Welcome to this week’s Reno News & Review.
My grandmother died late last month. She’d been in hospice for a long time, and Alzheimer’s had slowly whittled away her formerly vivacious personality. When we—my brother, sister, cousins, me—were little, she was larger-than-life, someone who made all things seem possible. She’d spoil us with all the candy, soft drinks and toys that our parents would deny us. She made us laugh like no other adult could. She also made us feel like we could do anything we put our minds to, that we could grow up to be anything we wanted to be. And most of all, she made us feel loved—an unconditional love. We didn’t know how lucky we were.
She was a teacher who taught everything from kindergarten to college. She was the first woman to run for public office in Okaloosa County, Florida. She had a direct phone line straight to Santa's desk at the North Pole.
I flew down to my familial homestead in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, for the funeral. It was more celebratory than mournful. We told stories, shared laughs and drinks, played games. A group of us cousins took a boat out into the gulf and saw two separate pods of dolphins. Then I flew home.
On the second leg of the journey home, from Dallas to Reno, I sat next to a man from Oklahoma who had never been to Reno. He asked me about restaurants in Reno. I launched into a long spiel: “Basque cuisine … casino steakhouses … the farm-to-table and craft beer movements … all-you-can-eat-sushi … a plethora of different Mexican restaurants.”
“Hey,” interjected the guy sitting on the other side of him, “Is there an In-N-Out Burger in Reno?”
“Oh, what’s that?” said the first guy. “That sounds good.”
I started to balk snobbishly, but then concurred—it is good. And sometimes you just need the classics: a burger, fries and a milkshake, quality time with family, a fleeting glimpse of wild animals, a grandmother who loves her grandkids and wants to spoil them rotten.
R.I.P. Martha Naomi McEwen Bynum, 1931-2016.