Soon after Robin and I moved to The Fountains of Franklin, I began to share some of my published memoir stories with the women in our Tuesday morning Sisterhood Fellowship. This prompted them to recall interesting incidents, too, and last fall, I talked with them about letting me capture their own stories in writing. They agreed that would be fun, so in September, I wrote our first memoir story, and now we’ve completed six.

Our procedure goes like this: First, I arrange a date for an interview. Then I go to the storyteller’s apartment, and we enjoy visiting as she shares her experience. It usually takes several visits for me to get all the details straight, but after I complete the story, she reviews it to make sure I have everything correct. Then we share it with the other women in our group, and she can also share it with her family.

Today, I’d like to share the latest memoir with all of you.

A Devastating Blow 

Born on January 15, 1922, Myrabel Bivin Theobald recently celebrated her 97th birthday, but she remembers a day from her childhood as clearly as she remembers her name. This traumatic event occurred when she was only five years old, and her little sister, Merida, was three.

During the 1920s, the Bivins lived in a small frame house on several acres in central Illinois. Myrabel’s parents did not farm any land, but they did raise a few chickens. A railroad track ran near the back of their property, and the two little girls loved to watch the trains go by.

Myrabel’s father operated the local grain elevator. Late one morning, he hurried home and burst into the house. “There’s a big storm coming down the track! Dust and dirt are flying everywhere. Quick! Get into the center of the house.”

Myrabel’s parents grabbed the girls, and the four stood with backs pressed against a wall, tightly gripping each other’s hands. A mighty wind roared through their house, and all around them, walls collapsed and the ceiling exploded. A moment later, they were standing in the midst of complete devastation.

Everything was gone!” Myrabel said. “I looked around and Mother and Daddy and I were there, but where was Merida? My frantic parents dashed out through the debris, crying and calling her name.”

Myrabel’s mother found little Merida not far from their house, stunned but unharmed. “She only had a small cut on one finger,” Myrabel said with a smile

I asked her if she or her parents were hurt. “We had a few cuts. I still have a small scar on my forehead. But none of us were severely injured. The neighbors up the road came right away to check on us—our house was the only one in the area that was hit. I learned that all our little baby chickens were blown away, too, but I guess I was just too bewildered to cry. The tornado traveled down the tracks, destroyed the grain elevator, and hit some other houses in a nearby town.”

Myrabel doesn’t remember what the family did that night, but she believes they may have stayed at their neighbor’s. Soon, they moved into a small rental house.

“With the grain elevator gone, my father no longer had a job, so our family lost our income as well as our house and all our belongings,” she said. “My mother suffered a nervous breakdown soon after that, and she had to spend about a month in a hospital. Those were really hard times for all of us, but friends helped us all they could. Eventually, Daddy was able to get an old truck with a tank on it, and he ground up fodder and drove around and sold it to farmers in the area.”

I shook my head in amazement. “How does a family ever overcome such a devastating blow?” I asked.

“Well, the Great Depression was beginning then, too, but I believe God was good to us,” she said. “All four of us survived the tornado, and I’m thankful my parents were able to care for Merida and me during all our growing up years. We never went hungry. In 1940, I graduated from high school and married my high school sweetheart a year later. Ray and I had three children, and he lived until he was 88 years old. Now I have seven grandchildren and sixteen great-grandchildren. And I’m glad to be here at The Fountains.”

“I’m glad you’re here too,” I said, “and I’m really glad you could share your experience with me. You have a great story, dear one, a story we will not soon forget.”

Madelyn F. Young




Tomorrow, Dec. 20, I will have been on this earth for 80 years. That seems like such a long time—until I look around me here at The Fountains. Most folks here are already past this milestone, and some are even into their nineties now. Today, in exercise class, one of our residents, who is 96 now, was still able to stand on one leg, kick out her other foot to the front, to the side, and to the back—ten times! She’s my role model. : )

It’s interesting how different parts of our bodies age at different rates. Some of us lose our hearing, some our eyesight. Some lose our flexibility, some our mobility, some our memory. But I’ve noticed that whatever parts are still functioning well can often make up for the rest. One’s attitude plays a big role in how we handle aging. And when others cheer us on, that helps too.

Today, I’ll pass along a little joke I heard recently.

Two women met for the first time since graduating from high school. One asked the other, “You were always so organized in school. Did you manage to live a well planned life?”

“Oh, yes,” said her friend. “My first marriage was to a millionaire; my second was to an actor: my third marriage was to a preacher; and now I’m married to an undertaker.”

Her friend frowned. “What do those marriages have to do with a well planned life?

“One for the money,

Two for the show.

Three to get ready,

And four to go.”

I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday and a new year full of many blessings!

It’s hard to believe we’ve been in our new location at The Fountains of Franklin for one full year now. Exactly 365 days ago on October 20, 2017, we arrived in Franklin Friday evening, checked into our motel room, and headed over to Steve and Tonya’s house to meet all our kids for a “Welcome to Franklin” supper. The next day, we met our movers at our new villa and began our new life. So what’s happened to us this year? Have we adjusted to our new environment?

I’m happy to tell you yes, we’ve adjusted. Of course, making the transition has had its ups and downs, but this has also been a great year of discovery and adaptation.

We’ve enjoyed meeting new friends here at The Fountains, going to new places, and learning to navigate our way around this busy town. Thankfully, we haven’t had to do this all on our own. Our children have pitched in to drive us to doctors’ offices for procedures when we’ve needed another driver to get us home safely, or they’ve driven us to new restaurants we haven’t been to before. And we’ve traveled on the Fountains’ bus with other residents to interesting events. Last Wednesday, a beautiful October day, we went to Arrington Vineyards for a picnic lunch out in the country. That was fun! The week before, I traveled with other residents on the bus to Nashville to the dress rehearsal of the Nashville Symphony at their downtown auditorium. I loved that!

Also, it’s been good to learn we’re not quite as stuck in our ways as we thought we were. : ) For example, the home we built in Hot Springs Village had “his” and “her” bathrooms and “his” and “her” closets. Here, we share a master bath and a large master closet, and we still get along just fine. : ) In the Village, Robin enjoyed playing golf at his choice of seven different courses. Here, he plays mostly at one course called The Crossing, although on Thursday this week, he and a friend played at Spencer’s Creek for the first time. He hasn’t played as much golf as he might, due to rainy weather, but he still enjoys getting out on the courses when he can.

We’re getting older, but we’ve discovered we’re still quite youthful among our peers. Although Robin continues to deal with memory loss, he’s still able to drive himself to the golf course or to the fitness center, and he still performs all his daily activities with no problem. Together, we still handle all our shopping, house cleaning, laundry, cooking, and entertaining. Last summer, our neighbor in the villas lost his wife, and he’s a bit more infirm than we are. Robin brings him his newspaper and mail and visits with him a few minutes every day. We also do his grocery shopping for him. Recently, I’ve begun a new writing project. Many new friends in assisted living have had such interesting life experiences, and I’m writing their stories in short memoir pieces for them to share with their families.

It’s great to live closer to our children and grandchildren now too. They all lead busy lives, but we do manage to see each other quite often, and life is good! They appreciate that we are nearby, and we’re happy we made the move.

Finding the Truth

Have you been following the saga regarding the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh for Supreme Court Justice? I’m fascinated with how differently the Republicans and Democrats on the Senate committee have interpreted the testimonies of Dr. Christine Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Now I wonder, will each side be content with what the FBI may uncover or not uncover this week? Will the three Republican senators who still have doubts be ready to make a decision when his name comes before the full Senate?

Full disclosure. Right now, I believe Christine Ford is the more credible of the two. Her story, her “truth,” is that at fifteen, she was assaulted by young Brett Kavanaugh. He vehemently denies that, but I believe he did not tell us the complete truth about his teenage behavior. Perhaps his being drunk that evening has blurred his memory so that now he truly believes he never attacked her. I doubt his friend, Mark Judge, will remember that incident, either. However, I believe they were both acting rough and tough that evening, having fun at her expense. She was brave to reveal her story, knowing there were other details she didn’t remember.

According to Dr. Ford’s testimony, the assault traumatized her severely and affected her life in profound ways for many years. Because of that, I believe she distinctly remembers who it was who was on top of her, who it was who was fumbling with her clothes, who it was who placed his hand over her mouth to silence her screaming, and who was laughing with his buddy. Later, she told her husband and therapist that the attacker was Brett Kavanaugh, and this was long before his name was presented as President Trump’s nominee.

I do hope the FBI will investigate all aspects of Dr. Ford’s and Judge Kavanaugh’s testimonies. I’m eager to learn what they will find.

This morning, Robin and I were able to watch the full memorial service for Senator John McCain in Washington, D.C.  I hope many of you were able to watch it too. If so, you may feel as I do now—extremely thankful that John planned a service to remind us once again of the ideals and virtues that have made this country great.

Exerting power at the expense of others is never a path to greatness. Likewise, dividing one group against another ruptures our brotherhood.

Striving to understand and respect others, regardless of race, religion, gender, or political persuasion; being honest in one’s speech and dealings; asking for or extending forgiveness whenever one hurts another or is hurt—these are the virtues we honored this morning.

John was a courageous war hero, but he was also a courageous senator and statesman. Many times, he placed our country over political party and worked across the aisle to solve our nation’s problems. John never feared to speak truth to power.

Let us now honor John McCain’s great legacy by electing representatives who will exemplify these same virtues. The time for vitriol is over. The time for healing is at hand.

Last Sunday, we celebrated our 6Oth wedding anniversary. Our true anniversary was on Wednesday this week, but we planned our party for a Sunday afternoon upstairs in The Fountains’ dining room. Eighty-one guests attended, including all our children and grandchildren and many more family members from North Carolina and Mississippi. Here is a photo of Robin and me surrounded by our children, Steve, Marty, and Sharon.

I was surprised and thrilled when my long-time friend, Laura Riser, entered the room. Laura lives in Long Beach, Mississippi, and she had written me a note, explaining that she wouldn’t be able to make it. However, her son, Doug, had been down on the coast recently, and he brought her back to Huntsville, Alabama, so he, his two sisters and their spouses, and Laura all traveled up to Franklin to come to our party. It was so much fun to have them here!

During the introductions, Emily Roumen, our second granddaughter, modeled my wedding dress. She looked so beautiful in it!


Several weeks ago, she tried on the dress, and it fit her well, but she didn’t have any shoes she could wear with it. We asked around, but still no shoes, so I went to Good Will. When I walked into the thrift store and approached the women’s shoe rack, there sat a little pair of ivory-colored pumps, right up front. I checked inside the shoes—size 7, just her size! I took them to the check-out counter, and guess what I paid? Would you believe they cost me only a dollar?  Our daughter-in-law, Anna, says that finding those shoes must have been “a God wink.”

Actually, I believe our entire married life has been a blessing. Robin and I are both still healthy with a loving family and many friends, and we are so thankful for all the years we have had together.

Puppy Love

Yesterday, we returned from a “puppy love fest” at the home of our son Marty.

Back in April, our kind-hearted hero returned to his home in Maryville with a stray dog who had been scavenging for scraps while he, his brother, brother-in-law, and cousins camped in northeast Mississippi.

Marty and his wife, Anna, named her Misti—a clever combo of “Mississippi” and “Tishomingo State Park.”  Then they took her to the local vet for a check-up, and you guessed it—Misti was pregnant!

Before her due date, Marty prepared a nice “birthing suite” with old towels in a plastic baby pool on their screened-in back porch, but she must have wanted more privacy. Little mama delivered her puppies under the porch on Sunday evening, June 3. When Marty was finally able to count them, he discovered nine healthy pups happily nursing!

It’s been quite a summer for Marty, Anna, and Audrey, our 20-year-old granddaughter. After a week or so, they moved Misti and her pups to a “kennel” they created on one end of their porch. A 12-to-14-inch-high “fence” separates the kennel from the rest of the porch. Plastic sheeting covers the carpeted floor, and brown butcher paper tops the plastic. Marty replaces the paper each morning. Misti and her pups also have access to the back yard by scooting down a ramp from the porch to the ground.

When Misti developed mastitis during her third week of nursing, Marty and his crew began preparing puppy formula and feeding three puppies at a time, four times a day. Fortunately, the puppies were old enough to lap from saucers. Several weeks later, the pups graduated to soaked dry puppy food, and lately, they’re beginning to eat the crunchy stuff following their soft-food meals.

Now, these precious puppies are seven weeks old. Three are male, and six are female. Interestingly, the males are the more docile ones. But they all love to romp and play together, and then they all konk out at the same time, sprawled on their sides and tummies.  Five are now spoken for, but I’m sure it won’t be long until they are all adopted.