Arriving back in the town that I grew up in felt surreal. It hadn’t changed much. Still not much more than a few restaurants, some gas stations, a grocery store and schools. Not even a Walmart or Target. How this town was still surviving beats me.
I received a phone call two days ago, while in the middle of a morning business meeting, that my grandfather had passed. I was devastated. I just talked to him a few days before that, we were planning another trip to go fishing in August. He loved fishing. He had had a heart attack in the middle of the night. Anyway, I excused myself out of that meeting and went home to pack and make arrangements to come here. I took the first available flight to Atlanta, then to Savannah a few hours later. Now, driving to my grandparents old house, knowing he wouldn’t be there made it so much harder. I drive slower than the speed limit as if that would make it easier to face what was coming. It didn’t. When I finally arrived, I sat in the car practicing my breathing exercises a couple of times. In,2,3,4. Out,2,3,4. In,2,3,4. Out,2,3,4. With that, I opened the door and stepped out to find my brother, James, waiting for me. “Uh, what were you doing?” He smirks. Always the jokester. I felt a little better with that smirk. It had been about a year since I had seen James. Between our work schedules and living in two different cities, it was near impossible to get together, although, after this, I was going to do better about that. “Breathing, you? How have you been? Where’s your wife? Where’s my niece?” I say all in one breath. He hugs me then waits while I pull my bag out and closes the car door for me. “Everyone is good.. as expected.. no one really counted on this happening.” I nodded. The sadness returning.
James leads me inside to where my parents, aunts and uncles are sitting with several kids running around. A loud round of “hey! where ya been? It’s so good to see you!” happened. Then always those same two questions that come up. “When are you going to find a man and settle down? What happened to what’s his name?” My last boyfriend, Ty, who I really thought was the one until I came home from work early and found him in bed with my next door neighbor six months ago. Yep, that’s my luck with guys lately. “Still looking for him” is my usual, standard answer and it’s no different this time. I decided then that I wasn’t going to be on the market for a man anymore. They can’t seem to keep their promises or their hands to themselves.. at least the ones that I’m attracted to anyway. I sit down next to my Mama and give her a hug. “Hey babygirl, how you holding up?” She asks me. You can tell she has been up for a while, crying. She was a daddy’s girl after all. “I’m ok, Mama.” As well as expected anyway. “How are you?” She just shrugs as she looks over at me. “Could you go pick up food from Kane’s restaurant in town? They texted to let me know it was ready but I really can’t go in there looking like this.” I nod. “Sure. I’ll go.”
Kane’s restaurant is where all the cool kids used to hang out after school.. or more so in the parking lot.. but I always loved getting to go. I could always sweet talk Graham or Weston into buying me a chocolate milkshake whenever I tagged along with them. Graham always teased me about making a mess with them, most of the time that was from him sticking his finger in the whipped cream on the milkshake and putting it on my nose or missing and it getting on my cheek, which led to retaliation. We would both end up with it all over our faces. Moments like that still make me chuckle. Those last few months of middle school I remember trying to make a big deal about him doing that and messing up my makeup since I was trying to show him that I wasn’t a little tomboy anymore.
I grab my purse and head to the car. On the way into town, I turn on the radio and “My Girl” is playing. It takes me back to dancing with my grandpa at my Uncle’s wedding a few years ago. He told everyone that we could “cut a rug” for the longest time. I chuckle at that memory as I pull up to the restaurant. My phone dings.
Mama: Just ask for Diane. She knows you are coming.
Great. I love Ms. Diane, she always likes to talk. Especially about when we were younger. Her daughter, Macy, was one of my best friends in school and always my ally on the bus when the guys ganged up on us. I grab my purse and head inside to find her.