I still remember turning the key and locking the front door the last time on the first house we ever bought, then standing on the front stoop and watching the moving van slowly back out of the single-car driveway. I loved that safe, happy, little old neighborhood and I had really loved that now-locked old house we’d made our home.
In October, it will be 34 years since that day. Hard times had hit Peoria, Illinois, and we, victims of Caterpillar Tractor Company’s mass lay-off, were moving on.
I didn’t figure I’d be back.
The years marched on, and the memories of harsh times have softened considerably. I can see in retrospect they prepared me well for what lay ahead. After-a-while, when you realize maybe where you are wouldn’t be such a good place if you hadn’t had such character-building experiences where you were, you appreciate all the more what was then and what is now.
I’ve kept a few of the good friends I made in my 10-year-stint in Peoria. Probably only because the good friends I made are better friends to me than I am to them. Just meaning they kept up a little better with me, than I them. We’d all drifted apart, though with social media, a lot of us have reconnected.
Last summer I asked Diane McBroom, one of those aforementioned friends, if she knew how Linda Carr was doing. Well Diane was not really sure, except Linda and Gregg were still married, living in Hennepin – where they’d moved in the late ’70s, when Gregg took over the management of his family’s Hampshire hog farm.
Linda and I had been hired the same day to work for the trade magazine at National Fertilizer Solutions Association. She as the graphic artist, me as the copy editor. They’d been looking for one person to do the job but decided to hire us both. We started our new jobs and friendship the same day.
We were young. Like maybe 22. I was a newlywed, Linda and Gregg were engaged. We believed we had the world by the tail, and for some reason seemed to think that was a good thing. But we were good girlfriends first, and couple friends as a natural follow to that. When I’ve thought of Linda over the years, I’ve remembered her courage, her fearlessness for marching into any new situation like she knew how to do it – and doing it right, or making it work. Oh, and her artist’s penchant for beauty – in everything.
A few days and a Google search later, Diane called back. Gregg, she said, has a blog and had written a book. He’s a pretty good writer. We knew that. A recovering alcoholic, she said. We had no idea. And he has cancer, she sighed.
“You have to read his blog,” she finished. “It’s inspiring, he has this amazing spirit and outlook.”
So I did. By then, it was September, and Gregg’s blog feature was about his and Linda’s 41st wedding anniversary. So I posted a comment that I’d been a guest at their wedding and added my promise to pray. I don’t know all the details of Gregg’s cancer. Just that it is terminal, but can be managed. He wrote about Linda’s faithful love and support, and how being a grandfather to their baby granddaughter Rose was his joyful reason for wanting to live, but his devout Christian faith gives him calm in the face of death.
Month’s passed, and I didn’t get a response to my comment. I feared the worst.
But then, a week or more ago, I got a message from Gregg. His health had been especially fragile in the last few months, but was improving and stabilizing. It had been a tough go, and he hadn’t seen my comment on his blog until just recently. He Googled my name and found my columns. “Keep writing,” he wrote. “I intend to.”
Gregg’s blog dated Jan. 23, details his struggle through Christmas and how the fear of it being his last on earth had dogged him – hard. But very timely calls from friends had pushed him back to the positive, and finding my column from the Jan. 1 edition of the Standard-Times with the meme I’d borrowed, “If you’re glass is half full, get a smaller glass,” had restored his faith and outlook.
Life’s a journey, don’t we all know. A combination of miles we travel and stops we make. We should make each stop and go count.
Editor’s note: Candace Cooksey Fulton, formerly of Brownwood, is a freelance writer now living in San Angelo. She writes weekly columns for the Brownwood Bulletin and the San Angelo Standard-Times, each unique to the particular paper. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read Gregg Carr’s blog, go to: https://faithandlaughterfromgregg.blogspot.com/2018/01/when-your-glass-is-half-empty.html