I took Bubba to Daddy's Country Kitchen a few Wednesdays back for the all-you-can-eat chicken-n-dumplings special. It also features fried okra, butter beans, fried chicken, and the best peach and pineapple cobbler on the planet — and of course, sweet tea. All are foods to die for, or die from, depending on your diet philosophy. The restaurant itself is set off the main road between Kennesaw and Acworth in Georgia. It's a favorite of Bubba and Rachel's. The plates remind you of your school cafeteria days.
Bubba is near 90, was an engineer for the railroad, has the baldest head in the county and a glass eye (you can't tell), loves horses, and is the closest thing I have to an older brother.
Bubba and I walk into Daddy's and a waitress breezes up to our booth with a pitcher of sweet tea and asks me — before Bubba sits down — "Hey, hon, y'all want tea? How's he doing? He seems a little lost. She was such an angel. They cared for each other so much. But he'll get through it." I agreed to the lost part, because you see, Rachel passed away two weeks earlier. The waitress was one of three waitresses that came to the table to say hello to him and bring more tea and ask Bubba how he was doing.
Bubba and Rachel lived for each other, their three boys, and several grandchildren. Rachel had an angelic face and a generous spirit. She had nurtured and cared for several generations of family and friends during her life. Her late sister, Patsy, had polio. Rachel tended to her almost every day. Patsy lived nearby, became bedbound, and it was difficult on Rachel. But she tended to Patsy. Rachel helped countless others, too.
Rachel was a great source of solace and faith for everyone she touched. When you laid your burden down on Rachel, she'd hear you and respond calmly and confidently, "It'll be all right." And you believed her.
When Rachel passed, the funeral had to be held at a bigger chapel than originally planned. The cards and letters were overwhelming. Casseroles are still pouring in. The hairdresser, the pharmacists, the medical people who served her, the man who did their taxes for free, the immigrant with whom Bubba shared a garden (they grew a 94-pound watermelon a few years back!), the extended family — they had all been part of Rachel's sphere of care over the years.
There are many, many more people like Rachel in our communities, and it is our responsibility to make sure they take time to take care of themselves. We must recognize and support the women who have spent so much of their time caring for and nurturing others. Caregiving takes its toll on the physical and mental health of these women, and it is essential that we step up to make sure they get the help they need. And if they aren't healthy, then our communities won't be healthy either.
As I was walking out of Daddy's restaurant, the waitress said good-bye to Bubba and whispered an aside to me, "We'll keep our eye out for him. It's gonna be hard for a while. She was such an angel. But we'll watch him."