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Atlanta

There is a Summer Place

Happy 61st Anniversary to these two!

They were just high school kids when they fell in love. She has said she liked sitting next to him in class, because he was smart and could spell anything. He was her living dictionary and encyclopedia.

She liked hearing him sing.

He and his friends would gather under my grandparent’s big oak tree and “make music”. That’s how they spent most of their dates. Neither of them had a car.

They only dated three months before they were married.They were 16 and 18 when they vowed “until death do us part”.

I was born eleven days before their first anniversary. A year later, my dad was in a terrible accident that required months in the hospital, and several surgeries. Doctors wanted to amputate his arm, but my mom refused that option.

He was a musician; a guitar player. She understood that losing his creative outlet would be detrimental for him. At the time, she was 18 and he was 20. Where did she find the fortitude to resist the advice of top Atlanta physicians? Where did that strength come from?

Love. And grit.

But mostly it came from love. She knew she had to fight for him when he was unaware and unable to fight for himself. Physicians relented agreed to try and save his arm. But it would require extensive surgery. An experimental procedure.

He made medical history.

Doctors at Crawford Long Hospital saved his arm and hand by taking functional pieces of one hand, and adding them to the damaged hand. Skin was grafted from his stomach onto his forearm and hand. The surgery was a success.

But after a long stay in the hospital, they were financially destitute. They were poor kids to begin with, and now they had a mountain of medical debt. Lawyers contacted them and urged them to file suit. They refused. They also refused to file bankruptcy. In their opinions, to file a lawsuit against his employer or to refuse to pay their debt, would speak negatively of who they were/are. So while he was still recovering, she went to work in a poultry plant, Gold Kist. It was the same plant where he had had the accident. She worked long hours in cold, wet conditions. When he was finally released from medical restrictions a couple years later, he returned to Gold Kist. They both worked for GK until the summer I graduated high school. They had remained dedicated employees for all those years. Their time with GK ended only because the company closed up shop in Canton.

During those growing-up years, my brother and I seldom saw them, other than breakfast and weekends. They worked double shifts to pay off the medical debt,and would pick us up from the sitter after we were already sleeping.

When she was 23, she lost both her parents within a two month period. They were the people she had counted on for emotional and physical support when my dad was hospitalized. They were the baby sitters, when it came to caring for my brother and me.

In their stressful, imperfect, tragedy laced marriage, how have they managed to stay together for over six decades?

Several things…

Neither of them have ever had an ounce of alcohol. As kids, both had seen firsthand the damage caused from alcohol, and both vowed to never give it the opportunity to wreak havoc in their own lives.

They took their vows seriously. “Till death do us part” meant something to them.

They fiercely defended one another other. Even if they didn’t fully agree with the other, they still gave support. They worked out the differences behind closed doors.

Respect… for each other and their families.

My mom never spoke a negative word about my dad’s parents.

And he never uttered a negative word about hers.

Are they perfect? Not by a long shot. But they keep trying, even now. They never gave up on one another. Or us. They never gave up hope for better days.

He has dementia. Music helps him. But not long ago, he told me he likes to play Theme from A Summer’s Place on his record player, when she’s around. Because it’s always been her favorite. And because, he said, “I know it helps her memory”.

💞

https://youtu.be/tFi_CKNJj

There’s a summer place
Where it may rain or storm
Yet I’m safe and warm
For within that summer place
Your arms reach out to me
And my heart is free from all care
For it knowsThere are no gloomy skies
When seen through the eyes
Of those who are blessed with loveAnd the sweet secret of
A summer place
Is that it’s anywhere
When two people share
All their hopes
All their dreams
All their loveAnd the sweet secret of a summer place
Is that it’s anywhere
When two people share
All their hopes
All their dreams, all their love

#Friends ♥️

It’s been two years since I wrote the following post (11/12/17). But thanks to Facebook memories, it appeared in my Timeline today. And I’m thankful it did. Because it reminded me of the many wonderful people I have in my life.

Yesterday, I thought I was holding it together pretty well. I was feeling all the emotions that come with being mom of the Groom… a groom who is the baby of the family, and also the rock and glue… still, I was doing good. A few people even complimented me on my composure. 🤔

But then…

as we lined up for entry, Matt and Joe Laughridge, two of Garrett’s closest and longest friends, both spoke gentle kindness to me, as they always have, and I began to feel the tears building.

A few salty drops managed to escape my eyes.

Before we started down the aisle, Matt said, “I’ve got you. I’ve always got you”.

And I began to taste the liquid salt.

As he escorted me to my seat, I looked over the congregation of guests, and I saw something that broke the dam.

I saw Love.

A lot of love.

Love that rescued. Love that offered a place to sleep. Food. Hope. Promise. Forgiveness. Friendship. Peace. A listening ear. Transportation.

Unearned love, given freely.

On both sides of the aisle, people who love my son, turned compassionate expressions toward me. And each time my eyes landed on a face, my mind played a video reel of the roles they’ve played in our lives.

Someone whispered, “you’ve raised a good man”. I could no longer see through the tears.

I remembered the love these family/friends have given. The sacrifices made for people they didn’t even have to love…

Some were family… most were friends.

That kind of love is rare. And seeing them all in one place, together, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the realization of how many people truly love Garrett.

And I cried the kind of ugly cry you don’t want to cry at your child’s wedding.

The people there, ages ranging from child to geriatric, love Garrett because he loves back, without strings attached. When one of his groomsmen said, “He’s the most loyal man I know”, I heard soft echoes of “yes, he is”.

I agree. ❤️

Family is a gift from God. Friendship is a bonus gift of love from Him.

This was never more evident to me than it was yesterday.

Photo credit to Cindy Harter Sims , one of God’s bonus gifts to Garrett Able and our family.

🔹 Cindy Harter Photography

Aimee 

Have you ever met someone who, without even trying, changed the way you perceived yourself? Until today, I’ve never had such an encounter, not in this profound and positive manner. And to be frank, I’m astounded by the emotional growth I’ve experienced in a mere six hours. I know, I know…such things are bursts of energy, not a lasting, change. 

But I’ve had a mindshift, and it’s everlasting. 

I met Aimee Copeland this afternoon. But can I tell you, I felt her presence before she introduced herself? We had an appointment to meet at the Chattahoochee Nature Center near Atlanta. She was already there, waiting outside, when I arrived. It was as I first walked toward her, that I felt it. “You must be Danita”, she said. Think what you will, but I promise you, a very confident, strong, warm, sincere and sweet spirit greeted me in the space between she and I…in advance of that verbal greeting. My friend Dani was with me, and she experienced the same. 

Perhaps her name is familiar to you. Aimee had a zip-line accident about five years ago, and as a result, lost limbs, and nearly lost her life. Given the same situation, most of us would have succumbed to defeat. But something didn’t allow Aimee to give up. I believe it was that spirit I witnessed today. Inner strength. Faith. Hope. Love of life. 

Aimee has started a foundation, the Aimee Copeland Foundation.  She has a plan to create a nature park accessible to people with disabilities. She understands how difficult, if not impossible, public parks and gyms are for people with disabilities. As a psychologist and athlete, she also understands how detrimental a life lived solely indoors is to our emotional well-being. (Maybe someone will be able to help her out…She’s looking for land on which to build her dream. Donated land would be awesome!). 

What was the purpose of my meeting with Aimee?  Yoga. 

For several years, I’ve been losing the ability to walk unassisted…the residual effects of a battle I had with Goliath. I’ve tried to hide it. It feels like another assault, it feels personal. I’ve been embarrassed by the falls and stumbles. I’ve felt the red hot sting of humiliation in asking a stranger for help out of a chair, or an arm for steadiness…otherwise risk losing my balance and falling like a skidrow drunk. I’ve sat in my car at Dellinger Park, praying, trying to will my legs to have the balance and strength they used to have, to walk the hills and trails. Or make laps around the track. I’ve cried privately to God, knowing that barring a miracle from Him, I’m going to eventually be in a chair. I’ve been able to maintain hope for improvement, but lately I’ve felt a bit defeated. Believing it was time to accept my destiny and give up unrealistic expectations. 

Then today happened. I met this beautiful young woman…Aimee. Beforehand, I knew she was in a chair. But upon meeting her, I did not see her chair. I didn’t see her prosthetics. I saw life. I saw and felt a vibrantly beautiful life. Hope. 

I did yoga with her. Outside. In a public place. On video. And I wasn’t embarrassed. I wasn’t hyper aware of my imperfections. I did not feel inferior.                                                  It felt good to be outside, moving my body again. I left there today feeling like I can conquer the world, as long as I do it in small portions, consistently. 

Thank you, Aimee. That giant has not defeated me after all. 

The Face Of Homeless

face of homeless

Eons ago, when I was still in my teens, a friend and I walked out of the Fulton County Stadium on a sweltering Atlanta night and came face to face with a “begger”. Up to that moment, we had been goofing around: laughing, singing, having fun watching the Braves lose another one. The frivolity of the evening ended when I encountered homelessness for the first time. Prior to that summer night, I had been naive enough to believe everyone went home to a warm dinner and a comfy bed. And then this man approached us, “Excuse me, can you spare some change? I’m homeless. I’m hungry.” The look of him…the painful pleading in his expression, the desperation in his quivering voice, his dirty, wrinkled clothing…stopped me in my tracks. I wanted to make his life better but felt helpless to do so. A lump lodged in my throat as I reached for the fifty cents in my pocket, “This is all I have, I’m sorry”, I said. “Thank you, ma’am. Bless you,” he said.

My friend grabbed my arm and pulled me away. “Why did you do that? Why did you give him your money? I can’t believe you fell for his trick. He’s just here to get people to feel sorry for him. He has the same opportunity everyone else has, all he has to do is get out and get a job but he doesn’t want to work. It’s easier for him to beg than it is for him to go to a job every day”.

On the drive home, my friend and I had a heated discussion about poverty and opportunity. We didn’t see eye to eye on the subjects.

Later than night, cool, dry and tucked safely beneath my covers, I cried for the man we had encountered outside the stadium. I couldn’t get his face out of my mind. His skin had the ashen look of poor nutrition, his eyes were hollow from hunger. I knew he didn’t live that way by choice. No one does.

I’m ashamed to say, I haven’t done much to help the homeless over the years. Donations and food drives have been the extent of my giving and service. But I know someone who has done so much more. Vitelle Webb’s life and work is an inspiration to all who know her. She has written a play about her own personal experience with homelessness. The Face of Homeless will be onstage in Atlanta this coming August 3, 2013. Vitelle is also the founder of the Feed the Homeless Tour. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Vitelle. Here’s what she told me….

The Face of Homeless is my life and experience, portrayed on stage. It is also the stories of a few other lives as well as real life situations that have been experienced by many. The show exposes various circumstances involving homelessness. My hope is the stories of our characters, Gary, Violet, Shelia, Mark and the others will help people to understand that homelessness can happen to anyone. Too many people have a stereotype of what they think homelessness is; a preconceived idea of who the homeless are. People think of the homeless as being an old man digging through a trash can and asking for change to get a beer. Our hope is this stage production will reveal the truth about who the homeless are. With our show, we hope to encourage people who are going through or have gone through similar situations as well as bring awareness to the community of what homelessness really consists of and that it exists in our own backyards.

photo

The Feed the Homeless Tour is a non-profit organization I founded seven years ago to help meet the basic needs of the homless from state to state. We provide such things as food, clothing and hygiene items. We assist people with finding jobs and housing and connect them with other organizations that may be able to help them based on specific needs. We never turn down someone in need due to a lack of identification or age and gender. We strive to end homelessness and have done so for many people!

Our stage production, The Face of Homeless, is one of many fundraising efforts to support Feed the Homeless Tour goals. It is our first stage production and we anticipate many more. After our Atlanta area premier on August 3, 2013 we will travel the country bringing this production to all fifty states, helping the homeless of each state we visit.

Tickets can be purchased at: http://www.FaceofHomeless.eventbrite.com

Note to Vitelle,

I want to thank you for what you’re doing to help others. God gave you a big heart and a willingness to sacrifice your time for your brothers and sisters. You are living proof that we can take our life experiences, both positive and negative, and use it to benefit others.

I wish you much joy and success as you continue your journey.

Danita

Sweet Daisy Girl

DaisyFeb23 062

Daisy became a member of our family in late December 1998. Lindsey wanted a puppy and decided to use her birthday and Christmas money to purchase one….”the perfect one”. For three weeks in December, we pursued puppy perfection and came up short. As Christmas week approached, I suggested we put a hold on our search until the holiday was over. Lindsey reluctantly agreed, and true to her nature, waited patiently through the holiday hoopla. A couple of days after Christmas, Lindsey, Garrett (he was in search of a ferret) and I made the rounds of pet stores and animal shelters in Cartersville, Kennesaw and Marrietta. The Perfect Puppy proved to be more difficult to find than the Perfect Ferret (Garrett had had his eye on Harley, a special silver and black ferrett in the Cartersville Pet Store, and without hesitation, proudly adopted Harley with Christmas Dollars).

Lindsey could feel what the Perfect Puppy would be like, but she couldn’t really explain the feeling. “I’ll know when I see it”, she would say. After two full days of our post-Christmas puppy quest, we were still without a cuddly critter. Our third day would include a visit to an animal shelter in Atlanta, but first we would try the Cartersville Shelter one more time.

The shelter clerk greeted us when we entered, “You’re back! I was just thinking of you because someone just brought in a whole litter of puppies. He found them on the side of the road in Rome. We haven’t even bathed them yet. They look to be about four or five weeks old. Go on in and see them, you know the way.”

We entered the holding area, and in a large middle-row-kennel…placed at eye level to Lindsey and Garrett, were seven tired and hungry, wet and muddy, black and white puppies. They shivered pitifully; piled one against the other for warmth and comfort. One of the pups left the pack and walked to the kennel gate, where she was face to face with Lindsey. The little puppy cocked her head to the side, raised one ear and locked blue puppy eyes on my little girl. “This is the one, Mommy. She’s perfect.” And she was.

Our Perfect Puppy grew to be a fierce paintball competitor (she became a living legend in the game)…she was a protective beast where the kids and I were concerned….and a gentle mother to the many stray cats and dogs discarded on Shotgun Road. She was the most beautiful doggie in the world, and I told her so each and every day. And she was brave.

Daisy’s glory days began fading a few years ago, after she was hit by a careless man in our driveway. Paintball games ended, hikes with Garrett in the woods ceased. The cool waters of Two Run Creek no longer lured her. Kicking a soccer ball with Lindsey became a distant memory. Daisy was content to snooze in front of the fire while Lindsey rubbed her ears and scratched her back. We were content to have her there…her soft snoring a sound of comfort.

Today, Lindsey, Garrett and I reluctantly said Farewell to our Brave Girl, the Most Beautiful Doggie in the World. With broken hearts, we kissed our Perfect Puppy one last time and then we allowed her to sleep.

Rest well my Sweet Daisy Girl.

Letters From A Whoremonger’s Wife – the book

kitchen 004

 

Letters From A Whoremonger’s Wife, a story of abuse and an addiction to adultery, is now available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online retailers as well as www.danitaclark.com.

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