This last week(end) we went down to the south, to visit the Carolinas, the very heartland of Southern charm and culture. While waiting for the connecting flight to SC in the airport, I was staring at the departure board, when a really elderly lady, who was knitting something next to me, let out a gasp, and said;
“Can you wear those shoes on a kayak?”.
I turned to see her staring at my sandals. I wear these nice, rugged sandals that are perfect for hiking for two little reasons. They’ve got fantastic soles, and so you can walk on hills even while letting your feet breathe, and the nicest thing about them are that their toes are capped, so you cannot stub your toes.
The lady (who, a little later, told me that she was 87 years old) was rather chatty. She called herself a “curious Southern girl”, but really was just an old lady who loved to talk. She was from North Carolina, but now lived in a retirement/old age home in Maine. I felt a little sad on hearing her story. She lived alone out there, but had some (old) friends in the same apartment. Her great source of entertainment was taking out her little plastic kayak on the lake close to which she lived. It really seemed like a very lonely life, far away from family. She told me of one story, of a neighbor dying in his sleep. No one found out he was dead for a whole week. By then, the hallway started smelling, so they finally entered his apartment to find him rotting.
She’d lived an interesting life, first out in the country (where she had her own Appaloosa horse as a girl), and then as a nurse in various towns in the south. She’d had two hopeless marriages to two drunks, the first of whom she kicked out (and was proud of it), and the other she left (and was proud of it too). Her little joy was visiting her sons and their kids, once every year or two. Her other great joy seemed to be her new dentures (which I said looked perfectly real, and that made her very happy too).
She hadn’t visited her sons for two full years now. While she asked me where I was from, she started talking about how much she missed the south.
“It’s the food you miss most of all”, she said (while I shuddered thinking of Southern food).
Then she suddenly regained her chirpiness, and excitedly exclaimed (in a typical Southern drawl);
“Ya know what? I’m going to have the time of my life the next two weeks, eatin’ all the food I’m not allowed to eat. Ah told ma boy he’s to let me eat what I want now. And I told him to come and git me at the airport, and have with him a big cup of chilli, and some rice and barbecue.”
And (as I tried not to gag), she gave one of the happiest smiles I’ve seen on any one in a long time.