Friday, November 30, 2018

Irreplaceable People

July 2018 marked my parent's 60th wedding anniversary.
November 2018 they gazed into each others eyes for the last time.

The night I took this photo would be the last time I saw my father alive. He died not long afterward.

If he was watching, I know my father enjoyed every detail of his wake and funeral. His friends and family made him proudright down to the ride to the cemetery!

I'm still laughing about the text I received from my cousin saying "I think they're LOST!" No, we took the scenic route per my father's request. He wanted to drive past all his farm land one last time.

The pallbearers were my father's grandchildren and grandson-in-law
JP and Levi Solomon, Tabitha and Jordan Frahm,
Makenna Solomon Krenek, and her husband Jacob.
A parcel of my father's property is next to the cemetery where he was buried, and as I peered over his casket, I could see my brother's cattle gazing in the distance. Daddy would have appreciated this. He was a large man and had been bedridden for several years, but my brother John and his sons, who live nearby, would get him in the car and drive him around to view his farm.

Solomon's Happy Hill Farm was named so by my father. My embarrassed teenage self hated it when he commissioned someone to paint "Happy Hill Farm" in huge letters on the side of our barn. I'm pretty sure I told him there was nothing happy about it!

My childhood home is located in Walnut Hill, Florida, a small farming community in the Florida Panhandle.

Walnut Hill still maintains a lifestyle that many people would find fictional. Its residents are a rainbow of religious and ethnic diversity, and they have always come together to offer support when one of their own dies.

As a child I just took this for granted, but as an adult I understand how rare it is to receive this kind of Christianity from people and churches who actually practice what they preach.

Neighbors began dropping off food immediately. The Walnut Hill Mennonite Church; Atmore, Alabama Church of Christ, where my brother is a member; and Annie Jones United Methodist Church of Walnut Hill, that my parents attend, all provided home-cooked meals for us.

My father had two nephews. One of them is deceased, but his family drove all day just to attend the wake and then had to return right afterward in order to make work the next morning. My mother's brother flew in from North Texas to be there for her. I was hugged by schoolmates and neighbors I hadn't seen since graduating from high school in 1977!

I am so appreciative of all the friends and family who reached out to us during this difficult time.

It is a surreal experience to lose a parent, but my father was ready to die. He died knowing he was surrounded by his wife and his children, which is what he had wanted. I had come home to help my mother through carpel tunnel surgery when my father's health took a turn for the worse. My brother Michael flew in from South Texas. It was evident that my father was waiting for him to arrive. The minute he was able to, he called him by name.

Daddy's body was broken, but his mind and spirit were with us until the end. I often told him "I'd like the mind you have right now, much less when I'm almost ninety years old!"

So often today I see Facebook posts where someone has been the recipient of a good deed, and in return let everyone know that they have passed on that good deed to someone else. Which usually gets them a lot of Likes and Loves on Facebook.

As a child it was instilled in me that good deeds only count if you do them quietly, preferably anonymously, and without fanfare. At my father's funeral it became clear that it wasn't just the Sunday school bible verse Matthew 6:1-4 that had imposed this ideology upon me, but watching how my father lived his life.

Reverend Lee Bateman of Annie Jones United Methodist Church, and Reverend Sammie Moorer of the New St. Paul's Missionary Baptist Church officiated my father's funeral.

Reverend Bateman talked about my father's time in Korea. Many of the people present had known my father for a lifetime, but didn't know he had received the Purple Heart or a Bronze Star for valor.

My parents at my Mom's 75th birthday party
Grandchildren: Jordan, John Preston, Levi and Tabitha
Five years ago we threw my mother a 75th Birthday Party. No mention was allowed to be made that my father's birthday was the day after hers. My mother loved every minute of being the center of attention at her party, but my father was not that kind of guy.

At least not while he was alive. My father would have loved every aspect of both his wake and funeral.

He had told me on more than one occasion that he would like Sammie Moorer to take part in it. Reverend Moorer is a minister of the Walnut Hill Black Community's New St. Paul Baptist Church. Daddy heard him speak at a funeral, and was impressed! He considered him a friend, but we had no idea until Mr. Moorer spoke that my father had encouraged him when it came to his career. He had heeded Daddy's advice and got a better job, one with good benefits, from which he had retired.

Mr. Peters
Daddy's childhood friend Mr. Wilbur Peters shared how they became friends when he arrived as a boy from the North to be part of the Walnut Hill Mennonite community, and how they reconnected as older men. He shared how Daddy told him that he had been saved as a boy, and was a member of the Walnut Hill Baptist Church, but had fallen off the track. He returned to his faith as he grew older. He had told Mr. Peters he was ready to die.

My sister-in-law, Stephanie Solomon, admitted that her father-in-law was a difficult man to get to know, but an easy man to love. She shared stories about the kind of grandfather he was to her children. The kind of grandfather who had gone through the agony of having his tattoos (not exactly successfully) lasered off, because he regretted getting them and wanted to set an example to his grandsons. So far all the grandsons have heeded his advice.

My son Jordan shared how homesick Daddy and his fellow soldiers had been in Korea, and read a song that they would sing to cheer themselves up.

Vicki Bagget, a family friend, set the tone so very appropriately to what my father would have wanted when she sang a funeral rendition of Dixie.

However, if anything would have brought tears to my father's eyes it would have been seeing his nephew James Earl (Jimmy) Vaughn take the podium to sing "Amazing Grace" as his wife Pat played the piano.

His daughter Gina had been so worried that her dad wouldn't be able to get through the songs he sang, but Jimmy was amazing.

My son Jordan has inherited that ability to speak without breaking down, even during the most difficult times.

These are the words he read:

Rotation Blues

Apparently there were cuss words in the original version of this song, which my father edited out.

My father had a talent for writing, an ability he passed on to me. One of the things I was most furious with my father about during my college years was when I had him submit a story I'd written to the local Atmore Advance Newspaper. Daddy took the liberty of changing a quote!

One of my assignments at the University of Florida was to write an article for the hometown paper. So I interviewed a local boy from Walnut Hill who was in Tampa, Florida attending his own college. He said he missed Walnut Hill... like Hell! My father changed hell to heck. He perceived this quote would be an embarrassment to the family of the young man who said it (not to mention the boy himself). I was furious, but I'm finally old enough to appreciate where he was coming from. Today it just makes me laugh!

Like this photo taken at my wedding. I still remember what and who we were discussing. That pleased expression on my father's face was because I had just told him that my brother's date "won't be catching this bouquet!"

My father and I butted headsALL THE TIMEand my mother would say it was because we were just alike. It took me all of my childhood and most of adulthood to realize what a compliment she was paying me.

I will miss listening to my Daddy's stories, his views on politics, his ability to keep a secret, and even our arguments, but most of all his love for methat will be irreplaceable.

As is my daddy.

Preston Farish Solomon

January 28, 1930 - November 16, 2018

On behalf of the Solomon Family I would like to thank all of you who reached out during this difficult time.

Amelia Solomon Frahm

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Watching Leaves and Life Peak

The fall foliage is beautiful this time of year at my home in Tennessee, but I'm sharing this post from greener, flatter pastures. I'm visiting my parents who live in the Florida panhandle. By the time I make it back, to the Tennessee Mountains, I expect most the leaves will have fallen. I came to  Florida to help out my mother, who had carpel tunnel surgery, and stayed due to my father's health issues. It's been a difficult week for him, and his caregivers.

My daddy is every bit as colorful as the fall foliage; however, there's no way I'd share that color on social media!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Breast Cancer: Why Self Exam is so Important

Me and Lindsay Feb. 18, 1989

Lindsay Pinson Hess was one of two little girls who took part in my wedding. Long before her own diagnosis, she worried about and supported me. Later she was so enthused to read my books to her children

My Tickles Tabitha title was a book I hoped she would never need, but last year this grown-up little girl (to me) was diagnosed with breast cancer. As a young mom of three little girls, her breast cancer story shows once again why self-exam and early detection are so important. Especially when you are a young woman, and not yet at the age that yearly mammograms are recommended. 

I am so proud of the courage shown by Lindsay.  

Happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Lindsay Pinson Hess!

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

BOObs and Pink Pumpkins. It’s BC Awareness Month.

Fall, fall, fall… It is always fall at our house.  That’s a poem my daughter wrote about two decades ago. One of those bad Mom moments… It was summer when she wrote it.
As a breast cancer survivor and the author of a children’s book about it, I was always pitching a story idea, or planning the next marketing event. Many of them targeted October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month. 

Since I loved Halloween, I would combine it with my breast cancer awareness props, which meant painting our orange jack-o-lanterns pink. This was before you could obtain the pink plastic ones at Walmart. 

It seemed only fitting that years later when they were available, the Tickles Tabitha school program character was birthed from a giant plastic pumpkin. Yep! Underneath all that hair is a huge pumpkin head.

I’m always a step ahead or behind popular perception, so naturally Tickles Tabitha was created before Pinterest and Instagram made it cool to be an artsie, nerdy, DIY, children’s book writer.

Much has changed since I began the path of my breast cancer maze. This time last year, my Tickles Tabitha title got a facelift, and I received a new set of breast implants. This October my new implants are scheduled for their first mammogram. 

Some things have not changed. October is still a scary month… As I’m usually on edge until I get my mammo results back, and EARLY DETECTION is still the best way to survive breast cancer! Please remember to examine your BOObs.


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Summertime and the Living Ain't Easy!

Summertime and the living is easy.... When Gershwin wrote those lyrics he must have been describing his single, childless, orphan friends. Since I’m none of those things the living ain’t easy. It is aggravating and sometimes difficult.

Yada yada. I know I am fortunate. I'm healthy, my aging parents who live in NW Florida are still alive, my kids who were residing in different parts of NC are happy enough, and my husband who resides most the time at a job site or apartment in North Alabama hasn't divorced me yet. 

Our home is in beautiful East Tenneesee, but I spent most of the summer on the road. Traveling one direction and then another to help out, (annoy and be annoyed in return) by family. 

I love them with all my ice-cold (I've been told) heart. However, if you want to label me an ingrate go ahead and judge. I know I would. 

If you follow my social media posts you know my life is so good, if it wasn't my own I'd be jealous. Thought I'd rub it in and share just how good it is… good and AGGRAVATING. 

I began summer by spending quality time at my childhood home on Solomon's Happy Hill Farm. Both my parents have been in and out of the hospital, and my dad is not well. 

While there to help, I managed to tick off relatives and non-relatives alike by asking questions instead of taking orders, cleaning house, mentioning hospice, and God forbid doing the laundry.

I didn't just wash the Sunday go-to-church attire or going-out clothes either. Nope, I had the audacity to wash the manure drenched work clothes that were drawing flies to my mom's back porch. The hired help was not impressed with my laundry abilities, and let me know he did not appreciate me butting in.

Then my mother who was already fed up with me for cleaning house tossing out important plastic kitchen containers, reprimanded me for being childish when I tossed his clean, dried laundry back on the porch for him to fold himself. I figured it was the least I could do, as I'd already denied him the pleasure of washing and drying his own laundry.

Childish, I told my mother, would be to dump it in the cow pasture and stomp it into the manure! I (not bragging) refrained from that!

I'm going to skip over other highlights of my visit, but by the time I left, only my Daddy was sad to see me go. He was still well medicated.

My social media is divided into two categories, the people that grew up with me, and the people that came after. The latter group will think I make these things up, but I'm pretty confident the people I grew up with will know, if anything, I'm omitting the best parts of my visit to Walnut Hill, Florida. 

After Florida, I hightailed it to North Alabama, where I enthralled my husband, Randy, with stories of my visit to the farm. If he had paid attention I wouldn't be blogging VENTING. What would a writer do without family to inspire and motivate!? 

My husband was distracted by the TV and a headache (a.k.a a work project that had him trapped in Alabama all summer long). Randy didn’t get to share the joy of moving our daughter, Tabitha, out of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Tabitha graduated from the UNC grad school, and her new employer is in Huntsville, Alabama, only thirty minutes away from where her Dad works. It’s the first time in a decade he’ll have one of his children closer than an airplane ride away. Now that she’s all grown up and soon-to-be financially independant he’s thrilled about it! 

Such a happy time, as you can see from Instagram photos I've shared. What's not pictured: the disagreements, frustration, anxiety, and tears behind those fake smiles.

This time next year we'll all be laughing about it. I'm already laughing about the used car salesman who called himself an IT recruiter, and demanded my indecisive daughter make a decision right then and there about his job offer.

Not so funny was the interview in NYC where Delta screwed up Tabitha's flight back home, and took her off the plane she had boarded and left her stranded in Newark, New Jersey as the airport was closing. Then the hotel we got her so she could get some sleep (none of us slept) failed to mention that they didn't have a shuttle running early enough to get her to her early morning flight the next day. She had no cash for an Uber, and the hotel she'd stayed at previously, paid for by her potential new employer, had placed a hold on her bank card in case she drank the liquor or stole the bed linen. Both of which would have cost more than the amount of money she had left in her bank account. 

Then there was my road trip to NC to move her home. It's a little funny... now. Except for the part about her car which was, and remains, in the shop in North Carolina.

On my way to Chapel Hill I picked up my son, Jordan, in Asheville, NC. He was to help us with the heavy lifting and the U-haul. Only he woke up sick, and Tabitha and I had to do it by ourselves. 

No surpirse. It’s uncanny how many times the men in our family have some life-threatening illness, or an important work or school project that just happens to coincide with some fun family activity involving grunt work.

Tabitha and I argued over how to pack, worried it wouldn't fit, and got lucky on parking as neither of us could back up a trailer. If her sofa hadn't been moved to TN earlier, we would have had a serious predicament. 

Once our trailer was loaded the next hurdle was a hotel parking spot that I could get in and out of. If you’ve ever visited a college town, you know why I was stressed out about it. Luckily there were no sporting events.

On our way back to TN, in an effort to avoid the narrow backroads of Jordan's Asheville abode, I took a detour he suggested, which did not take us back to the interstate. Instead we went the scenic route through NC which meant hairpin curves, steep mountains, and unhappy people who preferred to drive faster then 25 mph behind a U-haul trailer. We were queasy the entire drive.

The good news, according to Jordan, was we were not on the infamous Dragon's Tail. That would be the road he took a few years back when he drove from NC to TN after owning his new-old motor bike for about five minutes. I'm still cringing. 

On August 20, Tabitha began her new job as a UX Researcher for Trideum in Huntsville, Alabama. I stayed in Alabama long enough to see her return from her first day of work. As soon as I saw her return home (driving her rental car) I could tell she was going to be fine.  

She's happy with her life decisions, and I'm happy she's happy. It makes it easier to tolerate the fact that her car is being held hostage at a Fiat dealership in North Carolina due to the Fiat Chrysler manufacturer's inability to produce a transmission 

Apparently there is a nationwide transmission shortage on Fiat 500s. Her car has been in the shop since early July. Which meant she had to move without it, is now having to rent a car to get to work, they have no idea when the part will come in, and once it does she'll incur the expense of another trip from North Alabama to and from North Carolina.

We've complained to every customer service representative from the Fiat dealership to the USA.GOV. None of whom are optimistic. 

On the bright side, Tabitha has a job she loves, and by the time they find a transmission for her car, she will not even need that credit card we co-signed for her so she could afford to pay for it.

Summertime and the living ain't been all that easy, but it's been fun. Just look at all my photos on social media. Wink, wink.