“I feel sorry for people who can’t cry,” Verdie McGee said over the phone from 800 miles away. “I really think crying makes you live longer.”
Verdie is living proof. She’s one of the best criers I know, and I’ve known her 35 years.
Verdie Dempsey McGee, my former mother-in-law, is telling me how she is struggling with the demons of (feeling) down.
“ I thought I was over with those feelings, but every time I think of mother and daddy, I get sad. I woke up this morning and said I wasn’t gonna’ cry. . .but I did. I laid there and had a big cry.”
Verdie sounded like she might cry right then.
“I’ll bet your felt better after,” I said.
The conversation switched to talk of what wonderful experiences Verdie’s life has brought. She talked of childhood in the mountains of North Georgia, when the Buttermilk Road was just a dirt passage that wagons and horses rumbled over. She told me of the time she first saw her first automobile— probably from one of “them” big cities nearby like, Cedartown or Rome, Georgia. And the time, on a bright sunny day, she stood there with her brothers and sisters as an “aeroplane” landed right there in front of them in the cotton fields. The pilot offering $2 rides to anyone brave and adventurous to go.
Verdie talked of her teen years and Saturday night dances in Cave Spring, Ga., still a tiny town today. We talked of the days before radio and television and the marvel of those inventions that brought glorious sound and sight.
She reminisced with stories of honeysuckle vines and springtime, of whippoorwills calling at night and thoughts of the great country singer Hank William’s being, “so lonesome he could cry.”
She’s weathered tornadoes and the creek arisin’ and watched men fight world wars and men walk on the moon. In her lifetime, she’s seen more U.S. President then she have fingers.
It’s been rich, exciting life for this woman who still lives on the Buttermilk Road in the shadow of bald mountain and Pea Ridge.
Amazingly, most of Verdie’s brothers and sisters are still alive, still livin’ within a stones throw—which is pretty close, ‘cause Verdie ain’t pitchin so hard anymore.
One of the bad times in Verdie’s life was when doctors told her she had six months “at best” to live. Lets see—that was about three years ago. We talked about that prediction recently. “The doctor who told you that is probably dead, ” I said, and Verdie laughed hard.
“I’ll be there for your 90th birthday and we’ll dance,” I told her.
But, plans change, and I couldn’t make it to the Buttermilk Road. I felt poorly about not making the celebration. A big party was planned.
When I called to say I’d be down in a few weeks Verdie was sleeping. Carolyn, my former wife, said she’d told her mom I couldn’t make it.
“Mother says anytime you want to come is fine with her— if she is living.”
That sounds like Verdie.
Actually, it wouldn’t have done any good if I could have gone to Georgia because Verdie’s not there. She and Carolyn jumped in the car and drove 700 miles to Fort Lauderdale to visit my daughter Annie, sit by the sea and celebrate Verdie’s 90th birthday.
Happy Birthday Verdie.*
*Editors note: This is a column Jerry wrote in 1999. Verdie McGee passed at age 91.
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