Archive for coping

Blackberry Summer

29720184Kenny was just five years old, his brother, Jack, was 8.  Most of Kenny’s life had been spent on tenant farms in upper South Carolina. It was a hard life.  Momma had been sick most of his life with something called Pellegra.   It made her act funny and her skin break out in summer. Her name was Mattie and her family lived a good distance away. She had gone to the hospital in Spartanburg this time because she was so sick.  Kenny missed his mamma, but he was beginning to have a hard time even remembering what her voice sounded like or the touch of her lips as they puckered and kissed him good  night.

They had lived in a different house every year of his life. Which ever farm owner would offer papa the best deal  for working his crops, papa would load  up their sparse possessions and move his little family a few miles down the road.  The house they lived in now, Kenny and Jack had nicknamed ” the smoky house” because the flue in the fireplace didn’t work right and the house always had a smoky odor and in the dead of winter, there was almost a blur to the air  from the smoke.  It was warm, though, so they didn’t complain. On one occasion, Kenny remembered he and Jack playing with corncobs out in the yard, pretending they were cars. Mama had been sitting on the porch with her two sisters, Bettie and Jettie and they laughed at the boys as they played. The sound of her laughter was all he really had now.

When papa took the boys to town on rare occasions, they hitched a ride because Papa didn’t have a car. The boys loved the bumping and puttering of the car as they drove the ten or fifteen miles to where the big supply store was. They were amazed at the electric lights inside the shops and the fancy furniture in the two story houses on Main Street. Sometimes, Jack and Kenny  were  invited in to a lady’s  house for cookies and milk  while Papa was at the farm supply store.

Kenny had been squirming for ten minutes at the table with the red checked table cloth. Jack finally looked at the  lady who had told them to call her Mrs. Salter and said, “M’am, I hate to bother you, but I think my little brother needs to use yer , um, facilities.

Mrs. Salter smiled and led Kenny by the hand to a room by the bedrooms that had an indoor toilet  and a sink inside. Kenny’s eyes lit up. Indoor plumbing! He’d seen it before but never used it.  He turned to see that Mrs. Salter had cracked the door and stepped away.

At first, Kenny just ran his hands over the smooth white porcelain on the sink, his green eyes wide and his mouth agape.  He turned to the toilet filled with water and proceeded to relieve himself. remembered that the handle had to be pushed down for the  contraption to run clean water in it.

Soon, Kenny was back at the table where Jack was finishing up his last sip of milk.

“I bet you boys know where some ripe blackberries are growing.” smiled Mrs. Salter.

“Yes’m” grinned Jack, “we sure do!”

“Well, you two look like good workers,” Mrs. Salter said with her hands propped  on her thin waist.  “I’ll tell you what, If you bring me a gallon of the best ones you can find tomorrow, I will pay you a quarter for them.”

The boys faces light up with a smile. “Yes’m, Mrs. Salter, ”  Jack called out, “we will have them here by lunch time, , the best you’ve ever seen!

The boys, thanked Mrs. Salter for the cookies and milk and headed for the door. They saw Papa coming out of the supply store and hurried to him. Kenny turned to Jack and whispered, ” She’s got one of them indoor toilets!”  Jack had time only for a look of surprise before they met up with Papa.

“Papa, Papa, Kenny called out, “Mrs. Salter said if we’d pick her a gallon of blackberries tomorrow, she would give us a quarter!”

Papa chuckled and said, “Well thats right good wages, boys. Those lowlanders don’t much like to work when they come up here in the summer, do they?”

“No, sir” Kenny replied, ” and she’s got an indoor toilet!”

“Now how do you know about that, young man,” Papa looked sternly at his younger son.

Jack came to the rescue and told Papa that he had VERY POLITELY told Mrs. Salter that Kenny needed to use the facilities when she had offered them a snack.

“Well, I guess you two have got yourselves a job!” Papa laughed as they walked back down the dusty gravel road toward their driveway.

And they surely did. Mrs. Salter and her sister, had cometo the “thermal belt” as Papa called the area between the sweltering heat of the lowlands and the cool foggy  mountains to the north for relief from the heat. q For weeks, the boys went out in their oldest clothes and gathered blackberries for the ladies.

One time, Papa’s sister had come down to stay a while and fixed the most delicious dinners they had ever had. Fried chicken, biscuits, ripe tomatoes! It was heaven!

The boys had been picking blackberries one morning and after delivering them, they saw the postman talking to Aunt Lena. Curious, they stepped up their walking time to hear the man  try to whisper to Aunt Lena.  He couldn’t whisper very well.

They turned their heads toward the Mailman and Aunt Lena, who had failed to notice them walking  up. The mailman motioned Aunt Lena over to his opened door. Naturally, the two curious little boys were right behind her.

“Mattie died today,” he said, his effort to whisper lost on his effort to speak loudly over then engine. Then boys both gasped, and suddenlyAunt Lena turned around and saw them. She took a deep breath as if she was going to fuss, but turned her head back towards the mailman, wiping a tear from her cheek.

“What happened,” Aunt Lena asked the mailman. “I though she was doing better!”

Well, I can’t say for sure, Lena, ” the mailman replied. “She took a turn for the worse last night and when the nurse checked on her this morning, she was gone.”

Aunt Lena turned to Kenny and Jack and put her arms around them, scowling at the mailman for letting them hear his news. Jack and Kenny looked at each other and then at Aunt Lena.

“Did he say our mama was gone? ” Jack said. Kenny was silent, acting a bit confused.

“Yes, honey, thats what he said, your Mama went to live with the angels.” Aunt Lena spoke softly as she brushed a tear from her cheek.

“Live with the angels?” Kenny yelled. “My Mama wouldn’t  go live somewhere else!”

Jack looked at Kenny and  took his hand. “No, Kenny, that means Mama died. She ain’t coming back.”

“No!” cried Kenny. “She ain’t gone to live with no angels! Thats what they do in the Bible!”

Aunt Lena waved the mailman to go on about his duties and she knelt down beside them.

“You know your Mama’s been sick a long time. She was suffering. God didn’t want her to suffer, so he took her up to live with Him in Heaven, just like in the Bible.” Aunt Lena said softly.

Jack just stood there frozen, then grabbed Aunt Lena’s hand. Kenny was running down the driveway screaming, “Papa, Papa! Mama died, she went to heaven, like in the Bible!” he shouted through salty tears.

Aunt Lena heard the screen door squeak open just as they reached the wooden porch.

Papa just looked up at his sister. Aunt Lena nodded her head to say it was true. The four of them formed a knot of tearing, weeping family.

“Well, That’s it. mumbled Jack. We ain’t go no Mama.”  He slung his hands away from the others and ran up the steps to the porch.

Kenny gently let his hand slip from his Papa’s. He walked up on the porch where Jack was rocking back and forth in one of the wooden chairs. He looked up at his father and Aunt as they walked up the steps behind them. Nobody said a word. Papa walked quietly into the house, followed by Aunt Lena.

“What are you going to do, Furman?” Aunt Lena said to her brother. “You think Aunt Annie will take them?”

“Oh, no!” growled Furman, their daddy. “Ain’t nobody takin’ my boys! I will carry them on my back till moss grows on theirs before I give  them away!”

…………………………..

And he did.

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Can I get there from here?

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The night, darkness again though I just awoke
the relief of an afternoon nap -escape from pain
my eyes burning, from tear, exhaustion, sorrow
i cannot stop thinking of you, my pain is forever.

You, a handsome teen, amidst growing tall
already muscular and nearly 6 feet
Damn ball, damn those who begged you to play-
my mind hd screamed “dont” for months…

No one knows how I feel, how I hurt -inside and out-
struggling to recall your voice, your words, our smile
How could God do this to us-take you away
leave me the barely waling dead forever…

There is no pain,that will not heal, they say
but I don’t see a seeping wound, a jagged scar
as healing. Simply a reminder of what I couldn’t
allow myself to imagine- loosing a child…

Everyone says Ive changed, demands the impossible
just let it go for a while, enjoy what you have
look at all you have, so much more than most
-kids-grandkids but not you only a gaping hole.

You are my heart, my soul, I have both died with you
and “lived” with you in my broken body
for over a decade. How much more? Am I living for revenge?
for what? Pain, grief, anxiety, it serves no purpose.

My love for you only grows, beautiful you, soft
sweet, cuddly, yet brave, strong, tough-my son
When people say I will see you in heaven,
i dont know whether to laugh or cry-i want you now!

Is there a forever place? Is this hell where we are now?
If there was good anywhere-in any realm,
you would be here with me and I wouldn’t be
forever disabled because you aren’t…

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As The Blossoms Shed in April

 

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I think of you, in the beauty of spring,

blossoms falling from the flowering plums like pink snow…

The gurgling waters after a spring rain,

Seeing a flower raise its head above the soil.

 

I should be thinking of what summer holds-

for you-for your life, of what you deserved to have,

Instead, I kneal in the cool rain, asking why?

Why were you taken with no warning?

 

You, so good, so handsome, so loved.

Why did those who should have helped you, fail you-

Fail your family-why? A few words misspoken-

The wrong directions to 911-too much time for your heart.

 

I wear a badge forever now-“angel mom”-

Finally a word for what I am ,when none existed.

A widow-no, an orphan-no, just a woman

emploding with pain because you aren’t here.

 

I touch your photo each time I pass,

I hear your brother struggle to remember-

I wipe the tears from aging cheeks,

Youth lost amidst the ignorance and negligence.

 

You should be here-there was time.

I feel that when everyone failed you, failed me-

I should have pushed them away and known

That I had to be your heart until they came.

 

I want to see you as the young man you should be-

Hear your deeper laugh, see your young love grow.

I want the grandchildren you should have given me-

To hear them play, and smile-like you.

 

These things were stolen and cannot be replaced,

All I have left inside me is grief and anger,

That help was so close but did not know-

That someones world was dying while they waited.

 

I beg for you to come at night to comfort me,

But you are always young-knowing still,

That you will not grow old with your siblings.

Come to me as you should be-a man-strong, invincible.

 

Yesterday, I thought I felt you walking beside me.

I knew I could relish that feeling freely,

But was not allowed to look at your face,

I took a deep breath and was filled with your presence.

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Once, and Never Again

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Once, I was volunteering at school.

my youngest son was in Peter Pan.

He didn’t like drama much-

I was working with kindergarden girls-

singing…giggling

I was late getting home

and you were standing at the door-

smiling at me, in your ball uniform.

“Oh, you scared me!” I smiled.

I didn’t know it was the last time

I would ever open my door

and see you standing there, smiling

See you there at all…

For me, life ended that night,

I sat and watched you practice,

almost took your picture, but you

seemed so far away-I never imagined

how far away you would be

in a few hours. Again, I almost did it-

took a picture, but it was getting dark

I never imagined it would be my last chance.

You held your head, and ran to me,

collapsing ina slide as you fell to the ground.

I screamed “Call 911, Call 911!”

How can a parent call 911 and tell them to go

five miles away to some ball complex?

You killed my son-taking 12 minutes

to find their way there when a fire station

was right above us? Why, “nurse”,

did you not recognize heart failure, do CPR?

Why didn’t I pump your heart, even though

I didnt know anything but your breathing

was raspy and  an ambulance came

and the nurse just stood there when I screamed,

Cant you do something?

Why didnt I realize no sirene

was coming from the fire station?

When finally an ambulance came in the back way,

they knew they were given the wrong directions.

“Bag him” an EMT screamed, as they pulled out

a stretcher-I ran to the front of the ambulance

and got in, I saw them rushing to send currents into you

because your heart had stopped, because 911

had gotten the wrong directions.

A chaplain leads me away, it will always be with me

slow motion hell that you were dying-

they were too late, because somebody screwed up.

A decade ago, a slow motion nightmare-

I wanted to die too-A lot of me did-forever,

I wanted all the people who begged you to play

to hurt like I did-to die like you did.

God forgive me, I have yet to change my mind.

I leaned on your little brother, till he grew up

and had to find his own life, you were

A vague memory, someone he should have had

to guide you,, teach you, love you,

And he has only flashes of memories,

looking in album,hearing us talk,

or maybe a sharp breath as he awakes

from his nightmare, again, and again…forever.

I see myself now as an empty soul,

robbed of my most beautiful memories,

because you didn’t want to disappoint friends.

Beni-hana, you will never know how much

it has meant that you did not beg him to play,

that you have listened to me, wrote songs for us,

that he is still alive to you as he is to me.

Some like to say these “God did this or needed that”

and I want to scream, “God wasn’t there!”

My health gone, the pain worse everyday,

People think time will heal that you were stolen.

Never on this side of hell will that happen.

I needed you, God gave you to me,

He did not take you away, negligence did.

I cannot pray, I cannot forgive, I need you,

and nothing will ever change that.

My beautiful son, you were so amazing-

different , special, your love was beyond compare.

One day, I will open a door, and

you will be there, smiling, and I will hold you,

and never ever let you go again.

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Cleaning out the Wars

29720218A stack of shirts, long unworn, wrinkled.

Shorts, a little short and revealing for someone my age.

The necklace from Aunt Libby’s cruise in 1995.

And then, at the bottom. the forgotten cards and letters.

I’ll admit, I don’t remember the act of writing them,

or receiving the occasional ones that I received from him.

I remember the feeling of incredible new love,

I remember the affection , unsolicited and so long ago.

But it has been so long since those days, those moments-

little kids, fussing, playing out side on warm summer nights.

Their fussing ending quickly when lightning bugs came out.

Life, as I dreamed it, had been almost real- for a while.

Now, I read my words and remember them so clearly,

both the days when the words flowed truly from my heart

and those when I swallowed hard, and tried to remember

as I wrote those same letters, lying, with tears on my cheeks.

Now, I carry the pain of loosing a beautiful teen so wrongly.

Feeling that God betrayed me when I did everything I could.

I lost my health, my faith and the deep bond with my family,

When my health was destroyed by the horrible death of my son.

The destruction had gone on for years, slowly, before that day.

Now, I was filled with misery and they were young adults.

College, marrying new houses, kids-and my one still small child.

He gave me life, saved my soul, but I had to let him grow up too.

The letters and journals became ways to cope for me

Often pretending, other times literary screams of pain.

The older kids were at heir house, I was at mine.

I was living in a house that used to be a home.

Mixed in with black nightgowns and alluring bathing suits,

there were only scribbled notes, half apology, half excuse.

That’s all I got. I no longer wrote such letters at all.

My journals, tear-stained, of my ruined life replaced them.

Affection was gone, grand children became my solace, my life.

I felt like a stranger to my family-I have never felt so alone.

Now letters from past generations haunt me now. My parents died,

never intending me to read them, as an only child I had to.

I saw myself in my mom. Her struggles, her pain as she aged.

A million more tears and less understanding of my haunted past.

There, at my childhood home, I again shuffled thru the memories.

Finding unbearable pain in cleaning out the drawers, and the wars once again.

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