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The Last Widows of the Confederacy, by Beverly Hicks Burch

The Last Widows of the Confederacy

By Beverly Hicks Burch

It happened on the Friday before Labor Day 2007. Tall and Handsome and I were driving back to Knoxville from another lovely Southern city. We’d been in this city for about two weeks…well at least Scoot, AKA Watson the Wonder dog and I had been in this city with T & H for that long. Tall and Handsome had been there since about the first of August working. We’ve been checking things out for a possible move.

Anyway, the Friday before Labor Day we’re heading back to Knoxville to take care of a few things and check things out at the house there. Before we leave this quintessential Southern town, Tall and Handsome pulls into a gas station to fill the tank up before we hit the road. He pulls up to the pump, whips out his card and reaches for the nozzle and faster than you could say ♪ “Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton…”♪ an attendant appeared and said…

“I’m sorry, suh, but this is full serve. Self serve is on the other island.”

Whoa! After I did a double-take, cleaned my ears out really well and watched a stunned, wide-eyed, disoriented T & H mumble “Thank-you” and stumble back to the Jeep…I mean this had seriously broken his stride and routine…I made the comment to him when he got back in the Jeep…

“These pumps must be for the last widows of the Confederacy.”

I must have intoned some special incantation, because, I kid you not, within about 45 seconds a little blue-haired lady in a little car pulled up to the full serve island and had her gas pumped. You have to admire her…and the Confederate pension she receives must be substantial because the dang stuff on that side of the station was impressive…well over $3.00 a gallon…approaching $4.00. The petrol on our side was much more to our liking…almost a dollar a gallon less…well under a $3.00 gallon. I can say one thing for her, she had full command of that little wagon she was driving…I truly admire her moxie!

Well, we have a running joke in my family with my Momma…about pumping gas. When I saw this full serve gas, I picked up my cell phone and called her while T & H was out there slaving at the pump squeezing that handle, pumping the gas into our Jeep.

“Hey, Momma.”

“Hey.”

“Well, I have a reason you’re going to want to move where we might be moving.”

There was alarm in her voice. I guess she though this was some kind of new sick prank phone call…you know like, “M’am, is your refrigerator running?” or “Do you have Prince Albert in the can?”

She responded with, “Is this Bev? Who is this?”

“Mom, yeah, this is Bev and I have a really good reason you’re going to want to move where we might be moving!”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

Now I must explain that my momma and Daddy are in the midst of moving themselves. It’s the first time they’ve moved since the middle of the 1960’s when I was 12 years old! Needless to say this has been a very stressful time for them. They are moving into a really great home up on a mountain top not too far from my home in Alabama. They’ve had a fantastic home built, but it’s been a stressful process none the less.

They’re having to move because their current neighborhood, an extremely nice and stately neighborhood in its day, has become increasingly dangerous. Not too long ago their front doorbell rang, Mom answered the door, and an unknown young man was standing there…sweating bullets…and quicker than Momma could think “Toto, were not in Kansas anymore” the police came up behind him and apprehended the unknown young fellow at my parents’ doorstep!

Sadly, this isn’t the only alarming occurrence to happen to them lately. One fair day, after hearing a rather loud commotion outside, they looked out their front window to discover that a drug dealer’s car had rolled down the hill and landed in their dogwood tree. Hum…I feel like I should be playing the theme song from Cops here and I guess it kind of looked like it that day.

So now, they’re in the midst of this move and I’m hundreds of miles away caught up in a transition of my own…a stress of it’s own for the oldest daughter who wanted to be the perfect daughter all her life…

So, back to the phone conversation…

“But, Momma, wait till you hear why! They have full serve gas here!”

She just chuckled and said, “I looove full serve gas!” As she put in one time, “I’m worth the few extra pennies.” Spoken like a true magnolia and GRITS! But, don’t let that fool you…that was in the days when the difference was a few pennies and not almost a dollar! My Momma knows a deal when she sees one.

I’ve always said Momma was born out of her time…she should have worn a hoop skirt and sat on a veranda with a mint julep in her hand. To be fair though, she would have given Scarlet, Rhett and the Yankees a run for their money, especially when it comes to her family.

Momma did her future daughters a really big favor when she picked out their Daddy…she picked out the best in the world and then set the example of how to honor him and love a guy with balance. They have been married for over 50 years. Daddy still calls her “my little sweet thing” and Momma worries over him when he’s sick like there’s no other in the world…and there’s not…they are a life long love story.

Mom taught us about loving sacrifice everyday in how she loved us. When her baby daughter was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and doctors wanted her institutionalized, Momma said her days version of “No way, Jose!” and kept Yvonne at home…a decision light years ahead of its time.

Momma was housekeeper, chauffer, cook, accountant, nurse and all the other hats a stay at home mom wears. In the 1970’s she was the youth leader of the youth group at church and she gave us a place on Friday nights to hang out and have fun. Most of the time Momma and Daddy provided the money for the food out of their own pockets…but, they wanted to make sure the kids had a safe, fun, loving place to hang out. We all had a blast.

When Gomez the Unremarkable walked out six years ago, I was distraught. My little Momma (and Daddy of course) made sure I saw my worth and that my life would go on. It was not uncommon during that time and when I’d come home from work to have something in the mail from Momma…usually a word of encouragement or Scripture…handwritten.

I get impatient with Momma when she doesn’t realize how smart, talented, valuable, bright, savvy and great she is…so Momma, know this you are wonderful! I love you Momma. Enjoy your new home big time…you deserve it!

Back to Labor Day Weekend and that gas station…to be fair, I admit I looked over at the full serve island and saw a young guy…a big ol’ galoot…in a gi-normous SUV having his gas pumped and his tires kicked and checked by an attendant. I guess it takes all kinds…big ol’ galoots, the last widows of the Confederacy, and well deserving Mommas…not everyone is self serve in this day and age…

© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under AKA Gomez the Unremarkable, Family, Fun, Gomez, grits, Humor, Life, Mothers, Photography, Southerners, Tall & Handsome

The Little Green Box, by Beverly Hicks Burch

The Little Green Box

By Beverly Hicks Burch

There are two months that can be particularly hard for me…June and August…and not for the reasons you might think. Although I am a true Southern belle, I hate heat and summer. Mild, temperate summers are something I am envious of say…Alaska! My idea of fun is not scrapping the summer humidity off my skin with a table knife…and this summer has been truly juicy. I am actually more of a spring, fall and winter person.

In reality, these months, June and August, mark certain events…one a birthday and one a very tragic event. They always give me pause for reflection.

I’ve been very fortunate to have some very special, important women in my life. In addition to my mother, I had two maternal aunts, Mom’s two sisters, my Aunt Korinne and Aunt LaRue. They have at different times in my life been like Rocks of Gibraltar for me…and that’s what family is all about. Some aunts are distant non-involved aunts, but not these two.

juanita-korrine-larue.jpgMom was the oldest of the three girls and I must say, they all three were lookers and bright, smart, talented gals.

Juanita Nov 1951I love my Momma. My Mom knew early on what and who she wanted…my Daddy…it was kind of love at first sight for them. Once she laid eyes on that tall, dark haired, handsome looker in a church service in East Tennessee, there was no turning back. Daddy has always said he was drawn to those “big ol’ doe eyes” of Momma’s…translate, big, soft sensual brown eyes, which she passed on to two of her daughters. My baby sister got Daddy’s big ol’ soft sensual gray eyes and all three of us got his long luxurious eyelashes. Momma was 15 and Daddy was 16. They dated four years, all through high school, got married and eleven months later I was born. At first Mom thought she had a virus, but, surprise, it was lil’ ol’ me and I think I’ve been making her sick ever since…just kidding Momma…

Daddy was the “bread winner” and Mom was the stay-at-home mom…raising three girls in the `50’s, 60’s and `70’s. Yes, it does sound a tad like Ozzie and Harriett or Donna Reed…and actually it kinda was. I have no complaints with my upbringing…it was basic, normal and I received what I needed plus I was raised to be independent, a thinker and to take my education seriously. We were raised to believe we could be just about anything we wanted to be…even if it was to be a stay at home mom or a professional.

Momma was the oldest of the girls and the “artsy” one who was kinda quiet and shy. She, like her sisters, was a voracious reader while the other two were more musically inclined. Mom dabbled in art and painting and the textile arts…she sewed many a dress for her little girls. She even took up quilting after I did in the `80’s. Mom has made sure my mentally and physically challenged baby sister stayed home with the family and lived with dignity…a decision that was light years ahead of its time. She’s had health issues and kept on plugging away. She had a way of passing on the desire to cook without making it seem like a chore and she showed us how to be furiously loyal and devoted to a husband and how to like men…yeah, we were Daddy’s girls.

Korinne McGee RoseMy Aunt Korinne was like my grandmother, the educator of the three sisters. She loved kids and taught elementary school. Little boys in her class would fall madly in love with her and hang their coat by hers in the cloakroom and try to play matchmaker with her and their single dads. She had a beautiful alto singing voice and could play the piano and organ and her classroom was the joyous precipitant of that nurturing skill. Along with my Aunt LaRue, Aunt Korinne sang with my grandfather at church in a trio and it is a little girl memory I will hold with me forever.

I was the beneficiary of her skills too, and as a result I could read and write a long time before a lot of my contemporaries thanks in part to my parents fostering reading at an early age…they started giving me books when I was a baby and Aunt Korinne was a strong supporter with her educational skills.

Aunt Korinne was always whisking me away for outings and adventures…even if it was for a ride on a bus…a big thing for a little girl, who thought the bus doors were magical. She took me to see Gone With the Wind for the first time in a theatre in Chattanooga…intermission and all…she actually lost a contact on the way to get refreshments.

I loved my Aunt Korinne. She often told me we were alike and she encouraged me and took the time to listen to me. She read a lot of my writing and encouraged me to continue and pursue it. We talked about traveling to New York and other places together when I graduated from high school. Usually, I would spend two weeks or so with her in Tennessee during the summer. I think I had pizza for the first time during one of my summer visits with her and we were known to mix it up in the kitchen on my visits during the summer. We had many a late night pajama party, sitting up talking girl talk, watching old movies, eating popcorn or snacks and just having a blast. The first time I ever saw the movie Splendor in the Grass with Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty was with her and we both cried our eyes out like two teenage girls…which of course I was… We would be sobbing then look at each other and burst out laughing and then start crying again.

Guys called her a heartbreaker, (as I was called later) but it wasn’t a deliberate thing with her…so many just fell in love with her and it took her a while to find the one to fall in love with…when she did, it was the wrong one and it ended divorce. She had one son she dearly loved from the marriage. It seemed history repeated itself we me because I later became the only sister of three to end up divorced. Yep, I had picked wrong…but, I did end up with a son I dearly loved and I did find Mr. Right when I married Tall and Handsome. She never found her Tall and Handsome…that makes me sad…

Aunt Korinne was a June baby…born on the 19th. Unfortunately, 36 years later she was taken away from us on August 21st just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. In addition to everything else she did Aunt Korinne taught a middle school age Sunday School class and they and some more youth from the church were on their way to Six Flags Over Georgia…and they almost made it. Aunt Korinne had driven a blue Ford Mustang and it was loaded with kids. Somehow, someway, a car hit her from behind and when it did her Mustang was thrown into the next lane of the interstate in a 90 degree angle…into the path on an oncoming 18 wheeler truck. There was nothing the truck driver could do. They said he stripped every gear in the truck trying to stop it, but in the end it was futile. Aunt Korinne and every child in her car but one was gone…on impact.

I was 19 years old when that hot August day infringed upon my life and changed it and I was never the same. You always miss the person you loved when they’re gone. For sometime after she was gone, I had very vivid dreams about Aunt Korinne.

Over the years we gather around each other and held on to the family that was left. So, my Aunt Korinne gave me the gift of the years of bonding with my Aunt LaRue…hurray for Aunt LaRue! She is an August baby…born on the 13th so that gives me a joyous reason to look forward to the month. I love my Aunt LaRue!

aunt-larue-28-nov-1974.jpgI could fill pages about Aunt LaRue. She was 15 when I was born…yes, I’ve grown up with young parents and aunts. She is my confidant, best friend, partner in crime, second mom, travel buddy, angel and anything else thrown into one. Like me, she suffers from many of the same autoimmune aliments…proof that they do cluster in families…so we can commiserate on treatments, flare ups, good days, bad days and medications and what not. When my son was born sick and was in neo-natal intensive care, Aunt LaRue was there…when I had lung cancer surgery, Aunt LaRue was at the hospital…

She was the first person I call when Gomez the Unremarkable walked out after 27 years of marriage for a co-worker. She was as stunned as I was because she had just been up and spent some time with us. She told me then she knew something wasn’t right with him. When we had taken her home to Florida, Gomez had spent a lot of time in her back yard among the citrus trees…on his cell phone. Phone records later showed he was calling his girlfriend’s work extension and personal numbers.

Aunt LaRue like her sisters is talented and smart as a whip…and she’s people smart and savvy, too. She’s quick with numbers which doesn’t surprise me, because she is very musical. She had a four octave range voice in addition to playing the piano. Like Mom, she’s dabbled in art. For years, she worked in the family clothing business and can make just about any alteration you need to clothing…men’s suits included.

The woman can cook!! She’s known as THE cook in the family amongst a family of cooks. Chicken and dumpling…to die for! Fried chicken and gravy…yep, to die for. Egg custard pie…yum!

Aunt LaRue and I are known for our marathon talk sessions…yes, long distance that last for three, four, even five hours…that’s why I have that one rate long distance plan…and we usually have these gab sessions in the middle of the day or late at night when Tall and Handsome is out of town on business. My Uncle Johnny says he doesn’t know how two humans can have so much to say…lol! He’s a man of few words, but we do gab and giggle like girls. We talk about books, and recipes and movies and life and anything that comes to mind. One year when Aunt LaRue came to visit, she brought a bunch of pictures for me to scan for my family genealogy files. Sometimes we talk about that. We both share a love for reading and love to read Ann Rule books.

Two of my favorite memories of my Aunt LaRue were a trip with her to the US Virgin Islands and a trip to San Antonio, TX. In the Virgin Islands we saw the second place where Christopher Columbus landed in the New World at St. Croix. We took a hovercraft from St. Croix to St. Thomas and shopped in the beautiful harbor village of Charlotte Amalie. At our hotel that evening, we sat and dined at the open air café on wonderful gourmet food and looked out down over the harbor and watched as the cruise ships quietly sailed back out to sea in the setting sun.

We still chuckle at the memory of traveling across the big ol’ state of Texas in my Explorer at the time. I tend to get tunnel vision and at times food is the last thought on my mind when going cross-country like that…at least until I pass something that really jumps out at me and catches my fancy. Way east of Dallas I heard my Aunt LaRue say, “Beverly, I’m going to have to get down in the floor board and find me some crumbs to gnaw on if we don’t stop and find a place to eat.” I knew that was her way of saying she was hungry.

I had such a blast getting to travel with her and I hope we can do more of that in the future…she deserves it.

In the 1980’s Aunt LaRue moved to Florida from Tennessee…my uncle was transferred down there. I’ve been able to go down a few times and spend a few weeks with her…once when the orange blossoms were blooming. That is a heavenly fragrance. Another time, we decided to do some painting and stuff. We had a blast. Once when she came and spent some time with me I made some of my home-made banana pudding. She said it was the best she had ever had…and coming from my Aunt LaRue, that was one of the best compliments I could have gotten.

So, my friends, are you wondering what on earth caused Bev to rattle on and reminisce like this? The answer is simple…a little green box…my Aunt Korinne’s little green recipe box. For some reason I picked it up and was browsing through…I had been thinking about her Fudge Pie recipe and the moment I popped the box open, there was her handwriting and her printing…just like the perfect second or third grade school teacher that she was…just as if she had left it there yesterday. That little green box will always be a cherished treasure of mine.

I hope you enjoy a little gem I share with you from the Little Green Box…

© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under AKA Gomez the Unremarkable, Cooking, Family, genealogy, Gomez, Sisters, The Story Behind...

The Tax Man Cometh, by Beverly Hicks Burch

The Tax Man Cometh

By Beverly Hicks Burch

I bet you’re reading the title of this blog and thinking you know what it’s all about…well, you do…and you don’t…kinda…sorta… Clear as mud isn’t it? It’s like taxes and a lot of other things in the good ol’ US of A at the moment.

Let me explain and give a little background and tell you where I’m coming from and I will share a couple of personal experiences with you to illustrate. But, first let me ask you a question. Do you know how long you worked this year to pay off your taxes? How long did you work for the government…to pay for the taxes imposed by various governmental agencies? According to the Tax Foundation this year’s Tax Freedom Day was April 30th…four days later this year than last year…but, surprisingly down from previous years when the average American had to work well into the month of May to pay off their tax debt. The idea of an income tax is a relatively new one in this country. The concept was accepted and ratified by Congress in the Sixteenth Amendment in 1913. This amendment gave Congress the right to impose a permanent income tax on the American public.

Every pay check a big chunk of your check is taken out in what is called FICA taxes. Do you know what FICA taxes are? A simplified definition would be – those are you Social Security (6.2% of your wages) taxes. These taxes are part of FDR’s New Deal of the 1930’s Depression relief programs and promises. In the 1960’s Medicare was added to be covered by the FICA taxes.

Why on earth is Bev thinking and writing about this subject? Well, I read something the other morning and it also reflects back on a personal trial I had to go through. Let me share with you…sounds “touchy feely” doesn’t it?

One morning I was going through some magazines, sifting through, throwing out, etc. In a news magazine I came across a couple of articles juxtaposed on the same page that I found very interesting. One was by John Stossel and the other was anonymous.

Mr. Stossel was making the point of how large government has become. He made some interesting points:

  • Springfield, NJ economist, consultant and forecaster Gary Shilling reports that 52.6% of Americans receive substantial public (read governmental) aid, assistance or monies. This is up from 49.4% in the year 2000. In the year 1950 that number was 28.3%. Mr. Shilling predicts that by the year 2040 60% of Americans will be living off taxpayers. That my friend is you and me and our children and grandchildren. The funds will come out of our pockets and we will work how many hours, how many months it takes to pay for that? It would be interesting to know if those numbers are based on current population factors and/or if they factor in the possibility of adding 11 – 12 million illegal aliens to our burgeoning entitlement system and government trough.
  • 1 out of 5 (that translates into 20%) Americans work for the government, or a firm that depends on taxpayer funding.
  • 1 in 5 (or 20%) draws Social Security or a Federal pension. This number will grow as the baby boomer generation ages and moves on to Social Security.
  • 9 million people are on food stamps
  • 2 million receive housing subsidies
  • 5 million go to school on federal taxpayer dollars – many student loans are defaulted and many are paid off at a discount
  • The Cato Institute estimates nearly 1,700 federal subsidy programs spending billions of dollars each year.

Now, also on the same page was another article. This article reported a survey conducted by the Mexican daily El Universal. The results were interesting at least and stunning at worst. According to the survey:

  • 45% of Mexican citizens have at least one relative living north of the border in the USA
  • 61% said the money sent back home to Mexico from those relatives is “very important” to their welfare

Whether here legally or illegally, authorities estimate Mexican nationals living in the USA send $23 billion back to Mexico in “remittances”. These remittances are Mexico’s second largest source of foreign income…behind their petroleum income. The Pew Hispanic Center reports that many US banks and credits unions are now setting up programs to help legal and illegal nationals send these remittances back to their homeland. Author’s note: If these nationals are paid “off the books” as is done with many day laborers, house help, child care workers, farm laborers, etc. they are paid in cash and therefore, no taxes are paid on these monies.

First, don’t get me wrong. I am a student of history. I have seen our regal Lady Liberty in New York harbor and she is inspiring. I have been many places in this grand big country of ours and I can tell you one thing. We are truly a melting pot. We are a land of immigrants…English, Irish, Italian, German, Polish, Russian, French, African, Asian, Spanish, Mexican and more… All of you reading this at this very moment had ancestors that came to this country from some where…some earlier than others…even our Native Americans probably crossed the Bering Strait to become the Native Americans.

But, our ancestors did one thing…they had a different attitude than we see today. They began to merge…to meld…to become one, to make one country…this United States of America.

We do have a problem with illegal aliens…regardless of nationality. Let me ask you this question…Do you think you could go to any nation on this planet and behave like the illegals do in this country? Take the same liberties? Take advantage of the system? Of the people? Of the economy? Of the government? Not in a New York minute…

To be remedial let me make a point here: If I had some flour, some butter, some apples, some sugar, spices and a few other ingredients that’s all they are…separate ingredients, each to their own, by themselves, alone in separate stacks and locations. But, if I combine and meld these ingredients together, I have not diminished them. No, I have made a wonderful, juicy, tasty, succulent apple pie. And what could be more American than Apple Pie? That pie is the sum of its parts just like America is the sum of her people when we meld together and become one nation.

One of the points in the debate on the illegal alien situation has been the point that they are honest, hard working people, paying taxes and contributing to our economy. I have no problem if that is true and with legal nationals in the country doing so. I have serious questions about that when I see $23 billion of our economy being hijacked to another country and with the issues I raised above…monies being paid “off the books” and taxes avoided. I would pose this question: Would the government of Mexico or any other country allow the reverse to happen? Would they allow $23 billion of their economy to be sent North of the border in remittance by legal or illegal aliens in their country?

Now, let me tell you a dirty little secret. This system, the “Great American I’m Going To Take Care Of You System” doesn’t work…at least not for everyone. I know. I found out the hard way. Let me share a very painful experience and at very eye opening time in my life…in more ways than one. Please bear with me here…there is a point…

So, what does a middle class white woman know about being disenfranchised? Well, here’s just part of my story… On May 24, 2001, my son’s 21st birthday, after almost 27 years of marriage, my ex, Gomez the Unremarkable decided to walk out. He had a new honey in his life. A co-worker, Morticia…one with money…that’s really important to him. After much deception, lying, cover-up and just general over all low life behavior he finally confessed to the fact they had been carrying on for about 18 months.

When I looked back over those 18 months, I realized there was a point when he tried to convince me sell our home and buy a home close to her and her then husband and three children. She had confessed to her husband she and Gomez had planned on staying with us until she had seen 12 year old son through college, THEN they were going to dump us and finally get together. If Gomez and I had moved down by them it would have been more convenient for Gomez and Morticia. It was also about this time that Gomez would go on rants about how he couldn’t understand why my father couldn’t “gift” us with large chunks of cash…like $10,000 at a time like a co-worker had done with his family. (It wasn’t enough my dad had given us the down payment for our home to begin with…I look back now and see that if he could have gotten his hands on those larger sums of cash, he could have moved into the neighborhood closer to Morticia,)

When our parting of ways happened our son was out of state attending SERE training in conjunction with the USAF and the Alabama National Guard. It was a grueling time for him…and for me. I was in a type of SERE training myself…for those of you not familiar with SERE it is a type of survival training.

Here is where it gets interesting…and this is why I told you all of that. When Gomez left, he cleaned out the bank accounts…yep, he was one of those. He also told me he didn’t give a f**king g*damn what I did for healthcare. You see, I had already had lung cancer twice and had been diagnosed with multiple autoimmune disorders, Raynaud’s syndrome, Fibromyalgia and other chronic health problems.

I was what they called a displaced homemaker…and Gomez was on a tear. I had worked full time years earlier, but after our son was born, stayed at home, other than some occasional part-time work when I paid into the system. I had helped Gomez run some home-based businesses (one he started with funds from my father) while he worked at the office (at a job my dad had a hand in getting him) and for an extended time I did free-lance work for a former employer at home. All the time, I paid my taxes…even in our home based businesses. I had also home-schooled our son for several years so he could take advantage of the opportunities of travel associated with the ex’s work. I had been a very busy, very involved wife, mother and woman.

In addition I helped Gomez restore and renovate two homes and add onto one home. I was the caretaker, chauffer, bookkeeper, nurse, cook, assistant renovator and any other job needed of the family. Gomez went to work, cut the grass and on occasion took the garbage out.

Then, my health began to take its toll and he didn’t like that…he told me so when he left. He said, “I didn’t want to take care of you, I didn’t like taking care of you, but, I did, so there.” Compassionate cuss, huh? (Really big newsflash – uh, no, Gomez you didn’t take care of me. Remember that little thing called a vow? Sorry little guy, you failed the test.) I guess he forgot I took care of him when he broke his neck in a car accident after we had been married only 18 months.

I had skills, but very poor health…and he knew that.

And, there is a reason I tell you all of that. You see, during the divorce Gomez got himself a lawyer whose father was one of the only three judges in our little county in Alabama where our divorce was being adjudicated. Yep. Bet you can see this train wreck coming. I got a good attorney and dectective that caught Gomez and Morticia in the act of very compromising situations. But, because my attorney wasn’t part of the county good-ol’-boy system a lot of my contempt charges against him and other papers against Gomez were “lost”.

In addition, during the hearing for temporary support after my attorney made the point that I was a woman in poor health and had been out of the workplace for over 20+ years, the ex’s attorney got up, waved his hand and said “oh yeah, you’ve had your gall bladder or something removed” which at the time I still had, but, have since have had removed while being married to Tall & Handsome. Let me tell you…surgery with a man like him is a totally different experience! It’s all about compassion which T & H has in spades. At the time of the divorce, I’d only had 60% of my left lung removed and a portion of my right lung removed because of cancer (and I was a non-smoker). Gomez knew that but, allowed his attorney to bellow on about “gall bladders”. Disingenuous and mendacity…they were birds of a feather.

Gomez became very upset that I hired a lawyer…he felt that he should have been the only one to have legal representation. He told me, “I told my attorney you were reasonable and would get your legal help off the internet.” He marched up to the house with an offer for my dad and me to look over and said, “If you don’t accept this by such and such time, it won’t be here for you.” In other words…I’m playing hardball and will break your back. My dad knew I needed legal help.

When I got an attorney, Gomez went ballistic. He played voodoo economics with the support the judge mandated…got away with it and left me penniless. One month he mailed me two dollar bills and three coins taped on a sheet of paper. (That’s when he decided he wanted one of my sewing machines.) He told my father I needed to be taught a lesson and he said he wanted to see me “wrong” for once. Huh? Newsflash…I was wrong big time…on November 27, 1974. Yes, girls, I learned the hard way…love shouldn’t hurt.

I had no income and he knew it…and reveled in it. He was on a tear to destroy me. He called my aunt in Florida and told her that without him, I would be dead in five years. (Question: If he really believed that, does that sound like attempted premeditated murder or unbelievable self importance?) He also told her that my elderly parents had deep pockets and could take care of me, but forgot to mention the fact they have a mentally and physically disabled daughter at home full time.

Why am I telling you this? Remember the “system”? “The Great American I’m Going to Take Care of You System”? Well, it doesn’t work for everyone. I know. I tried to avail myself of it during this traumatic time. When I needed my meds, food, doctor visits, utility bills paid…but, nope…uh huh, not for Bev…I tried more agencies, both non-profit and government, than I care to remember…and the response was the same…“You don’t fit the profile.” Huh, what the heck does that mean? I had a need, I’ve paid my taxes, I’ve donated…now, why don’t I fit the profile? I was up to my eyeballs in need!

My next “light bulb” experience came a couple of years later. I had gone to work for a large insurance company in their hybrid claims/call center after my divorce. I loved the job. It was a job with purpose. It was also a job with high stress and demands…a job that takes it toll on a person with autoimmune disorders and Fibromyalgia and the company itself was not very concerned with the disabled. Fortunately, I did have long-term disability coverage.

I gave it a valiant try, but my health really started to decline. I collapsed at work one day and had to be taken to the ER…that little ride cost me over $1,000 out of pocket…money I didn’t really have…you see, I got the first and second mortgage (which included paying for a Ford Explorer Gomez added to the second mortgage about six weeks before he left)…and one morning on the way to work I blacked out and rear-ended the vehicle in front of me. Fortunately I was coming to a stop sign but, since I was in the process of coming to a stop there was no damage to either car.

By the time my specialist removed my from work, I was in unbearable pain, had gone almost a week without sleep, could only manage to sit at my station without an ice pack and was on steroid treatment. I went through my FMLA, short term disability and then started the process for my long term disability. It was a tough haul.

One of the things I had to do during the process was apply for my Social Security Disability. And, this my friends, was the other light bulb moment. Remember me telling you about all of those taxes? And all of those years I paid into the system? After filling out numerous forms, going through several interviews, sending doctor file after file (which I had to pay for), I finally got my verdict. Denied. Why? I hadn’t worked enough quarters before I was declared disabled to get my disability…even though I’ve paid thousands of dollars into the system…and even though there are people that have never worked…and aren’t citizens that are getting some kind of Social Security, Medicare, Aid for Dependant Children for themselves or their family. Gee, wish I’d known that years ago!

I also discovered that all those years I sat up through the night getting an engraving job finished while Gomez slept or I sat on a John Deere tractor cutting a soccer field…well, Gomez took the full self-employed FICA tax credit for that instead of dividing it with me in our home based businesses. The income I would have gotten from my SS disability would have supplemented my long term disability and made a big difference in my life…and I paid into the system for years. C’est la vie…

These have been extremely frustrating lessons to discover. I’ve always had a soft spot for the underdog and seeing the right thing done. To see the system not work…not just once, but on several occasions in my case has been, well, it is disheartening. But, I am a survivor. So far, I have beat cancer twice and on a daily basis I deal with other chronic health issues. I almost died in October 2005, and I survived that episode. I’ve had a support system in faith, family and I met and fell in love with a man with big blue eyes and a heart as big as the sky in his southwestern home state. Compassion like his is rare not only in men…but, in most people nowadays.

I fear for people who do not understand that the system does not and will not always work for you. Just because the tax man cometh, doesn’t mean your fair share will be there should something go awry in your life…and that’s wrong…very wrong. Yes, this should be a land of equal opportunity and chances, but we do not promise equal outcome…that is left up to the individual. We have to fix the system so that it works for all Americans and so that America continues to be the great nation our Founding Fathers laid the foundation for.

© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under "Big Government", "Gary Shilling", "Illegal Aliens", "John Stossel", "SERE Training", "Social Security", AKA Gomez the Unremarkable, Disability, Divorce, FICA, Gomez, Immigration, Taxes

I Wanna Go Back…, by Beverly Hicks Burch

I Wanna Go Back…

By Beverly Hicks Burch

Back in 1991 I went around for about a year with an earworm stuck in my head. What was so bad is I only had one phrase of the song stuck in my head and then the rest of the melody played on…you know…kinda like those dorks in the Holiday Inn commercial. Well, my earworm was, …I wanna go back to my little grass shack in Kona Hawaii…♪

Yes, in 1991, thanks in part to Daddy who gave me first class airplane tickets, I got to spend 10 wonderful days in a spot on this Earth that can easily be described as Paradise. Of course, the fact that 85 giga-trillion Japanese tourist were walking around very quickly with very big wallets crammed full of trillions of yen buying up everything thus driving up prices kind of tarnished the golden glow of Paradise. It was a big concern for the Hawaiian economy at the time. But, that was the 1990’s. Later, the Japanese economy hit a bump, inflation and all, and that presented a new set of problems for the Hawaiian economy.

It also presented a personal snafu from time to time. You see, my former surname was “Ling”. No, Gomez is not Asian…far from it. Occasionally we would have to queue up for something…a dinner table etc. Well, you can imagine the look people gave us when we stepped forward when the name “Ling” was called. Imagine someone setting off the largest stink bomb in the world in the room and you’ve got the look on their faces. They were all thinking, “Yeah, sure”. We were branded. We were posers.

This was a trip of a lifetime. It’s unfortunate it had to be with Gomez, but if I lobotomize the part of my brain his memory lives in, I can still manage to have some wonderful memories of Hawaii.

For me the biggest problem was getting there…I hate to fly…do not call me Amelia Earhart. It’s not the travel, I love to travel, or the new places…it’s that little thing called the distances between me and terra firma. This particular flight involved two of my “Monkish” phobias…flying *shiver* and water…flying over water…oh my gosh! Now, to all of that mix, add the fact that I get motion sickness, yes, and air sickness…Bev needs a barf bag. Bev got sick riding the ferry from Battery Park in New York City out to see Miss Liberty! (See how much I love you guys to share this?) So, in the days leading up to my departure, I wrestled with my fear of flying like Jacob with the angel…“Had I rather die during the take-off, landing or drop out of the sky and plunge into the Pacific Ocean?” I just attributed my fear of flying to the fact this East Tennessee mountain girl come Alabama transplant loves terra firma in the form of giant chunks called mountains so much that she hates to defy gravity and leave said terra firma. Other people call it being scared poop-less.

Anyway, Bev is not one to drink “spirits”, but, baby, I love those Dramamine. I “Dramamined” my way across the Pacific, in first class. Talk about being in high cotton…yeah, baby! I do apologize to the person who got the leather seat with drool all over it after me. Wish I could remember more about that flight…

I do remember arriving in Honolulu and flying over Pearl Harbor and some sugar fields before landing at Honolulu International Airport. I remember the sugar fields because they burn the fields off during harvesting and we had to fly through the smoke. It was a point the pilot took a moment to note for us.

I had chosen three islands to visit: Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island of Hawaii. Of course Oahu is the most populated of the islands and is where the big city of Honolulu is located. Kauai is known as the Garden Island and the Big Island is known for, among other things, its still active volcanoes.

I did many things while in the Islands, some things others might have found uncharacteristic for me, but, I was determined to experience the whole enchilada or as much as I could. And each island brought specific and unusual treats.

Bev at the luau, Hawaii April 1991Oahu was the more “touristy” island. I did a luau there. I took a tour around the island and saw some things and places that would be considered rural stateside, but, with an exotic Hawaiian beauty. There were pineapple plantations and some of the sweetest pineapple I’ve ever had in my life.

Famous Diamond Head, the dormant volcano dominated Waikiki Beach, where we stayed, like a sentinel watching over it. I’m a lighthouse enthusiast and was delighted to discover the Diamond Head Lighthouse. I got to experience the winds of the Nuuanua Pali Lookout where King Kamehameha experienced a great victory in Hawaiian history. The winds are so great here, it can seem almost chilly, yes, even in a tropical paradise. You are warned to remove hats and hold onto valuables and small children’s hands. The view will take you breath away.

My one break-out experience on Oahu? Bev went on a submarine ride! Yes, the one who can not swim, only sink in H2O went on a submarine ride and I have the certificate to prove it. Huzzah! It was several feet down, really! I had to ride a catamaran to get to the sub and once we boarded, the hatch was closed and under we went. I had the chance to see some amazing sea life, but, the thing that astonished me the most was to see where the ancient lava flows had rushed into the sea and rested at the bottom of the ocean floor. This is how the Islands were born.

On to Kauai, the Garden Island. I was saddened a few years after my visit when Hawaii was hit by Hurricane Iniki and little Kauai bore the brunt of the damage. Kauai is very rural. At the time of my visit, it was still a sleepy little island, full of tropical delights and waterfalls. We rented a car on this island and explored our heart out. I saw the waterfall from the opening credits of the TV show Fantasy Island, and a beautiful area known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”…Waimea Canyon. Yes, it was a real canyon, maybe not as big as the one in Arizona, but just a spectacular given the location…in a Hawaiian way. (Waimea is 10 miles long and one mile wide.)

I discovered another magnificent lighthouse, Kilauea Lighthouse. It stood on a little finger of land that jutted out above the blue Pacific. It was an absolute vision to behold and I still carry it with me. From the distance I saw it from, it left a very lasting surreal impression. I can still see the white of the lighthouse column glimmering in the Hawaiian sun and the bright red roof seemed suspended above the lens housing. If I could, I would live there.

My break-out experience on Kauai? Bev took a helicopter ride around the Island! Oh, my gosh!! Yes, the mountain gal that hates to fly took a helicopter flight. It was like riding on a leaf, at the whim of the thermals. When we first took off, I thought I was going to have to take up a collection like a pastor, but instead of passing the collection plate, I would be asking all of the other passengers to pass their barf bag to yours truly. My eyes where shut tight and “eau de helicopter fuel” was wafting up my nostrils. Then it hit me, “Bev, O gal, you may never do this again. There are places on this island you can only see by boat or helicopter. Get ahold (a very Southern term) of yourself girl, and enjoy this.” So I did.

And, did I ever get to see some marvelous sites! We flew into that “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” I told you about. Our whirly-bird looked like a little bitty dragonfly against the backdrop of the canyon wall. I saw the Napali Coast, a very rugged terrain. You might even recognize the area…parts of it have been used in movies like The Thorn Birds and South Pacific. The pilot flew us up to what seemed like the top of the world, and we were in thick clouds…we were in one of the wettest spots on Earth. We flew over taro fields and all too soon, we were back at the airport. Darn.

I was so glad I did the helicopter trip…would I do it again? I don’t know. Not too long ago a tourist helicopter crashed on Kauai and there were fatalities. Scary.

The Big Island of Hawaii was next…and another one I explored with a car. There are two main coasts on Hawaii…Hilo and Kona…and, hence my earworm. I stayed in a wonderful hotel that looked out onto a lagoon surrounded by blue Pacific water and black lava…it was breathtaking…and on the Kona side.

One of Kona’s claim to fame is an impossibly smooth coffee that is grown there on the island. It can be a little pricy, but well worth it. It is fabulous…just be cautious…do not get a blend passing itself off as a true Kona…it’s just not the same thing and it won’t taste the same! I went into a little Kona coffee shop and had Kona coffee and some chocolate-covered macadamia nuts…see what I mean about Paradise?!

The Hawaiian Island chain is actually a group of mountains rising from the bottom of the ocean floor. They were created over years from volcanic activity. The Big Island is still volcanically active thanks to Kilauea. What a lot of people don’t realize is that the tallest mountain in the world is actually part of Hawaii. Yes, taller than Mount Everest if you count from the bottom of the ocean floor. That mountain is Mauna Kea. Mauna Loa is another giant volcanic mountain on the Big Island. Mauna Kea *gasp* is on occasion snow-capped. While I was visiting Kilauea at Hawaii Volcanoes National Parks, I actually had to wear a sweater because it was chilly. One thing I remember about exploring Kilauea and the Park…the unpleasant stench of sulfur. If you need a “volcano buster” in your backyard call Bev…I’ll never forget that smell.

Well, I had a break out experience on the Big Island, too. I went on a dinner cruise. It’s not what you think…just give me a minute. This was to be a nice quiet, romantic dinner, with sunset views on the Pacific accompanied by great food, Hawaiian music and entertainment. Some of that was true (forget the romantic…it was with Gomez the unremarkable) but, things did get a little interesting.

Keep this one thing in mind…remember I said, “Bev is not one to drink “Spirits…adult beverages”…at least until Gomez tucked tail and abandoned his family, then I did try to recreate something I’m about to tell you.

When we arrived on the boat, we were ushered to our table. Already on the table were glasses, with what I thought was this wonderful fruit drink. Yum! As I enjoyed my glass of vitamin C I glanced around the table and noticed that Gomez and I were the youngest people at the table. I also remembered that we were about to set sail and I had forgotten to take my beloved Dramamine…I didn’t want to ruin anyone’s dinner, so I didn’t waste time taking one. Well, it didn’t take long for Bev to develop what some might call a “buzz”. Whoopee! Evidently, my great fruit juice drink and something “extra” in it and I had added Dramamine to the mix. Well, light my fire and kiss my grits!

It was now time for the entertainment. The hunky young people from the cruise company were picking people from each table to become part of the entertainment. Oh my freaking gosh! As I resurveyed my table and surmised I was probably the youngest one there able to move, I say my fate coming at me like a big ol’ Peterbilt going 100 on US 40. And, I wasn’t wrong.

Bev and the Big Kahuna, Hawaii May 1991Before me was the Big Kahuna in a little bitty skirt thingy, all bronze, bare chested, dark headed grabbing me and dragging me up on the table. He wanted me! He wanted to teach me to hula. I have pictures. Then, he dragged me into a conga line that went around the boat. Well, being the good wife that I was, I felt kinda sorry for ol’ Gomez sitting back at the old folks table so I ducked into the ladies room as the conga line passed by the door that said something cute in Hawaiian for “girls”. It didn’t work. Big Kahuna followed me into the ladies room and dragged me back into the conga line.

Darn, if I had know what Gomez was going to do 10 years later, that might have been the beginning of a beautiful relationship…Bev, the Big Kahuna and the ladies room. Hindsight really is 20/20. (By the way, the thing I tried to recreate after Gomez left 10 years later was the “fruit drink”. A word to the wise…do not try that at home…the Big Kahuna did not reappear after imbibing…darn. That’s ok, because a few months later, I met Tall & Handsome…and the world is good. I got a long, tall cowboy instead…yee-haw!)

So, what got me to thinking about all of this? I was thinking about and craving Banana Pancakes with Coconut Syrup. Yep, sounds good enough to rub all over yourself doesn’t? There wasn’t a lot of food in Hawaii that really wowed me with the exception of the fruit, and some mahi mahi…but those pancakes…umm…umm…umm.

So, maybe this weekend I’ll fix these and ♪…go back to my little grass shack in Kona Hawaii…♪ Aloha…

© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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