Tireless Relatives

My brother Bob and wife Beth could make the Energizer Bunny look anemic. They exhibit an aura of youth and vibrancy that at times makes me feel breathless. Lack of breath was a reality when they joined us in our morning walk to the creek. I could almost keep up with them going downhill, but the steep grade of Qualla Road? No way! It has become a tradition for me to take a photo of those who walk with us all the way to Jonathan Creek. That is a bit unfair, since no one looks his best after a mile-long, brisk walk. Still, people are more relaxed at the creek than after hoofing it up the steep hill.

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I thought more about walking after being with the Energizers. There are various groups for sports, like heavy weight and light weight boxers. There are age groups for long foot races so that a 20-year-old isn’t competing against a 70-year-old. I need this kind of distinction! If nothing else, I want the peace of mind that I’m not a walking failure. I can’t compete against tall people like Beth and Bob whose strides must be two yards long. And grandson Nathaniel? At 6’4” he must go 1/8th of a mile with each step. I’d put myself in the Short Stride group, one step above Baby Stride. Going up the scale, we could have Normal, Tall, Giant, and Ginormous Strides. I need a mathematician here to set my foot-icap.

Our group activity was going to the Smith-McDowell mansion in Asheville, which I think is the oldest brick mansion in the city. Our tour began in the basement where the winter kitchen was on display. Each room on the upper two floors showed a different time period for the house, and there was a hands-on table in every room. We could pick up a curling iron, look through a stereoscope, and try using a button hook. In the dining room people were invited to arrange a place setting on a table, a challenge to get the plates and cutlery in the proper position. A most knowledgeable and engaging guide enhanced this visit as she introduced us to the past inhabitants with photographs. We wandered about on our own, but she was there to answer all our questions. How I wish I had taken her picture as she showed me how to work a mountain toy made with two sticks! The one you held steady had notches on it with a whirling blade at the end, only I couldn’t make it move. The other was just a plain stick that you rubbed back and forth over the notches. The trick was to hook your finger over the stick to make the blade go one way and press your thumb against the other side to reverse the blade.

Nathaniel was our chef, cooking turkey burgers and brats while I assembled the rest of the meal.

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David volunteered to help Beth and Bob continue my battle with the juniper bed. By the time dinner was ready, they had trimmed about 95 percent of it back to the original stone boundaries. I had never seen those stones, since they were already overgrown when we moved here.

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Lively conversation was a part of every meal. I may not have written about Nathaniel’s prowess with words. He has a wonderful vocabulary and speaks with confidence on many subjects. However, you need to be alert. When he doesn’t know the correct word, he inserts one he has made up on the spot. It’s such a smooth part of the patter that you wonder if you heard it correctly. I let him finish his sentence, but I called him on “oblitherate.” All of us managed to use that word at least 10 times, including a laughing Nathaniel. What a good sport he is!

After our walk (breathless for me), we had a leisurely breakfast. Nathaniel challenged Beth to do more gardening. She, Bob, and I finished off the juniper jungle while our favorite teen dug up the iris bed. We had a few blooms the first spring and only one this year. The fellows retreated to the cool house as we went after the weeds and replanted the iris nearer the top of the dirt. Fair-skinned Bob came out to applaud our progress, hiding from the sun in the shade of the crepe myrtle for the viewing.

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I assumed our projects were finished when Bob mentioned the refrigerator. He and Nathaniel were on the floor looking at it, supervised by John and Beth. Bob vacuumed the grill, and they cleaned behind the appliance while John went for the part we needed.

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The toy camera insisted on a farewell picture to show our relatives when they weren’t working. Grandson David was missing from most of thesephotos because he was at work.

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