Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Big ol' ball of awkward

Poppa is coming to take the number one son fishing this weekend. He is picking Titus up from school and then they will spend the night and go fishing on Friday. Titus is all ready to go and couldn't talk about anything else but that this morning on the way to school. He was going through his mental check list of things that needed to be taken so he could feel as much at home as possible. Snacks--check. Toys--check. Dragon--check. (Dragon is Titus' imaginary dog who came to life in the form of a Build-A-Bear dog. He loves that dog so much and enjoys his company at bedtime.) Fishing clothes--check. Hat--check. We went through all sorts of contingencies that needed to have a plan, just in case.
Hearing my son talk about his trip to Poppa's with excitement and anticipation took me back to my trips to Robba's. I loved to go to my Robba's house and looked for any chance to go up there and stay. I could usually manage a Friday night through Sunday afternoon trip if I played my cards right. When Robba wasn't working she would come pick me up from school and take me home with her for the weekend. To me, that was condensed joy right there. Me and my Robba all alone just loving being together. I'm sure I won't be able to get through this stroll down memory lane without shedding a tear or two because I miss her as much today as I did the day I kissed her goodbye at her funeral (I think I was about 10 0r 11 when I lost her, 6th grade). When you lose someone you love there is a never filled hole left in your heart. You can feel the love, the warmth of relationship, the closeness that you shared but surrounding all of that is the black hole of loneliness that surrounds those emotions and taps you on the shoulder reminding you that those times and those days are gone and never again to be relived. I just hate losing someone I love, I hate it, hate it, hate it.
Robba was my great aunt. My Mom was raised by her grandmother, Granny, and thus I grew up knowing all of my Mom's aunts and uncles as mine. She does have one brother whom I've met twice in non-funeral settings and at all of the funerals for my family. He is a funeral relative. Robba took care of me as a baby, Mom went to work when I was one, and she and I bonded. She was a bone-thing skinny mini. She had a round face and sandy brown hair cut short and forced into submission by Aqua Net. She usually wore white keds, capri pants and sleeveless cotton shirts. Robba was a smoker and usually had a cigarette burning or in her hand. She rolled her own cigarettes and would have rolling days. I would always sit at the table and watch in utter amazement at how she could roll those cigarettes. Bugler papers in a light blue wrapper. One paper a pinch of Prince Albert tobacco then this magical lick, roll fold technique and viola--cigarette. She would make dozens of those things in a bout an hour and store them in the empty tins so they wouldn't crush. I can still close my eyes and hear the paper sizzling as it was burning.
Going to her house meant all kinds of things to me. I am a huge worrier and was especially bad as a kid. Any kind of change in my normal routine would throw me into a tail spin of awkwardness and make me this tensed up ball of awkward. I would worry myself into a stomach ache and have to camp out near a bathroom worrying myself sick. As a kid who planned for contingencies (such as night time home invasions or storms) I would always think through all of the possible contingencies of what could happen. It usually all started when I began to worry about how I would be picked up. My school was about a mile long and had several doors that you could enter. I would always worry that Robba would be parked at one door and I would be at another. She would wait, and wait then give up and go home leaving me stranded. Oh, the worry. Once I came to believe that she was going to be at the right spot the next dilemma was what to pack. I would get all keyed up about a sudden onset of diarrhea that would soil my clothes. To tell my Robba about this would have been awkward and embarrassing so I would need to have a plan to change clothes and get rid of the old clothes before anyone noticed. I usually planned for at least one change of clothes per day I was gone and then at least one pair of emergency underwear just in case. My two-day trip would usually involved me packing about 5 changes of clothes.
Any trip was like that. Any change of plan and you could guarantee that I was going to get all keyed up. Dentist trips, doctors visits, going to the grocery then Wal-Mart was enough to send me over the edge. Test day at school, gym. Gym was an everyday completely horrible experience. That's a whole blog in and of itself. Let me just say the public nudity with 35 other boys is enough to me to wrapped in a straight jacket rocking back and forth in padded room somewhere.
I never worried at Robba's house though. It was just pure relaxed freedom. I always had a bag of powdered donuts waiting for me and would usually get the whole bag eaten by the end of the weekend. Robba's house also meant going to Dairy Queen. We each ordered Peanut Buster Parfaits. I always ordered first, "Peanut buster parfait, please--no nuts." "I'll have a Peanut Buster Parfait too, and his nuts." What a team. We loved eating those things together. Even though she was a diabetic Robba always enjoyed the food she wanted to enjoy. Summer time meant a can of Redi-whip, hostess shortcakes, and a bowl of strawberries macerating in the fridge. I liked my strawberry shortcake sans the strawberries. Sometimes I would pour some of that simple strawberry syrup on the cake then add the whipped cream.
The ride back to my house was always horrible. I can remember Sunday morning getting that melancholy lonely feeling because I knew I was leaving my Robba. I wanted to wait until the last dog was hung before we left for home. All the way to my house I would talk non-stop as I would never ever see her again. The whole time I was with her in that blue AMC Hornet I was lonely for her longing to be with her just another day, another hour. As the wheels crunched the gravel on our driveway I would just look at my house and know it was a place where My Robba wasn't. I hated watching her drive away, back to her life, back to the place I loved so much.
My awkwardness in getting ready for a trip is a good thing now, as a minister. There isn't much that slips by me, let me tell you. I have planned for just about everything. I carry a first aid kit if I"m going across the building. In a way I'm glad I have that awkwardness gene, it's no fun at parties or in new situations, but it does help me in being prepared for whatever.
I hope that you have had someone in your life who loved you for who you were without reservation or judgement. Someone who longed to be with you as much as you longed to be with them. Robba and I could sit on her porch in the sweltering August heat and drink sweet tea from our sweaty glasses and just do nothing but bask in the glow of togetherness and love being together. That was how it was with my Robba. As I write this I can hear her laughing right now and see her rearing back her head and letting those perfectly white false teeth shine in the sun as she laughed with her whole body. Tears running down her face, slapping her leg to brace herself for more laughing, more fun.


Tracy said...

well you came close to making me cry. everyone should have a Robba in their life. She must have been just the most wonderful person to make a little boy love her so much.
I hope Titus had the best time on his trip - dragon and he having marvelous fishing stories to retell :-)