"What do you need?" I asked the Sassy Saint about the marching band's upcoming performance at the Veterans Day ceremony.
I always ask them what they need. It's my most cherished fantasy that I will someday receive the complete list before we are en route to our destination.
"Oh, just my black band T-shirt and black pants," she said.
"Are you wearing your uniform over it?" (This was not, on first glance, a dumb question, because they usually do.)
The ceremony was scheduled at 11 a.m., and she was to be there at 10 a.m. We were actually running on time, something that happens so rarely that I feel compelled to note it here.
"Is Uncle Davy going to be there?" Sass asked.
My brother, Davy Crockett, and his new wife, Glinda the Good, had arrived from Kentucky for an extended visit the evening before. I was almost 100 percent certain that Davy had not anticipated being asked to attend this event, and he had a list of invitations longer than his arm. (Which is quite long, considering Davy is unusually tall.) Davy is well-liked, and his many friends here at home always ask him to come visit when he makes his biannual pilgrimage back home.
"He said he was coming." I think he was coming because my mother, Grandmama, had promised to come, and she acts like driving to Weirton is akin to driving to Pittsburgh during rush hour. (Grandmama will not drive to Pittsburgh. I drive, and she covers her eyes and prays we won't die, despite my having made the trip so often I don't even have a second thought about it anymore.) Davy was actually coming to bring our mother, but we weren't telling her that.
"Oh, good," said Sass. "He and Grampy Grumpy are my favorite veterans."
I had a dust mote in my eye and needed a tissue.
Of course, when we got there, it was quickly apparent that the marching band wasn't wearing their uniforms. I have a black turtleneck sweater for Sass to wear under her band shirt if they're marching in the cold. Like I said, some day I'm going to get the entire list in time to do some good. I stuck a sweater on her and hoped no one would notice or, if they did, would take pity on poor Sass and let her wear it. It was relatively mild for November, but that's still cold.
Grandmama called me at least four times: to find out where she should park; to check on the traffic (normal); to find out whether the event was crowded (a little bit); and to check again on the parking situation.
And that was before she even got there. Once she did, I gave her careful instructions on how to find us. We shouldn't have been hard to find; the band was warming up, and you could have heard them from a block away the way that place echoed.
She ignored me. Of course she did. I finally had to go hunt her down.
Glinda hadn't dressed for the cold. I'm not sure if Kentucky gets cold in the winter. I'd guess it was more Appalachia than Deep South, but I've never been to Kentucky in the winter. So, we all huddled around her in an effort to keep her warm.
The ceremony was nice, despite the wind's insistence on trying to knock over half of the wreaths. And my having to hush Grandmama every five seconds.
And her poking me every time the band played, as if I couldn't hear for myself.
My Little Professor was especially interested in the speaker, who talked about America's military history. When he mentioned the Battle of Bunker Hill didn't actually take place on Bunker Hill, the Little Professor nodded enthusiastically.
"He knew that?" Davy asked. "Never mind. Of course he knew that."
"I knew that, Uncle Davy." He would have launched into an accounting of the battle, but Grandmama hushed them.
Glinda strained for a glimpse of Sass, but it was crowded.
Afterward, Sass was all smiles. "How did we do?"
"You kids did great."
"I saw all of you."
We were as far away from the marching band as you could get and still be at the event.
"Oh, yes, Uncle Davy is easy to spot, even in a crowd."
(Wallace-Minger, a resident of Weirton, is community editor for The Weirton Daily Times.)