News from the Tennessee Valley Columnists


When you canít shake, you hug

Uncle Frank doesn't shake hands anymore.

At 91, it's not that he can't or doesn't want to offer a hand in friendship. Nor has working on five scores of living turned him into a curmudgeon. It's because, as he told me a few days ago, shaking hands spreads germs. A fellow his age has to be careful.

After having to give up his favorite farm chore of mowing his pastureland a couple years ago and not being able to find the car keys that someone hid more recently, he's determined that his walker isn't about to become obsolete, too, because of some virus borne by a glad-hander. That could put him down for the count.

The walker is his lifeline to the farm he and aunt Francis live on near Springville where they raised two sons and four daughters and sent them all to The University of Alabama.

I love to talk to him about my father and grandparents. The information comes in snippets. The days of long yarns are over. On this particular trip I asked him to confirm that my grandfather bought a patch of Texas scrub land, about a century ago, at a carnival or fair.

He went to Texas to see the land located somewhere in the greater Houston area and pronounced it not worth having, Uncle Frank said.

Having come from a family of farmers, the 40 acres didn't seem worthy of the annual tax assessment.

"Boy was he a loser," Uncle Frank declared, as he chuckled at his own joke about the possibility of a family misfortune.

But two things appeared to be of most concern that afternoon. His thoughts Ping-Ponged between those pesky germs and that other option.

He still wasn't shaking hands when we left but he did call me aside to ask if I would be a pallbearer for him when the time comes.

He had to settle for a shoulder hug to seal the deal.

Tom Wright Tom Wright
DAILY Executive Editor

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