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Life Without Louella - Part III

In this issue: Homer, knowing that in this day and age, nobody is indispensable, also comes to the realization that there are many underlying factors that go into making a person virtually impossible to replace. Louella Hess is not just an employee, she has become 'family.' and is cherished in this small country Inn where close relationships are vital, important and self-sustaining.
Homer's Point of View

Isabel is, and always has been, a frugal person. Understandably, both Micah and I were surprised when Isabel asked Micah to accompany her one morning to go shopping for a new car. Although Isabel had only been driving her Ford Taurus for a year or so before Ray's death in 1982, Micah and I were both fully aware that she has long admired the more luxurious Lincoln Continental Town Car. We just didn't suspect that Isabel would let go of her Taurus easily.

Once on the lot at the nearest Lincoln-Mercury Dealership in Canton, GA, her choice was entirely predictable and seemingly easy for her to make; a dove-gray 'Signature Edition' Lincoln with gray leather bucket seats and a charcoal Landau top. When Isabel decided not to trade the Taurus, Micah suspected that Isabel had other plans for the car, but he said nothing at the time. It was well known to Micah that Isabel has always questioned the safety of Louella's beleaguered '78 Grenada, but she was careful not to make jokes or comment on it. Young Hank Beavers was consequently the sole victim of Isabel's "vultures are circling the car" quips. After placing the Lincoln on order, Micah and Isabel drove Isabel's Taurus back to the Inn.

Louella became anxious when Isabel broke the news to her that Mildred Hembree would be filling in for her baking duties for the next thirty days. Louella seemed to cheer up a bit when Micah mentioned that Mildred's pies couldn't compare to her 'mile high pie concoctions that were rapidly making Faded Glory a famous culinary destination. Luckily, Micah failed to mention that Mildred's Bountiful Butter Kiss'd Biscuits were currently receiving rave reviews in the Inn's diningroom. Rest assured in the fact that 'come what may,' Louella Hess will have a job at Faded Glory Inn for as long as Isabel is alive.

As her visits to Louella continued over the next month, Isabel became acutely aware of Louella's rampant fear of losing her job or spending the rest of her life in a nursing home. Louella's progress with her physical therapy regimen was slow, but steady, and within fifteen days, Louella was walking more comfortably with a cane and becoming increasingly impatient to conclude her exercise program at Creekside Comfort Rehab. Isabel also realized that once Louella starts to get impatient and antsy, little can slow her down.

One day, approximately two weeks before Louella's scheduled release, Isabel and Micah made an unscheduled visit, and they found Louella in the exercise area doing leg exercises with Michele, one of the staff trainers. Michele purposely cut the workout five minutes short and excused herself to answer a telephone while Louella cooled down and conversed with her unexpected visitors. Isabel reached into her handbag and pulled out a beige-colored envelope saying, "This is for you Louella, it just arrived today, and Micah and I thought you might find it interesting." Louella accepted the envelope quietly. Her hands shook a little as she lifted the envelope flap. Inside was a Hallmark greeting card festooned with flowers that read "You are missed." As Louella opened the card further to read the rest of the message inside, she discovered and unfolded a Georgia Automobile Title made out to "Louella Hightower Hess.". Inside the card, a handwritten message said, "drive this car safely and in good health!" The card was signed by Isabel, Micah, Hank Beavers, Mildred Hembree, Rita Gonsalez and Patricia Patrick. Even Mildred Hembree had signed it! Louella was speechless as she realized that she was now the new owner of Isabel's nearly pristine 1981 Ford Taurus. "The keys are waiting for you on the kitchen bulletin board when you return to the Inn," exclaimed Isabel happily; "We thought you might need some safe transportation to get to work; these mornings; just try to take it easy on the deer population."

Sixteen days have passed, and the big day has finally arrived. Despite Louella's legendary 'lead foot,' her car made hardly a sound coming up the drive to the Inn. It wasn't until she had been inside for about five minutes that 'all hell broke loose' in the kitchen with the familiar sound of pots and pans clanging and the loud ka-ching of the lard bucket cover bouncing on the stainless steel prep table. In her room, Isabel yawned, sighed, turned over, and fell back to sleep for another hour, grateful for the sound of Louella working her morning magic once again at Faded Glory Farm. As for me? I stretched, shook, and sauntered out to join Louella . . . my benefactor is back!

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