It’s me, it’s me, it’s Ernest T.

As a parent, I’ve tried hard to avoid indoctrinating my children with my political leanings, spiritual beliefs, sports fanaticism, or who is better, the Stones or the Beatles. I wanted them to be free thinkers. And yet, I could find no way to avoid indoctrinating them in the gospel according to “The Andy Griffith Show.”

Coffee grounds for breakfast no more

I’m not that big on New Year’s resolutions, but one thing I do want to do in 2020 is practice greater self-care. For example, I’ve always been a $16 coffee maker kind of guy — which is about the same amount of money that my 18-year-old daughter spends on two trips to Starbuck — but I’ve grown tired of the self-abuse that inevitably follows.

Because one day they aren’t there

The hardest thing to get used to is the stillness. The quiet. The absolute absence of any movement at all. Day after day, everything is just as it was the day before.

His old Ford pickup is backed up to the garage, with the headlights pointing straight at our deck like a pair of eyes keeping watch. His late wife’s Subaru — which he could never bring himself to sell after she had a heart attack and passed away on the first day of their tropical vacation 10 years ago — is on the other side, nosed up to the garage door, as if hoping to gain entry. Between them is the golf cart he rode every day down the steep driveway, and then up the road to fetch his mail, with our chihuahua mix keeping pace and barking furiously as he chased along inside our fenced-in yard.

The long wait is finally over

I didn’t know how much I would miss Shoney’s biscuits and gravy, potato soup, and hot fudge cake until they were torn cruelly away from me a few years ago. Locals will remember the day when that bright, shining “Shoney’s on the hill” — as we came to call it — was sacrificed on the altar of road improvements. Indeed, the road has improved, especially now that people have more or less learned how to use the roundabout in a way that they have not over in Jackson County, where many drivers continue to struggle with the concept of “yield.”

Celebrating family, longevity and all that’s possible

Lillie is my dad’s big sister. He’s been gone for nineteen years — from a heart attack, in bed, while smoking his last cigarette — but Lillie keeps on going. Today is her 86th birthday, and we are having Thanksgiving a few days early to celebrate both. There will be 52 people there, which would be a decent chunk of Sparta’s population, except that a lot of the family has moved off, most to find work, some to find love, a few to find that great adventure of the unknown.

Grocery store is stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey

Mushrooms. I needed mushrooms, and mushrooms were all I needed. It was my night to cook, and I wanted to make spaghetti because we’ve eaten chicken approximately 11 consecutive nights at my house. We’ve done that because the members of my family have developed “dietary restrictions” over the years to the extent that we are down to approximately three dishes that we can agree on, one of those being chicken prepared about a dozen different ways.

The drive-in brings back memories

I’m as nostalgic as the next guy. I mean, I don’t get choked up over the thought of bell bottoms or soap-on-a-rope and I didn’t buy that very special Time Life complete collection of “Hee Haw” episodes (now on DVD! Operators are standing by!), even though that and the Lawrence Welk show formed the soundtrack of my Saturday night “going out on the town” preparations as a teenager. My mother always enjoyed Lawrence Welk. I’m not nostalgic about him myself, you understand.

Next season, I’ve got some new mojo in mind

I am supposed to be watching a Dodgers game tonight. At this very moment, I should be pushing one of those “mini” grocery carts up and down the aisles of Ingles, stocking up on my usual menu of snacks when the Dodgers make the playoffs: tortilla chips and salsa verde for the first three innings, red seedless grapes for innings four through six, and then the clean-up hitter, a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey in the last three innings.

Surprisingly, we were able to pull it off

Before we go any further, let me be clear: I am not the guy you want to put in charge of a surprise birthday party. I’m not organized, and I can’t keep a straight face.

That urge just won’t go away

Every so often, she gets that feeling again. When she does, she scoots a little closer and begins tracing invisible lines on my forearm with her freshly polished nails, fire-engine red. She nuzzles me and sighs, as if being close to me like this is the answer to all of life’s most perplexing questions, as if this closeness is the very emblem of her contentment.

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