Bring on the Cavalry — from Beth — November 27, 2005  

Everything about today was stressful.  Stress filled.  Stress heavy. 

I stopped in the tunnel between the main hospital and the geriatric center at the blood pressure machine, and when it read 189 over 99, I went straight into denial.  What kind of hospital would put a broken blood pressure machine out for people to use?  

Two EMTs pushed a rolling ambulance stretcher into Daddy’s room to move him to the nursing home.  The guy was probably two generations away from anyone who spoke Spanish, but to Mama, despite being from a Mississippi family filled with black-haired relatives, everybody with dark hair is Hispanic and she’s convinced they’re the new mafia because of all the fights in the barrio she hears on her police scanner. 

The female was pretty, and preppy looking, with the long flipped up hairstyle every WHS girl wore back in the day — well, my day.  First-class Carolina girl, just slightly redneck — and that’s a compliment, not a pejorative. 

 I looked at the company logo on their shirts — a horse head, and the name “Cavalry” spelled out in script. Mama looked at the girl.  “What company do y’all work for?” 

 “Oh, we work for CaLvary.” 

Mama didn’t hear her. 


So I piped up.  “CaValry.  Like soldiers mounted on horseback.” 

The brunette agreed.  “Yeah.  CaLvary.” 

Mama kept going.  “Oh.  Are you affiliated with Calvary Church?” “No, Mama, it’s CAV-AL-RY.” 

“No,ma’am.  It’s CAL-VA-RY, like when you’re watching a ol timey western and the CALVARY rides in.” 

I got tickled and just gave up.  

Charlotte, SOUTH Carolina?


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Charlotte, SOUTH Carolina?

By Beth Holt – 2005

Gate B6 at the Charlotte airport swarmed with passengers anxious to board the next plane to Palm Beach.  I grabbed the last empty seat in the waiting area, and wedged myself between a snoozing blond and a well-dressed older man who chatted with his wife.   Well, I think he was older.  With botox and facelifts everywhere these days, I never know how old anybody is.

His beige cashmere sweater, expensive trousers and leather shoes had “Italy” written all over them — he looked the “Palm Beach” type.   His wife dripped diamonds from her ears, neck, and both hands, and they treated each other with surprising tenderness.

I’m not sure what drew my attention to him; maybe it was the way he brandished a stout, green cigar.  Unlit, just like the ones my daddy didn’t smoke — half-chewed stogies were Daddy’s trademark.   Unlike Daddy, however, this fellow would never have spit tobacco juice out the car window, splattering a sputtering daughter in the back seat.  Also unlike Daddy, he peppered his conversation with references to large amounts of money and somebody named Guido.

“Well, Mothah!”   He spoke to his wife (and most of Charlotte) in a booming brogue thick enough to stir.  “Are we in NORUTH Carolina? He turned to me.   “I thorrt Chahlotte was in SOUTH Carolina.”

“No,sir.”  I fluttered my southern eyelashes, trying to hide my astonishment at his geographical ignorance.  Hey, I’d be in the same boat if we were talking Dakotas, but let’s face it.  Hordes of Guido’s relatives don’t vacation in the Dakotas, and neither do mine.  “We’re just a few miles from the state line, but Charlotte is the largest city in NORTH Carolina.”

“Oh.  Well, it’s in the south paht of Noruth  Carolina, then.”

This line of thinking confused me.  “I guess so, but down here, we  think of all parts of both states as ‘south’.”

Just then, the gate attendant began the pre-flight announcements.  Guido’s buddy was mystified.  “WHAT did he just say?  Could you unduhstind enny of that?”

“Yessuh.” I spoke syrup, right out of Charleston and Richmond.  Laid it on thick. Used more syllables than Reba MacIntyre in “Whoever’s in New England,” and took out every ‘r’.

“He called fo’ anyone needin’ special assistance to board the plane now.”

“You undahstood oil that?”

I stifled the urge to tell him I was bilingual.

“Has he coiled for first class yet?”

“No suh, not yet.”

The gate agent started his next speech.

“What did he say this time?”

“He said first-class passengers may now board the plane.”

“Oh.  That’s us.  Come on, Mothuh.”  He took his wife by the hand, then turned back and looked at me. “You’re not  goin’ to Palm Beach, are you?”

I guess I don’t look the Palm Beach type.  “Yessuh,  I sho’  am. To the horse shows.”  He probably thought I was a groom.

“Great!  Maybe we’ll see ya there.”

He turned on his expensive heels and headed down the jetway, and in a few minutes, the gate agent called for the unwashed hordes to  board the plane.

I wrestled my carry-on through the first-class cabin, back toward the cheap seats, trying not to glare at the smug uppercrust passengers in the cushy lounge chairs.   Halfway down the cabin, Guido’s buddy caught my eye, and jumped from his seat.

“Look, Mothah, there’s our friend!”  They waved like I was one of The Family. “Say, thanks for your help back there.  We nevah wouldda gotten owan da plane.”

“Mah pleasuh!” I called, unable to wave back with my hands full of 2nd class luggage.  ”And if y’all need anything when we get to Fla’da,  Ah’ll be happy to translate!”

I walked on to join my people in coach class, but the now-familiar voice boomed after me.

“See, Muthah?  Now THAT’S what they coil SOUTHUN HORSPITALITY!”

I had to grin.   I squeezed into my substantially low-class seat in the cattle car, and I swear I heard my Grandmamma whisper.

“That’s the way to do, honey.  Aftah all, Guido’s jist another name for Bubba.”



“The Kidless Soldier” — Poem by my Great-Great Granddad, Jesse Franklin Hembree, circa 1920

The trip my sister and I recently took  to  our ancestral home in Mississippi revealed some delightful historical facts — and perhaps the most surprising is that  Great-Great Granddaddy Jesse Franklin Hembree was quite a poet.  Jess was the great-granddad of my mother, Marguerite — he died when she was two years old, so she wouldn’t have remembered anything about him.  Her granddad, Horace Greely Hembree, was Jesse’s oldest son.  They all rest now, on heaven’s side, with headstones in the Hembree Family Cemetery, right behind the house where my mother spent many summers growing up.

I’ve only seen three of his verses so far, but my 3rd cousin tells me there are more, and she will send copies to me. Friday, April 17, 2020, my niece, an archivist by profession, unearthed this one with an internet search. I had missed it when I searched last week. In doing research and genealogy, four eyes are better than two! This was published in the Neshoba Democrat on July 8, 1920, on the front page, and beneath the poem, the editor had written this:

(The above lines were written by Uncle Jess Hembree.  It is a rare thing to find in a man of over 80 winters the music and sentiment of a boy of eighteen summers.  And to pitch from the sublime to the ridiculous, to spin out beautiful phrases; to mix truth with (whimsy? illegible) as he has so well done, is rare in anyone.)


No beauty’s form could captivate his eye;

No dulcet voice could tame his sluggish ear

No maiden’s blush could win from him a sigh,

No woman’s woe could take from him a tear.

No love born smile e’er on his gloomy face

No soft white hand e’er smoothed his ruffled brow

Unknown to him the lover’s glorious craze

That leads him up to take the fatal vow.

No little form e’er climbed upon his knee;

No little feet e’er shuffled on his floor;

No woman’s kiss as sweet as sweet can be

Is his forevermore.

No childish voice e’er lisped a father’s name

As day by day, the years have rolled along

To teach him that the lover’s early dream

Is parent to the tender nursery song.

And since his Uncle Sam has called him off to France

Because he has no kid;

He feels that he has missed a glorious chance

And grieves because he did.

But when a man has made a family flat

His grieving comes too late

No Vardaman, nor Bilbo, no Venable nor Pat

Can save him from his fate.

And now he is gone, Alas! Across the stormy days,

By Uncle Sam’s decree.

While fallen heroes rest in glory’s sleep

Beyond the sea;

Should he meet some hostile tooting band

In trench or open field

No maiden’s love, the genie’s magic wand

Will be his shield.

And should he fall at Verdun or Reims

Or Chateau Thierries,

No forlorn maid will meet him in her dreams

This side the stormy sea.

And when he dies, as everybody must

No rose will bloom upon his lonely grave

His poor uncopied form will sink into the dust

His name in Lethe’s wave.



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The Worst Thanksgiving Ever

(Published in “Powhatan Today”, as “The Worst Holiday Ever”, Wednesday, December 22, 2004 – edited by Beth, 2007)

by Beth Holt

Somewhere, high over the Atlantic Ocean, my thoughts turned from the romance of Venice to the daily routine of life in rural Virginia. My oldest son, Chip, snoozed beside me on the huge plane – I’d slept on his shoulder for a good part of the trip, but finally, I was wide awake in a dark, droning airplane, and it was time to think about Thanksgiving.

I planned out the coming holiday week:

-Tomorrow, I’d sleep late and recover from jet lag.

-Tuesday, I’d straighten out things at my husband’s office.

-Wednesday, I’d shop and cook.

-Thursday, Thanksgiving 2004, we’d be home for the feast.

Son #2, Bryan, would bring his family in on Thursday night after gorging on holiday turkey with his wife’s family. We’d all leave for Belews Creek, NC on Friday morning, visit with Memomma and Dedaddy, then head for the Holt family gathering in Burlington on Saturday, and return home on Saturday night. Busy, but simple and straightforward — not much to sweat over.

The plane landed, and my “Rome Adventure” with Chip melded into a sweet memory as my long-suffering and vacation-providing husband, George, hugged us at the gate.

It was early Sunday night in Virginia, but very late Sunday night, Italian time, when we got home from the airport. I’d been awake for nearly 20 hours, and was starting to feel punchy. I walked into the house after being gone for ten days, ready to collapse on the first bed I tripped over. But as soon as I crossed the threshold, a terrible odor hit me in the face, and it was far stronger than sleep.

I gagged, and choked out the obvious. “What in the world is that stench?”

My husband just shrugged and raised his eyebrows. “What stench?”

I stared in disbelief. For a minute, I wondered if he’d gone wacko and stashed a dead body under the house while Chip and I were cavorting around Italy. The men in my life swore they couldn’t smell a thing, but something was dead, wrong, and rotten, and there was no way to go to sleep through it.

So, strung-out on no sleep with a wide-awake headache, I tried to track down the source. Moved furniture. Cleaned out the fridge. Took out the garbage. Washed the dishrags. Looked behind the stove. Rolled out the refrigerator. And found nothing.  After an hour or so of searching and cleaning, I checked under my pillow and fell into bed.

The next morning, when I wanted to be sleeping off jet lag, I jumped out of bed, and filled the sinks with Pine-Sol to mask the mysterious odor. I searched high and low for the source but didn’t find a thing. After while, my exhausted body rebelled,  so I left Central European Time behind and slept through the day and most of the night.

Tuesday morning, I woke up early, and the house still stunk to high heaven. I sprayed every nook and cranny with citrus, then headed out to the supermarket to join the Thanksgiving grocery crowds.

There’d only be four of us for turkey dinner, so I planned to cook a scaled-down version of the big deal — all homemade. I filled the metal grocery cart with “scratch” ingredients, but halfway down the pickle aisle, jet lag spoke up. “Buy the Ukrop’s ready-made version….save the staples for Christmas, when you have more time to prepare.”  Jet lag was smarter than I thought.

Back at home, I turned my favorite DJ on  K-95 up loud and unloaded groceries to my favorite country tunes. A few items needed to be put in the old refrigerator in the garage. I bounded out the utility room door, grabbed the handle on the fridge, opened the door, and — gagged.   Coughed. Gagged again. And nearly passed out.

Good gosh, it was awful. The breaker had tripped, oh, a week or so ago, probably while I was enraptured by Fritz Kreisler’s romantic Introduzione in a marvelous concert in Venice. Everything in the freezer had thawed out and gone bad. What a mess.

I unplugged all the appliances, choked my way back and forth to the breaker box, then plugged everything back in to refreeze, so it would be easier to throw things out. I was aggravated, but mostly relieved. The mystery of the smell was solved, and we wouldn’t have to go through the holiday asking  which baby needed changing.

But I still hadn’t unpacked from the trip to Italy.  Suitcases had exploded all over the guest room. Clothes, souvenirs, and travel books were strewn across the bed, overflowing onto the floor and crawling around the corner into the baby’s room. It all had to be cleaned up to make room for Bryan and the grandkids.

I’d just started putting things away when the phone rang, and my husband hollered for help from Hopewell. Office work had snarled while I was roaming Rome, and hired help just ain’t what it used to be. I left the mess behind and hurried down to the office to straighten out the payroll, just in time to pay the clerk who’d made the mess in the first place. It took almost all day to fix what had been done wrong while I was gone, but that was okay. I still had Wednesday night and all day Thursday to get the guest room ready.

I was printing a batch of payroll checks when my cell phone played a familiar tune. Bryan was on the line. “Mom, Rebekah and I decided it might be better to come down this afternoon instead of waiting till tomorrow. Is that okay with you?”

Well, of course it’s okay with me, but my Martha Stewart timeline just went out the window. I put down the phone, stared at it for a minute, then grabbed the receiver and dialed.

If you walk into my house on any given day during hunting season, you’ll think it’s an arsenal for the militia.  I used to complain about boots and saddles in the dining room, but lately, camouflage coveralls and shotguns of every gauge and barrel are propped up against windowsills in every room of the house. How did I end up being the lone female in a household of hunters?  It was time to call the AWOL quartermaster to active duty.

To my relief, my youngest son actually answered his cell phone for a change. “David, this is Mama. You need to go home right now and put away all your guns. Micah is coming tonight.” My first grandchild, though precious and precocious, very well-coordinated, and drop-dead handsome to boot, is still a tad young for the hunter safety course. Let’s wait till he’s at least three.

I locked up the office, jumped into my car, and an hour later I was home, with only 45 minutes to get ready for the Thanksgiving Eve service at  Emmaus Church. A hot bath would help me change gears. I hopped into the tub, but a few gallons later, the water turned lukewarm. “Hmm,” I thought, “There’s nobody else home. I haven’t done any laundry. Surely the element hasn’t gone bad. Maybe it just my imagination that the water is not right….”  After I jumped out, dried off, and threw on some clothes, I  I forgot all about it

I drove down Route 711 to the small country church, slid into a pew, and thought of all the things I have to give thanks for. My friend, Lorna, sat next to me. We’ve sung side-by-side for twenty years now, and we giggled a little as the pastor strummed his guitar.

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…”

Familiar words with a familiar tune, but something sounded slightly out of whack. The melody he played usually sings “There is a house in New Orleans, they call the rising sun..”   NOT your usual “Amazing Grace.” Minor key. Ominous. Handwriting on the wall?

The service ended, and I rushed back home. My bedroom was relatively clean, but the guest rooms were a mess with half-unpacked bags on beds and dressers. I stuffed stuff back into suitcases, zipped them up, and threw them into my room. I grabbed souvenirs I’d sorted, pushed them into a laundry basket, and shoved it next to my dresser. I cleared the guest bed of stacked summer clothing, but there was no place left in my room, so heck with the stacks.  I tossed them on the floor.

I moved the dirty travel clothes from their pile on the guest room floor to another pile on my bedroom floor. In the span of fifteen minutes, I’d cleaned one space and trashed another, but now there was room for Bryan, Rebekah, Micah, Nathan, two porta-cribs, multiple baby toys, and a week’s worth of Pampers.

Shortly, the house filled up with people I love. George came home from an extra-long day at work; David safely moved all the firearms; Chip brought dirty laundry home  from Fredericksburg; Bryan unloaded tons of baby equipment along with a wife, two sons and a dog. And I do mean unloaded, particularly when it comes to the dog. Yes, the sweetest dog in the whole world, perfect for Bryan’s little family, so they told me, but I learned the big-dog-little-boys lesson many years ago.

The dog – Buttercup — who, after Micah started talking, became Butterbutt, who, after Nathan was born, became more trouble than a young mama with two babies under two should have to worry about. Butterbutt had come home to stay. I’ve loved my share of dogs in my lifetime, but I thought that part of my life was long gone.

Dogs or no dogs, though, the best times are when the kids come home. It was a happy time, with hot chili simmering on the stove, everybody talking at once, all laughing at Micah, baby-talking to Nathan, eating tortilla chips and salsa — for about an hour.

Then, Rebekah moaned, “You know, I don’t feel so good.” Bryan looked up. “I don’t feel so good either.”

And that was about the last thing he said for the next two days, unless you count calling Ralph. They were sick. Sick, sick, sick. Bryan took to the bathtub – but the hot water ran out. Rebekah woke to nurse Nathan, then tossed him to me and fell, helplessly weak, back into bed.

All the while, Butterbutt barked endlessly on the front porch. Which riled up the llamas, who shrieked the weirdest wails you’ve ever heard — all night long. Nobody got any sleep.

Tossing and turning,  pillow-punching, and fuming , all I could think was, “I came home from Italy for this? Where’s the tuxedoed waiter with my hot cappuccino?”

Morning came, and it was clear the sick ones couldn’t make it to Rebekah’s family Thanksgiving. The rest of us weren’t worried, though, because the illness was due to some fast food chicken they’d consumed. Bryan needed another hot bath, but mysteriously, the water ran cold.  So George belly-crawled under the house to investigate, and came back covered in cobwebs and probably a snake skin or two.

“Hot water heater’s working fine.” he announced. “There’s plenty of hot water – and it’s spewing all over the crawl space.”

It was Thanksgiving Day, and the water pipes popped a leak. A big leak. It was Thanksgiving Day, and sick people were sacked out, groaning, comatose, in the living room. It was Thanksgiving Day, and I roasted a turkey and warmed up supermarket dressing, but couldn’t make gravy till we heated pans of hot water to pour into the bathtub for Bryan, who shivered with fever.

It was Thanksgiving Day, and for the first time in holiday history, the china and crystal stayed in the cabinet. It was Thanksgiving Day, and I served turkey dinner on the kitchen table over — dare I admit it? — a paper tablecloth on everyday dishes, with — perish the thought — red plastic cups. Yes, red plastic cups. What had we come to?  Martha Stewart went to jail and Thanksgiving propriety went right out the window.

Shortly, the chicken nugget food poisoning theory went out the window, too.

‘Cause Micah threw up. All over the family room carpet. Oh, it was a night to forget.

Friday morning, Bryan and Rebekah felt better, but were worn slap out. I called my parents and canceled our plans to visit them. David fled the germs, took his arsenal and went hunting, and proudly returned with a six-point buck. Then, he and George crawled under the house to fix the water pipes.

Bryan mustered enough strength to load everybody (except Butterbutt, who still barked on the front porch) back into his minivan for their trip back to Fredericksburg.

Saturday morning came, and it looked like the worst was over. It was time to head for Burlington and the yearly Holt Family Gathering and Gift Exchange. Only four of us could make the trip. We climbed into Chip’s Jeep Grand Cherokee, loaded up the presents, and drove our usual Thanksgiving route down U.S. 360. We’d barely crossed the Appomattox when David looked at me, and out of a pale green face, mumbled, “Mama, I don’t feel so good…”

Three hours later, we turned into downtown Burlington, and parked in front of the Georgia Kitchen, a nice restaurant located where the Treasure House used to be, the wedding gift store where all that china and silver we didn’t use this year originally came from.

Most of us had a delicious dinner and a good time with the sisters, brothers, cousins, and Aunt Lib (who, at 90, is a ball of fire and cute as a button). But David turned greener by the minute. Afterward, we stopped by the Holt family plot at Pine Hill Cemetery, but he refused to get out of the car. He already felt half-dead, and wasn’t about to get close enough to his final resting place to take up permanent residence.

We started back for home, and just after we turned off Rauhut Street, David called out, “Dad! Stop the car…!”

I should mention at this point that I’m not any good when somebody gets sick. I mean, if it’s a sore throat and fever, I’m a good nurse. I can even handle small amounts of blood. But throwing up? No. My gag reflexes are far too sympathetic. If somebody is sick, I am, too. George has always handled throw-up duty. Strange thing to brag about, but honestly, he’s gifted at it. And Chip is trained as an EMT, so he can handle anything.

George pulled the Jeep into a parking lot. David ran to the rear of the car, and Chip jumped out to help him. I stayed put, singing little songs, trying to think happy thoughts, “Raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens….”

George walked to a nearby convenience store to buy water, Gatorade and a roll of paper towels. A few minutes later, the crisis passed, for a little while. And then, about every ten miles, it was, “Dad! Pull over!” David ran to the back of the car, Chip grabbed the paper towels – soon they honed Chinese Fire Drill into a fine science. Dave was one sick puppy and all he wanted in this life was to get home, but at this rate, we weren’t making much progress.

Daylight was just about gone. I was drowsy enough to sleep sitting up, my head lolling against the back seat as we crossed the state line into Virginia. Five minutes till six; only an hour more, and we’d be home.

And then — and then…. WHAM.

Something hit us, and hit us hard. The Jeep bucked. The hood flew up, and my eyes flew open. “If anything’s behind us, we’re gonna be hit again…” The car lurched to a stop. It was dark inside, and I smelled something smoky, like burning electric wires. I felt confused, helpless, disoriented, and frightened. “Something’s wrong with the engine…where are we….what’s happening??”

I started to panic, but Chip’s firefighter training comes in handy in times of crisis. Calm as a cucumber, he checked on his little brother.

“Dave — are you all right?”

“My hands are burned…”

“BURNED??? I struggled to unfasten my seatbelt. “I smell smoke…is the car on fire?”

“No, Mom, it’s okay – calm down — what you smell is the air bags.”

I was still groggy. “The airbags went off?? What happened?”

“We hit a deer.”   Or rather, a deer hit us.

The deer had bounded across the westbound lane of U.S. 360, jumped the median, and landed right smack on top of us. Nobody saw it coming.

The front end of Chip’s car was a mess — radiator pierced, headlights smashed, the grill broken. A hundred feet behind us, a small four-point buck lay dead in the ditch. He was little, but you’ve got to hand it to him, he’d placed himself just right for maximum impact.

We’ve lost count of the deer that have attacked our cars over the past 10 years, but the number is in the high teens. My theory is that they’re out to even the score, and well… David did get a buck on Friday.

We were lucky. Everyone was okay, except for poor Dave, whose knuckles and knees were rug-burned from impact with the airbag. And he was still sick. He sat on the shoulder of the road wrapped in a blanket, and impossibly, continued to throw up.

Chip called 911, and talked with the Nottoway County dispatcher. We were out in the middle of nowhere. Shortly, the Amelia County dispatcher called my cell phone. “Where are you?”

“Uh. We’re on 360, in Amelia….Jetersville, I think….” I realized that a GPS would come in handy during an emergency, when you don’t know where you are, you’re disoriented from the shock of the circumstances, and on a road in the dark with nothing but trees for miles and miles.

A state trooper arrived. He radioed the dispatcher.

“We have a passenger with superficial burns on his hands from the air bags.”

The dispatcher radioed outward, “One of the passengers got burned.”

The trooper sighed, and shook his head. “That’s not what I said. Now, in about five minutes, we’re going to be inundated with pickup trucks.”

Sure enough, every EMT in Amelia County raced to the scene. Within seconds, we found out there’s not a thing they can do for stomach flu.

I needed to get my poor child home – so what if he’s twenty? He’s still my baby, and there we were, stranded on the side of the road. Have you ever considered how accident victims get home? There’s an ambulance if you’re hurt, a tow truck to handle the car, but when you’re just plain stranded, it’s up to you and your thumb.

I called our dearest friends in Powhatan, Barbara and Cody. They don’t ever answer the phone. The answering machine picked up and I began to babble.

“Hey…if you’re listening to your scanner, and I know you are, that wreck in Amelia County is us…and I don’t know how we’re gonna get home….” My whimper grew into a sob.

Barbara’s voice came on the line. “It’s you?? It’s you??? Hang on.  We’re on our way.”

Thanksgiving weekend. The longest one on record. Jet lag. Messed up bookkeeping. A thawed out freezer. Busted hot water pipes. Canceled plans. Plastic cups. Butterbutt. A wreck. Three thousand dollars for a 4-point buck.  Stomach flu, which probably isn’t over yet. What’s next??

After all that, it occurred to me that I need to add to all the high-minded touchy-feely things I’m thankful for. Here’s the down-and-dirty list.

Thank you, Lord, for:

Hot water, and the pipes that carry it.

Paper towels. Bottled water. Red plastic cups.

Cell phones. Air bags. Volunteer firefighters and EMT’s.

Friends who’ll come get you after you’ve had a wreck.

And the phrase,

“Things could’ve been a lot worse.”


Copyright 2004, Elizabeth F. Holt

Chip's Jeep Cherokee. Totaled.Chip’s Jeep Cherokee. Totaled.4-Point Buck. Totaled.4-Point Buck. Totaled.We waited till David graduated high school before posting this photo in the newspaper.We waited till David graduated high school before posting this photo in the newspaper.



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Our Midwestern Thanksgiving!

By Beth Holt

November, 2000


Oh, the memories! Mama’s marvelous dressing and gravy, twenty-five pound turkeys, Grandmother’s banana pudding, starched damask tablecloths, shiny silver, sparkling crystal, and first-class fiddle-playing from the back bedroom. For decades, our family celebrations had continued in the same manner. We moved several times over the years as the power company transferred Daddy around, so the dining rooms looked different, but the participants stayed the same. As time went on, we added boyfriends who became husbands, and soon, a new generation of  babies babbled and cooed as Mama insisted she’d “never seen a child that young do” whatever. But suddenly and sadly, things changed. Grandmother Frick died, Granddaddy was in the VA Hospital up in Asheville, and Thanksgiving just wasn’t going to be the same.

So, sisters Margie, Carole and I decided to institute a new tradition, and take a road trip to spend Thanksgiving with Granddaddy Robinson in Joplin.  That’s in Missoura, as they say — a fur piece from North Carolina.  We crammed ourselves, and Carole’s daughter Lisa, who was about 6 years old, into a pint-sized Datsun 510, and headed west.

It doesn’t look very far on the map. Only halfway across the country – just a matter of inches. But in a 1970 Datsun, eleven hundred miles with close female relatives is pure agony. We began the drive in Charlotte with great excitement and good spirits. My driving shift began around midnight as we crossed into Tennessee, and the excitement waned as night wore on. I was careful to be very quiet so my relief drivers could get plenty of sleep. Funny thing though – when the sun came up, everyone else was wide awake and raring to go, and not the least bit interested in whether or not I got any sleep. Their high spirits continued and they chattered all the way through Arkansas while I tossed and turned in my tiny corner of the back seat, plotting all manner of torturous revenge.

Putting three sisters into a compact Japanese car for over twenty-four hours straight is a sure recipe for disaster, but we figured that the end would be worth the means. Granddaddy Robinson, known to most everyone as Robbie, was great fun, and he loved to eat out. Thanksgiving Dinner with Granddad, who was a connoisseur of great places to dine, would definitely be worth the trip.

The interesting thing about Robbie is that he wasn’t related to us at all. His love and commitment to our family was simply a matter of choice.  Born in 1882, Robbie was old – impossibly old, and it jolted me to realize that he had been too old to fight even in World War ONE. He loved being a golf-playing nonogenarian, and enjoyed bragging that he’d end up being killed by a jealous husband when he was 100. Recently, he’d lost his good eye to a golf ball accident, but he got around better than folks half his age, and had a series of red-headed widows who brought him casseroles and chauffered him around the country in his Buick.

Somewhere in his long and illustrious life, Robbie met and married a woman named Ruby, who had adopted a boy born to her older sister.  Whoever conceptualized the TV character “Maude” had to have known Ruby.  She was a tough-talking businesswoman with a gruff manner and raspy voice that betrayed her smoking habit, and she was the first drinking woman I ever met. Her first husband, according to family legend, ran off to Mexico, and if you ever met Ruby, you could sorta understand why. In 1940,  Ruby’s adopted son, George Van Hoorebeke, married our mother, and was the father of my older sisters, Carole and Virginia.

Ruby passionately loved her son, and when he married Mama, she welcomed and loved her just as passionately, and the two of them had a close relationship for the rest of Ruby’s life. Long after Ruby died, Robbie, who had no children of his own, still loved Mama and often introduced her as his daughter.

World War II rained tragedy on almost every American family, rearranging lives for generations to come, and ours was no exception. Captain Van Hoorebeke was killed in France, and Mama, a war widow with two little girls, worked as an accountant at Camp Crowder, Missouri. In the waning days of the war, a young signal officer from South Carolina was assigned to Camp Crowder, where Mama was a hot commodity since she owned one of the few automobiles on post. The company commander had his eye on Mama’s best friend, but what with wartime rationing and shortages of everything, he had a major logistical problem. There was no transportation in which to court. When the lovestruck captain found out that Mama had wheels, he took advantage of the opportunity and ordered Lieutenant Frick to ask her out so they could double-date.

Lieutenant Frick wasn’t too keen on the idea, as he still had his eye on a little French girl, and at least one Louise in South Carolina thought he was coming back to her. But he had no choice but to follow orders, and soon Mississippi’s Marguerite electrified the young engineer. A few months later in Ruby’s living room, Daddy married Mama, daughters and all, and our family extended beyond mere bloodlines. Daddy took his new bride and the girls back to Greenville, South Carolina, where he “could get everything wholesale.”

Twenty-some years later (and it felt like we had spent the entire twenty years crammed into that miniature Japanese torture chamber) we pulled up to the curb in front of Robbie’s classic stone bungalow on Joplin’s Main Street. It was late Wednesday night, and we crawled wearily under crocheted bedspreads on antique beds, tired and hungry, because 90-year-old one-eyed golfers who eat out all the time are notorious for having empty refrigerators. But that was okay, because we knew we would be wined and dined in fine style come Thanksgiving noon.

Thanksgiving Day dawned bright and beautiful in the midwestern sunlight, and we relaxed through the morning, reacquainting ourselves with the house that held so many memories. The furnishings were from a different era, and wartime pictures of Mama and my sisters graced the walls and dressers of the bedrooms. Down the street, at the corner of the block was an old-fashioned ice-cream shop that had I had never forgotten, though I was only a toddler the last time we’d been to Joplin. Progress had come to Joplin, so the neighborhood wasn’t what it used to be, evidenced by the encroachment of a fast-food enterprise across the street strangely named the Sophisticated Chicken.

Finally, after eleven hundred miles and weeks of anticipation, it was  time for Thanksgiving Dinner. We dressed up in our 1970s version of fashion, which was certainly “down” rather than “up”, and hurried out to the Buick early so we could “beat the crowd”. Soon, we’d be enjoying an incomparable meal in Joplin’s finest restaurant  or  country club.

We were confused when Granddad pulled into the parking lot of the local mall, and soon we saw hordes of hungry holiday diners lining up outside Morrison’s Cafeteria.

We looked around, hoping to see that a really fine restaurant was just  around the corner, but presently, the reality of the situation became clear. There would be no four-star meal with gourmet oyster dressing and pumpkin flan. We were joining the masses for plainer fare at the local cafeteria. Disappointed, but hungry, and realizing that cafeteria food would be better than no food at all, we started to follow the crowd and stake out a place in line. And then, Granddaddy uttered the words that none of us will ever forget.

“Oh, no. We’re not going to Morrison’s.   Walgreen’s has a Blue Plate Turkey Special for a dollar eighty-nine.”

Suddenly, the cafeteria we had heretofore disdained looked awfully appealing.

Eleven hundred miles. Twenty-four hours in Hirohito’s revenge. Nothing to eat in the house when we got there. Barely any breakfast. And here we were, homesick, sleep-deprived, and ravenously hungry, heading in the opposite direction of the holiday hordes, into Walgreen’s Drugstore, of all places. For Thanksgiving Dinner.

The five of us were the only customers in the place, ’cause everybody else in town was at the fancy restaurant, the country club, or at least Morrison’s. If Ruby was Maude, our waitress was Flo, and bless her heart, she served us the worst cardboard excuse for turkey and dressing to ever come out of a freezer, along with something sticky that was vaguely reminiscent of pumpkin pie. And they didn’t even have any cranberry sauce.

We choked back  tears as we choked down the food, and like well-brought up Southern girls, we lied and told Granddad how delicious everything was. Another thing we discovered about ninety-year old one-eyed golfers is that their taste buds died about thirty years ago.

Thankfully, the rest of the week-end was fun. Granddad took us over to Bartlesville, Oklahoma to see whatever it is that attracts tourists there, and I think we played golf, though to be honest, I don’t remember much. I never recovered from pulling the all night driving shift, and spent most of our sightseeing time in the car with my head lolled back against the back seat, snoring. And then, on Saturday, we crammed ourselves back into the Tin Can, and did eleven hundred miles all over again.

Since that year, there have been dozens more Thanksgiving Dinners. We spent three in Germany with friends from all over the States where we foundered on every kind of regional specialty imaginable. There were Thanksgiving dinners with the troops, when the officers donned dress blues and served the enlisted men. In recent years, we’ve had wonderful times with the Holt family in South Boston, where the kids play bingo and make their own memories. And I’ve learned to make a pretty mean giblet gravy myself.

Not every Thanksgiving dinner was Martha Stewart perfect. There was the time in Burlington when Margie ran crying to her bedroom when Daddy chose that particular moment to reveal that her long “lost” dog had actually been put down years earlier, and he hadn’t had the heart to tell her the truth. And years later, Carole and Margie were with us at Ft. Benning when the oven element burned out and it took 12 hours to cook the turkey. There was a week-end at the beach that most of us would rather forget.  And a couple of years ago, the entire Holt family shared the worst kind flu bug in South Boston. Nope, they haven’t all been perfect.

But Walgreen’s Blue Plate Turkey Special for a dollar eighty-nine takes the cake.

Here’s to a much better dinner for you and yours!

Colossians 3:17 – And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

With a thankful heart for many, many blessings, Beth




July 4, 1994 will long be remembered in Holt Family History as the Day of the Great Sheep Round-Up. Earlier in the week, George stopped by the Hopewell Feed and Seed store on his way home from work.  He went in to pick up a bag of horse feed,  and came out with  what he – and he only – considered fantastic news. The owner, bless his sweet heart, had an entire flock of sheep that we could buy!

Oy, vey — such a DEAL!!

Maybe you don’t know how badly we did not need a flock of sheep. But, not being disposed to naysay an agricultural opportunity, we got up bright and early on July 4, and with three sons,  and our tried and true friend (and 6th cousin once removed),  Barbara, we convoyed in three trucks pulling horse trailers from Powhatan down to Dinwiddie County.

I’d never met the owner of the feed store, but I pictured a courtly, white-haired Virginia gentleman — an old-style Cavalier, maybe, with a handlebar mustache,  who rose with the roosters to lovingly tend his flock.  We looked forward to the scenic drive and naively made plans for a late afternoon cook-out.

But, as I passed throught the living room on the way out the door, “Good Morning America” reported that famed author and veterinarian, James Herriot, had been hospitalized that very day after being attacked by — what else?  A flock of sheep.  We should have seen the handwriting on the wall.

George assured me that the owner would have the sheep penned up and ready to load when we got there, so it wouldn’t take very long.. (Just remember — sheep are DUMB. Sheep owners are sometimes dumbER.)

Just before eight o’clock, right on time, we three drivers bounced our trucks down a bumpy dirt road — but instead of a stately ante-bellum manor house at the end of the lane,  a compound of ante-bellum double-wides came into view. Peaceful and quiet it was not. The early morning silence was shattered by a chorus of frenzied howls coming from dozens of tormented canines; all of questionable breeding but obviously related. The owner, oblivious to the dogs, walked sleepily out the door nursing a cup of coffee, and to my great disappointment,  he didn’t  remotely resemble Robert E. Lee. Dressed in camouflage pants and a muscle shirt, with a torn olive drab bandanna around his shaggy head, he was the consummate representation of “Rambo meets Hulk Hogan.” Unfortunately for us, he had started on his Fifth for the Fourth on the Third, and had forgotten all about penning up the sheep. Not to worry, he assured us, we’d have ’em loaded in no time. Right.

We found the flock — 30 or so head of Suffolks –thin, skittish, and badly in need of shearing– in a VERY large pasture – about ten acres. And to the less-than-bucolic barks, howls and yips of dozens of inbred hounds, we began the hopeless process of trying to catch thirty terrified sheep. Enticing them with grain was totally unsuccessful — they’d never been fed, so even Purina’s best sheep pellets meant nothing to them.  One of the dogs had some sheepdog in his ancestry, but succeeded only in driving them farther and farther away from the trailers. Bryan and Chip tackled a straggler every now and then, but gave up after being dragged 30 or 40 feet.  And then, Rambo’s 10-year-old son, “Bubba” (no lie) revved up this huge John Deere tractor and chased the sheep around in circles, to no avail. They were in no mood to cooperate.

Rambo watched for a while, deep in thought, and came up with a brilliant solution. He figured he’d go get his paint stallion, Thunder, and round ’em up —  cowboy style.

But he wasn’t any more adept at catching Thunder than he was at herding sheep. We waited 45 minutes, learning to identify individual dogs by their distinctive yelps, while he caught the paint stallion, tacked him up, and rode him back up to the sheep field. Well, it soon became obvious to everyone except Rambo that sheep aren’t a whit intimidated by paint stallions.

Meanwhile, Rambo’s wife and 5-year old daughter, Maggie, came out to join the fun. Mrs. Rambo was outfitted for the occasion in a denim dress and straw hat accented by a black silk rose. A camera dangled from around her neck to complement the ensemble.  Maggie, somewhat of free spirit, was dressed – barely – in a frilly red negligee several sizes too big and many years too old for her.  It it hung by one strap from her shoulder — and she was barefooted.  In a field full of farm-animal excrement.  Barefooted.  A step or two away from a paint stallion.  Barefooted.

Mrs. Rambo, hands on hips, began coaching from sidelines. “Len, it’ll never work thataway!….yer not doin’ it right!….Shut up, Mud…Hush, Cisco!….”  She screamed…..and the dogs kept barking…and the sheep just went wherever they darn well pleased.  And did I mention that it was getting very hot and muggy?

So, capricious little  Maggie ran around the pasture, hiking up her negligee, picking up baby field mice, hollering at the dogs, and getting precariously close to the wheels of the big John Deere.  I’d had about enough, so the next time she got within arm’s reach,  I scooped her up, looked her in the eye, tossed her into the bed of an F-150, and said,

“If you  get  out of that pick-up truck I’ll break every bone in your body!”

That worked —for about 8 seconds, when she told me she didn’t “haf to!”

George and the boys, dripping with sweat,  kept walking patiently around the pasture, and every time it looked like the flock was finally cornered, the sheep would cut and run, stampeding in thirty different directions.

Rambo gave up on the paint stallion, took off the bridle and let him run loose in the field.

BIG mistake —we knew after a couple of equine trumpet calls that Thunder was interested only in doing What Stallions Do Best. Maggie yelled, “Daddy, yo’ stallion’s tryin’ to get to them mares.”

We looked, and sure enough, he was succeeding — through a wire fence. And the dogs kept barking, the wife kept screaming, the sheep kept running away, and I began to wonder if we had dropped into the Twilight Zone.

Eventually, George and the boys devised a way to herd the sheep into a corner and fence them in with unhooked pasture gates, and then they actually picked  ’em up, one at a time, and threw them  onto the trailer. Bryan grabbed one of the ewes by the head, wrestled her front feet into the rig, and the look of triumph on his face changed to pure disgust as a warm stream of sheep urine ran down his leg.

It took five hours — FIVE HOURS of our 4th of July —  to get the sheep loaded. That was the good news. The bad news was that the cream of the crop, the piece de resistance, the registered Suffolk ram, the one George REALLY wanted, was running loose out in the woods. Ignoring our impassioned pleas to “Forget the ram!!” George jumped into the car, and with a maniacal gleam in his eye, blazed a trail through the woods with my shiny new Suburban and horse trailer. At this point, I began to seriously question the sanity of the man I so naively married twenty years ago.

It only took Rambo and George about another hour to FIND the ram. Then they had to rope him, wrestle him to the ground, and coax him onto the trailer.  My beloved  Suburban finally reappeared from the woods, covered in mud, but the driver was jubilant. The rest of us were hot, tired, hungry, irritated, miserable, and desperately in need of indoor plumbing. Aggravated to the nines, we slammed the metal doors of the horse trailers, headed our convoy out the driveway and stopped at the double-wide to pay Rambo an outrageous sum of money. And when George, still giddy from his conquest, turned around to climb back into his pickup, one of those confound hounddogs ran up, attacked him, and took a bite out of his leg.

  • And that’s the truth.

Copyright 1995, Elizabeth F. Holt

A Cuppa Cuppa Cup


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A couple of years ago, Chip and Katie gave Memomma a  coffee mug all her own, big and bold, pink with white stripes, and the slogan “QUEEN FOR A DAY” — a perfect gift for the coffee-guzzler Daddy loved to call Queenie.  In keeping with the name, the mug held a queen-sized serving of hot java.  If you knew my mama, you knew she wanted a LOT of coffee, at every meal, three times a day, no matter the season, plus several cups in between.  And if we were in a restaurant, she’d order a glass of water on the side.  Not that she drank the water — she’d grab a spoon and fish a couple of ice cubes out of the glass to cool down the coffee.  And then she’d ask the waitress to warm it up with a refill, and start the drill all over again.

Mama enjoyed her “Queen for a Day” mug, even after we placed  an “OUT OF ORDER” sign on the Keurig  when she forgot how to operate it.  My husband, George, fixed coffee for her often, to keep her from overflowing the Keurig with extra water, and by brewing it for her, fooled  her into using doctor-ordered de-caf  so we could all get some sleep. But, to paraphrase Daddy, that was sort of like tinkling in the ocean. None of us ever got any sleep.  George quietly helped me take care of Mom for more than three years, and whenever I thanked him, he answered, “She was never anything but nice to me.”

Four months after Mama’s last cup of coffee, I walked into the living room and noticed that the Queen mug was up on the mantelpiece, right next to my Williamsburg  candlesticks, where it didn’t match a thing.  What?  I couldn’t believe somebody — probably one of the grandkids, who love to grab a slightly naughty brew at Grandmommy’s house —  had left a dirty cup of coffee up on the mantel to mold, so I  stepped up on the hearth to grab it.

But I heard a shout, and my  my hand stopped in mid-air.

“What are you doing?” George hollered from the sofa, and this is a man who rarely raises his voice.

“I’m taking this coffee cup back to the kitchen.”

“NO.  You can’t.”

“I can’t?   I couldn’t imagine why not — we may not be the most OCD people in the world, but we don’t normally leave dirty dishes lying around the house.  I looked into the cup, puzzled.  Not a drop of  khaki-colored brew.   Clean as a whistle.

“What’s the problem.  Why not?”

“It’s retired,” he smiled. “RE-TIRED.”

And I cried.

How lovely.





A Glimpse of Marguerite


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Marguerite Alice Clark Van Hoorebeke Frick, six weeks shy of ninety-eight years old, died peacefully Tuesday, February 27, 2018, in Cherry Grove Beach, South Carolina. Memorial service will take place at 2:00 PM, Saturday, March 3, 2018, in Chapel By the Sea Baptist Church, 1051 Sea Mountain Highway, North Myrtle Beach, (Cherry Grove) South Carolina. Visitation will be held after the service at the home of Chip and Katie Holt in Longs, SC.

Marguerite was born April 14, 1920 in Drew, Mississippi; the oldest of five children born to Thomas Huey Clark and his wife, Mary Ella Hembree. Due to their mother’s serious illness, she and her siblings grew up in the household of their great-aunt, Florence Rozier Davis, in a large southern home overlooking the Yalobusha River in Carrollton, Mississippi, and on the Clark family farm in Teoc. Hot Mississippi summers were spent in Neshoba County on Grandpa Hembree’s farm, highlighted by a week in the family fair house at the famed Neshoba County Fair — #74 on Founder’s Square. Marguerite made family history by winning the Talent Contest at the 1931 fair, beating all the adult entries with an original dramatic presentation. She was a terrific storyteller and conversationalist, and never once ‘ruined a good story with facts.’

After graduating first in her high school class, Marguerite obtained a scholarship to Chillicothe Business College in Chillicothe, Missouri – the world’s largest business school at that time — where she paid for room and board by working in the dining hall, and was crowned Homecoming Queen. During that time, she met and married US Army Captain George Van Hoorebeke, from Joplin, Missouri. Captain Van Hoorebeke died a hero’s death in World War II, leaving her with two young daughters, Virginia and Carole.

In 1946, a young Signal Corps officer from South Carolina was ordered by his commanding officer to ask her out for a double-date because she owned the only car on post and could provide transportation. Six months later, she married Lieutenant Martin Luther Frick, Jr., and they moved back to his hometown of Greenville, South Carolina. As jobs were scarce in Mississippi, but the textile industry was booming in South Carolina, some of Marguerite’s family members moved to South Carolina as well, always finding a warm welcome, hot meals, love, and laughter in her home. Daughters Beth and Margie were born while the family lived in Greenville.

Martin L.’s Duke Power career moved them to different cities, so Marguerite enjoyed working as a bookkeeper and shopping center promotion manager, and especially loved her career as a real estate broker in Charlotte, Burlington, and Winston-Salem, NC. After retirement, Marguerite and Martin L. spent eighteen years on Sanibel Island, Florida, where they shelled all day and danced all night, making friends from all over the country who became like family. As a member of Sanibel Community Church, and Methodist churches wherever they lived, Marguerite considered herself a ‘choir widow,’ sitting in the congregation while her husband was in the choir loft.

Grandmother Hembree taught Marguerite to sew when she was a young child, and she became an accomplished seamstress, creating window treatments, upholstering furniture, and fashioning designer-quality wedding gowns for her daughters. She was also a terrific down-home southern cook, and her shrimp creole is still legendary among those associated with beloved friends Annie Murray and Wilson White and The Monterrey Motel in Surfside Beach, SC. She was often accused of having the world’s worst case of ‘gadget-itis,’ as she got one of everything new that ever came on the market. In 1952, the whole neighborhood crowded into her living room on Saturday nights to watch the Lucy Show; she had the first microwave oven in town; the basement held a huge electric ironing machine she operated with expert precision, and her kitchen was filled with steamers, ricers, dicers, under-counter can-openers, vegetable sealers, and all kinds of things that nobody really needed but she loved.

Blessed with quick wit and a sparkling, outgoing personality, Marguerite was genuinely interested in every person she met, and went out of her way to be kind, upbeat, and hospitable. She read the morning and evening newspapers word for word every day for years, and never missed voting in a national election. She was often called the world’s biggest female sports fan, as she cheered for the Clemson Tigers and Duke basketball. Her daughters were told more than once, “Your mother knows more about football than any woman I’ve ever met!”

Martin L. and Marguerite loved to dance together, and she loved listening to her husband and daughters perform music. Martin L. once said, “The day I met Marguerite was the best day of my life. She was beautiful, she was intelligent, had a wonderful personality – and she used good grammar!”

Marguerite’s longevity brought heartache along with joy. She was widowed twice, and suffered the pain of losing two daughters, Virginia Ella Van Hoorebeke Frick Miller Hill Hooker (Sol) of Taylors, SC, and Carole Ann Van Hoorebeke Frick Long of Winston-Salem, NC; granddaughter, Kristina Elaine Hinsdale of Belews Creek, NC; and great-granddaughter, Marah Leigh Bomar Worthy, of Greenville, SC.

She is survived by daughters Elizabeth Frick Holt (George) of Powhatan, Virginia and Cherry Grove Beach; Marguerite (“Margie”) Frick Hinsdale (Mark), of Belews Creek, North Carolina; her youngest sister, Polly Ann Clark Atkins of Columbia, South Carolina; sisters-in-law Betty Campbell Clark of Greenville, SC and Betty Jean Clark of Garden Grove California, and many adoring nieces and nephews who will travel from across the country to be at her memorial service.
Marguerite’s grandchildren were the delights of her life: Tracy Miller (who named her ‘Memomma’) of Greer, SC; Robin Miller Bomar (Mark) of Blue Ridge, SC; Lisa Long Feldmann (Ed) of Longmeadow, Massachusetts; George Long (Jessamine) of Roswell, Georgia; Chip Holt (Katie) of Longs, SC; Bryan Holt (Rebekah) of Powhatan, Virginia; David Holt (Krystal) of Fredericksburg, VA; Martin Hinsdale and the late Kristina Hinsdale of Belews Creek, NC; and step-grandson, Michael Hill of California.

She had the pleasure of loving thirteen great-grandchildren: The late Marah Bomar Worthy (Andrew); Monica Bomar Fowler (Jordan) of Blue Ridge, SC; Micah, Nathan, Chloe, Jane, and Ian Holt of Powhatan, Virginia; Keira and Eli Razzak of Kernersville, NC; Evelyn and Elaine Holt of Fredericksburg, Virginia; Sylas and Robinson Long of Roswell, Georgia.

In recent years, Marguerite made her home with George and Beth Holt in Powhatan, Virginia, where she attended Emmaus Christian Church; and in Cherry Grove Beach, SC. She remained good-natured to the end and thanked the Good Lord every day for her life, safe travels, and blessings. The family wishes to thank Embrace Hospice, especially Samantha and Stephanie, for their loving care during the final weeks of this remarkable life. Soli Deo Gloria.




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The Marguerite Chronicles ~ February 6, 2018:

Marguerite’s ups-and-downs over the past week have been epic — several times we thought she was checking out. Still, her physical condition didn’t meet Medicare guidelines for general inpatient status, so we paid for five expensive nights to give ourselves some breathing room. She enjoyed all manner of relatives visiting over the week-end, though she seemed barely conscious through much of it.  Two daughters, two sons-in-law, a sister, a niece, a nephew, four grandsons, two great-grandsons, and a great-granddaughter stood in loving prayer at her bedside. We didn’t think she’d last till  her Tuesday morning discharge time.

And then, last night, she woke up.  Somebody recharged the Energizer Bunny, and this morning, we found her trying to climb out of the bed — after four weeks of being unable to use her arms or legs or even to roll over.

So, as previously planned, a hospital bed and other hospice-at-home equipment was delivered, and a transport brought her back to the condo. She was awake.  Joking. Talking in sentences. And listening to her grand-nephew who happens to be a bona-fide composer, symphony pianist, and Uber driver tinkling the ivories from the living room.  “I just love you more every day!” she said to him.

People in their last days often rally for a little while before entering a final downturn, so we don’t know for sure if this is a rally or an actual improvement after finally detoxing from the medication that made her comatose.  Time will tell.  But no matter, we’ll take it.

So, drop by anytime.  The Queen is holding court!



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The Marguerite Chronicles, February 1, 2018:

Memomma is in a lovely hospice home in the Myrtle Beach area, after being hospitalized in Winston-Salem and Myrtle Beach.  A doctor in Winston-Salem, who was treating her for a UTI, decided to change her seizure medication after noticing that it was not what is normally considered a therapeutic dose.  Had he bothered to check with me, or the prescribing neurologist whose name we provided, we could have explained the reason for the lower dose. But he didn’t. And he changed it to a medication that made her almost comatose for nearly 3 days when it was first prescribed for her a few months ago.  When he mentioned the medication to my sister, he used the brand name, not the generic name that she had seen on the bottles.  So, after five days of taking this medicine, Mama was in terrible shape.  Only after she was discharged in a nearly comatose condition did I realize that she was back on this medication and suffering terrible side effects from it.  On top of the other issues that legitimately landed her in the hospital, this was a crowning blow, and  she’s been through the wringer.

So, in the hospice home today, she cried out with a terrible headache, and even after receiving medication, she seemed to be in a good bit of pain.  Margie and I sang to her — Put On Your Old Grey Bonnet, Let Me Call You Sweetheart, How Great Thou Art, Amazing Grace, Precious Lord, Take My Hand, You Are My Sunshine, I’ll Fly Away…

Tonight, when we left,  she was sleeping deeply.  Though to us, she seems to be deteriorating, she no longer fits  Medicare guidelines for general inpatient status (GIP) in a hospice home, so we are purchasing a few nights of what is termed ‘room and board.’  It costs an arm and a leg.

If she lasts till Tuesday, we will move her here, and she’ll receive in-home hospice care, covered by Medicare, until such time as she can qualify for general inpatient status again and can be moved back to the Hospice Home. As a friend’s uncle said when he was being kicked off GIP status, “I’m not dying fast enough to suit ’em.” If she stays in the Hospice Home but is not considered GIP status, Medicare pays the hospice care part, but room & board is on our dime.

So, I’m thinking of taking in a few boarders myself. Hmmm — we have two extra bedrooms at the beach, and four in Virginia, so at $175 per person per day in a double room, or $250 per day for a single room — I could potentially pull in at least $36,000 per month. Anyone looking for room and board? I guarantee really good food, comfortable mattresses, and great views.