My Dearest Jordan,
I have just returned from a bittersweet trip to Okeechobee to say a final goodbye to YIB Boney. You surely remember YIB, my third husband that I did not marry who is 13 years older than me. He is living on borrowed time with only one nicely clogged artery barely pumping. I needed to see him before time ran out. Jordan, it has been eight years since that man let the screen door hit me in the ass on the way out his door. A lot of forgiveness has been extended since that fateful day.
Jordan, he called me two months ago asking if he could come spend his final days with me in Indiana. You know he is dying because a hard-headed, set-in-his ways, redneck southern man does not ever think about moving north to live with a Yankee woman in a land that has no swamps and alligators. He surely would not live through a snow storm, but he assured me he would be gone by Christmas. Of course I said yes, but the moon and the stars had to align to make this happen. His health insurance is provided as a result of his military service and the VA turned him down for coverage in Indiana. His health deteriorated quickly after that surprising phone call in May and he often cannot even make the drive to Walmart so it was out of the question to drive one thousand miles to Indiana.
Jordan you know how I love to drive and a road trip is something I yearn for. I offered to fly to Florida and drive him back to Indiana. He says “Good Lord woman, you jus tryin’ to keelll me? I ain’t never gonna survive two days on the road with you.” So you can see Jordan, he loves me just as deeply as ever.
I detest flying with a passion, I don’t know how to travel light but I needed to make the most of my week there. Blessings were extended as the seat next to me on the plane was empty and I enjoyed leg room in the emergency row. At the rental car ticket counter a sweet young lady asked if I might like to upgrade to a Cadillac. Jordan, I nearly choked because YIB Boney had just asked me if I still had my “rag ass Subaru.” I told him I did and it was going to have to last until I died. He said “why don’t ya get ya a Cadeelack Escalade.” I told him that I would consider it right after I figured out how to put a new roof on my house and pave my driveway that was falling apart.” He said, “we’ll talk about it when you get here.” A huge smile crept on my face as I said yes to the upgrade and went streaking across cattle country for the three hour trek out through the pasture to see this crusty curmudgeon.
Once safely beyond the toll booths of the Florida Turnpike, Yee Haw Junction appeared and I knew I was halfway there. My Indiana friends thought I made up the name, so I stopped by the side of the road to snap a picture. Jordan, you know my life is fully documented with photos of everything. It helps me to remember. And remember I did. The heat topped 100 and the humidity matched. Spanish moss hung from the trees and acres of cows and cabbage palms came into view. As anxious as I was to see YIB Boney, I stopped along the way for cow pictures. You know I love those cows equally as much as I love YIB Boney.
Crossing over the Kissimmee River brought tears to my eyes. Jordan, remember years ago I met YIB’s mama who grew up on the banks of the Kissimmee. Not in a house mind you, but literally on the river beneath the cabbage palms and the hickory hammocks. Her daddy was a fisherman and she slept on corn sacks stuffed with palm fronds. She never lived in a house until she married YIB’s daddy when she was just 15. Jordan, I had never heard stories like these before in my entire life. YIB’s mama thought I needed to meet her oldest son and since you never want to argue with a Remington, YIB Boney obliged his mama and called the Yankee girl and the rest is history.
Jordan, I was simply overcome with memories as I pulled the Cadillac into YIB Boney’s driveway. Remembering how we renovated the house to accommodate me moving in after the wreck and head injury. He was right where I left him eight years ago, sitting under the carport and this time he was pulling marigold seeds out of the spent blooms. “Come spring, I’m gonna plant ‘bout a thousand marigolds since they control the nematodes in my garden.” I just shook my head and hugged his neck. “Good to see you too YIB Boney.” Arm in arm, we walked around the property and looked at how everything had grown.
The guava trees were now 20 feet tall and loaded with fruit. My night blooming jasmine was flourishing and just missed the fragrant white blossoms by a week. The staghorn fern was still hanging in the big Live Oak tree and it was stunning.
But half the oak tree was dying. There were two very strong independent trunks. One was flourishing and the other had only a few leaves left. Studying that tree, I reflected on what the last 8 years had done to both of us. One of us was bright and thriving and the other had only a few green leaves left. And there it stood, both trunks joined together yet living separately.
But the custom made redneck chicken coop was a site to behold. Fondly I remembered my first agriculture project with YIB, he taught the city girl how to raise chickens. Not long ago he got a hankerin’ to have more chickens. He bought a ready-made chicken coop at Tractor Supply and this time he bought Sexton chickens, a cross between a Rhode Island Red and Barred Rock. YIB Boney thought he needed to add on to the coop and in redneck fashion, he constructed the addition. The only tool he did not use was a level. Tears came.
He prepared a barbequed pork roast with redneck beans and onions and peppers. Jordan, I had phoned ahead and asked him to make me a simple syrup for a cocktail I thought I might enjoy at the end of my 15 hour day of travel. “YIB, can you make me a simple syrup? Will you heat a cup of water and dissolve a cup of sugar in it?” YIB’s reply “white sugar, you know I don’t keep no white sugar in the house, beins I am a diabetic. Well hold on, I think I found some. You had some canister thang here and I thaank its sugar. Does sugar ever go bad? Wait, there’s just a few little black bugs on top. I’ll just scrape ’em off and boil that syrup real good.”
Jordan, I walked in that house and it was exactly as I had left it 8 years ago. I was amazed by how much I had left behind. He had not moved a thing. He had not cleaned a thing either. I was so glad I brought my own sheets. “YIB do you still have a coffee pot?” “Sure do, same one you used to use.” It was the same one with a thick layer of grime. Inside was petrified coffee grounds from the last time coffee was made. Oh Lord, I hope those grounds are not 8 years old.
After dinner we sat on the couch and watched a western movie. I fell asleep just like the old days. I had already been warned that he cannot sleep and he seldom fell asleep before 4 or 5 in the morning. He woke me up and told me to go to bed. I made my way to my room and was so thankful I had brought my Egyptian cotton sheets. I looked up in the closet and discovered the stuffed dog he had gotten me one year for Christmas. I also discovered an amazing collection of palmetto bug (fancy name for roach) carcasses. He had purchased a new guest room bed for when the Chinese ladies came for their stay and I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable and luxurious it was. I vaguely remember when he came to my door and closed it so he would not disturb me as he watched TV all night. I got up about the time he was going to bed.
Trying to be very quiet, I fixed myself some coffee after cleaning 8 years of grime from the pot. I took my coffee outside and visited with the chickens and gathered some eggs. I walked out to the creek to check on the alligator but he was nowhere to be found. The heat was already pushing 100 and the humidity was thick. I had to go back in.
I needed to get started on dinner prep. We were going to have what I lovingly called our last supper. Jordan, that man could grill and smoke meat and I wanted his amazing baby back ribs. Of all the fine food I had ever fixed for YIB Boney, his request for our last supper was my twice baked potatoes and fried cabbage. Any good meal requires bacon. I needed bacon grease for the fried cabbage and we needed bacon for the twice baked potatoes. I had emailed him a grocery list the week before and he had done a fine job of getting everything I needed. He bought two packages of bacon so I decided to fry all of it up. I hoped the aroma of bacon would wake him up.
Surveying the old stove, I discovered the main burner was missing some key parts and so I figured I could make do with the little back burners. I filled two fry pans with bacon and turned on the burners as smoke rolled from one in the back. Jordan, there was 8 years of grease and grime burning off that burner which had not been turned on since I had been there. The smoke set off the smoke alarm.
Oh Jordan, this was my first morning with him and I was trying to be quiet so he could get some sleep. The shrill sound of the smoke alarm would surely cancel that idea. I ran around trying to find where the smoke detector was located so maybe I could cover it up with a towel to get it to stop. I could not find the darned thing. I did see a fan so I turned it on hoping to blow the smoke away from the smoke detector and that is when a second smoke detector went off. I was beside myself. He would be soooo mad at me.
My ears were nearly deaf from the sound of those sirens. I looked everywhere but could not find them and then I looked down and there on a microwave stand that housed an assortment of knives, ammunition, WD40 and duct tape, were two smoke detectors. I grabbed them and threw them outside and there was immediate silence.
I was laughing so hard at the whole sequence of events knowing any moment he would be strolling into the kitchen with a bewildered look wandering what exactly I had done on my first morning in his house after 8 years. Laughing uncontrollably with tears rolling down my face, I thought to myself, “I wonder why he is not out here yelling at me, those smoke detectors are loud enough to wake the dead” and in an instant I began to cry. He was dead and that was why he did not come running to scold me. He was dead before we ever got to visit. I crept into his room to check for signs of breathing. Be still my heart, the covers were moving up and down. What was wrong with that man. Two sirens could not wake him. I guess he will just burn up in a fire.
Twenty minutes later he got up and came strolling out to the kitchen. “Mornin’ and how you?” he says. “YIB Boney did you seriously not hear the two smoke detectors going off for about a half hour? “What smoke detectors?” he said. I told him the story and he laughed until he had tears rolling down his face. He said “I always wondered if them detectors was any good.” I brought them back in from the porch and they started going off again because the haze of smoke was still hanging in the air. “YIB Boney, they do indeed work but a lot of good it will do since you can’t hear them and you will just burn up if there is a fire.” And so Jordan, that was the opening scene of our last week together.