Thursday, August 03, 2006


For those of you that aren't already weeping from boredom, I've got a story of the good old days. I've been hiding at the old Seminole Hotel in Lake Wales this summer, working on a writing project. I'm here so that I can get some work done without being surrounded by people who want me to "come lookit this here, Bob... just come here a minnit... cumere dammit." For your information, it's worked pretty good. I'm on Chapter 11 of 12. Heck... I've impressed my own self. Every day I get up at the crack of 10 and sip some self brewed 1 cup coffee (a new toy that I wish I'd found years ago... makes 1 cup), then I proof read yesterday's prose then start to flog my laptop until supper time. After a leisurely supper at Woodies BBQ (good pit smoked meat, good Brunswick Stew, excellent smoked turkey, excellent bannana pudding... what else does a man need?) ... I go back to my hideyhole and keep writing till I find myself running out of steam. Then I kill time with my blog or go walk around countrified downtown Lake Wales chatting it up with the cruising deputies and a few of the late night small businessmen. Just another white guy, but both groups have learned to ignore me. Then tomorrow... the same routine.

Now, I eat there every day so naturally I know all the waitresses as if they are my sisters. Of course, they all just love me. Any unmarried hetero with a regular income is put on the A list by all these country girls. Plus... I'm one of those guys who radiates something that says "You girls shouldn't be afraid of this guy." Anyhow, I've had a few very nice offers this summer... taken a few of them, too... but mostly I've tried to stick to my writing regimen. I'm proud of myself. I guess what I'm saying is that I have gleaned more information from listening to these waitresses chatter this summer than I normally would. For instance...

A girl asked for my advice about wet nursing. When was the last time you've had a relative stranger ask you about that? Anyhow, this customer had a baby a few days ago and it seems that she can't breast feed her new kid because she has mercury in her milk. She wanted to breast feed cause it's supposed to be better, but her milk is no good. This gal who works there at Woodies just had a baby a few weeks ago and she went to high school with the gal who is looking for a wet nurse. My only suggestion was to ask for something in writing and then to have her own milk tested. My waitress friend went and got the needy new mom and the three of us sat down and talked it over. They managed to work it all out and all it cost me was three servings of bannana pudding. What a guy.

The whole deal put me into old-guy mode big time. See... when I was born I had a wet nurse... Miz Bertha, who was my grandmother's housekeeper for about a hundred years. My mother surely didn't have mercury milk, but my masterful grandmother was convinced that she was not "robust" enough for yeoman style milking. Too ladylike, I guess. Anyhow, Mama Bertha was my wetnurse and wiped my nose and spanked my behind if she thought I needed it for my whole life. I recall my mother talking to Bertha's youngest granddaughter about the care and handling of those two frail, elderly women once when I had come home from the service. Bertha would get up early and walk to my grandmother's house. She would clean up the spotless kitchen, make two cups of tea and make some dry toast... wheat toast made from home cut bread so thin that if it would burn if you weren't real careful. Mama was afraid that it was too far for Bertha to walk and wanted to get her a car to drive, but Bertha wouldn't hear of it. She scolded my mother the same was she scolded that snot nosed little kid that she used to wetnurse. Those old women would sit in that kitchen all day talking about grandchildren and them damned Roosevelt democrats and the price of watermelons and God knows what else.

Bertha's family was real important to my grandfather. He paid all four of those kids way through college and now two of them are teachers, one of them is a doctor, and the fourth is an AME preacher running a big church down in south Florida.

When my grandmother died I found Bertha cleaning my grandmother's kitchen the day of the funeral. She had done all the usual morning chores and was sitting at the kitchen table sipping tea and nibbling a piece of wheat bread dry toast. I sat with her and we talked about the old days. She had outlived all the rest of the women in my family. She was the last.

"She never was real strong, you know."

That old lady died herself a month later.

I don't think that we have those kind of loving caregivers in our lives any more... and we're impoverished by that.