Birthday Wrap-up

Sister Chris and Steve staged the final celebration of John’s 78th birthday. What a delight it was! We met in South Carolina, about halfway between our towns, and feasted on Italian food at Olive Garden. The wait staff let us stay as long as we had breath and the will to talk. Chris took a photo of us from across the table.

We dispensed with aging illnesses quickly, caught up on church news, and went to the fun stuff. We talked about cruising, driving to New York, and family anecdotes. I enjoyed listening to Chris and John compare their special times spent with their doctor dad. Occasionally when Dr. M. went on house calls, he would take one child with him. Chris remembers always having her library book to read while he saw a patient. John’s treat was stopping by a freight yard on the way home to watch the steam engine rearranging cars. Steve doesn’t volunteer much, but he will respond if asked a direct question. I asked if he and his dad did anything special together.

Steve told the story of his invitation to be on the board of directors of a national religious organization. He told the members of the board, “I’m surprised you asked me to serve, after all the nights I’ve spent in jail.”

He made it more graphic for us. He said you get an odd feeling when the gate clangs shut at night and you hear the key turning in the lock.

For 23 years I worked for Steve in the accounting firm, and he was the fairest employer I’d ever known. I admired him for many things, especially the way he lived his faith. His standing in the community was very high. Jail???

The background is this. Steve’s uncle was the sheriff of a distant town, and occasionally his dad took him to see those relatives. They lived in small quarters in the jail. Everyone visited during the day, and Steve and his dad spent the night in a jail cell – plenty of space with no cost to them or the town. It certainly made a good story the way Steve strung it out.

Because Chris and Steve gave John a birthday balloon, the waitress brought him a free dessert. Nice! Now we are enjoying that balloon marking John’s seat in our house. The added bonus is that the fellows will put pressure on me to dispose of our Fourth of July balloon. I won’t fight them on it.

Model Trains at University

We went to see the model train museum on the campus of East Tennessee State University in Johnson City. There were exhibits behind glass, as you’d expect in a museum, but people came to see the big layout where little trains were running. That felt more like a train club, because members were running their trains and tinkering with things behind the scenery. Grandson David and John were looking at one small corner of the room.

John and David looked at the front of the layout. You are looking at the back.

John pointed out a mining town where all the houses looked alike. We noted each had an outhouse behind it.

Looking closer, I saw chickens and knew I had to have a photo of that for blogging friend Chicken Grandma. ( The figures of people are small, and the chickens are teensy-tiny.

A different room was dedicated to the Tweetsie Railroad. The members are in the process of modeling parts of this North Carolina railroad. That’s where I found a safe haven – a seat tucked under the place where tracks will be laid. You may know I can walk easily for an hour, but please don’t ask me to stand still for more than five minutes! I sat in that green chair and wouldn’t have minded if David and John drooled over trains for five hours.

I don’t know if bathroom signs are becoming more fun, or if I’ve just begun to notice them. This sign was posted for university students, most of whom probably have a Southern accent.

Accident on 276

Just after grandson David left for work at 6:40, I received a text message about an accident on the highway. I signed up for emergency messages from the county, and this was the first one I received. It said, “Jonathan Creek Road is closed @Powell Saw Mill due to a traffic accident. Avoid the area.”

We knew David was driving the other way and proceeded with our morning walk. Going down the steep hill, we realized people were using Qualla Road to get around the blockage. Normally about five cars pass us, and this time there must have been 15.

This was the scene we saw as we crossed the road. I had zoomed in with the camera, so we were not as close as it appears.

John suspected there had been a death, because we didn’t get a message that the road was opened until three and a half hours later. We didn’t expect to know anything more and went about our day. After school, neighbor Logan (9) visited with us for an hour or so. Bob came to the door to get him, and John asked if he knew anything about the accident. He had the details. There had been a previous accident on the road, a bit closer to I-40. Claud, a first responder, sped toward the site and smashed into the back of a logging truck. He was killed instantly. Bob knew him, because Claud was the one who responded to a couple of emergency calls on our street.

It is sobering to find you have a slight connection with someone whose life ended abruptly like that. It’s a warning to stay prayed up and ready to go.

On a brighter note, I found some blooms on plants near the fence. Neighbor Joyce shared a bunch of roots with us a year ago. They not only survived our over-eager mowers, they grew and blossomed.

Bathroom Chuckles

We stopped for lunch in a pub. David came back from the one restroom in the back, chucking about a sign on the door. Thinking others would enjoy it, I snapped a picture of it.

Looking at it a day later, I wondered if the sign was poking fun at our state. A year or so ago North Carolina passed a law to define which bathroom people should use. We were the laughingstock of the nation, and perhaps the world. The pub had only one public restroom, so obviously everyone would use it. I decided the message of the sign was a good one. It doesn’t matter if you are human or alien, the important thing is to wash your hands before leaving that room.

We went to see the Apple Valley Model Railroad Club, housed in the former train station of Hendersonville. John was impressed with the layouts and the attention to detail in the areas they modeled. There were sections with buildings from Canton, Asheville, Black Mountain, Waynesville, and a few others. I had photos from the sections featuring HO gauge and garden railway size.

There was one engine from the 1/8th scale, which is the size John currently works with at his train club in Tennessee. I need a good picture of him sitting behind his engine as it pulls him around the tracks.

Club members interacted with us as they ran the trains. I laughed when one man told me that I could rest easy if my men were in the hobby. He said, “You know when they aren’t in the house, they are not out somewhere drinking. They are in the garage tinkering with trains.”

On the way home, we stopped at Sunburst Waterfalls, our favorite. I took one photo looking downstream, because the water level was lower than we’ve seen before.

Retirees at Work!

Our little street ends abruptly at the beginning of Dawn’s and Jeff’s driveway. There isn’t much room to maneuver for them or for Shawn and Bob. The men discussed widening the area, and today the gravel was delivered. Neighbor Logan (9) was visiting us when John saw people shoveling. He said he was going out to help, and Logan could go home or help. You’ll see Logan’ choice below.

Shawn texted me, saying, “Should you get some pics of our Tibi Lane workers?? It would make a good blog subject.”

Wow! Does anyone else have a neighbor who promotes your blog in real time?? I would have missed the action entirely, because I was texting with grandson David at the time. The still shot showed the workers. Bob, wearing a red shirt, was almost off camera.

Bob, John, Jeff, Dawn, and Logan

Logan (retired from third grade) was innovative. He tried shoveling gravel into a wheelbarrow, but the equipment was unwieldy for him. He brought out his sled and put it away when it wasn’t efficient. Using a scoop and a bucket was his winning idea. If you can, watch the video clip to see the team in action. Logan moved a LOT of gravel and took in his tools when he was through. What a winner!

When John and I came inside, he showed me the origami frog Logan had made for him. The folds of the paper didn’t show up well in the photo, but the frog was amazing. The card says, “Happy Birthday!! Hope you have a good birthday. Love, Logan”

I say it often, but it bears repeating. We have marvelous neighbors!


The only way we could have made John’s birthday more low-key was to ignore it. I wished him a happy day within 15 minutes of waking up, so give me credit for that. There was no discussion of the birthday meal, since it has become our custom to go to the restaurant that grandson Nathaniel worked in for two summers. John called to make sure they would be serving prime rib, his once-a-year favorite. We went to church and took naps, waiting for the place to open. Evidently it was birthday Sunday, because a woman at the next table was celebrating her 95th.

I took a photo of John and grandson David, because it wouldn’t be a proper celebration in our family without pictorial evidence.

For the foodies: David had Chicken Parmesan with pasta, and I chose Bourbon Pecan-Encrusted Chicken over mashed potatoes. I did not stab the potatoes with a knife; it came that way. John’s meal was exciting to the palette and visually boring.

At home we skipped having a candle on the cake, although we sang the birthday ditty as we put the dessert on the table. We had John’s standard angel cake with strawberries, his favorite since childhood.

David added blueberries to the top, and I was amused that it ended up looking like a silly face.

John is now officially 78 years old. However, at some point he began counting his age backward, so he is really 13 years old now. He teases that when he is two years old, the grandsons will have to wheel him about, like he pushed them in their strollers.

Identifying a Wildflower

I wondered aloud about some bright red berries above the road, knowing neighbor Marla might know the answer. She is a waste-no-time problem-solver. John held Albert’s leash while Marla tried to get a phone app identification. The app didn’t perform, so she took a photo of the plants and hoped one of her friends could give us the answer. I admired her steady hand as she zoomed in for a close-up.

Albert wasn’t interested in berries out of his reach.

Meanwhile, out West, son John $pencer and Rose saw snow beginning to blanket a mountain peak in Wyoming. The next day they were hiking in snow! Do you think dog Sadie was making snow angels?