I used to be pretty good at calling people by name. I’m finding, however, that with each birthday I celebrate it becomes more of a challenge. It is, therefore, a rare pleasure when I quickly put a name with a face for someone I haven’t seen in a long time.
In November of 2017 Jane and I were standing outside Brannen-Nesmith Funeral Home in Unadilla. We were in a long line of people who had come to pay respects to our dear friend Charles Jones.
Jane was talking to someone just ahead of us, while I was having a separate conversation with the young lady behind me. Our paths had not crossed in several years. I was delighted that I readily called her name.
“How have you been doing Carol? It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you!”
“It sure has,” she said with a warm smile.
“Your dad called me a few days ago and asked me to speak at a Christmas banquet at church. He said the deacons at Penia sponsor a dinner each year for the more senior members of the congregation.” Then I jokingly added, “It’s a wonder that Allen would invite me to anything after that tornado incident.”
It surprised me to learn that Allen had never shared that story with his daughter. I knew she would enjoy hearing it.
I told her about the tornado that came through Vienna on April 15, 1999. Someone called Bank of Dooly and warned us that it had touched down and was headed our way. We were fortunate to have a vault large enough to accommodate the staff and a couple of customers that were in the bank.
We locked the swinging glass entrances and squeezed tightly into the vault. Then we closed the heavy steel door behind us and waited. After the tornado had time to pass, we cautiously peeked into the lobby. Standing there alone was our friend and coworker Allen Morrow. He was surrounded by the stillness of vacant desks, wondering in silence if The Rapture had come and why he was left behind.
Allen’s office was upstairs. He didn’t even know we’d had a tornado. I said, “I am so sorry, Allen. We forgot all about you.”
Allen grinned and shook his head in disbelief. He said, “With friends like y’all, I sure don’t need any enemies.”
Instead of tragedy we were blessed with an unexpected moment of humor. Allen and I have laughed about it on many occasions. It’s a treasured memory that has aged well. I loved sharing that old tale with his daughter as she nodded and listened attentively to my ramblings.
The visitation line moved forward, and Jane turned around. I said, “Jane, you remember Allen Morrow’s daughter, Carol. I’ve been telling her about the time we left Allen upstairs during the tornado.”
Carol and Jane extended their hands to greet one another. Carol smiled sweetly and spoke softly. “Hi,” she said, “I’m Rhonda Youngblood.”
It took a moment for me to connect the dots. “You’re not Allen Morrow’s daughter, Carol?” I asked.
“No sir,” she politely answered. “I don’t believe that I know her.”
The three of us had a good laugh, which made for a happy ending to another one of my disastrous attempts to call someone’s name. Jane says that I may need to stop calling people by name. But if I hadn’t mistaken Rhonda for Carol, we would not have had nearly as much fun that night.
So, if I call you by the wrong name, you are welcome to correct me. Or you can do like my new friend Rhonda and just see where the conversation takes us. Either way works fine for me, Bubba.