Hearing Amber

Our Amber and her laugh

Why is it that everything I see, hear, read or feel reminds me of Amber? Maybe it’s because my world revolved around her. Maybe it’s because I knew her so well. I know what she’d think about anything, any circumstance, any TV show or movie, any song.

Today, someone posted something on a website about Cracker Barrel restaurant and my mind went immediately to how Amber’s “mamaw” would joke with her about that place because of Amber’s initial reaction to being invited to go to dinner there. Amber was given a choice of restaurants and when she heard the name Cracker Barrel, she laughed, her eyebrow went up and she pretty much decided she would not want to eat there. She wanted something a little more tasty than crackers for dinner, thank you very much! 😉 So, every time after that, Mamaw would tease her about going there.

Just a moment ago, I burped and said excuse me to no one there, but I almost started to cry because I could actually hear Amber laughing so clearly in my mind. She always laughed at burps and sneezes and wrong notes sung or played, or mistakes people made when speaking or people running into things or stubbing their toes or bumping their heads, etc.

I’m getting ready to clean my bathroom and immediately I think of Amber and try to talk to her in Heaven, saying what I always said to her when it was time to clean that room, “I will pay you five bucks to clean it for me.”

That comes from an old inside joke, based on the TV series Scarecrow and Mrs. King, that Amber and I both loved. Amanda King, one of the main characters, and Francine Desmond, a fellow spy who was a bit of a snob, had to go under cover as maids. Francine was faced with the unpleasant and unwelcome task of cleaning the bathroom. She fussed and worried about the task and finally offered Amanda five dollars if she’d do it for her. Of course, Amanda refused. She had more important things to do.

Amber burst out laughing because she always took on the role of Amanda and assigned me the role of Francine. So, every time afterwards, when I had to clean the bathroom, I would say, “I’ll pay you five bucks!” just to get a laugh out of her.

Those laughs — they were so precious. I treasure every one, and save them in my memory book with care.

I suppose one of the nicest things about knowing Amber so well, is the feeling that she’s still here, because those memories, and that knowledge of what she would do in every situation, is so strong. But, it’s also one of the hardest things, because she filled every place she was with such vibrancy, such LIFE that everywhere I go, everything I do, seems just a little bit empty now.

I am not sure, but I have this nagging worry that I’m driving people crazy always remembering Amber in everything they post online, and constantly remembering her. I am also sure that I worry too much, and Amber would tell you that is true.

For you see, she knew me very well too. We were like two peas in a pod, as they say, intertwined in a unique way that makes the absence of the girl so much harder in a way. It feels like a huge hunk of me was ripped away when she passed into Heaven. But, then again, if that part is with her there, it couldn’t be in any better location. So, I will let her have that part of me there, and I will keep a big part of her here with me and we will stay connected through those pieces of each others’ lives until that day when we’re reunited.

Until then, I just have to keep hanging on and treasuring every memory. I don’t want to ever lose them. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

Great Granddaughter of a “Stitcher”

For some reason I got on a genealogy kick during the past week, spurred by my husband’s dabbling in his own genealogy. I visited Ancestry.com and saw a census with my grandpa, Joe (my mom’s dad), listed as a child, along with his sister Martha and mother Myrtle. This was a 1920 census of Grant County, Indiana, where I grew up and many of my family was born and died.

Then, I found the draft registration form of my grandaddy (my dad’s dad) which showed that he was an educator. The next day, I googled my grandaddy’s name and the first thing that popped up was his college thesis at the University of Iowa. How I wished I could read it.

Then, I saw him listed on the staff of a college in Iowa in economics, history and high school principal, along with a photograph. He looked so handsome back in 1920, just like my dad and my cousin Bobby, with his shock of blonde hair and square jaw.

Grandaddy Mack's college staff picture

Googling my grandpa, I got even more information about him and his family since he was a McIntosh and Scottish descendants love to trace their roots, it seems. I found a history that someone, who must be at least a distant relative, wrote about my grandpa’s family. I found that his father, William, was a farmer and had two wives. His second wife was the mother of my grandfather and most of his siblings. His father was born in Scotland.

My great-grandmother’s name was Myrtle. She, and my great aunt Martha, the history said, were “stitchers” in a shoe factory. My mother confirmed the story about the factory and said it was a popular employment place for the poorer people from my hometown. She said my grandpa even worked there packing boxes.

My mother’s mother was one of several siblings born to Grover Cleveland Coffel and Laura Snoke Coffel. I think that it’s interesting that my great grandfather was named Grover Cleveland. Guess my great great grandparents really liked that president. 😉

After finding out these little snippets of information, I began to understand why people become so interested in genealogy. It’s like finding a piece of yourself out there that you never knew you had. As a gamer, I couldn’t help but think of using some of my ancestor’s information to create a great character for Kenzer and Company’s western RPG, Aces & Eights.



The Social Butterfly

So, I have pretty much been traveling about and visiting with folks since March 22. That was the date of the “unofficial” start of Gary Con IV, in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Even before that, we had visitors from Tennessee and Georgia come to stay with us before visiting this convention.

Following these days of gaming and hobnobbing with the greats of the industry, we had two days to try to get our ducks in a row so we could travel to Indiana. The seed for this trip came from my mother, who informed me that my cousin Mark McIntosh’s daughter, Kimberly, who is also my cousin, of course, was getting married in Greenville, SC on March 31st. She wanted me and my two sisters, and whoever else could come, to try to take a road trip down to attend. That sounded like a lot of fun to all of us, and the hubby thought it would be a good time to visit Indiana so I could meet up with the family for the caravan, and to spend some time with his parents.

We had a nice couple of days visiting with his folks. Our dog Violet loves their Jack Russell terrier, PJ, so she heartily approved of the visit. Then, on Friday the 30th, I climbed into my sister’s van. There were six women on the journey: my mother, myself, my two sisters, Sherri and Sandy, and their two daughters, Audrey and Abby. It was also my sister Sherri’s birthday, so we were all together for a nice celebration.

We traveled for a few hours that day and arrived in Lexington, Kentucky, where we arrived at the home of some my cousin Ginny and her husband Chris. They had offered to let us stay overnight with them. Joining them was her son Todd, his wife and kids. We had a nice dinner at the Olive Garden. The next morning, after a wonderful breakfast, we got on the road again.

Things went fairly well until we hit Tennessee and a major bottleneck traffic jam that cost us an hour for a mere gain of 15 miles. We were cutting things close to get to the wedding on time. But, we made it to Greenville with about an hour to spare — two girls needing showers and the rest of us needing to change clothes. In spite of the obstacles, we made it to the wedding in style and it was quite enjoyable.

The reception was fantastic, with a great DJ, a scrumptious buffet dinner and a very fun photo booth complete with funny hats and accessories where guests could capture the evening’s memories. Though I am not an experienced dancer, I was lured out onto the floor several times, where I joined my sisters and nieces, as well as several other people, in tripping the light fantastic. I must say that my feet were a bit on the sore side the next day.

My family would be heading back to Indiana that next day, leaving me behind. For, you see, at one time in my life, I had lived and worked in South Carolina, and had dear friends who still lived there. So, since one of my cousins, Marchelle, her family and my Aunt Pat lived in Columbia, I hitched a ride with Aunt Pat to Columbia. My mother, aware of my need for visiting old friends that I hadn’t seen since 1999, had sent me air fare for a one-way ticket back to O’Hare so that I could have time to re-connect with these dear people.

Staying with my cousin, aunt and family was a sweet time. I had never met my cousin’s children, for instance, and I found them to be charming and sweet. I met the family pets as well, a little dog named Polly and a horse of a dog named Big Steve. The next morning, I was being driven to meet with one of my closest friends, Tess O’Hagan, and her menagerie of pets.

Like me, by some unexplained tragic coincidence, Tess lost her 21-year-old son  Logan, just two months after I lost Amber. We needed to be together.

I was greeted by Tess’ chihuahua Tego, her Pomeranian, Chewie, her five cats: Matilda, Meg, Cottonball, Boi and KitTen, as well as her turtle and her newest acquisition, Pasquale, the duckling. I never actually met her two large dogs in the back yard.

We spent quite a bit of time with Pasquale, sitting out in the sun while the little peeping, yellow fuzzball ate and drank and soaked up the Vitamin D, and as the duck got in its hour of swim time in the bathtub every night.

I also got to have dinner with two very dear friends, Theresa Harris and Kaye Miles, while I was there.

I also got to partake of several food and drink items that I had missed since moving up to the chilly north. I took every advantage of drinking Sweet Tea, a beverage sadly lacking up here. I also was able to get a Rush’s hamburger. Rushes has some of the BEST hamburgers anywhere. I also got some chile rellenos at what used to be San Jose’s restaurant, a Mexican place where me and my Fort Jackson co-workers spent many a lunch hour. The cheese they use in their food there is just the best. I also got some fried okra. I don’t know what it is about that little dish that makes me love it so much, but, I was thrilled to get some.

I think the highlight of my trip was going to Fort Jackson with Tess. I worked there from 1990 to 1999 and missed the place so much over the years. Tess and I used to work on the Fort Jackson Leader Army newspaper. She was a soldier and I was a civilian contract worker. Now, she works in Marketing on post. After lunch, we visited the Public Affairs Office and we were privileged to chat with Karen Soule, the PAO, who had been the assistant PAO when we worked there. She still looks fantastic.

Now, I’m home trying to catch up on housework and other kinds of work, and trying to recover from the whirlwind weeks of traveling. I had a lot of fun, but am happy to be home safe and sound.