my mother flowers on this day, and I always use the same florist in Valdosta, and they in turn always use the same one in Americus. Leslie, population five hundred, doesn’t have their own flower shop. The flower shop Valdosta uses is right across the street from where I was sent. Why yeah, fate wants me to buy mom some flowers! Flowers for mom!
When I get to Leslie I discover they’re renovating mom’s tiny office, and they’ve moved into a part of an old building where mom once ran a restaurant. That’s a weird story in and of itself, in fact. I sneak up behind her while she’s on the phone and hang the flowers over her shoulder. She smiles brightly and nods, not realizing I’m there, and then she turns around and see me.
This has never been an easy day for her, not in these eight years. For nearly that long she cared for her mother, while she faded in and out of lucidity, and grew more frail, more weak, and less of who she really was for so long. I’m very pleased the flowers seemed to be expected, actually, as if she knew I would remember. But mom is delighted to see me live and in person.
We talk mutts, and money, her husband’s poor eyesight, and the state of the economy. She shows me her new office, which is going to be quite nice, and my stepfather has bought her a car. One of her bassets died, which was sad, but the state of mom’s health seemed to be very good. I cannot stay long, of course, but still to be at this place, at this time, is a good thing.
The drive back is filled with ghosts. I walked these streets as a child. I swam in that pool as a little boy. I remember the water balloon fight we had downtown that lasted for hours, and left the entire downtown Leslie, all two blocks of it, littered with hundred of multicolored balloon corpses. The children there have children, and some of those children have children now. The drive back is filled with a desire to seek out those people, and to see if they remember those times, but we are all so much different now and so little of who we once were remains anywhere but in our minds.