WACHS: Gather ye rosebuds while ye may


My late dear departed mother never had a driver’s license in her life.

But that didn’t stop her. She could drive with the best of them. At least tell them how to do it.

My dad. Me. My brothers. Our wives. Neighborhood ladies. Well, except for Hazel Money who puttered around in her ol’ Chevy II. Mama liked her speed and style.

Mama could drive from anywhere. Right front passenger, the “shotgun” seat. One day I finally figured out what that meant after having watched westerns for years and seeing the stagecoach coming in. Sometime she literally was a back seat driver – left, center, right. Didn’t matter.

But mostly shotgun. As an adult, she had taken drivers’ training through the county school system back when it offered logical intelligent courses such as that. And auto mechanics. And what was loosely termed “shop,” which included a lot of carpentry and some other helpful needful skills and trades.

She did well on the coursework and on the driving part. Adrian Allred, well-known figure to countless Pittsboro High School students of the ‘50s and ‘60s as teacher and coach, was her on-the-road instructor and she did well with that part. He did wear out the floor on the shotgun part of the car by hitting the brakes often but she passed.

Came the day she went for her license on-road exam. Aced the sign test and got all the questions right. But Mrs. Avent, the examiner who could strike fear into the heart of any16-year old, failed her because it took her two tries to successfully parallel park on the side street at the main stoplight in Pittsboro. Shouldn’t have been a big deal; shoot, the other day it took me three or four times to get it right since the guys in front of and in back of me had left barely enough room for a flea’s Corvette.

Anyway, for some reason it annoyed her to the point that for the first and only time I can remember my mama caved in to something and never tried again.

That, however, did not keep her from “driving,” as noted above. Mama liked to go – to church, out to eat, to see her family in Bynum and Apex and other places where I didn’t know she had family. She liked to ride uptown to the grocery, to other stores, sometimes just to ride.

In time, she delegated some of those purchasing duties to Dad. It became family legend that he went to so many stores that she’d send him to town to the grocery to get a grape. We began to wonder if he went not only to get what she wanted but to get out of the house.

After Dad died in ’92, she lost her in-house transportation. So, I picked up even more, as much as I could what with a job at the newspaper, serving the church and trying to raise a few calves. It went okay for a while. She learned to bundle trips; other folks helped out and it wasn’t bad.

In that day, one of the things I did with The Chatham News/Record was to deliver the papers on Wednesdays to Pittsboro and beyond to the east. About every other week, sometimes more, I’d go by her house and get her to ride with me so she could get out and look around. Craig Farrell’s store near Jordan Lake was my next to the last stop. We’d get there around 5 o’clock. He had a little grill that served breakfast biscuits and hot dogs.

We’d pull up to the door and I’d say, “Mama, you want a hot dog?”

“Yeah. Get me one.”
“Food Lion has ‘em on sale.”
“Don’t get smart with me. Get me a hot dog.”

Same routine. Every time. I don’t know who was jerking whose chain. I was doing it to agitate her, get her blood pressure up. Why she was doing it to me . . . well, I don’t know.

Anyway, along with the newspaper run, there was another special trip I often made with her. She was big on flowers – at home and abroad. And one thing she made sure of was that at special seasons and times of the year, she was going to make sure the tombstones of her loved ones have flowers on them.

But she didn’t drive. So for the longest of times, Dad took her to the cemeteries. Hanks Chapel. Mt. Pleasant. Wherever. After he went away, I started providing the rides. Sometimes Shirley would go but she was still teaching so at times her daily schedule was full.

I didn’t mind. Actually, liked it. Gave us time together. Let me pick on her some more. And one of the things I’d say to her to do that was a standard response to her standard question: “You think anybody will do this for me after I’m gone?”

To that, I’d always say: “I doubt it, Mama. Too much trouble.”

The other day was Easter. More and more folks of faith are coming to refer to it as “Resurrection Sunday,” since the day is far more than rabbits and eggs. Shirley put together some flowers for her in-law’s grave and tasked me with arranging them to look good when in place.

That has about as much logic as asking a bear to stay away from the honey tree but she did a good job and I tried. They didn’t look half bad when finally in place. And as I stood there a moment and thought about her – and him – and where did the time go and all the things we used to do, an old line of poetry came to me.

I thought it was Willie Shakespeare. Looked it up. Wasn’t him. The author is Robert Herrick, an English poet. But the truth, written in 1648, is still there. It says this: Gather ye rosebuds while ye may; Old Time is still a-flying. And this same flower that smiles today tomorrow will be dying.

Dear reader, if you still have your mama, share some rosebuds with her. Maybe you think she wasn’t the greatest mama ever; were you the best child you could be? That may be true but without her, you wouldn’t be here.

Do it while you can. I wish I could toss a rosebud my mama’s way. I’d even throw in a hot dog.

Bob Wachs is a native of Chatham County and emeritus editor at Chatham News & Record. He serves as pastor of Bear Creek Baptist Church.