Monday, February 1, 2016

Goodbye Lookout Mountain (written around 1993 or so) Addendum written today

Yesterday Lloyd and I went retirement- house hunting on top of Lookout Mountain, it reminded me of this story I wrote after my uncles funeral. I wrote it sometime around 1993 or so, I can't remember when he died exactly and I didn't date the story. With it being the month of love, and I loved Lookout Mountain,I thought I would share the story here:

Growing up, Lookout Mountain was my second home and my second place of being. Second only to Marietta. It was definitely a place where I belonged, if only from time to time. It was a  place where the land was unspoiled and where the houses were cozy and where it seemed time had stood still.
My grandparents lived there most of their lives. My grandfather and his family left the Pumpkinvine Creek by wagon and moved to Dekalb Co, Alabama. My grandparents lived in a three bedroom house with a pond, a creek (Bear Creek), and woods. I cherish the memories I have of that little house and the warmth it had. ( I mean that quite literally, my grandmother would keep the heat on about 90 degrees!) The rocks behind her house seemed to be as big as houses; the woods seem endless, but I felt like I knew every acre and could name every rock back there, behind her house. I would climb to the top of the rocks and have picnics, or play Indian princess.
Even though I was not raised on Lookout Mt, my dad was, and his stories were my connection to the Mountain and his adventures brought it to life for me. This was the mountain my grandmother was afraid to leave, looking back she was a little neurotic about leaving. I never could figure out why you would live on a mountain, if you were scared to drive off of it?? Well, she really didn't need to leave. She never got sick, thanks to her endless supply of Lysol she kept sprayed and wiped all around her house. She never ran out because next door was the little country store, that kept her supplied with all the necessities, such as Lysol. She always worried about everyone, but I think her greatest worry was that someday she would be left on the mountain without Papa Wills. She ended up leaving the mountain first, by ambulance. She later died of the stroke she had on Lookout Mountain. That was in 1989, and that was the first time a bit of that mountain was taken away from me.
Mama Wills with Kristi  1986
My dad stayed there the next year taking care of his dad, Papa Wills, until we had to move him to the nursing home. He later died in 1990, just after celebrating his 99th birthday. We tried so hard to keep him on the mountain and in his own home, as long as we could.
Papa Wills and the pond
Funerals are usually held at Wilson Funeral Home in downtown Ft Payne, Alabama. Even though this is not my hometown and the funeral director is not an acquaintance of mine, those front doors seem too familiar to me. The quality and the longevity of my grandparents lives made it easier to mourn. Their funerals almost seemed a celebration of their long lives.
Soon more pieces of the mountain seemed to be fading. My father's aunt and uncle passed away soon after Mama and Papa Wills. We were all close to them. They didn't have any children and so they treated us as their own. I had a cement foundation about the size of 7' x 7',  where I played store and restaurant, in my grandparents backyard. Anytime that uncle pulled up in the yard next to my "restaurant" I made him order something. He always would purchase my make-believe food, with a nice crisp one dollar bill, that he let me keep! He even continued that tradition when my kids were born, even though they were too young to make him my famous Lookout Mt Mudpie, they still got a dollar from him.
My parents moved back to Lookout Mountain to take care of my grandparents. They bought 20 acres down the road from them and started remodeling an old farmhouse. It was where my dad wanted to be the whole forty years he lived in Marietta.
Mom and Dad right before they moved back to Alabama
I guess that is why is was appropriate that he was there, when he passed away. But for me it is not appropriate, it is not fair that he is gone! He needs to be here. He needs to be teaching my daughters how to fish, he needs to be here to get irritated with them when they don't set the hook and the "big one" gets away. He needs to be here to see the humor that my kids have. But no, that was not the plan. We have to keep those stories and the ones of Lookout Mountain alive with "Porky Stories". (My dads nickname) My dad died looking at the stars that seemed to shine brightest on Lookout Mountain, and breathing the air so clean and digging the dirt that was as fine as powder. He died just before he got his trout pond filled. That was when the biggest chunk of my mountain started fading away. Standing on my parents deck, after his funeral I felt as if I could see all the way to heaven or maybe this was heaven. The ponds, the creeks, the woods, the huge rock formation, and all the family. This was my father's heaven! That is why in God's scheme of thing my parents picked up and moved back to Alabama. Since that time, my mom has moved back to Marietta and we haven't been back to Ft Payne, much. I didn't feel I had enough mountain to go back and these memories were almost too heavy to carry up the mountain.
Yesterday, I passed through the double doors of Wilson Funeral Home, once more. I sat in the same family pew, again. I said good-bye to my daddy's younger brother. I stood at the cemetery and looked at the majestic Lookout Mountain. I saw the beauty that filled my grandparents and my father everyday. I went to the top of the mountain and stood in my uncle's driveway; looking down at my grandmother's house, and the old pond. I took a mental picture. It hit me, that my mountain was gone.
As I drove down the mountain the sun was setting in my rear-view mirror, the most gorgeous sunset with the colors vibrant oranges and reds. The new moon was starting to rise in front of me, so bright, with a wonderful glow.My tears are flowing like the waterfall at the Little River Canyon, as I say good-bye to my mountain, to my father and to the rest of the family and pieces of this beautiful Lookout Mountain.

Addendum to this story:
I have since gone back for more funerals- 
One was for my partner in crime and mudpie making cousin; Pam died in 2009. Much too early, at 57. She instigated taking turnips from Papa Wills' garden for our "store and restaurant" and to mix in our mudpies. She also showed me how to go buy bootleg beer, because Ft Payne was a dry county at the time. She showed me how to have a cattail fight. Our best adventure (although scary at the time) was getting stuck in the mud, in the middle of no where off a dirt road, somewhere near the brow, in her Camero. No lie, someone in a horse and buggy saved us. There is a lot more to this story, and it will be saved for the grandchildren, like a Porky Story, that is hard to believe.
Also to be added to my mudpie story, just last year my mom brought me a rolling pin. She said, "Your dad picked this up in Mama Wills' yard, and wanted you to have it. He said it is the one you played with in her back yard." I could have cried at that piece of my mountain coming back to me, and that rolling pin is now displayed in my kitchen. Maybe one day, Kinsley or one of the other granddaughters can make mudpies for me and I can buy them for a dollar. 
Yesterday I visited this mountain again- this time with new life. We saw an old farmstead that is in need of TLC and we looked at the river flowing past the place. I guess after all this time has passed, you can go home again and see the mountain with happiness and not the sorrow I had when I wrote the first story above.