Tag Archives: Chicken Annie’s

Oh-oh…Where we at? The bad grammar continues

Hi, Mom.

Last week I wrote about driving blue highways and back roads on my way to visit you in Fort Scott. It struck a chord with many friends who told me personally or emailed that they also love to set out and just drive, seeing where it takes them.

Then I remembered the jaunt you and I took together that didn’t turn out at all like we’d planned. Dad was still alive and had his caregiver with him, so you and I drove down to Chicken Annie’s for an early Friday evening dinner. We had our usual good time and ordered an extra to-go meal for Dad. But instead of driving back to Fort Scott right away, we decided to enjoy the beautiful evening and play a game of “Which way now?”

At the exit of Chicken Annie’s parking lot, you chose first. “Turn right,” you said, “let’s follow the lilac bushes along the road.”  So I turned right. We were in a semi-rural area north of Pittsburg, KS, just a few miles from the Missouri line, and the countryside was gorgeous.

When the lilac bushes thinned out, we came to an intersection.  Being a really good daughter, I let you choose again. You decided we should turn left because it looked like some pretty trees off that way. It also took us onto a narrow dirt road, but you were right, there were lots of pretty trees.  On and on we went, turning right, turning left, traveling beyond the gullies where strip mining had been taken over by woods, and abandoned houses were overgrown with vines. It was still early evening and I kept thinking that all we’d have to do was turn and drive west until we eventually came back to the highway.

We made our final turn onto a side road. You chose it for the remaining dots of yellow flowers on forsythia bushes tucked between the fire-red blossoms of pyracanthas, bordered by straggly cedars. At the bend of the little road, the flowers ended, and a different view took over.

Several pickup trucks–looking like they were held together by rust and mud–were parked at odd angles in the clearing. Bearded men in ball caps leaned against the truck bed holding a keg of beer. They’d been enjoying their drinks for awhile. Rifles stood at attention against the side of the truck, and the men did not look glad to see us.

You leaned forward, peered through the windshield, smiled and waved. You whispered to me, “Oh, my, this isn’t good.”  Damn straight, I thought, though I didn’t say it. That moment wasn’t the time for reminders against cursing.

Scenes of the movie DELIVERANCE gave me chills, and as I threw the car into reverse I thought maybe I heard the sound of dueling banjos. I’ve never driven so fast in reverse. You were a great help, watching through the windshield, saying, “I don’t think they’re coming…oh wait…no, I don’t think so,” as we sped past the cedars and forsythia and pyracantha that no longer seemed as delightful.

Later, when we finally arrived back with Dad’s meal, as the caregiver  heated it in the microwave, she asked if we’d had a nice ride. You smiled and said, “The flowers were lovely.”

That’s your trademark, Mom. Enjoy the adventure, whatever it is, and remember the good parts.



Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, friends, lessons about life, memories for grandchildren



Remember the rides we used to take, Mom?  I’d arrive from Colorado and you and I would “go drivin’” somewhere.  We’d go south, almost to Pittsburg, turn and go east to eat at Chicken Annie’s, and then carry home the leftovers.  You said if we got lost, we wouldn’t starve.

Another favorite drive was east to Nevada, Missouri, to visit the beautiful red brick and white trimmed buildings on the campus of Cottey College.  We’d have tea and talk about the projects of our PEO chapters that contributed to many of Cottey’s programs.

On other drives we visited local nurseries, and you walked among the rows of flowers and plants, identifying most of them by name.  One day, as we returned via back roads after an outing, you pointed toward a grove of pecan trees and reminded me of the times we carried sack lunches and went pecan gathering with friends.

That was years ago.  Now, if we take a ride, we stay in Ft. Scott.  A few months ago, when the weather was nice, we drove by Ft. Scott Community College. You remembered when the college was much smaller, and for awhile your writing group met in the lobby of one of the dorms.  Later, we took our usual drive to the cemetery, stopping by Dad’s gravesite and headstone.  When we drove away, just around the bend was a large polished marker, and you asked if we knew who was buried there.

I reminded you that it was not a grave, but a life marker for Gordon Parks, author of THE LEARNING TREE, the book (and movie) based on his life growing up in Ft. Scott.  As I read aloud his message of “Homecoming,” you listened.  Then you surprised me by remembering our drive around the community college, saying, “Didn’t we see something else about him?”

As I reminded you of our drive that day, I realized the many connections.  The message in the marker was connected to the art and writing and photography on display at the Gordon Parks Center for Culture and Diversity, which showed how his influence connected with people and places well beyond his Kansas roots. Parks inspired many people all over the world, including CNNs Anderson Cooper, who called Parks his hero, the man responsible for his spark about reporting.  You smiled when I told you that, asking if that Cooper was related to our neighbors.  I said I didn’t think so, but you did know the executive director of the Gordon Parks Center,Jill Warford, the daughter of your dear friend from church, Beth Warford Robinson.  And the Gordon Parks Center is housed in the Danny and Willa Ellis Fine Arts Center, and Danny and Willa were close friends with you and Dad.  Their daughter, my friend in junior high and high school, died in 1997 of breast cancer, and in her memory the Kathy Ellis Academic Hall was built.

Mom, you always said that our lives connect with everyone else’s lives, so what we did…or didn’t do, made a difference.  Like throwing rocks in a pond, we had to be careful of how hard and where we threw them, because they wouldn’t just sink to the bottom.  They made ripples, which made more ripples…

Thanks, Mom, for leaving a lifetime of ripples that make the world a better place.

Love, Marylin


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, friends, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, memories for grandchildren