Archive for heartbreak

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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For Everything, there is a Season

DSCN3825When I was born, my parents lived in a little four-room house that my grandfather had built in the 1930’s  when someone offered to sell him a thousand board feet of wood for a thousand dollars.  With that as an inventive, grandpa built this small house, much like many others he had built around our community. His uncles were carpenters, he was an electrician.

For many years, this little house was the ‘first home’ to many young married couples. It was in a neighborhood surrounded by cousins, aunts and uncles. A little stream ran behind the house. It was a safe and loving neighborhood. My grandparents ran a little country store right across the creek, which, at that time could be crossed on a board from one side to another.

If I were to write a book that told the story of everyone who had made their start, or lived in that house when thy were young, it would be a long and interesting book.  I could name many families whose first and often second child was born while thy lived there. It wasn’t big, but it was not just a house, it was truly a home.

I think of all the babies who cried softly for attention in that house, the many sets of used furniture, cleaned up and decorated into a sweet and satisfying place to live. Anything from Model A’s to modern trucks have parked in that driveway. Black Heart Cherries served as delicious snacks on early summer afternoons.

My uncle next door often shared a portion of his garden to the families who lived there.  He would share his knowledge of gardening and even his water from the pump he put in the creek with his neighbors.We are fresh green beans in summer and carved pumpkins at Halloween.

I moved there here when I was seven months pregnant with my first child. To come there from a lonely apartment seemed like heaven. After a short,  rough marriage, I spent many lonely days and even some happy times while I lived there as a single parent of two.

I finished a 4- year University degree  in three years while I worked and raised two kids as a single parent. My two cousins across the creek spend many hours at my house during the eight years that I lived there. We played loud music, card games, laughed and passed the time. My best friend and her sisters would sit on my back steps and we would teach each other songs on out guitars.

There were days in the 1970’s that I spent my time with doors jingling colored beads that  hung from the doorways. Psychedelic  posters, Mother Earth Magazines and children’s books shared my walls and book shelves. I proudly called myself a ‘hippie ‘. Without the details, I will soon move on.  I had wicker furniture, pretty rocks, in a stack in a corner, a small black and white TV, no dryer, a hand- me- down washer and a clothes line beside the cherry tree snd flower garden. There were no extra ended or excesses.

i loved plants and one could be found in any feasible location, the floor, tables, or cabinet tops. The rooms were small, full yet cozy. I loved the claw legged bathtub and those relaxing bubble baths after an exhausting  day. After I graduated from college I moved  to my families” big house” which sat rather ‘ kitty corner’ from this little one. I had lived there for 8 years and for 32 more years, the story went on.

Young couples, single people, elderly widows, many more, lived in that house. A man and his mother were the last to live there. My aunt had promised her friend that she would continue to let her son, who never married, lived there after she died and both my aunts son, who inherited the house, and I, who bought a lot with both this  little house and my aunt and uncles house on it, kept our word.

By the time the elderly gentleman passed away while living in the house, it had seen its better days. In fact, it had seen them long before. The floors were warped, the doors no longer shut well, all the new siding  and Windows  and boards on the porches did not make the house truly livable by my standards after nearly 90 years.

With  a heavy heart, I decided last fall that I would have to tear the house down, it would have cost more to fix the little house than it was worth.  It wasn’t easy to watch the house be demolished, but the ease with which it went down,  showed me that I had made the right decision.  I planted flowers and vegetables in a box garden there this spring.

There are so many memories in that little house, I remember bringing my babies home to it, the soft strum of my guitar on the porch- and the loud Lynyrd Skynyrd on the stereo. I fondly recall the meals I prepared, the friends I entertained, the tears when life was rough and the smiles when life was good.

Even  though the house is no longer there, it will always be there in my mind. So many “firsts” to remember, the first steps of my oldest son and daughter, the first furniture that I bought on my own. Painting the walls, the relaxing warm baths, the  poems I wrote in that bedroom and the pictures I painted in the kitchen.

It is almost always hard when a page turns in our lives. Even if what lies ahead is a bit exciting, it is a challenge to move on. I can close my eyes and see the white picket fence, the rose bush I planted when my first child was born, building snowmen with my kids,  or looking out the window and seeing the first car that I bought myself.

Life goes on, through good times and bad. The ages creep in that little house just as they did with me. There is something about a place that holds so many ” firsts” that keeps it written permanently in my mind. So, it is with the little house at # 10. It is a part of my parents first years, of my own first house, and that of my first two babies.

I can close my eyes and see the basket where kittens were born, where I held my newborns, where I dreamed dreams that actually came true once in a while. Little White House, you now live only in my mind  but you are part of me and I love you. I will never forget the night skies or sunrises I saw there. You will always live in my heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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Death in the Cemetary

326Death in the Cemetary

Today, I went to the cemetary where my precious son and parents are buried. I am used to finding odd items there, as if they were leaving a message that they are with me. Black widow spiders are one of the most odd, but because I study insects and arachnids, I look for their webs and see them. I do not find them on any other graves, which makes the incidences more profound.

Today. I was at my son’s grave site and found turkey feathers scattered over a span of maybe 60 feet in a grassy area by the woods and in the graveyard. Already being there to talk about my most recent anguish, I was especially struck by finding the feathers scattered so near my son’s gave. I

We have a lot of wild turkeys in the mountains here, and finding them was no surprise. It was imagining the scenario of what happened that made them so profound. I could see the group of turkeys wandering down the grasses at the edge of the woods when suddenly a coyote appears, snatches one of them as it fights for its life. I see the others scattering into the forest, turkeys take care of number one, particularly adult turkeys. It was apparent by the number of feathers, the force of the wind, and the long trail of a variety of feathers, from downy white to the long, iridescent tail feathers waving in the wind that the turkey did not win and the battle had taken place only a short time ago.

What make this discovery so profound is the event that sent me there-that one of my children might move-a short distance, but from a home on my fathers property. It brought back the story of my life-full circle-that no mater how hard I try, how long I suffer, how much I work with a now disabled body, I will not see my dreams come true. Perhaps my children will, and we parents often give in to this pain at our own expense.

I know their reams are not mine. What hurts is that my dreams never seemed to matter. Even If I came near them, something came along to ruin to feeling we have when we meet a long sought goal. We work so hard to help them be able to fulfill their dreams, only to find that it isn’t good enough or simply that theirs are different and our efforts are pointless and often complicate any efforts we may want to make to help them reach their dreams.

I see the coyote and turkey as the heartbreak I continually encounter. One problem, disast, tragedy does not end before another is thrown at me. I wonder how much I can take. I wonder why I try. I wonder why sometimes members of my family that I have depended on since childhood seem blind to my needs and expectations.

I gathered the feathers and mixed them with the flowers on my sons grave, just as my feelings are often so mixed when it comes to what to do to make my life worth living without ruining my children’s chances for their dreams to come true, like mine were ruined.

I ask my sweet angel for guidance and help, wondering if he is allowed to provide me with it from heaven. I ask my parents why they left things undone that wiped out my efforts to help my children,

knowing that they had no idea when their health would fail or they would loose control of those little dreams we all have that don’t work out like we had planned.

It is ironic that this violent death by my son’s grave happened when I felt so much like my own dreams had died. Please, my angel, find a way to help me-tell me what to do.

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