Everybody knows everybody here, so a drowning brings out all the neighbors

A steady line of cars has come and gone at the house across the road where the parents of the 34-year-old man who drowned in a nearby lake yesterday live. The son died on his father’s birthday and his daughter-in-law’s child’s birthday.

Lake Allatoona, GA.

We don’t know them well, but well enough to know the news and that the family gathered at the son’s house last night and told stories into the night.

Now, nothing will never be the same. Those who remain seem to bear the brunt of a family member’s death, for they are still here and have to cope with it, settle all that needs to be settled–his house, his company, his will, all he left behind.

I cannot imagine a parent celebrating his/her own birthday again with this tragedy inscribed on the date. My brother and his wife lost their son to suicide and they make sure they are never home on that sad anniversary. Our neighbors might end up doing the same thing, avoiding everything that reminds them of yesterday afternoon.

As weekends go, the Labor Day weekend holds its share of accidents and other tragedies. For the most part, we don’t know those whom we lost. Today, I know his name and his parents’ names. He was a great guy, folks are saying, and I don’t doubt them. I didn’t know him but I think it’s sad that he’s gone. I worry about his family most of all and how they will move forward. I hope they can.

–Malcolm

 

A perfect Thanksgiving dinner on the first try

When we visited my daughter and her family in Maryland for Thanksgiving this year, we enjoyed side trips to Mt. Vernon and historic Alexandria. We especially liked the candlelight tour of Mt. Vernon.

But the surprise was the fact that my daughter’s husband decided that since he’d never cooked a Thanksgiving dinner before, he’d give it a try. He didn’t start out with a family recipe box or a tradition that’s passed down from parents to children every year so that one kind of knows how to fix the dinner from having watched others doing it.

Instead, he began with the Internet and (apparently) Googled how to cook a turkey, make candied yams, prepare an icebox cake, and create the side dishes. I probably would have used my mother’s old recipe books because, while I’ve found some great recipes on the Internet, I’ve noticed that some of the versions between one site and another have vastly different cooking times and oven temps; so, if you didn’t more or less know how to cook something, it would be hard to roll the dice with one version or another.

Frankly, I thought he looked like a mad scientist in the kitchen co-ordinating all the parts of the meal. And keeping things warm after they came out of the oven. (My mother had a double oven, so she had an easy way to keep multiple things hot.) But he juggled things in an out of the microwave and kept them covered.

The dinner was perfect. I told him that if he gets tired of his office job, he could probably sign on as a chef at a five-star Michelin restaurant.

The best thing was seeing family. With two granddaughters, they change so much every year it’s hard to keep up. And, I’m thinking that they have a good role model in a father who knows how to use the kitchen and then clean it up after the meal.

I hope your Thanksgiving was a good one as well.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Lena,” “Eulalie and Washerwoman,” and “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”