Saturday, May 13, 2017
I thought I might skate through this one unscathed. Walking into Wal-Mart a few days ago to buy camping supplies, the bouquets and candy were lined up at the door and I felt a tiny hitch in my breath. Towards me on the opposite side of the aisle was a woman who appeared to be older than my 53, almost 54 years. 'She has probably buried her mother already as well,' I thought in order not to cave in to a private pity party.
Maybe she is one of the lucky ones who has an ancient mother. My mother had one who just missed living long enough to wish her a happy 63rd birthday. A distant cousin by marriage had her mother until she was in her mid 70s. Both their mothers made it into their 90s! My mother's assigned years were 68. She didn't live quite long enough to tease me upon turning 40. I immediately felt guilt upon completing that sentence, thinking of a group of sisters I know whose mother died while they were all still in school, from elementary to high school age.
And I realize it was my mother who didn't abide feeling sorry for oneself...she once told a great-aunt, who was still crying daily after being widowed for five months, that she wasn't grieving for her husband, she was grieving for herself. If you knew how much my mother respected and revered older people, you'd be as surprised as I was she said that. But Mom had a knack of knowing what to say and when to say it. Her aunt accepted the glass of cold words in her face and began volunteering at the nursing home where her husband had lived his final days.
The day to honor mothers hit me anyway, as it does most people who've lost a loved one, at the most random time. Washing my hands, I thought of the fall of 1974 when my father died. Yes, both my parents checked out of this life quite young, Daddy at 42. After all the wrenching emotion of myriad people dropping by the house, the visitation the night before the funeral, and the service and burial the following day, I crawled in my mother's bed.
Ordinarily she'd have told me to get back in my bed and furthermore to brush the sand off the bed my feet had brought in. Mom was the remotest one from being a good housekeeper; when Daddy was living, she paid people to do that, but she was a stickler about her bed being clean.
Having just buried her husband, she didn't cry that night, that I was aware of, anyway. Mom didn't often cry, but would save it all up for an occasional sob. She didn't cuddle me or say any comforting words. I suppose at age 11, it was high time I became even more independent even though I already did my own laundry by that age.
She tolerated my presence in her bed nightly for a season that ended when I became angry at her for something. What, I don't remember, but I reassembled my twin bed in the room I had previously shared with my sister, where my dresser and other belongings still resided, and I made the bed with Raggedy Ann and Andy sheets. Mom said nothing, asked no questions. Her mother, my beloved Grannie, who lived with us at that time, scolded me. I don't remember Grannie's exact words, but in hindsight I realize that she was, in her own way, defending her daughter.
My sister was likely disappointed to be sharing a room again. She is nearly 9 years my senior and has never been particularly fond of me, nor our mother for that matter. Long after our mother was dead, my sister spat at me, "You're just like her," and it wasn't a compliment.
Absent from my memories, or more truthfully, the affection and nurturing simply wasn't there. My Grannie confided in me once that Mom did not cuddle and kiss and ooh and ahh over her babies like most women. Four babies...extended family and maids and cooks and a gardener filled in.
But it was the things Mom didn't say, like not saying no to me crawling in her bed when a pre-teen girl should be sleeping by herself. Like coming into my room on the day I was getting married and silently handing me a paper plate with scrambled eggs and toast on it, nothing to drink. She didn't wait on us and often expected us to wait on her after a long shift at the nursing home where the bulk of her career was spent. Did I say I often did her laundry, too?
So why the tears for a mother whose English ancestry seemed to have bled through her DNA in the way she parented?
Because I'd love to have a conversation with her about all that has transpired since her death. Her perspective was uncannily wise and calm. Not very long ago, my husband told me I knew the right thing to say to people at the right time. He had no idea what high praise that was to me.
In some ways, Yvonne still lives. I see her in the mirror as more of my wavy hair, a genetic bequeath from her, turns white. She was not vain and did not dye hers and she encouraged Grannie to let her "pretty white hair" grow in instead of those awful Miss Clairol home color jobs.
She never once said she missed me after I left home, and more than once or twice, she'd say of her children, "I'm glad mine are grown." One of the most truthful things she ever said to me was if there'd been better birth control in her day, she wouldn't have had so many. Being the youngest of four and a very obvious oops-a-daisy, arriving six years after her third child, that was brutal to hear, but nearing my 54th birthday, I understand more this kind of honesty.
She was steeped in integrity and wouldn't speak a lie. She had a way of silently circumventing a truth if need be, but she did not abide a lie or a liar and the contempt for the same resides within me.
She occasionally would say it didn't pay to tell everything you know. She wouldn't like all I have told in this essay, but as she also occasionally said, "The last time I checked the calendar, I was grown."
That meant she could say and do what she wanted and owed no one an explanation for how she lived her life.
I'm grown, and this is what was on my heart this Mother's Day. If you have a sweet one, I envy you in the nicest possible way. If you have one who granted and insisted up complete independence, I understand.
Thank you for giving me life, Mom.
Friday, August 12, 2016
I wasn't sad at all this morning, but after reading an Instagram post by American journalist, Mary Katherine Ham, her words probed a still tender part of my soul, wounded deeply almost 42 years ago. As I typed that sentence, the number 42 haunts--it was the age of my daddy when he passed away in 1974, half a life, seemingly, instead of a whole, but that was the whole allotted him. MK's husband was given even fewer years, 34.
Mary Katherine wrote a sentimental birthday wish to their 3-year-old daughter; followers know her as the darling with the great hair. It's thick and full and wavy and however it falls it's always beautiful, often the subject of the nicest envy among MK's Instagram followers. In the post, MK also remembered her late husband who died in a freak cycling accident, thus missing the last 11 months of this precious one's life and the entire life of his second daughter who was still in her mother's womb at the time.
The number 11 haunts as well. I was 11 years old when my father died on the 11th day of the 11th month of the year. For the longest I hated the number 11 and sometimes still look at it with the same dread and loathing as others do unlucky 13. Not so often anymore, but the memory is there, capable of being touched, brought back to consciousness in empathy with someone who has had a similar experience.
Unlike MK's little halo-haired beauty and her infant, whom I hope has the same glorious locks when it comes in, I was old enough to remember my father, thus referencing him as "Daddy." Anyone can wax melancholy about what those little girls will miss--not remembering, not knowing--but my heart, now 42 years later, is also touched from a different perspective, that of a wife. And no, I have not lost my husband. God willing, we'll celebrate our 30th anniversary next month, but I never took it for granted. I've cried more tears of thanksgiving and relief than anyone besides God will ever know that my husband lived to see our two sons grown, married, and even to date, has met a granddaughter.
I barely acknowledge, and do my best to tamp down any fears which arise on behalf of my granddaughter. Perish the thought she lose her daddy. I can't go any further in this line of thinking. I just can't. Well, I did go as far as to tell my son, who graduated at the top of his university class with a degree in finance, to provide adequate life insurance for his family, but no farther.
MK wrote to her daughter words the little one will treasure in the future, "the last 11 months of our lives have been sad and hard and confusing, but they've also been beautiful bc (sic) God made all of us just as we needed to be."
God. Yes, God. The One people often blame for misfortune rather than the fallen nature of the world we live in, God has given MK strength to carry forward.
Forward I can think, imagining a time when MK finds love again, to a good man who will cherish her children as his own. Then I wince a little on her behalf, thinking of the milestones when their father isn't there in person to celebrate with them. Undoubtedly he will be there in spirit, his larger than life personality often depicted in MK's photographs and reflections tells me so. But still, that unavoidable pain will also be there. With the dignity and grace she has faced widowhood, she'll do the same on each occasion, and I suspect in a way her daughters may not even notice. It's what strong women do.
Perhaps it is nervy and presumptuous of me to think of another epic love, but I can because I am not the young widow. My mother was once, and chose not to remarry. Her marriage to my father was stormy, one to be survived more than one to have cherished memories to comfort her. Truth be told, she'd had enough of marriage in 24 years to last her a lifetime, but that was her story, not MK's.
MK has tasted and known the delight of marriage to a loving, vibrant person who did life enthusiastically with her. As a mother of young adults myself, I wish for her to experience that again. As the wife of someone who has spoiled and adored me for decades, I realize the twinge of fear--could that possibly come twice in one lifetime? But that fear doesn't keep me from hoping for her.
As a fatherless little girl, I would have welcomed a loving male presence in my life to protect me from all the things a little girl needs her father to protect her from. Mom had a different perspective--she said she wouldn't bring another man in her house "over" me and my sister because if he did anything to either of us she'd kill him. Mom was a gun-totin' and sometimes mean ole nurse, and she didn't talk just to hear herself. She would not have hesitated to pull a gun and fire on someone who hurt her children.
In MK's private thoughts, if she has yet allowed herself to think of another man in her life, this topic has surely been or will be broached. In a world which will swallow a good man alive, will it regurgitate another who is a wolf in sheep's clothing?
It is a fear I hope is quickly dismissed. The loving gift from our Father in heaven of another father for her little girls. Another companion to walk out with her the days of this life. MK's recent ones have included an unspeakably difficult tragedy, yet she seemingly has put all her effort into living them bravely. I've no doubt at all she has kept the worst of her emotional suffering to herself (I peeked in my mother's bedroom when I heard her sobbing), and shared more with us the hope which drives her, as well she should and I commend her.
Good Lord, with social media, I've witnessed enough wallowing to last me a lifetime. A few days after my father's funeral, a nosy neighbor asked my mother what she was going to do. Mom's dark green eyes laser-focused on the woman as she said in a business-like tone, "I intend to stay right here and raise my children." She proceeded to do just that. Social media obviously wasn't around in the mid 1970s, but if it were, my mother would not have embraced the doubts her neighbor insinuated, that she couldn't do this by herself.
It really is none of my business, but the mother (and wife) in me wishes for MK another marriage in the appropriate timing. Someone who can find joy in sorrow deserves this.
The little girl in this 53-year-old woman who still tears up when she hears of another child losing their father wishes for MK's little girls to have another daddy. He can never replace or fill the shoes of MK's beloved Jake, but he could very well fill a hole in their lives and reap bountifully the love and delight in the company of three wonderful ladies.
My musings feel awkwardly personal, I've never met Mary Katherine Ham, yet through Instagram I have shared a little in MK's journey of widowhood. I've witnessed, through a child's eyes, my mother's. Retrospectively and through maturity, I have a degree of understanding of what each has endured.
On the girls' behalf, it's hard for me to comprehend which loss carries more magnitude, losing a father one knew for only 11 years or having few to no memories of one's father. Comparisons are odious in grief, each road different.
Nonetheless, I recklessly desire that someone I've never met will one day give love another chance. The hole in my life remained, the place where my daddy once lived, and I hope her little girls' hearts won't be quite as empty. As the wife of someone who has kissed the first age spot to appear on my hand and embraced my decision not to cover the gray, I want MK to have that as well.
(MK's instagram post which inspired this blog post)
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
My husband picked up a ribeye and trimmings from Texas Roadhouse after a long, hot July work day. Their kitchen was already hot and this kept ours cool.
I had plates, forks, steak knives and napkins on the table by the time he arrived home. No need for takeout to be eaten on styrofoam and with plastic. While he was getting drinks, I split the baked potato into two pieces and loaded them with the carefully packed condiments, butter and sour cream melted together, shredded cheddar, and bacon bits. He divided the 10 ounce ribeye into two pieces and forked one onto my plate. He passed the bread, we said a blessing and began this bountiful meal with our side portion sized salads, house for him, Caesar for me.
Like most Americans, we've had about all the Hillary and Donald we can stomach, so I turned on the music channel to soft rock. A number of tunes were from the late 1980s, the era we were married and began our family. We'd hear the next tune, try to guess the artist and the year. Madonna's sultry "Spanish Lullaby" played and the year was 1986, the year we said our wedding vows. We were eating in the same dining room, the same home, in the same spots where we looked at each other the morning after our evening wedding, both silently incredulous we'd indeed taken that permanent step to solidify the relationship we'd been building nearly four years.
The first dining table, an art deco metal-legged table with a gold-speckled white formica top, was a stand-in for the antique hard rock maple drop leaf table I found in the used furniture section of the local newspaper six months into our life together. The maple table served our family of four for 28 years, the last two of those years just the two of us again. Unlike many couples who downsize after the kids are grown, we stayed where we started. I couldn't get away from the familiar, but I could shake up the surroundings to reflect our beginning again as two, so we now dine at an oak table while seated on bent wood chairs with floral tapestry covered seats, another second hand find, continuing the re-purposing of others' cast offs as we always had, long before it was cool.
I had a clear flashback to our first morning living together as man and wife in early fall, 1986, when we looked at each other in what-have-we-done glances. I had on a pale pink baby doll top and matching bottoms, a gift received at a bridal shower, and he had on tighty-whities. We didn't know them by that name then, the fitting description came into our vernacular after our older son was mortified he was the only one wearing them when the boys at school changed into P.E. uniforms for the first time. I didn't know boxers were cool and tighty-whities were for nerds and old men. It was an honest mistake. My father and brothers wore them, my husband wore them, I bought them for my sons thinking it was what I was supposed to do.
My husband had no need to be cool so he still wears tighty-whities. The pink baby doll lingerie set is long discarded. Tonight he had on work out shorts and a shirt with Colorado emblazoned across the front of it, the adopted home state of our children who left southern Georgia's flatlands for a higher elevation in careers as well as hiking and climbing mountains. I had on work out shorts myself and a plain gray Old Navy T-shirt, so old the collar is frayed, but so comfortable I'm not ready to part with it. My younger son has a hard time parting with old clothes, not sure where he gets that trait.
We're at the stage of life where one restaurant meal comfortably fills two and this one ended with me saying it was the best meal I've had in a long time. The salads were fresh and everything was just right as all was seasoned with gratitude. Just last week, my husband traveled to bury a brother-in-law, a man who had been in his family since my husband was 11 years old, 51 years gone by since. I'd already buried a brother in '09. The goodbyes of our generation have begun. Eleven siblings combined, almost as many spouses, we marvel we made it this far. Same house, same dining room, same spouse. Thirty years come September 21st of this year should the good Lord see fit to allow us to see that day. We no longer have the luxury of taking that for granted.
He said I should check hotel rates at the beach and book a room this weekend. I was hung up on why. We'd taken a short vacation in May and said we'd sit out the heat of the summer at home, then decide what to do toward the end of this year, a trek to Denver at some point, an anniversary celebration, the good Lord willing.
In my childhood, when someone said something bizarre, my late mother used to say, "You talk like a tree fell on your head." I was looking at him like a tree had fallen on his head and again asked why.
We'd been transported to 1986 and landed back in 2016. Life was wide open ahead of us then. My husband was thinking of what lies ahead now, the lanes in our road of adventure narrowing. He finally answered my why with "I'm not getting any younger." I told him, "I am," and we laughed. I haven't yet made a reservation. I wanted to sit awhile longer in the sweetness and sadness combined called life--distilled memories from long ago, vaporized, condensed, then collected again in a new form in the same place we started this journey together. We had not foreseen this day, but we vowed long ago to get to it.
It's possible thirty years from now we may remember a song from 2016 and marvel at what has transpired between then and 2046. It's also possible that day may not come, so we'll bank on a date a little closer and walk down a beach hand-in-hand now. We still like to do that and it may well be the best walk we've had in a long time.
Monday, March 21, 2016
We had a good laugh this morning about the fine not-quite-linen coverings over your chicken houses, and another good laugh when I sent a reply, the YouTube link to Gretchen Wilson's break out hit, "Redneck Woman."
The chicken's heat source may be on the redneck side as a certain Christmas decor item you said is still on display at your place, but I see you as nothing less than a "high class broad," more high class, less broad.
Life has a way of dropping us on our heads sometimes and you have clambered up from that place with dignity, humor and class. People tend to look down on others in certain circumstances, certain dwellings, all in an attempt to look briefly away from themselves, I think, but you did the hard work of looking at yourself, being completely honest about what led to that drop on the head, then went about fixing the situation--doing the very best you could with what you had, kinda like the chicken house covering.
I've heard your heartbreak over those who would not embrace the beautiful reinvention of who you were originally intended to be, minus the self-destructive behavior. I've mourned some of those losses with you. We certainly don't end life with all the ones who started with us and as painful as that is, I'm old enough to realize we weren't meant to.
You and I have wept together over classmates we've lost, tried to make the final days of one a little more bearable. You did many things to bring comfort to another, I won't name them all here because I don't want to rob you of your reward in Heaven which will be much greater than the momentary "aw" or "like" a person might receive on Earth.
I do want to thank you, though, for lending me a dress to wear in a beauty pageant more than 35 years ago. Entering wasn't my idea, I let myself be pressed into the idea by a mutual friend. It may have been she who arranged for you to lend me the dress, too many decades gone by to remember that part with clarity. I didn't win, I didn't even place, but from that day I have a portrait of myself which captured the apex of any physical beauty the Lord may have endowed. Of course that is subjective, and evidently the judges didn't see it. (Insert emoji of laughter with tears running down face which you often use in our communications.) The pageant portrait I still have was done for free by a then-prestigious local photographer who would never have aimed a camera at a girl whose family was too poor to pay for his work.
The pageant was something I'd otherwise never gotten to do as well, wearing a dress my widowed mother could not have afforded to buy for me. I don't know how appreciative I was then, I'm reckoning not so much because I had the dress hanging in my closet for a long time afterwards, you had to ask for it back.
Anyway, I am grateful now. It takes some of us longer than others to develop genuine gratitude.
In the pageant I was forced outside my comfort zone, dancing to "Rock the Boat" onstage with the other girls. I was much more comfortable the night I jumped onstage at a local bar and cut a little rug. In the pageant, at the point where I was introduced individually, I choked. My brutally honest mother said she knew at that point I wouldn't place because "you were too stiff."
That was a precursor of who I really was at heart. I'd rather be heard than seen. I'd have never danced onstage at a bar without a few (or more) beers under me to obliterate my inhibitions. I found my voice behind a home personal computer and it is from this safe place I feel brave enough to let you, let anyone see who I think I am and say what I really meant to say.
I told you several things about our most recently deceased classmate I admired. Before either you or I kick the bucket, which I hope isn't too soon, I wanted to highlight what you mean to me, the sweet influence you've had on my life, both in the past and the present. I'm awfully good at turtle-shelling, but you won't have any of it, and that's good for me. Thank you.
Love you. Hugs. Happy Easter. Insert all the emojis. You're good at choosing all the right ones. Self-righteous people like to say, "I knew her when..." Well, I'd like to say I knew you before you got your emoji on, and you were as delightful a person then as you are now.
Thursday, February 11, 2016
I live in an eternal political existential quandary. It's not a comfortable place to exist.
Here is part of my ideal platform with no one to represent me:
- De-fund Planned Parenthood--not completely. Let those who want an abortion pay for their own. Contraception assistance makes far more economic sense than abortion. I'm not a fan of abortion, but I know it's not going away. I don't want someone else's blood on my hands.
- Amnesty for Illegals--all for it if evidence of productive "citizenship" is produced. It galls me the same people who hire them curse their use of our medical facilities. I bless those who have a hand in putting food on my table and don't wish to see them treated inhumanely.
- Socialized medicine--I'm 100% for it. I remember the moment that happened. I was at a restaurant after church and a fellow parishioner, a woman in her 70s said, "Just think about the horrendous waits once everybody has it." "It" was health insurance coverage, a reference to the Affordable Care Act. I confess I hated her at the moment for thinking she should be put ahead of any sick person simply because she had more money. I'm old enough to remember when most people carried catastrophic coverage and paid for doctor visits out of pocket. When the insurance industry started covering doctor visits, the costs went through the roof. Those becoming obscenely rich on pharmaceuticals--while people who can't afford them die--should be jailed. It won't happen, but the thought of justice feels good.
- Immigration--screen intensely, round up student visa overstays. Patrol the borders for American citizens taking bribes to escort people into the country illegally.
- Stop whining. Everybody. Please. It's unbecoming. You are not oppressed nor a victim. There's not a person alive who doesn't get crapped on in some form or fashion, it's part of living in a fallen world. Make your own life work and stop blaming someone else when it doesn't. Stick up for others when needed, but lift them to their feet, don't pat them on the head.
- I am unapologetically Zionist and support Israel with everything in my being. Good God in heaven, what was Obama thinking regarding Iran? (That really was a prayer, not a vain usage.)
- Women should not be required to register for the Selective Service. If they want to serve in the military in any capacity, nothing is stopping them if they meet the criteria. Volunteer away and thank you for your service. Those who want to protect their families and homes should not be wrested away from them.
- School choice, vouchers, yes!
- Overzealous gun control, no! Thorough background checks, great!
- Manners and decorum: OK, this will never happen, but those calling others "p---y" or "boy in a bubble" should not be allowed to become president.
Monday, December 14, 2015
...due to significant cloud cover, but I have been treated to the occasional twinkles of fireflies in the wood and songs of the night by peepers and crickets, snuggled by Ashley, resident kitty, and Maggie, guardian Australian shepherd, is on duty, watching all from the top step of the front porch. Starbucks Holiday Blend in my Franciscan Desert Rose mug, 70º at 5:10 A.M., gentle breeze, flannel pajama pants, an unneeded down throw by my side...I wish you were here to enjoy these holy moments with me. All this and the view of our Christmas tree from the front porch looking in has made for a peaceful morning.
My thoughts have been with a young mother-very-soon-to-be who lost her grandmother two days ago. She is brokenhearted as she was so looking forward to her baby girl, aptly named Noel, meeting her great-grandmother. My daughter-in-love lost her last grandparent this past week as well; PopPop he was called, never got to meet his newborn great-granddaughter.
So life goes, cruelly to one generation in agonizing loss, blessedly to another who was in that limbotic place of not being able to live or die. I had the pleasure of meeting both these beloved grandparents, and as with most who get to live a long life, their bodies had begun to be uncooperative. I often think of the words of a first cousin of my mother's--does that make her my second cousin or first cousin once removed?--"No matter how old and decrepit they get, it's hard to let them go."
But go they must, and the mantel of historian is passed to the next generation. My grandmother told me numerous times that her mother was able to identify any bird by its tracks and by its song. That information must have marinated in my soul, for when the time was right, as a young married woman and mother, I had a thirst for knowledge--I wanted to know the identity of the many birds flitting, soaring and singing in southernmost Georgia. I bought bird books, I took pictures, I set up bird feeders in my quest to be like the great-grandmother I never met in person, but knew so much about from stories my mother and grandmother told me.
My love for the Word of God came from my "Grannie." She often retreated to her bedroom to read it and many times I'd find her sleeping, her Bible open and face down on her chest. The Word found its way into her heart from her bird-loving mother, of whom it was said could hear any passage read aloud and was able to identify chapter, verse and book. Grannie's Bible, with a completed family history section filled in, resides in a place of honor, on the dresser in the guest room which doubles as a morning prayer room, my prayers said while sitting in a chair which belonged to Grannie.
I've bunny-trailed in my storytelling, as Grannie often did. And those young ones who listen patiently to the same stories told over and over, each time anew for the teller, will be rewarded when their own children and grandchildren listen, eyes possibly rolling, yawns stifled inwardly, but words settling in their souls, germinating for the next generation.
The two aforementioned baby girls will meet their great-grandparents in a different way, but I know they will meet them all the same.
A song of hope, "Hallelujah, We Shall Rise"
Friday, October 23, 2015
...how is it that today I met someone I knew only by name and circumstance?
Mr. A and I passed the Repeat Boutique on Norman Drive and I told him as long as this has been there, I had never gone in to shop. A dear friend of mine works in receiving there, the busiest part of the store whose proceeds go toward a ministry which helps pregnant women.
My friend introduced me to another employee, said her name but I didn't hear it, and added she was from Louisiana. She, Mr. A and I spoke for a few minutes, and we learned she worked primarily in the book section of the boutique. We said our it's nice to meet yous and I realized I hadn't retained her name and asked her again.
It was Freida.
It had to be.
This was on my desk at home:
I had chatted privately on Facebook with my niece, her husband had just lost his brother. The parents of both men are still living and though I don't know them, my heart hurt for them and what they are going through. I asked my niece their names and committed to pray for them.
My nephew by marriage is from Louisiana. All the puzzle pieces fit.
I said to Mr. A, "This is Cajun's mother!" And I told Freida I had prayed for her just this morning. I marveled at this God-ordained moment.
Mr. A and I were enjoying a leisurely afternoon. We'd had lunch with an old friend and a new, gone to Target to purchase a gift for a baby shower, paid the power bill and upon leaving that location, I suggested stopping at the Repeat Boutique.
I didn't need anything, but I'm always up for a gander at what a thrift store has to offer. This wasn't a lark or a whim. It was an appointment from above.
Being aware of Freida's unspeakably painful loss, Mr. A and I offered our condolences. She invited us back to the room where the book sorting begins and showed me a poem read at her son's funeral called "Goodbye."
Goodbye to the sun,
this is the last you will shine upon my face
to the wind and the grass
and everything beautiful around this disgrace
Goodbye to the trees and to this house
to the memories I held so dear
to those that haunted me in my sleep
and the one I’m creating out of fear
Goodbye to the faces I know best
and of those I never did meet
Goodbye to the lives I’m leaving behind
and the life I didn’t complete
Goodbye to my friends and family
you were the reason I held on so long
Goodbye to those that helped me
when my life seemed to always go wrong
Goodbye to my dog,
my best friend excited to see me every day
goodbye to the living
as my eyes faded to grey
Goodbye to the dreams I might have had
to the love I never met
Goodbye to the passions that died
and the person I was and hope you don’t forget
Goodbye to the life that I once knew
please know I really did try
I love you all
please hold on as I say my goodbye
By the time I got to the part about "those I never did meet" tears began to fill my eyes. My niece and nephew, Freida's daughter-in-law and son, are expecting a child next month. The baby will not meet its uncle on this leg of the journey to eternity.
Of all things, Freida began to say comforting words to me. At lightning speed, my mind processes the fact that she has buried a son, but is concerned about my tears. How is she that strong?
I told her I was okay, that I cried at the drop of a hat. I shared with her that I had lost my brother under similar circumstances, but his death came not in an instant, but from several decades of self-destruction.
I confided my belief that there are some who are so tenderhearted they have to leave this world to find peace. She nodded in understanding. Her son, my brother, they are finally at peace. And we are the ones left behind to cope, to grieve.
My understanding and empathy were limited, though, to the cause. However hard it was to lose a brother, I can only begin to imagine the depths of pain caused by losing a child.
And I considered how often I commit, via Facebook, to pray for someone. My prayer life is far from what it should be, yet I do try to remember those who have asked for prayer and those on whose behalf I have offered to pray. It is not the prayer or the pray-er; it is the God of this Universe to Whom we pray.
Galatians 6:2 tells us that in bearing one another's burdens, we fulfill the law of Christ. I believe we are instructed to do so because some burdens simply cannot be carried alone. Today, the Lord granted me an unexpected meeting with someone whose burden I feebly tried to help carry. I am inadequate in and of myself, so I had to bring it to Him.
Sunday, August 30, 2015
Scrolling through the newsfeed on Facebook this afternoon, I saw a video of "Why Me, Lord?" performed at the Grand Ole Opry. It brought back a sweet memory of going to Clark's department store on Ashley St. with my daddy. He asked the clerk behind the counter for an 8-track tape by Kris Kristofferson saying "Kris Kristahfahson."
He took the plastic wrap and thin cardboard sleeve off and pushed the cartridge into the after market 8-track player in his red 1965 Chevy pickup with step sides and a tailgate which closed with chains. I loved that truck and I loved my Daddy. He whistled in perfect pitch to the heart tugging lyrics, equal parts regret and gratitude.
I watched and listened, mesmerized as we rolled down Jerry Jones Road toward the Phillips 66 station he ran on Baytree Road. At home, there was fighting, cussing, and carrying on, but the atmosphere of this truck cab sanctuary, filled with cigarette smoke instead of incense, was different.
I realized the day he bought that tape and I first heard "Why Me, Lord?" it was his testimony. We didn't go to church and I didn't know the word testimony, but my little girl spirit recognized one all the same.
When you live in a home full of uproar, you listen and observe a lot more than you participate. It's safer that way. Daddy never shared a testimony in the traditional sense, all remorseful and crying in front of a bunch of people who act like they're stunned at what they're hearing, knowing they've done many of the same things, but after years of hard living--heavy drinking, smoking, swearing, bootlegging, womanizing, at times violent--a strange calm settled on him.
It was the kind of peace only the Lord can bring to a tormented soul.
I'd heard a penitent heart cry to the Lord in his own quiet way, humbled, going to the only Source of all he needed on this earth. Nothing else here brought him any level of peace that I'd noticed. I learned as much about the Lord that day after a trip to a discount store as one could have learned in 10 years of churchin', my age at the time.
Daddy's time was drawing near and Jesus, ever merciful, received him home the year following the song's release, 1974. Here's his testimony, another man wrote it and sang it. Daddy whistled it and I can still hear the trills if I listen closely.
Friday, August 28, 2015
I shared with her I had similar dreams and I considered them a blessing. I recently dreamed of my mother, she was in her room, but it didn't look like the room which was hers for the last 37 years of her life on earth. I say on earth because I have a firm belief in an afterlife which makes it truly and simply the continuation of life in Christ.
In the room of my dream, my mother had both a living but unadorned scotch pine tree and a crystal lalique tree; the living tree seemed to grow neatly out of the floor and the crystal one was on a nearby side table of rich dark wood. In her time on Earth, she could not enjoy a living tree indoors due to allergy issues. She wanted and eventually got a green ceramic Christmas tree. The living dream tree was not sculpted into a traditional Christmas tree shape but was as natural in form as it was unadorned. The crystal tree was perhaps an extension of my imagination of her earthly desire, a thing of beauty and great worth, its elegant simplicity another reflection of my limited concept of heaven.
My mother's earthly home was full of bric-a-brac and a few items of reasonable worth mingled with. Every dusty piece was of great sentimental value to her and she imagined it all to have great dollar value as well. The chromolithograph below was on the wall of her living room from sometime in the early 1990s to the day she died in early 2003. I've no idea of its current value, but the day I picked it up and paid eight bucks, or was it six, at a yard sale in my childhood neighborhood, was the day my mother pointed to the vintage framed art and told me to "leave that here" when I was taking her second-hand finds off the back floorboard of my old Buick LeSabre.
She did it with a mischievous smile, one which couldn't be resisted, saying no to the twinkle in her dark emerald eyes not an option. When I was a little girl, I was terrified of the consequences of disobeying her; as an adult I knew I could refuse her request/command but chose to comply. I thought I'd bought this picture for myself, but it turns out I'd bought it for her.
She rarely asked for anything, but took great pride in earning things for herself. When someone gave her anything, anything at all, she treasured both the item and the connection with the person, almost in awe and always in great appreciation someone would give her something, and in close to all cases she would not let the item go. In hindsight, I wonder if that was at least one part the Great Depression mentality as her earliest acquaintance with this world was in that era.
It was both sad and sweet after her death when I lifted the picture off her paneled living room wall which she didn't care at all the paneling was considered dated, she liked it, and finally brought it to my home where it greets anyone who walks in the front door. It looks like Thomas Kinkade's artistry and being it was almost certainly conceived and brought to life before he was, I am reminded there is nothing original on this earth, merely different perceptions and interpretations of the same beauty.
As I look at it now, I'm not certain what drew this into my mother's vast and eclectic collections. She wasn't so fond of all things flowery and frilly as I am. Maybe it was the frame, unusual shape and old, old was always good in her book, but it, too, is embossed with flowers. Was it the suggestion of an ethereal destination beyond the stone walk way and marble steps? There is a place to go, but no one can be seen going there, they must be imagined. Did it make her think of the loved ones she often spoke of and missed terribly?
Mom would give people a piece of her mind when she was pushed, when the territory of her business was trespassed upon, but she wouldn't often divulge the depths of her heart. Along with many other thoughts and confidences, she took the reason for wanting this with her to heaven.
In the photograph of the picture I took this morning, I see a faint image of myself bottom center and a reflection of a McCoy bowl on top of a bookcase across from this yard sale turned heirloom item. (The bookcase's original life was part of an entertainment center handcrafted by my brother-in-law. I was delighted when it came to live in my home, its new incarnation one part display case and two parts library.) A bit of my mother was left on this earth in my form and the bowl was hers as well, an item I've wondered if my first daughter-in-love would like to have for the shade of it, in the aqua family, repeats in her decor.
I don't know if this picture will be treasured by another family member one day in the future or if another young mother will pick it up at a yard sale for six or eight bucks and her older mother will claim it. And it really doesn't matter all that much. One day I won't care, but today I do and this is the story of the picture on my front entrance wall.
Saturday, August 22, 2015
a red tongue, red tongue, red tongue.
Grannie told me to go on the narrow front porch of my parents' little brick house, this was the late 1960s, watch for a lizard, then chant this to it. She emphasized the word tongue on the up beat.
I was dubious but curious and mostly obedient. This was the era when minding one's elders was demanded and arguing and backtalking was quickly squelched, with physical force if necessary.
I'll be dog. Soon enough a lizard scurried by, slowed for a few moments and did exactly what Grannie said it would do!
Starting this morning on my roomier front porch in the 21st century, I spied a lizard on a table where a fern from my baby boy's wedding now resides. It looked up at what surely seemed like Mt. Everest, a big black flower pot, surveyed left, then right, and quick as a flash hopped a cascading frond, valuable real estate with the best view on the porch.
My baby boy's observation of a lizard came to mind. He noticed they did push-ups. I've noticed they love the eco-system created just for them by the many potted plants which adorn my front porch for eight or nine months of the year. They hide behind the shutters, skitter along the porch rail, sometimes evading the cat who sees them as toys, drink water droplets from the leaves on the plants, snap an insect for breakfast and make adorable teeny baby lizards.
I've often said of myself it doesn't take much to entertain me.
These little chameleon-like creatures are even mentioned in the Bible, "a lizard can be caught with the hand, yet it is found in kings' palaces."
I don't catch them with my hand, as a matter of fact, when one migrated indoors for the winter, hitching a ride on its plant home, my now daughter-in-love, then girlfriend of my baby boy caught it for me and released it to find a winter home outside.
Back at my childhood home, a neighbor boy picked up a lizard, was looking at it closely and it latched onto the columella of his nose and hung on for dear life. I went inside and told my mother there was a lizard hanging from Mike's nose and she told me, "Go on and leave me alone."
I forgive her now for that, she had four children and worked full time. I did what she said and went back onto the carport and the husky kid with a crew cut and freckles on his round face was shaking his head, the lizard flinging left and right, he was crying, so I went back inside and apprised my mother of the situation once more.
This time she must have believed me for she got a dish towel, calmly held the boy's head with one hand, grasped the lizard with the dish towel and it unclamped its jaws for freedom. Little lizard got the ride of its life and the little boy wasn't traumatized, we weren't allowed to be that way either back in the day, and resumed playing.
There's my lizard story, small but significant. Country living lends itself to little observations like this and my training for this life began at my Grannie's command.
|Can't see the lizard and I believe that's the plan.|