No Bobby, I didn’t fly up here to be entertained. Like I told you when you picked me up yesterday at the airport; I just want to tag along with you and the boys the entire time I’m here in Greenville. Just pretend I’m not here………we’ve already dropped off Eli, Luke, and Jesse at school and it’s my first full day in town…….what’s next?”
Sitting behind the wheel, at a red light, my son just looked at me and smiled.
“You may want to re-think that plan Daddy. It’s a nice day, not a cloud in the sky, but it’s also the first Wednesday of the month and that means that it’s one of my route days. You said something about maybe driving up to Horse Shoe to visit your cousin and go by the old cemetery…….this morning might be a good time because that or anything else you could come up with would be more exciting than spending the next few hours with me. You can take Karyn’s SUV and we can hook back up around lunch time after I’ve finished making my rounds.”
“What do you mean ….rounds?”
Grinning; Bobby said: “I’ve gotta go to work this morning”.
What did he mean? Unless my son had picked up some new part-time job; I was confused. Bobby earns his living working with me in tax liens and the only schedule we have is seasonal, conducted virtually entirely on-line, and dictated by State statutes. Nothing is going on during the month of October.
“Meals on wheels….. I’ve got a Meals-on-Wheels route and today is one of my delivery days.”
“out front and in the kitchen at Meals-on-Wheels”
Bobby didn’t mention Tom Sawyer, he didn’t ask me to pay him for the privilege, I never picked up a paint brush, and Aunt Polly’s fence never came into play (don’t you just hate would be writers that insert seemingly totally unrelated classical literary blurbs into the mix!) ……… but here I was begging to help with his work and hoping it could last all day
“We just call her “Tiki”. You have to call her on the phone and tell her you’re parked out front; she never answers the door bell. She probably can’t get through to the front door…..I’ve heard she’s a real pack-rat but it doesn’t make any difference, she’ll come out the back door and meet us at the fence along the side of the house. She’s a real sweetheart but won’t talk much…. come on, I’ll introduce you.”
An elderly lady in bedroom slippers and a rather tattered house coat materialized from behind a pile of black plastic bags and cardboard boxes near the back corner of the house. I’m not real good at describing female appearances….. so let’s fall back on that old Southern standby and just say she looked like she “wasn’t expecting company”.
“Bobby tells me everyone calls you Tiki. If you don’t mind me asking ……..what’s your real name?”
I can’t describe the beam on her face when I told her that my girlfriend when I was 10 years old had the same name and was almost as beautiful as she was ….. I even asked her if she had “ever gone roller skating” (a private question on my part that will make only one person smile).
Afraid that his Daddy was trying to strike up some sort of December/December romance; Bobby soon had me back in the car and dropping off more meals. I questioned my son about each stop as we made our way along the streets of Greenville. He told me that, at many of the addresses on his route, the only person he even had any contact with was a caregiver because some of the people were bedridden and many were in wheelchairs.
Approaching our next-to-last stop, Bobby looks at me and says……..
“You spend a lot of time writing stories about people you meet. Our next stop is an old guy that has plenty of them to tell. They’re interesting enough but I’ve heard most of them two or three times and have to cut him short and literally run to get away. Why don’t you take his spaghetti, and I think he gets a milk, up to the door. Remember, he’ll talk all day if you give him half a chance.”
Mr. Austin came out his front door to meet me in the yard. I introduced myself and told him right up front: “I understand you have some very interesting stories to tell and I wish I had more time to hear them but we’ve got hungry people waiting and we don’t want the food to get cold. I tell you what…….what’s the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to you? Or, maybe, what’s your favorite story, true or false but true would be better, that you love to tell a stranger? Without hesitation, Mr. Austin began telling me that, as a young man, he had been stationed in England working in Military Intelligence and had been involved in, using his words, ‘let’s just call it liaison with the Royal Family’.”
No! No!……., thinking to myself, Mr. Austin must have taken my comment about “True or False” seriously and I wasn’t going to get suckered into even pretending to listen to this tall tale……..”I tell you what Mr. Austin; Bobby and I have to get on down the road but I’ll get back in touch with you. I’ve got some high school classmates that really get into stories like yours so I’ll …………”
Bobby and I finished his deliveries ……… the next few days were wonderful …… watching my grandsons’ baseball and football games, driving back over to Charlotte in a rental car, spending the night with Bob Thurbon and his lovely wife Ellen; then flying back to WPB.
Yesterday I got an e-mail forwarded to me by my son………..
——– Forwarded Message ——–
|Subject:||GVL:2507 Meals on Wheels volunteers|
|Date:||Wed, 17 Oct 2018 17:02:58 +0000|
|From:||Taffy Odom <firstname.lastname@example.org>|
Good afternoon. We wanted to let you know that a client on your Meals on Wheels route passed away. His name is Mr. Carl Austin and he lives on Henderson Road. Mr. Austin has been a client since March 2017. Thank you for serving Mr. Austin and all of the clients on your route. We couldn’t do it without you!
If you are the corporate coordinator for this route please pass this to all who may have delivered it.
Taffy Odom, Delivery Coordinator
15 Oregon Street, Greenville, SC 29605
Phone: 864.233.6565, Fax: 864.235.1264
Going on-line, there was a big surprise in the fine print of an Obituary in The Greenville News!
Greenville – Homer Carl Austin, 83, widower of Daisy Frances Galloway Austin, passed away October 13, 2018.
A native of Pelzer, he was a son of the late Homer Frederick and Ella Mae Crome Austin, a retired employee of Her Majesty……….
Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018, 2:00 PM, The Wood Mortuary, Inc.
300 West Poinsett Street, Greer, SC 29650
I wish I had told Bobby to go on, finish up his route and come back for me later. It might have been your typical “old man reminiscence” story but, then again, it might not have been? Just thinking about it…….if your father could come back from the grave and be standing around in the front yard; would you hang around for a few more minutes to hear ……… or, more importantly,…… to ask?