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Caring Lessons Now (CLN) #2

In sixty-two days, I’ll be seventy. No longer do my peers talk about babies, weddings, and marital fights. It’s much more likely that we talk about our latest doctor’s appointment, medical diagnosis, and health insurance rate.

That’s why, in this phase of my retirement, I want to actively seek out good times. And I have a wingding to tell you about.

In the trip that we took a few weeks ago to Louisiana, we started our second leg from South Dakota and took three days to get there, meandering through states we’d never driven through before. Joplin, Missouri, a year after their tornado, deserves its own story. The rest of Missouri was a blur because it rained all day. The beauty of Arkansas’s hills and trees was a total shock. And when we went to bed in Shreveport, Louisiana, after eating our first fried fish of this vacation at Crawdaddy’s, I was well into enjoying the sunshine and light shirt weather of going south.

read on -- and join us for an outdoor street corner "experience"

In the morning, I slept in, while Marv went down the hall to the Comfort Inn’s breakfast. That’s our routine. I wake up slowly, turn on CNN, and am totally versed in the day’s news when he returns from breakfast, having read the newspaper. “Did you know…..”, he’ll say. “I already heard about it,” I reply.

So imagine my surprise when he entered the room, stood in the entryway, peeked ahead at me in the bed, and said, “I have someone here for you to meet.”

Now what. Had he befriended the concierge? Housekeeping? Maintenance?

I pulled up the sheet to cup my chin and, before I could say okay, he ushered in the person behind him. His brother! Of all things. Talk about surprise. We knew that Marv’s brother Rog and wife Marilyn were going to the same wedding. But they had started out from a different city at a different time than we had and what’s the odds that we would end up in the same motel and the guys be at breakfast at the same time in the far away city of Shreveport? Nil.

Some would call this fate. Some happenstance. Some serendipity. Some coincidence. I call it providence. I always feel that God is watching. Whether I like the outcome or not.

We arranged to have them follow us down Interstate 49 to Lafayette. The only plans we made were stopping for lunch. Rog wanted something LOCAL.

Of course, we did a gas stop once and Rog spotted an Eddie’s Barbecue Smokehouse across the access road. We sauntered over in the sunshine and thought with a bit of southern twang while buying barbecue sauce and spices.

After that stop, our LOCAL lunch depended on our GPS. And the insistent woman with the British accent took us off the highway into Natchitoches (population around 17,000) and down a side street of bumpy pavement and somewhat tattered homes to a large paved corner lot that appeared at first sight to be vacant. “This can’t be it,” I said to Marv. “But pull in anyway.”

Rog and Marilyn pulled up beside us. By this time, I’d seen a small Dairy Queen-like building in the far corner of the lot where  we could walk up and order our LOCAL dinner at the window. And then stand there and eat it.

We, or I should say, Rog, decided we should try it. It was indeed LOCAL. We swiveled our cars to park in front of the shanty. The man at the window gleefully shouted, “Illinois. Minnesota.” Our license plates had excited him.

I captured the rest of our LOCAL lunch in pictures. A memorable FUN experience. A time of caring for ourselves while capturing a rare few moments of sibling togetherness.

the men wonder why they always pay - women know to leave their purses in the car

fresh shrimp and fried rice on folding chairs and milk crates

fresh shrimp, in all their glory, with bulging black eyeballs

shelled (with a plastic fork) and eaten

"Don't eat," our owner/waiter said. "Wash hands. Get rid of smell."

the view from our makeshift restaurant

We may have been the only seated customers of this owner’s day. But he hustled back and forth with items to make us comfortable. Even, after the tea water in the jello mold, a roll of paper towels.

As we walked our Styrofoam dishware to the trash can, I said, “Was this LOCAL enough for you, Rog?” We all agreed we would forever store this fun picnic at “Jim’s”  in our aging memory banks.

Note: I could not find Jim’s on Natchitoches website. The city itself is the oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase Territory, founded by the French in 1714. Until just now, I did not know the city is famous for the filming of the 1989 movie, Steel Magnolias, and is the Bed and Breakfast Capital of Louisiana. I guess we could have seen so much more!

PS: Big correction! Thanks to help from my LA niece, I remembered we stopped in Opelousas, not Natchitoches.  But, alas, I still could not find Jim’s on their website. Opelousas, I found out, is the Spice Capital of Louisiana, and also has a long rich history, one of which is having a name, I regret to say, that didn’t stick in the head of this Midwesterner.