I took a four-day trip back to my beloved Smoky Mountains this past weekend.
And as much as I love the beauty and majesty of those great peaks, this journey was more of a quest to reconnect with those I love and to rekindle old memories.
At 83, I know that time is precious and old friendships need to be revisited at every occasion because each time may be the last time.
First, I visited my friend Judy. We have been buddies for many decades.
During my late 50s and 60s, Judy and I were partners in crime and had a lot more fun than two middle-aged women could expect to have.
My six children were all grown and after raising them, I felt I could let my hair down for a while before old age slowed me down.
We shared a love for country music, and at the drop of a hat we were off on some trip to listen to our favorite bands.
I even had my own band for a while and had fun pretending to be a real country singer.
For fun, Judy and I collaborated on writing a song, “Every man who turns me on turns me down,” which received the most requests of anything I sang.
It was great fun.
Judy knew every country song ever written, and she also remembered the words. She never sang. She swore she couldn’t, but I really don’t believe her.
I know that if I had a brain freeze and forgot the words to a song — after all, I was no spring chicken when I was doing this — she would mouth the words and keep me from messing up too badly.
That’s real friendship.
Then a man came along, and Judy married him and eventually moved away from the beach to the mountains.
I settled into working with the newspaper — which I love — and about five years passed by without seeing Judy.
I knew she was living alone now with her little dog Halo, and, like me, her mobility was not the best.
We almost cried when we hugged, and we spent hours recalling old memories and the people who were part of them.
It was wonderful.
The next day, I drove 70 miles on curvy roads through glorious leafy trees and rocky road banks to see my cousin Virginia.
This is Ginny, the substitute sister God gave me, who has been dear to my heart since we were toddlers. I’m the older one by nine months.
She still lives in the neighborhood where we were children together. My family and I moved on, but Ginny married and made her home only a few miles from where she was born.
We talked until the wee hours of the morning, remembering our escapades in the mountains — we were little wild children who left the house after breakfast and played fearlessly in the woods until our tummies let us know it was time to eat.
Then we brought up memories of our parents and grandparents who made such an impact on our lives.
What one couldn’t remember, the other one could.
One thing Ginny, Judy and I have in common are the ravages of growing older. Between the three of us, we have diabetes, arthritis, hiatal hernia, macular degeneration, glaucoma, kidney failure, bad knees and high blood pressure. Otherwise, we’re all in fine shape.
Takes more than a few aches and pain to beat us down.
I hope I can return next year, but if I don’t, Judy and Ginny, just know I love you both always.