Archive for integrity

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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She Sliters Away

It had been a fine summer for Sylvia. No floods, plenty of insects, the birth of a new group of live young. But now, it was time for Sylvia to find a place to spend the cold, Appalachian winter.

She slithered quietly through an overgrown garden, eating a few snacks on the way. Her tongue waved as she became aware of the scent of water and rotting wood. Perfect! A fallen maple presented itself not far from a tiny mountain stream.

Sylvia continued on up the low hill from the garden and explored the space underneath the log. It had fallen several years before and had created small spaces in the damp soil which she could work on in order to make her winter home.

She took one last breath of cooling fall air before she began carving her winter home in what appeared to have been home to a worm at one time. Gently, she curled up inside the hole, her fertilized eggs ready to grow inside her as she settled down for a long winter’s nap.

Sylvia had seen other snakes like her-garter snakes with a print of different colors of brown and she knew she was both beautiful and harmless. Smart human neighbors left her alone to eat the insects that consumed their gardens or simply admired her grace, perhaps hoping to see one of her babies as it slithered away from her as it hatched, alive and ready into a new world.

Her life had not always been easy. Once, a human ran over her mother with a lawnmower and a human mom who happened to study amphibians happened upon her. Her mother had died, but the kind lady saved two babies who were only slightly injured and let them go in he garden when they had healed in about a week. Thus, she and her brother had survived.

Sylvia often spent warm spring mornings in the lady’s garden and the lady would come by and speak to her, never touching her, only whispering greetings. How Sylvia wished that she could say, “Thank you.”, but, alas, it was no to be.

One day next summer, Sylvia would find a quiet place and give birth to her young. She would not give them any maternal care, only wish them a good life and watch them crawl away. Such is the life of a garter snake. The lady who saved her would always remember her, always hope she saw Sylvia in her garden. Their lives were separate, but forever bound.

Hopefully, one day, the lady’s children would tell stories about the baby snakes and teach others to appreciate them and share their yards and woodlands with them. Such is the way with nature. We share the same world, but in separate realities. I wish you well, Sylvia, and hope I see you or your young next year!

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The Effects and Lessons of Loss-An Anology of Death

 

 

For many years of my young life, I escaped the emotional and physical costs of the death of a loved one who was a part of your daily life. In the past 14 years, it seems to have been nearly continuous, from aunts and uncles, cousins and friend, grandparents and parents to my precious 15 year old son.

I have learned that the deaths of different close friends and family affect us in entirely different ways. To see an older relative who has lived a long life and is now suffering gives us a sense of relief, that they are no longer suffering and are in, what we have been taught and hope, is “a better place. To Christians, and some other religions, that means Heaven.

When my best friend died at 48 after a 15 year battle with cancer, I could not help but feel cheated, for her, for her children and grandchildren, and later, as I faced deaths that were “closer to home”, for myself. I did not have the person I needed to talk to cry with, hug, and find comfort in her compassion.

I had several cousins and neighbors die in their middle-age, usually from cancer. I found myself looking at their lives, the happiness they had with their mates, and children, the love and attention their grandchildren would miss. I felt that they were cheated, they did not smoke, abuse their health or do dangerous things. It was a different grief process than I felt when my elderly relatives died.

I am an only child. I have lost both of my parents within the past 3 ½ years. It has been so difficult to walk into their house, the accept the not-so-good memories and embrace the wonderful support they always gave me, that I have often had to simply put their loss “in a box”, only to be opened at certain times, like birthdays, holidays or even the day they died. I spend a lot of time with my parents, seeing them most every day. When they were sick, I helped care for them, when they were sad, or scared, I listened. I helped them with their financial issues, memorial wishes, and settling estates. I would say it was the hardest thing I have ever done, but it wasn’t.

I lost my beloved son eight years ago at the age of 15. It was very sudden, a regular day, filled with normal activities for a teen-school, buss rides, ball games. On that day, I took him to a ball game and didn’t brink him home. I have written about this many times in my blog, and would love for you to look up the articles and read them and what actions I have taken since, but that is not what this article is about.

There is nothing as painful as loosing a child. There isn’t even a word for a parent who has lost a child. If you loose your parents, you are an orphan, if you loose a mate, you are a widow or widower. What are you when you loose your child? So much of what you are, what you lived for, looked forward to is gone, it is simply indescribable.

In my case, I not only lost my child, I lost my health. Within a few months, I was developing symptoms of Cushings Syndrome, a pituitary disease that has many scopes, causes and outcomes. My doctor kept insisting that what I was suffering from was “just stress”, even though I insisted that it was more than that. First let me point out that stress is not a “Just”. It destroys your health, your ability to function, to deal with work or your family. Never accept this excuse, no matter what you are suffering from.

It wasn’t until I had heart failure 8 months after my son’s sudden death, that a heart doctor started really examining me. He immediately wrote my doctor and told him that I had the typical symptoms of Cushings Disease (some types are called “Syndrome”. Evidently, I wasn’t important enough for my doctor to even read the report because 6 months later, when I went to the Cardiolgist, he was astounded that I had received no help and sent me to the Endocrinologist then next day. Again, I will ask that you read my other articles on my son’s death and my illness and return to the topic of grief and the different ways we, as humans respnd to it.

Men, women and children respond to grief in various ways. Men have a difficult time showing outward grief, having been taught during their whole lives that emotions are a sign of weakness. Therefore, they often take it out on others, especially those that they love them most. It is horrible for a woman to be fighting for her life, and not have the person who is supposed to always be there for her, him being emotional abusive, and often reverting to child-like things to get his mind off of his unfathomable sorrow.

Children under about the age of 12 often have a delayed reaction to grief. When they begin to think in a more adult-like manner, the grief that may have happened several years ago suddenly creeps in. The child may not be able to sleep, have irrational fears for their own safety or for the safety of those they love. They may regress somewhat in their behavior, their grades in school may suffer. It is very important that a child who has lost a sibling gets the help they need, and this can vary from child to child. Do not be afraid to explore your child’s needs with his doctor, counselors, siblings, your spouse or minister. I feel like it has been very difficult for me to be the mom I always was and still meet my child’s needs. Even when I felt that I was, I have realized even years later, that I needed to give him the chance to talk to those he felt comfortable with about his feelings.

The death of someone particularly close to you is often almost impossible to overcome. The effects on my health on top of my emotional grief, unfounded self-grief, and my blaming everyone from God to my child’s friends is something I still struggle with daily. Even though I have made some progress, he physical problems caused by the Cushings Disease will be with me forever, always reminding me of why I have to deal with them.

One of the best things we can do to help someone we love who is greiving is simpy to listen. Let them be angry, blame people, feel what they feel. Just getting these things out of their system for a few minutes can be tremendously helpful. Since it is difficult to deal with those who are grieving, especially over a child or a person to whom they were particularly close, we often cut ourselves off from them just when they need us the most. It is not easy to allow a person who is in the midst of grief to express feelings that we may not agree with, but we have to be able to, and, hopefully, over time, we can help lead them back to a better place. Simply learning not to blame themselves is a big step in finding a way back to a better place.

I don’t think I will ever heal from the emotional loss of my child and some of the circumstances around it, but I KNOW I will never get over the physical scars and pain that I have to live with every day of my life. I am sure that living with me is not easy for those I love. They try, and I am very grateful that they put forth this effort.

Eventually, we will all have to deal with loss in some form. Having our family and friends around us is critical in getting back to a place where we can at least function to the best of our ability. Each person’s reaction to grief varies just as their path to healing is different. Try to stand back and see what your loved one needs and be there for them, even if it is difficult for you. You, their support team can make all the difference in the world to someone suffering from loss. Take the time to talk to them, not only right after the death of a loved one, but years later as well. Send a card on the loved ones birthday or mention then on a holiday card. Help them laugh (or even cry) over some of the memories you have of their loved one. Remind them of the joy they had when they were with them and let them know that it is alright to be angry, sad, frustrated or even overcome with emotion.

One thing that has helped me is for someone to take me to dinner, on a walk, read favorite poems, or listen to music near the “anniversary” of their loss, but perhaps not on the exact day. Sometimes, the anniversary of a death, or even the persons birthday may be simply too emotionafor them to profit from your good intentions.

Remember, our day will come, and in that sense, if we have been there for someone else, it will be easier for us to accept the help of friends and benefit from it. Love involves the risk of hurt, whether from loss, breakup, moving away or simply from a child growing up and concentrating on their own life. Stand back and see if you need to “be there” or “give them space” because each of those times will come. I have found that when I lost my son, I often lost my friends as well, not from “meanness” but simply because they didn’t know what to do or say. Do not abandon your loved one in their time of need,no matter how hard it may be. Neither should you smother them, because they are having to learn to live in a completely different way than they did before.

Whether they are able to express it or not, the fact that you care will make a huge difference as the person who has experienced loss begins this new and difficult path. Simply knowing that you are there for them may be the best “medicine” you can give.

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The Heart of a Man

 

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 The Heart of A Man

 

 

 

 

We can move like the waves on the ocean,

Or dance, with only the moonlight

shadows reflecting the land.

I can feel like I love you completely,

But, still, I cannot understand

why I always feel love is hiding

deep in the heart of a man.

Across hills, we can journey together,

our souls become one with the light.

The whispers of autumn approaching,

yet we lie like two strangers at night.

For miles, we have traveled this highway,

and still I do not understand

what keeps the emotions so silent

In the heart of a man.

 

 

reprinted from beebeesworld Fall 2012-one of my favorites. Its been a rough week, but I wanted my friends to know I;m still out here, new friends please read some of my old entries listed on my home page!

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And Suddenly He Becomes a Man

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Today, he sits in the drivers seat as we listen for the rumble of the school bus, listen for the squeal of the brakes, and I watch him disappear into the bus as I scoot into the drivers seat.

If it were not for an error in the school drivers ed list, he would already e driving, so I am savoring these few extra moths when he has to be my chauffeur, my co-pilot.

Two or three years ago, it seems he played with Lego’s and played video games, this year his is studying computer coding and just finished an internship for the school system in this area. Where has time gone?

In three years, he has grown eight inches, and has almost caught up with his brother, who is 6’5” tall.

I miss my baby, we were so close. All of my children and I were close. The one I lost at age 15 when he collapsed while playing baseball, I dream of, eyes wide open , of who he would be, what he would be doing eight years later. I feel cheated, lied to. His death cost me more than words can describe.

I enjoy days with my daughters, chasing babies as I once chased them. They sigh and say, “I don’t know how you did it with six when two drive me crazy!” And I just smile and say, “Mom’s with lots of kids grow extra hands and endless hearts.”

The nus stop is beside my oldest son’s house, where he, his wife and three kids live. To see those little white heads running up to me and saying, “I love you, Beebee.” is a gift beyond compare.

Still, I have learned there is nothing like your own children. Grand kids as wonderful, but they are not yours. You and your own children have secret languages, know each others inner thoughts. You know how they like to be held, you can nurse them when they are fussy. You have your schedules, your speial subjects that you enjoy, things that arre privte between only you and yours.

Don’t get me wrong, grand kids are great, Not just because of the old addage that “You can send them home.” but that they are rather like a glimmer of your own child mixed with a gleam of their other parent. Sometimes you catch a familiar look or action that you remember from long ago-a smile, an impish grin, a silly giggle.

To see your last child. drive away in his own car, leave for college, get married, is so much more exciting to them that it is to the mom-left alone, feeling useless. A largely stay-at-home mom like me especially suffers when they have lost a child forever and have to watch that last living child spread his wings and fly. Your tears are filled with both relief and pride.

I was an only child. I learned about sibling rivalry from my own kids. I dreamed that my kids would grow up and be like the siblings I never had, but they didn’t. They are siblings to eachother-not to me, and I have to settle for being the mom who was once everything and is now, one who wove their being, but has found herself out of yarn.

I’m am surprised and proud of my youngest son. I was/am an old hippie, jeans and peasant shirts, leather sandals, guitars and Lynyrd Skynyrd. He dresses is suits and ties, has computer skills that make me feel illiterate, he worries that his teeth are shiny enough, that his shoes are clean enough. I wonder, sometimes, where I got him. Certainly, thank goodness, he is the opposite of his father-a Harley rider who enjoys road-side sales booths and collections of used clothing. At least my son and I think alike- finding joy in discovery, whether in nature, or in technology.

One day, it seems, a mother is looking into the eyes of a new life, never knowing what that child will become , And then, in the blink of an eye, that baby is a child, a teen, a young adult, a father or mother themselves. Life goes by much too quickly, sometimes bitter-sweet, just realizing that as they grew older, so did you.

Having to look in that dark glass of what might have been when we loose a child, is the worst pain a mother can feel, yet each moment spent with that precious child glimmers like a diamond. I don’t have another mother who is a close friend that has lost a child, neither can I can tell you how many times I would have liked to smack the well-meaning people who have , lost for words, remarked, “I know how you feel, I lost my sister, brother, friend,( fill in the blank). NO, they do not know and I pray they never will.

Next spring, watch the first pale leaves emerge from a flower, look at it each day as the green grows darker and buds start to form. Close your eyes and inhale the sweetness of the bloom, then let the flower go to seed and plant the seeds again next year. Life does not stand still, it must be protected and revered.

Read “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran if you want to get a beautiful picture of the phases of life. Read it to your children, sing to them, teach them poetry, and don’t be surprised when one day your grandchild repeats that poem or sing that song as he walks beside you along life’s path.

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As we Grow Old-Photo Essay

Young-Winter-Difficult Days

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IMG_0352My Dad-Late 1940’s, Winter 2013, and after his illness Summer 2014, Lesson-  Never waste time, treasure your memories, let the people you love know it-every day-Remember what they taught you, ask them to tell you the stories of thier lives, write them down, share them with your childrem, and grandchildren.  Smile as we see the similarities and understand that times and ways change over the years, Love and time are the most important gifts we can give.

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Days and Nights Alone

 

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Across the room, a picture of the two of you,

Its seems like yesterday, but its been 8 years,

in the purest hell. You- taken only four months later.

Your little brother now 6’3” and growing-

the girl who has his heart isn’t me.

I am alone in my heart-I’ve taken in my sick dad-

and the daily reminders of why I left home at 18

haunting my every quiet move, with doors down,

curtains up to accommodate walkers-hospital supplies.

Every time I think “life” can get no worse, it does.

I need you, I need your brother to be little again.

I want to teach 6 kids about bugs and butterflies

and play in the creek. I want to live, love, dream.

Tonight, if and when I close my eyes, please,

my beautiful young man, stolen for no reason,

come to me, be with me, let me remember life.

 

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