First Road Trip

For some time now, I have been thinking about what should be my first road trip after I retire. Just to be clear, I am not talking about a road trip where the destination is the main purpose of the journey. No what I am talking about is a trip where the drive itself is the purpose. I’ve done a few of these over the 20+ years that I have had fun little cars to drive but I have always been limited by the number of vacation days I could take from work.

One of the first of these road trips was my inaugural excursion on the Tail of the Dragon in Eastern Tennessee. My wife was not interested in a trip where the main purpose was to experience a road but when I mentioned the idea to my sister, she readily agreed to come along. We did combine it with a final destination to one of our favorite places in the world, Montreat, but experiencing that fun road with 318 curves in 11 miles was as close to a roller coaster ride in a car as you can get, one that I would repeat multiple times over the years.

Probably the granddaddy of all these road trips was in 2010 when I drove the Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) together, another trip my wife was not interested in going on.

Over a five day period, I drove by myself about 2,000 miles, almost 600 of the total being just the two roads for which I took the trip. For the most part, the weather was perfect and allowed for all day top-down driving in my little red convertible. The only negative of the trip was on the last day when I encountered construction that had the last 75 miles or so of the BRP closed to traffic. 2010 was the 75th anniversary for the BRP and I was most surprised during its Diamond Jubilee year that part of it would be closed to traffic.

While I had driven the part that was closed many times before, it still irked me that I couldn’t say I had driven the whole road all in one trip.

So what will my first trip be?

Ever since I found out that I would be retiring this year, I have had this question in the back of my mind knowing that I would no longer be limited by the number of vacation days I had. Frequently as I would be driving to work or running errands, the question would come to the forefront of my thoughts. I know to interest my wife in coming with me that it has to be more about the destination and the things we may see along the way than the road itself. With two of our kids living on the west coast, I’ve thought a cross country trip would be fun as there are many things along the way that we would both want to see.

In fact, an opportunity presented itself for just such a trip this year when my nephew (the one that made me an uncle for the first time), announced that he was getting married in Pasadena in November. But a cross country trip at this time just wasn’t in the cards so that won’t be the first.

I also have been toying with the idea of trying to drive as much of the historic Route 66 that still exists. This trip would afford the opportunity to see many sites I have never seen and would end up also in Los Angeles where a fun drive up the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) would allow a visit to San Francisco where our oldest son and his family lives.

I’ve also thought of doing the BRP again to complete the whole 469 miles in one trip. And I’ve considered that maybe I need to research another fun road to drive in the US and experience that.

My most recent idea is to just stay closer to home and head over to Nashville and pick up the Natchez Trace Parkway, not as long or likely as scenic as the BRP but a road that I have never done.

But with road conditions and open-air driving not conducive to the cold weather starting to creep into the forecast, it will probably be spring before I actually decide on a specific trip to take. However, this gives me the winter to research other roads that may be my first post-retirement road trip. And when I do, I’ll be sure and report all about it here so you can enjoy part of the trip too.

Because for someone who loves car and loves to drive, what’s better than a fun road trip!

Sideways in Georgia

Unless you’ve seen the movie, Sideways, or read the book by the same name, this blog post title may not make sense to you.

But as unlikely as it may seem for those of you who are familiar with this fictional tale of California wine experience, one that single handedly reduced the sale of Merlot wine once it was released, this was the theme that kept running through my mind during my recent vacation to North Georgia with my wife. As I explained in that post, one of the reasons we went to this location was to experience the wine country set in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, an industry we had no idea even existed in Georgia.

In years past, we have made numerous wine excursions to Napa and Sonoma counties in California. These trips gave us our experience as to what to expect at a winery. But this would be our first chance to visit multiple wineries in a state much closer to home.

Reviewing Trip Advisor, we found that a number of the wineries were only open on weekends. While this prevented us from visiting some of the ones we had considered, going during the week meant much smaller crowds and no waiting. Montaluce was one of the highest rated wineries and since it was open seven days a week, we chose it first.

In some of the review comments, it had been described as a winery right out of Tuscany. Although we have never been to Tuscany, this winery certainly looked like the images I had seen in photographs. And set on a hill, it reminded me of one of the first California wineries we had visited, Sterling.

We immediately found a seat at the tasting bar and began our experience.

Looking through the doors of the tasting room, we saw an expansive porch overlooking the vineyards and learned we could take our glasses there. The weather was perfect and the view most pleasurable.

Once we had found our favorite wine, we decided to have our lunch there. Montaluce has a large and elegantly styled restaurant with outdoor seating on the porch as well. We dined alfresco on a delicious lunch prepared with many ingredients grown on the property. Although their wine prices were on the higher end of our price range, the wine we chose was delicious and the remainder became our starting wine for dinner that night.

Our second winery was Frogtown, claiming to be the most award winning US winery not in California. We got there about an hour before closing and almost had the place to ourselves.

It too was elegantly decorated and had an even better view of the mountains from the porch outside the tasting room/dining room.

So close to closing and during the week, we had the sommelier to ourselves and so received special treatment.   One of the wines included in our tasting was the only grape indigenous to the United States, Norton. While it was not one of our favorite wines, it was interesting to try the one varietal native to the US.

When it came time to make our purchase decision, we asked our sommelier what her favorite wine was. She gave us a complimentary tasting and we agreed with her, it was very good and so added a bottle of it to our purchase.

Their grounds were very nicely landscaped and I thought a photo with their wine and Koi would make a nice reminder of our visit there.

For our third winery, we traveled about 20 miles away from our home base of Dahlenago (pronounced “Dah-lahn’-e-ga”) to Helen, GA to Habersham Winery which is just outside of town. We had read that Helen was a bit like Gatlinburg, TN, only smaller so we knew we would encounter more tourists. When we pulled into the city, we were met with a quaint little German town but with no free parking anywhere and lots of pedestrians. Thankfully we were there during the week so the crowds were smaller.

We made our way to the winery and went inside. This was the smallest of the wineries we visited with a tasting bar that could accommodate only about 12 to 16 people at a time. There were no chairs for tasting but the nice thing about their reasonably priced tasting was that you got to pick your own wines. And their wines were the most inexpensive we’d seen ($14 to $20 range).

We even found a nice Rose’ for our daughter-in-law.

With the lower prices, we opted for a half case garnering the discounted price.

Our fourth and final winery was Kaya, back near our cottage. This winery had previously been Blackstock (closed in 2012) and with the new owners, big plans had been developed for an on-property hotel and cabins. They had two separate tasting rooms, one small and one large as well as an outdoor tasting area.

The view from their outdoor area offered the best view we had seen of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Since this was our second winery of the day, we chose to split a tasting and they generously poured us a larger portion of each wine since we were sharing.

We found a favorite red here also and so had to take a bottle of it home as well.

Sadly this was all the time we had for wineries on our trip. But since the main purpose of our 3-day vacation was not just to visit wineries, we felt we had done a good job of introducing ourselves to North Georgia wineries. And we had purchased a nice collection of wines to take home and enjoy…

…although some of them ended up as “fallen soldiers” (with a couple of CA wines thrown in for comparison) before we’d left town.

With nearly 30 wineries in the area, we felt we should definitely make a return trip to sample more of what this area had to offer. And with a newfound appreciation for their wines, I will certainly look for some of them on my next stop at our local wine store.

Finally, a Vacation!

The last weekend in July/first week in August my wife and I finally took a long overdue vacation. With me still working full time, most of my vacation days each year get spent teaching and visiting family leaving little time off for just the two of us. But that certainly got remedied with this trip.

My wife wanted to pick a place that we had never been before and one that was not too far away so we would not end up using a lot of my vacation time just driving there and back. Since she no longer works full time, she did the research and made our arrangements to travel to Dahlonega in the mountains of North Georgia, a place neither of us had ever heard of but an area which had a flourishing wine country.

At the last minute, our vacation got combined with a quick trip to visit my wife’s dear sister in North Carolina for a celebratory party so we did not get to our rental cabin until late Sunday afternoon. Getting there was an adventure in and of it self.

Relying on the trusty GPS in my wife’s Subaru Outback, we had no trouble getting to our remote destination until the very end when our GPS directed us to basically follow what appeared to be nothing more than a footpath and fjord a creek. Fortunately our contact at the rental agency was available by phone that Sunday afternoon to reroute us to a less treacherous path. We had been told the last mile was a rough dirt road but this partially washed out road was actually an improvement over the one we were faithfully following on the GPS.

Our cottage could not have been more perfect. With a quant and cozy interior,…

…a deck overlooking the river,…

…a screened in porch for if the bugs started biting,…

…and a dock right on the river where we could enjoy breakfast each morning.

We could not have asked for more.

Our first night we drove into Dahlonega to eat dinner. When we pulled into the historic downtown square, we found that the old courthouse had been turned into a Gold Mining museum. This got me thinking way back to a time when our young family of five had vacationed in Atlanta and went to Six Flags over Georgia. I recalled a roller coater ride we all thoroughly enjoyed, the Dahlonega Runaway Mine Train (my kids were most impressed I had remembered the name of the ride).

A little research on my part confirmed that this ride was based on the old gold rush days that started in 1829 in North Georgia, the first gold rush in the US predating the one in California by over twenty years. It felt really satisfying to be staying in a place that we thought we had never heard of before but which turned out to have had a fun family connection many years ago.

After wandering around the historic square for a while, we settled on an Irish pub for a hearty dinner.

The next day, we hit our first winery, Montaluce, which had been described as a winery right out of Tuscany (more information about wineries in next post).

Our next stop was back in Dahlonega since many of the shops had been closed the day before. We took in the Mine Museum first where we finally learned the correct pronunciation of the town’s name (I recalled pronouncing the Six Flags ride as De Longa which was totally wrong, the correct pronunciation is “Dah-lahn’-e-ga”, native Cherokee for yellow or gold color). Having had a late lunch after our wine tasting, we decided to pick up groceries to cook out a nice dinner to have on our river deck.

Our second full day was to take in one of my wife’s main objectives, getting to hike on part of the Appalachian Trail (AT), the southern trailhead for which, is less than 25 miles away. My wife found a portion of the AT that also had a fabulous overlook of a falls near by. We had attempted to hike a portion of the AT on a previous trip but had been foiled by blisters which developed on my wife’s feet on the three mile uphill hike just to get to the AT. This time we could drive the whole way to the AT path crossing, although the Forestry Service dirt road was described as “rough in spots”.

At times, I felt I was trying to drive our car on a washed out footpath with stretches where we could not exceed five miles per hour due to the rocky and washboard contour. Thank goodness for my wife’s all-wheel drive Outback! And when we came across an owl just sitting in the road (a special bird to my wife), we knew we would make it.

In spite of getting treacherously low on fuel, we found the AT crossing and hopped out for our adventure. The mile hike up to the falls was not too steep and when we found a sign along the way; we knew we had to get my wife’s photo.

And the falls were fabulous, being some of the tallest in the state.

After returning to our cottage to get cleaned up, we made it to our second winery, Frogtown, with a very large tasting room that overlooks the Blue Ridge Mountains.

On our third and final full day, we drove a short distance to Helen, GA, a cute little German town but probably a bit too touristy. My wife thoroughly enjoyed going through an antique store in a historic three-story house. It was a multi-level maze of displays, one that left me so overwhelmed, I had to just sit outside and read while my wife thoroughly explored it. Then it was off to our third winery next door.

Right across the road was an old gristmill, which on Saturdays, the old stone mill is water driven to grind the various grains. They had containers of cooked porridge and Southern grits for sampling, both delicious and of course we had to purchase.

At an old grocer in town, we had a quick lunch and then picked out some nice ingredients to have with our wine for dinner.

Returning to Dahlonega, we found our fourth winery and enjoyed another tasting overlooking the mountains.

That night we cooked our dinner to have on the porch of our cottage overlooking the river.

While dining, it gave us a chance to reflect on what fun our vacation had been. We both commented that it had not been one of those vacations of just sitting around and relaxing. Knowing that our days were limited, we tried to do as much as we could in the time we had. We agreed that it was not tiring at all but actually very enjoyable getting to see and do all these things in a locale neither of us had been to before.

We couldn’t say any one particular activity was our favorite as there were so many we had enjoyed. But for my wife, I know deep down one of her most pleasurable was getting on the AT, a goal she has had for quite some time of getting to hike.

At over 2,100 miles long, we only got a small taste on our short AT excursion but it will probably be motivation for her to take the next step (no pun intended). And since there were many more wineries we did not get to, I know we will plan another trip here sometime in the future.

My Favorite Foods

I am really surprised at myself for not thinking of writing on this topic before now.

Particularly considering that, with my mother who loved to cook and loved to eat even more, that I was exposed to good food growing up. But for whatever reason, this topic finally came to me recently and I felt I needed to explore it.

I suspect everyone has his or her favorite food, ranging from the exotic to the mundane.   For me, my all time favorite may seem rather simple to many but to me, it’s great—a juicy hamburger.

For as long as I can remember, I have always loved hamburgers. This was also my favorite food growing up. And one of my most memorable experiences as a child was the day I got to eat a hamburger not just for lunch and dinner, but for breakfast as well.

The occasion was we were on vacation and had stopped at a breakfast griddle (maybe a Waffle House or similar chain of the 1960s). Our family of six was seated at the counter and as the waitress asked each of us what we wanted to order, I confidently stated “a hamburger.” The waitress paused as an odd expression came on her face and then my mother piped up and said if that was what I wanted for breakfast, I should get it. And I did! Since we were travelling all that day, it was fairly easy for me to get a burger at lunch and dinner at the restaurants where we ate completing a perfect trifecta.

I was probably 8 or 9 at the time but still over 50 years later, I vividly recall that special occasion.

Pimento Cheese Burger Sliders

Considering this is my preferred food choice, I have had a lifetime of trying hamburgers all over the US as well as internationally with variations from just the ordinary to an extra-special gourmet burger. But of all the burgers I have eaten, my favorite continues to be a Huey’s burger, right here in Memphis, TN.

This is also the burger I most frequently have since my wife and I eat there at least once a week to enjoy a good beer and burger.

My second favorite food is steak (notice a pattern here). But not just any steak, a bacon-wrapped filet mignon from Charlie’s Meat Market that I cook my own special way.

I actually started buying these steaks (in various sizes from 6 to 12 oz.) at Charlie’s even before I got married so with me having been married for over 37 years, I have probably been buying these at the same location on Summer Avenue for almost as long as Charlie has been in business (Charlie’s also happens to supply hamburger meat to Huey’s, thus being the provider for my top two favorite foods).

While this is my second favorite food, I rarely order it out as I have found via costly experience that many restaurant steaks are just no where near as good as a Charlie’s filet that I cook on my own grill. With my wife not being the meat lover that I am, this is frequently what I cook for myself whenever she has a business or social dinner to attend.

My third favorite food is salmon but living close to the Mississippi River where catfish is much more prevalent, I don’t get good salmon all that often. The best salmon I get to eat is whenever I am traveling to a region that has access to a much greater selection of fresh seafood. And looking down the menu, a restaurant’s salmon dish is almost always the first entrée to catch my attention.

The seafood chain, Legal Seafood, always has an excellent salmon dish and whenever I get to eat there, it is usually a toss up between salmon and crab cakes, a very rich and delicious alternative that I never can get in Memphis.

But of all the places I have ordered salmon, probably my favorite is a brewpub in New Brunswick, NJ, Harvest Moon (a city where I teach at least once or twice a year).

Here I get to combine my love for great beer with the taste of really great salmon. And their salmon dish is different and unique every time I go (and always excellent).

Finally, my fourth favorite food is pizza, not just purchased at a restaurant, but also cooked in our own oven as one of my wife’s eclectic toppings on homemade dough.

Probably our most often purchased pizza is from Memphis Pizza Café but while in graduate school, I know I consumed a large quantity of Garibaldi’s pizza. Of late, I have had a number of Pyro’s Pizzas, which are thin personal pizzas (this particular one making its appearance at my private Super Bowl party).

Bosco’s is another fine pizza restaurant and since they also brew their own beer, is a favorite meal combination. This year, one of their specialty pizzas allowed me to indulge in two of my favorites, a cheeseburger pizza.

I tried to think of what would be my fifth favorite food to round out a “Top 5” list but nothing jumped out at me to the same degree as these four, the ones I usually think of first whenever hunger comes my way. While my food palate may not be as broad as many of my readers, it does encompass a number of ethnicities—Italian, Mexican, Indian, Thai, Indonesian—just to name a few, and includes chicken, fish, and salads (probably the healthiest choice).

Indonesian rijsttafel (rice table) in Amsterdam

So if you happen to be dining with me sometime and ask what I would like, you now know what my top four choices would be. So if you are interested in something else, you can always preface your question by saying beyond my top four, what would I like to eat?

Bon-appétit!

I Love Glass!

I have always been enamored with glass artwork. I don’t know why; maybe it’s the intense colors or unique shapes they often have. Whenever I am at an art museum or art store, any objects made of glass always catch my eye. And when choosing a piece of original art to buy, I typically gravitate to those made of glass.

But of all the glass artwork that I have ever seen, pieces created by Dale Chihuly are my favorite. If you have never seen any of his artwork, I would highly recommend checking out his website at Chihuly.com.

I think I was first exposed to Chihuly when one of his exhibitions came to an art museum in Memphis. My first experience was incredible, taking this art form to a whole new level for me! Of particular interest was a display of intricately interwoven multi-colored pieces resting on a glass ceiling that you walked underneath. It was amazing!

A number of years went by before I was able to see another one of his exhibitions. I happened to be in Oklahoma City visiting my sister when she suggested we go to an art museum in downtown that happened to have a special Chihuly exhibit. I obviously jumped at the chance and had another thoroughly enjoyable experience.

While at the museum, we also got a chance to see a couple of videos of how Chihuly produces his beautiful pieces. If you have ever seen a picture of Dale Chihuly, you will immediately notice that he wears an eye-patch over his left eye, the result of a car accident many years ago. As a result of this injury, he has lost his stereoscopic vison meaning he has diminished depth perception. But in spite of this disability, Chihuly creates his glass art using a team approach with him as the creator and director. In fact, blowing some of the larger pieces literally could not be done without a team.

In the museum gift shop, I was amazed to see that some of his pieces were actually for sale. But the price for even a medium-sized piece was $15,000, well out of my price range. However, there were several books on his work (much more affordable) that featured some of his large outdoor installations. These photos were absolutely amazing.

My sister noticed my interest in one of these books and since it was close to my birthday, she surreptitiously purchased this one and gave it to me for my birthday.

It was a great gift that I read cover to cover!

Then one year on my annual trip to Amsterdam, I happened to walk past an art store on my way to the Van Gogh museum when I noticed they had Chihuly pieces for sale.

Even in Euros, I still could not afford one but it helped me to decide that my favorite shape of his work was what he called a Macchia, this particular one a bowl within a bowl.

And once looking for furniture at a local modern furniture store, I discovered that among the many furnishings they carried were what became known to me as “fake-Chihuly’s.” And at a price 1/30 the cost of a real Chihuly of similar size, I could definitely afford this (the real artist is Ioan Nemtoi).

This became my favorite piece of glass art that we owned and it enjoyed a prominent location at our home first and then at our condo.

Then in 2013, I got to experience what for me was the grand slam of Chihuly exhibits when my wife, daughter and I toured his Glass House and Garden, right next to the Space Needle in Seattle.

It far exceeded any display I had seen to date. Even the outdoor installations were amazing; my first experience of these.

And incredibly, the glass house was available for renting out for special occasions. Can you imagine having your wedding reception here?

This past July, I got another chance to experience Chihuly art when I went to visit my sisters in northwest Arkansas. While the main reason to drive over was to see my two sisters…

…what tipped the scale for this particular trip was the fact that Crystal Bridges had a special Chihuly exhibit, both indoors and outdoors.

Obviously, the Macchias caught my eye…

…but what was most impressive was a new display I had never seen before, explosions of glass, illuminated with ever changing light colors set to classical music. It was almost as if it were an indoor fireworks display with appropriate “oohs” and “awes” as the colors changed.

The outdoor displays…

…were no less stunning.

The only downside of the outdoor exhibit was the blistering afternoon heat, 95°F in the shade, which made returning to the cool interior of the museum that much more comforting. At night, the outdoor displays are lighted and on Saturday night, they have live music as well. Being a Saturday, we debated about coming back in the evening but ultimately decided we would wait until the fall when cooler evening temperatures would make the whole experience that much more enjoyable.

Naturally in the museum gift shop, they had Chihuly pieces for sale, smaller than the ones I remembered seeing in Oklahoma, but much more reasonably priced, although still above my price range even for this one, my favorite.

While the exhibit at Crystal Bridges was not of the same scale as Chihuly’s Glass House in Seattle, Washington (his home state), it was none the less enjoyable. Combined with visiting family and having several great meals together, it was an all-around A+ weekend of art and family time.

Moving

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In 2015, I chronicled all the towns I had lived in during my lifetime as well as shared some of the more significant firsts that I experienced in each of those towns. But an aspect that I did not address in that post to any large extent, was the friends I had to give up each time we moved.

While modern social media and electronic communication tools have allowed me to reconnect to some of these old friends, they can’t make up for the many years of lost opportunity for staying in touch.

While getting the chance to live in different cities throughout your life can certainly broaden your horizons in terms of experiences and even opportunities, I am actually jealous of my wife who has lived in the same town her whole life and still has friends from when she was five years old. And she even got to live in the same town with many of her aunts, uncles, and cousins as well as some of her grandparents.

For someone under the age of 18, the main reason we move is for one of our parents changing jobs. In my case, it wasn’t so much changing jobs as it was changing churches. My father was a Presbyterian minister and so each time we moved was when, as he put it, “we were called to another church.”

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The first time I moved, I was only four years old so I can’t say that I really even had friends at that age that I gave up in moving.

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The second time I moved was in the mid-1960s when I was 10 years old and I certainly did leave friends behind. I had both friends at school and friends in our neighborhood. This was before the age of any electronic devices so most play was highly interactive with other kids outdoors.

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The third time I moved was absolutely the hardest. Not just because of the friends and activities I left behind but also because of what I faced in my new town. I was 14 years old—just barely a teenager—when we moved during the summer between my 8th and 9th grades. At that time, the 9th grade was the upper grade of junior high school (no such thing as middle school then). I walked in the door that September as an outsider. Most everyone else in school had gone to the same elementary schools and so had been friends for eight years already. What would most of them want to have to do with somebody new when they were at the pinnacle of seniority, their “senior” status so to speak?

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It was very difficult to make friends in school that year. I was able to join the school newspaper so I could at least fit in somewhere and was able to make some friends serving in that capacity.

On the other hand, it was very easy for me to make friends at church as everybody knew who I was coming in, one of the PKs (preacher’s kids).

The following year, I started high school where 10th grade was new to all of us. Some groups of friends carried over from junior high school but with other junior high schools feeding into my high school, I was not the only new kid in town. In high school, I mostly made new friends with other kids in my classes of interest, science and math.

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Once I graduated from high school, the whole dynamics changed. No longer was I moving somewhere to make new friends, everyone was moving on—to college.

In spite of graduating with over 650 fellow students, not one of my friends attended the same college as I was enrolled in, Southwestern at Memphis (now Rhodes College). But that was OK as everyone in the freshman class was also new to the school.

After graduating college, people scattered all over the country, some returning to their hometowns, some moving onto graduate school in other cities, and some starting jobs throughout the country.

And all this time, college and two different graduate degrees, I stayed in the same town. It was quite ironic that now the roles had reversed and everyone else was moving away leaving me behind.

Even as a married adult, friends have continued to move away to other jobs and other opportunities and yet my wife and I have continued to live in Memphis, for my 35+ year professional career.

My wife wrote a very thought provoking blog post several years ago about friendship foreclosure and how it really takes a tremendous active effort on the part of someone to maintain friendships. I don’t know if I have used the excuse of me moving or other friends moving away to prevent me from having a large number of friends. I am an introvert so it is certainly much easier for me to do something on my own rather than to call up a friend and do something together. At the age of 60, I have two best friends—my wife of 35+ years and my only brother who is a couple of years younger than me—and one long-term dear friend, R, who I still regularly correspond with via e-mail and text.

So moving a lot growing up as well as friends moving away has definitely contributed to me not having many friends at this point in my life. But interestingly, moving is something that we are considering now that I am approaching retirement. We have always lived in Memphis throughout our marriage because that is where my job has been. In spite of numerous work force reductions and company buyouts, my job has remained, at the same location and even in the same building.

But that all changes the day I retire. No longer are we tied to this city because that is where my employment is. We are free to move almost anywhere we want.

My wife and I have already made a list of things we would want in a home and in a town if we were to move after I retire. We drafted this list in 2011, just after our two oldest kids had gotten married. Another “want” that has arisen since we created that list is living close to our grandkids, three so far.

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Not that this is a decision we will rush into or one that will be easy. It will take some time and extensive research. For my wife, it will be a big change since she has never lived anywhere else. As for me, it will be my first move out of town in over 40 years.

But no matter where we move to, we will still have our midtown condo to come back to be able to visit with friends and family in town. And in our new home, we plan to live near family as well. Because even though friendships have developed and then waned over the years due to my moving and theirs, our family will always remain.

Mom’s Photo Albums

In addition to my dad’s sermons that I brought home from my sister’s house last year, another item was a box of my mom’s old photo albums. My first task was to organize all of my dad’s sermons and once I completed that, I began to go through the old albums with the intent of scanning them to create digital copies. There was a box of loose photos and five separate photo albums. The loose photos and albums scanned the period from the early 1960s to 1996, an almost 40 year period ending just three years before my mom died. It turned out to be a trip down memory lane going through them all with some wonderful discoveries along the way; images that I never knew had even been captured on film.

This is a school photo I found of myself from when I was in the 5th grade. I didn’t even recall seeing it before so it was a special find.

And here is one of our whole family taken at my grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary. It was amusing to see how young all of us looked in the early 1960s.

The album from 1970 was so old that I was afraid I would destroy the photos trying to get individual photos out to scan. So I just scanned the entire pages.

This first page captured a visit of my aunt, uncle, and cousin when they came to see us soon after we moved to Memphis. It was a bitter sweet memory when I viewed this page as almost as soon as they returned home after this trip, my cousin became gravely ill with hepatitis and spent many weeks in the hospital before thankfully making a full recovery but then almost within days of returning home, my aunt died of a brain hemorrhage. To further sadden this memory, my cousin, who was just a year younger than me died of a sudden heart attack before he even reached the age of 50.

The picture on the bottom right is actually the one happy memory as it is of me in my bedroom where I spent many an hour building car models just as I was captured doing in this photo. But certainly tempered by the sad events that unfolded soon after that visit.

Also included in that album was a photo of my uncle sitting on my motorcycle at his home in Texas. I sold it to my cousin after we moved to Memphis as I never licensed it in Tennessee because of concerns about me driving it in Memphis, a much busier traffic city than the one from which we had moved which had a population of less than 10,000.

This is the only other photo I thought existed of my old motorcycle.

This is an even older image…

…one of my brother and I when we bought a mini bike that preceded the motorcycle. With our paper route earnings, we together purchased it when we lived in that small town and would ride it up and down our semi-rural street.

Here is a photo of my brother and I with our dad when we were learning to play golf together. This was one of the “father-son” activities my dad suggested we take up once we had moved to the “big” city with public golf courses available. This was obviously taken after that first outing when we learned that each player was supposed to have his own bag and set of clubs (the first time we golfed, all three of us played out of the bag pictured next to my dad).

And this picture is special of my sister with her first car, significant probably much more to me than my sister as she let me learn how to drive a stick shift in her new car.

My dad was a huge fisherman probably going fishing almost every week of his adulthood. Here he is with the largest fish he ever caught, a dolphin landed on a deep-sea fishing excursion we took one summer on vacation in Destin, FL.

The next photo album jumped forward to 1980 the year my parents left Memphis and moved to a small community church in northwestern Louisiana.

We made many trips there prior to my dad retiring in 1989.

It was a relaxing, probably idyllic pre-retirement setting for my parents.

But when I opened the 1996 album and perused the photos, I was shocked at how much my mom had aged in the few short years since the end of the last album.

Some of the photos were even taken of her in the hospital as she had been in and out seeking treatment for numerous medical issues that arose as she neared the end of her life. Some of the photos brought tears to my eyes and I couldn’t bear to scan them, as I didn’t want to remember her that way.

As I closed the cover of that last album, tears running down my cheeks, I suddenly felt a tremendous sense of loss over my parents. On a daily basis, I probably don’t think about my parents what with me still working full time, having granddaddy duties, and maintaining a loving relationship with my wife of over 35 years. But it seemed that last album brought the death of my parents crashing down around me, a loss felt anew with fresh tears as I typed these words.

So I decided this was the memory I would try to etch in my mind of my parents, from December 1989, the year my dad retired and long before the medical conditions took their ravish toll on both my parents.

I miss you Mom and Dad. I love you and will always remember you dearly.