The living room. My 81-year-old mother-in-law, Mother Mary, and I are watching TV while my wife is preparing lunch. Mother Mary sits in her wheelchair, drinking a glass of Coca-Cola. A racy perfume commercial plays on television.

Mother Mary nods to the TV and says, “Those people are sexy.”

I say nothing.

She points. “Especially him. Look at him. I’d sop him with a biscuit.”

I clear my throat and study my shoes.

She takes a sip and says, “You know, this commercial reminds me, I’m out of bath powder, I need some.”


“I need bath powder fragrance. Make sure you write it on my shopping list.”

I’m not certain when I was elected the new shopping-list supervisor, but I retrieve her notepad and say, “Okay, what do I write down? Just… Bath powder?”

“No, you write ‘Estée Lauder Youth Dew dusting powder fragrance.’”


She chews an ice cube. “And I want the big one.”

“The big one?”

“Yes. Youth Dew bath powder comes in different sizes. I want the extra-large. I use it every day. It’s the signature perfume for all old ladies.”

“It is?”

“Oh, yes.

When a woman starts wearing Youth Dew she is officially an old lady. Everyone knows that.”

So I add the item to the shopping list. Although I do require a little help spelling Estée Lauder correctly.

Silence follows our little spurt of conversation. And the television is now playing a commercial for Victoria’s Secret.

Mother Mary turns to me. “And write on there that I need a new bra, too.”


She cackles. “Oh, don’t be such a Baptist. I didn’t say thong underwear. It’s not like I’m telling you my cup size or anything, jeez. Keep your Levis on. I need a new bra. Mine’s old.”

God help me.

I wish my wife would enter the den and rescue me. I’m also praying fervently that the television doesn’t start…

Today I read an anger-fueled article sent to me from a friend. The article was nothing but 600 words of well-phrased rants, complaints and venom. It was awful. And like many truly awful things, it went viral.

When I finished the essay I felt so depressed that I had to take some Pepto-Bismol and lie down. The article bickered about everything. Politics, religion, pollution, crime, taxes, pesticides, SUV’s, celebrity culture, the price of gas.

And worse, hundreds of thousands of people had loved these articulated complaints, thereby agreeing that this world is a totally jacked-up place to live.

Well, far be it from me to contradict this well-known writer’s take on the nature of life. He probably poses some really significant points. But all this unpleasant reading left me asking myself one very important question, which I believe this essayist overlooked:

If this world is indeed in a lost cause, then how do you explain Hershey’s bars?

Let’s think about this logically. Can a world be all that bad as long as it has silken milk chocolate

manufactured by the multinational chocolate and cocoa godsend that is the Hersehy’s Company? I submit no.

Has the essay writer ever savored a Hershey’s bar when it’s room temperature? Has he ever tasted a s’more for crying out loud? Has the writer ever visited Hersheypark family theme park in Hershey, Pennsylvania?

Obviously not because Hershey’s chocolate, in any incarnation, instantly makes the world better.

Certainly, I realize we as a society have our problems, I’m not saying we don’t. But has the embittered author of the seething article ever paused to taste fresh blueberries? How about a purple Cherokee tomato?

If he hasn’t, he needs to eat several. This might also help relieve some of his mild to severe constipation.

I ate an heirloom tomato today, picked from my neighbor’s garden. I had a visceral reaction. I took one bite and I started…

An Episcopal church. A weekday. It’s an ornate building with flickering votives in the corner. The door was unlocked so I came inside. Nobody seemed to notice me, so I pulled up a pew.

There are only two people in this chapel. Across the aisle is an older woman. Her hair is white, her head is down. Behind her is a young scruffy-looking man, head also down.

I wasn’t raised Episcopalian, but I like pretty churches. Plus, Piskies are always good about letting you just pop in and hang out with no strings attached. If I would have popped into a Baptist church they would have already signed me up for nursery duty.

But if I’m being truly honest, I came to this ornate place because I was hoping to get a column out of the deal. These words don’t just write themselves, and I needed inspiration.

Inspiration has been hard to come by this last year. Some mornings I wake up happy as a bumblebee. Other days, I wake up still feeling

the weight of last years’ chaos lingering.

A lot of little changes have occurred in my life since the pandemic. Too many changes to list in one column. Changes like, for example, my pants don’t fit anymore. Also I’m getting more stray gray hairs. And some nights I fall asleep before “Matlock” is even over.

It’s quiet in here. I’m staring at the backlit stained glass and I decide to try my hand at praying.

My problem, of course, is that I am horrible at prayer. Don’t call on me to say grace at your barbecue, I get so nervous I start reciting the preamble to the Constitution and I require an emergency Miller Lite.

The only real examples of prayer during my fundamentalist childhood came from my uncle Tommy Lee, who was an amateur Missionary Baptist preacher. He treated prayer like an improvised Lynyrd Skynyrd guitar…

She was lost. The old girl had traveled this trail before and it always led back home. But this time she couldn’t find the right smell to guide her.

Although it wasn’t for lack of trying. She kept her nose to the ground, searching for a familiar scent. But she found nothing.

She wasn’t exactly a young pup anymore. Her nose wasn’t as good as it had been. Long ago, she could sniff a person and tell their age, weight, and religious denomination. But now she was lost.

Still, she followed the smells until she found a highway. It was a busy highway. Big machines shot across the pavement so fast it made her ears hurt.

She looked across the road. The old girl wasn’t sure she should cross. But on the other side of the highway she saw an inviting neighborhood. She could see rooftops behind all the traffic.

Those homes looked safe and happy. She needed happy. Maybe she could find someone there who would love her. Her mind was getting so confused with hunger.

Should she cross this busy road? Was it suicide? Was is salvation?

She sat on the highway shoulder and thought about it. All she could feel was starvation. The poor thing needed food and water. That’s why she’d left home in the first place.

Her owner wasn’t a very nice man. He would often go days without feeding her, which had made her lean and ragged. Sometimes, he wouldn’t even give her water, she had to drink from ditches. In fact that’s why she left. She had crawled beneath the fence in search of water.

Then she got lost.

“WOOSH! WOOSH!” went the cars.

Big vehicles rocketed past her. She should’ve turned around, but hunger made her attempt to cross the highway.

She cautiously pranced on the pavement, hoping that the huge machines would avoid her. One car sped by so fast it…


I have no idea what to do. I had never met my biological mother until a couple months ago, and now she’s wanting to be a part of my life now.

I don’t know that I want this and it’s stressing me out. I was adopted, and I’m 53 now, it’s not like I can just be okay with this stranger who didn’t want me 53 years ago, but now she won’t leave me alone.

It’s making me feel really guilty for not being into this whole idea. What should I do?



Let me introduce you to Hubert. After I received your message, I immediately contacted Hubert to get permission to share his story. Hubert is not his real name.

He grew up as an adopted child. His childhood was a normal one. He liked rock and roll, long hair, lava lamps, and ticking off his parents.

When he was in his mid thirties he decided to find his birth mother. Hubert went through a lot of trouble tracking the woman down. And

when he finally found her, he discovered that his mother was not exactly what you’d call a model citizen.

What he expected was a sedate older woman with cookies in the oven and scripture embroidery hanging on her walls. What he got was an embittered woman living in a bad situation, in terrible health, with addictions out the wazoo.

But what hurt worst of all was that this woman had four adult children. Children she’d kept.

“I couldn’t believe she’d kept them but thrown me away,” said Hubert. “I mean, I’m grateful that mess wasn’t my life, but why not me? You know, you always wonder.”

So establishing contact with his mother was not the warm fuzzy love fest he’d envisioned. And it got worse when the woman learned Hubert could help her financially. She started badgering him for cash.

This is going to sound silly, but I miss the days when people used Corningware coffee percolators. Yeah, I know this particular kitchen accessory is an antique, but not in my house.

We have been using one since our first day of marriage.

Oh, we would have gladly used an electric coffee maker if someone would have given us one for a wedding gift. But fundamentalist Baptists don’t give practical wedding gifts. They give things you will never use.

For example: Serving plates shaped like the Crown of Thorns.

So I had to steal a Corningware percolator from my mother’s cabinet on my wedding day. I’m not proud of this, but she had three of them in her kitchen.

And while we’re talking about kitchens, I also miss the era of kitchen phones. Do you know how long it’s been since I used a rotary phone? A long time.

I realize that kids who were raised on cellphones might not know what rotary phones are, but they are missing out. The wall-mounted kitchen phone was an

important device in my personal childhood, and the world changed when we lost them.

Before the age of smartphones, there was only one way to talk to the opposite sex after school hours. You had to physically walk into your mother’s kitchen, dial a telephone number in front of God and country, and endure Twenty Questions from your mother.

“What’re you doing?” your mother would ask, using the same tone she used when she suspected babies of having full diapers. “Are we calling a special someone?”

And it got worse.

You knew that after you dialed the number the girl’s father would answer first. Her father was a man who worked at the mill, who shaved his back with a dull axe blade, who weighed more than a Chevy Impala, who was a decorated war hero with battleship tattoos on his forearms.

This man…

SAVANNAH—It’s hard not to love this town. The scenery is easy on the eyes, colorful, historic, and there are flowers everywhere. There are also sweaty tourists out and about on foot, exploring Georgia’s oldest city on a sunny afternoon. And everyone is playing on their phones.

Have you ever noticed how many phones you see in public these days? They are in nearly every hand.

My wife and I take a city stroll, and I’ve learned a lot about Savannah on our walk. The first thing I learn is that the historic downtown is hotter than the fires of hell. It is 102 degrees outside. My boot rubber is softening. I’ve sweat through my shirt.

Which is actually a valuable lesson because this heat reminds me of how artificial modern life can be. We high-tech Americans pamper ourselves with air conditioning, streaming digital entertainment, prepackaged food, and round-the-clock Walmarts where you can buy Fritos at any odd hour of the night. But that’s not real life.

Early Americans’ lives were filled with nature, agriculture, back-cracking

work, and their phones didn’t even shoot good video. They cooked over wood fires; we modern folks stand in front of microwaves and shout, “HURRY UP!”

In other words, I’m spoiled.

My wife and I walk over to Oglethorpe Square for a look around. The place is filled with dozens of tourists, many seated on benches. I notice most of them are playing on smartphones.

We walk to Flannery O’Connor’s childhood home, I count four young persons sitting nearby, also playing on phones.

Next we hike to the Juliette Gordon Low Museum—the first Girl Scout headquarters. There, fourteen people are mindlessly scrolling on phones. Fifteen if you count me.

Over by the famous in the Bonaventure Cemetery, I see a guy giving a well-rehearsed spiel to a small crowd. He, too, is using his phone to reference his lecture notes. But as it happens, nobody…