Monday, October 15, 2012

Taking Ma to church to see Jimmy Carter in Plains GA

10/13/12 09:18 Atlanta I can’t remember the last time I took a trip which involved only my mother. The idea was building for over a year, ever since I drove my family down to Florida and we stopped in Plains to attend a Bible study with President Carter. Last year I wanted to take her, but with Ali’s diagnosis, my attention was solely on my wife getting better and being more supportive with my children. Ma and I have read a few of his books. The first for me was Living Faith which I waited in line for hours to get my copy signed at Book Revue in Huntington. I was one of the first on line and learned soon enough, the line goes quickly, I was told by some veterans of his signings - you may get a nod, but there was no personalized copies and none would be signed Jimmy Carter…only a J carter. Keep the line moving. I wish I had more time and since then there was some more signings, but with each signing the meeting was brief. Once he shook my hand. When we came home from Florida; I shared the time in Carter’s small church in Plains and the special warmth I felt in his presence, there was no rush in church. This was a place where the word of God was spoken by one a former President of the United States. What incredible knowledge. Afterwards we had our picture taken with The Carter’s and eventually we moved on out of town. Since then I bought Ma some of his Bible Teachings - CD’s – he has two that are available to the public. She listens to them, but I knew if there was a chance, I would take her to Plains. This year I saved my money and we set on a date. October 14 – which was my grandmother’s birthday, Ma’s mother… I worked a half day from home. By 1 PM I was shutting down, made a peanut butter sandwich since I’m meatless, finished packing, loaded the car with my bag and called Ma to say I was coming over. While driving to my parent’s house on the windy 25A, I listened to classical music, watched the changing patterns of the leaves and saw the Halloween decorations in store windows. I made it home and honestly with some surprise I saw a small black traveler’s bag, a small knapsack and she was ready. I hugged by brother-in-law and we pulled out of the driveway. Ma asked if she could sit in the back seat. Sure Ma whatever makes you feel comfortable. Like Driving Miss Daisy, I backed out of the driveway and we were off to Laguardia. The flight was leaving at 6 and we had enough time to get there. I noticed she’d keep her eyes covered, and I thought it was the sun, but knew she was nervous with me driving. I am not a bad driver, but my mother was in a serious car accident when she was younger. Two women in the car died that day. If Ma did not move over to the middle of the back seat, she’d be dead. Ma’s first senior moment was finding her driver’s license which she needed to check in through security, more people passed us as she searched and I know praying to Saint Anthony till she found it, and she did. The flight was smooth. The jet was larger than I expected, a 757…the night sky was clear as we passed tiny clusters of city lights. I played The Wings for Ma on my Itouch, Uncle Albert, Let Him In…she listened and bobbed her head back and forth. Those songs brought me back to when I was a kid listening to the music at our neighbor's house, Linda and Mac still live there. Hands across the water…water…hands across the clear blue sea…. and we landed. We trudged slowly to retrieve the luggage, walked to the rental car, walked to the rental and made it to the hotel late. Parked the car in a public parking across from The Courtyard on Carnegie in Atlanta – a very nice place to stay, I was surprised it was a Courtyard it was very modern . I don’t think I would forget the look of Ma’s glazed and tired eyes as she asked in her Irish brogue oh so very nicely and with hope, “Do you think we’d get some dinner?” Of course. 10/14/12 07:05 Columbus GA I woke up before the alarm. I slept very well. Yesterday was a full day in Atlanta, and then an hour and a half drive to Columbus. After walking through the Olympic park, feeling the settled peace in the Southern city - the air was clean and the sun was out in a clear blue sky, and seeing inside the CNN center we walked back to the parking garage to get the car. I explained to the woman at the checkout I lost the ticket…she was nice $15.00 was the price – for a lost ticket and I assume was the same price to park overnight. I have to say everyone has been very nice and accommodating – Ma and I make a point to say something, he is my son or I am on this tour with my mother. It sets the precedent. Isn’t that nice… a mother and her son. The waitress yesterday was very nice. Ma asked… and has asked each time she’d like something to drink – do you have decaf tea? On the flight down…no mam. A flight attendant brewed a pot of decaf coffee. Yesterday she had hot water with lemon. For lunch, it was a late meal; the waitress at Highland Bakery offered some selections of herbal tea. Yesterday we spent most of the day at the MLK site. I wanted Ma to feel as though she had as much time as she needed. This was the first time she’s been here. There was a lot to take in. I’m looking at the time: we’re supposed to be leaving this hotel in fifteen minutes. Time to go, and finish packing. 1900 clouds outside my window Today was a very memorable day. We were on the road by 7:30 - well make that 7:45 since Ma couldn’t find her purse, then needed a clothes hanger though she was going to take one from the room. I explained it was not a good idea, oh you’re right. Besides we were going to church, she said and that would be stealing. I asked a woman at the front desk if she had a metal hanger and she did. We were set. Like I said we were on the road by 7:45. We made it down to Plains Maranatha Baptist church before 9:00. We passed Fort Bennington, the entrance was grand with statues, Roman columns as if it was an imposing wall of force. The drive was easy and slow because Ma would remind me and ask me to watch my speed and go slow, Ms Daisy I am driving carefully. We passed fields with hovering steam over the plants. Rows of short plants with what looked like snow plants -white balls of flowers and we soon discovered was cotton. Relics of homes with battered tin roofs and caved in walls, a donkey used for refuge from the morning sun. Red dirt roads, the color looked like fire ants. There were signs as we approached Plains, 45 miles and such. Plains…home of the 39th President of the United States. There was minimal traffic on the road. A Sunday morning in the South can be peaceful. President Carter’s class begins promptly at 10:00. There were cars in the parking lot. I brought some Cliff Bars and we ate quickly and drank some water. That was our breakfast. We rushed as best as we could to get inside. We checked ourselves in with the secret service officers who checked the camera and phone and we went in. I realized I left my glasses in the car and went back outside. Actually went back twice. When I came back one of the women ushers asked - what was mother’s first name. Rita I said. OK…I wasn’t sure why she asked. Before President Carter comes out, we are given a lesson of the norms of what to expect and how to behave. The woman giving the lesson, Miss. Jan was Amy Carter’s fourth grade teacher. She was stern but had a great sense of humor. The President will ask each section where you’re from, if you hear your state or country, please don’t repeat it. I called out Ireland since Ma wasn’t going to say anything. The Bible lesson we are told is approximately one hour. If we stay for the lesson and the service we can have our picture taken with President Carter and The First Lady. The theme of today’s lesson was on standing up for what is right, Fairness. The rich and powerful should be obligated to take care of those who are poor and weak, the disadvantage. I had to ask Ma as she’s sitting next to me what was the theme? I knew the word began with an F. Fairness….I might have to shut this down since I have inches to type. It’s not the turbulence which is not as bad as when I flew back from Florida. Though it’s shaking and Ma is sitting here in silence. I felt sorry for her and we chatted about some of the examples of unfairness, which President Carter described, civil rights and immigration issues, the poor and how our society has changed especially politics. When President Carter ran against Governor Reagan, there was no such thing as PACS or huge corporate donations…each shared a pool that was donated by the citizens on their tax returns. I think he mentioned up to two dollars was the most any citizen could donate. Before the service began we had ten minutes to get up and use the bathrooms. I got up and went. When I came back, Ma had tears in her eyes. She said, “I can’t speak…” And looked to the woman to her right for some reassurance, she moved closer to Ma. A brown bag was in her lap, my hands are shaking. She pulled out a signed book which President Carter inscribed, To Rita J Carter…Ma thought I had something to do with it…not at all. I understand The Carter’s won’t sign anything at church and this was a rarity. After service we had our picture taken, at lunch at Dylan’s which Ms. Jan explained was the only place open on a Sunday morning in Plains…I think she owns it. We drove to President Carter’s childhood home and walked in the house where the memories and stories we read about were shared in his books. I took a picture of Ma on the long white swing in the front porch. Before we left I had some boiled peanuts that a ranger cooked up on a fire outside and was given a piece of a cotton plant. This was the snow flowers we saw from the car. The drive back to the airport was about three hours. Like Ma I lost the rental keys for a few minutes after I parked the car….it was my senior moment. Either way the moments for this past weekend were blessed by God…thank you for reading this…

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