CHATTAHOOCHEE CHILD – EXCERPT


 Dearest Readers:

Listed below is a bit of Chattahoochee Child:

PROLOGUE – Rhythms

October 2003

There is a rhythm to life, moving us at a pace we control by the decisions we make. When I was lost, and alone, I embraced the Chattahoochee River while listening to the melody of rhythms created by the symphony of dancing waters. As a child, I was fearful of the rushing waters of the Chattahoochee. Once, while standing on the banks of the murky waters, my mother shoved me, laughing deviously, reminding me of a witch.

“Mom,” I shouted. “You pushed me. I could’ve fallen into the waters. You know I can’t swim. I could drown.”

Her laughter reminded me of Boris Karloff. Evil. Cruel. Conniving.

“Well, if you drowned, I’d have one less child to worry about. Not that I worry about you, ever. You’re so independent. You seem to love being alone. But I know. You’re a stupid girl. Stupid girls cause trouble. You’re the thorn in my side.”

I crossed my arms and walked away while listening to mother’s hateful laughter.

Water has always held my passion. On the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, I feel embraced in the hands of God when I slowly allow my body to enter the sanctity of water in Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina. While the water soothes me, I dare to find the courage to allow my body to float in the water so I can travel with the current to faraway places.

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It feels a bit strange to breathe oxygen into my lungs after my mother’s lungs no longer needed the breath of life. A part of my being was swimming in the waters, drowning, anxious to touch the bottom depths of the riverbed, to find the grief missing from her death. My mother failed to share her life with me. Now with her death, I realized we could never make amends. Although I made many attempts to bury our emancipation, she refused to move forward. Over 20 years ago, I cried from the loss and rejection of my mother. I did not feel a wall of grief pounding down on me after her death. Instead, I felt an incredible need to confront my sister and embrace the shores of the Chattahoochee River in Columbus, Georgia.

Now that she is gone, I’ve discovered I loved my mother, not because she was a good mother. I loved her for giving me life. Never did I approve of her mind control strategies, or for the emotional guilt she used to punish me by being so cruel. She was quick to remind me that I ‘wasn’t a good girl…I behaved badly…I asked too many questions, defying her authority.’

When she was angry at me, she called me ‘Little Miss Goody Two Shoes.’

’ She twisted her words and actions, making me believe I was worthless of love from anyone. I loved her because I wanted to love her. She was my birth mother. Without her bearing the pain of childbirth, I would not have life, and I am thankful for the precious gift of life she bestowed to me. As a child, I dreamed of her returning a mother’s love; instead of sharing it, she tortured me with the supremacy of her dependence. Once, she stated to me that actions meant more than words. Without a doubt, the actions of my mother spoke volumes! The more I grew up, the more she pushed to control me and never let me go. I retaliated in the manner safest for my sanity. I broke away from her web of destruction. As a grown woman, I lived with ‘survivor’s guilt,’ the guilt of surviving and escaping the misfortunes that were due to me just by being born.

“Life’s never a bed of roses,” Mom said to me as a child. “You and your silly big girl dreams ain’t nothing but a joke. You ain’t never gonna find no one to love you…NEVER!”

Before her death, I chose not to reopen the cycle of bitterness delivered by the hands and poisonous tongue of my mother. Rehashing my childhood would do nothing to help our situation. She was a melancholic, unkind woman who lived life in the dark shadows of her past. I wanted to move forward with her, to make peace with her, regardless. My fondest wish was for Mom to learn to love me. Most of all, I wanted her to learn to love herself.

The true test of life is how we educate ourselves to forgive our parents for the trials and tribulations of life’s disappointments. As children, we are born into the life we live. As adults, it is our decision how we choose to mold ourselves into the person we desire. We can take a step forward, to build our life into productive, respectable individuals, or we can reflect on prejudices of the past, living our lives in a shell as a mirrored imitation of our parents. I chose to break the mold, refusing to look back with regret.

Remembering “Mama”


Perhaps this essay will be another chapter in “CHATTAHOOCHEE CHILD.” [My latest work-in-progress]:

Mama wore her best house dresses when she was in a good mood, which wasn’t often enough. Those days, it felt as if the sunshine from the window kissed the living room with colors of the rainbow, at least for me. 

Mama would smile at me and say, “Honey, can you curl my hair?”

After I shampooed her hair, I curled it with jumbo rollers. My fingers shook as I rolled her hair. If the curl was too tight, she’d get a headache.  She screamed in pain while her hands slapped my face. If it was too loose, the curl would flop and she’d remind me I had no talent to style hair, or do anything right. Her actions spoke volumes about her lack of love for me.

Sometimes, she smiled into the mirror, nodding with delight when finished. During those special moments with her, I took the time to make my Mama up with makeup. Her skin was olive, as smooth as a baby’s behind. No wrinkles or age spots. When I lined her eyes with black velvet eyeliner, she could equal the beauty of Cleopatra or Elizabeth Taylor. I never understood why Mama failed to make skin care and make up part of her daily routine. 

Mama never believed in routines. She lived her life only for the moment and the next handout from someone else. 

“It don’t matter to me or to your daddy if I fix myself up,” she said. “He don’t care about me. Why should I?”

Never did Mama hug or kiss me with her acceptance. I dare not ask if she liked her hair or makeup. I knew better. The sting of her palm on my face told me when I was not meeting her approval. I prayed she wouldn’t notice my anxiety, or my trembling hands. When I asked how she wanted her hair styled this time, she looked in the mirror, scratched her head, pulling the gray strands out. 

“Stupid girl, you should know how I like my hair styled! Cover the gray roots,” she said. “Tease it high. Don’t let nobody see how gray I’m getting. I don’t care how it looks, as long as the gray roots ain’t showing.”

She refused to get her hair colored, afraid the chemicals would do something to her brain. She said, “Cancer runs in our family. We can’t take a chance to get that disease ‘cause it kills. My great grandmother had head cancer. She had such bad headaches her mind was gone. Don’t you put no chemicals in my hair.  I don’t want my brain, or my head fried with cancer. You listen to me, Rebecca Sue. Don’t let nothing fry my head.”

May, 2002 was the last Mother’s Day I shared with my mother. Reportedly, she suffered a fall at Savannah’s apartment in early April. Savannah shouted at her, shoving her down the stairs. She was in a hurry, and she was tired of taking care of her ‘old lady,’ so she chose to leave our mother suffering on the floor. That afternoon a home health nurse came to check on our mother, discovering her lying face down, her clothing soiled from body fluids and feces. Her face was pulled down to the left side, left lip bruised and battered. When she struggled to move, she could not. The nurse documented her condition, diagnosing a possible stroke.

The home health nurse phoned me. “I suspect your mother has suffered a stroke. She’s at E-R now.”

“I’ll make arrangements and leave later this afternoon. It will take at least eight hours before I can be there,” I said. “Where’s Savannah?”

The nurse hesitated, suggesting I should speak to the doctor on call when I arrived.

I knew something was questionable. This was not the first time my mother had injuries while under Savannah’s care.

On Mother’s Day, Mom was still in the hospital. On that morning, I arrived early, placing a pale blue gift bag on her bed. Her eyes opened. She glanced at the bag, struggling to speak.

“B-Blue skies,” she muttered. Her right arm moved to touch the bag. I reached inside the bag, removing a blue gift box. I opened the box slowly. Mom’s eyes blinked as she struggled to smile, admiring the cultured pearl earrings inside the box.

A few minutes later, I placed the pierced earrings in her ears. Mom sighed, touching the right ear with her right hand. She slurred ‘thank you’ and fell back to sleep.

I stayed with my mother all of that Mother’s Day, feeding her and making her comfortable. That Mother’s Day was the last Mother’s Day we shared.

On September 11, 2002, my mother died under ‘questionable circumstances.’ Savannah spent that night with her at the hospital. When Savannah phoned me in the late evening of September 12, she appeared intoxicated. Her last slurring words to me were, “Do you think they’ll do an autopsy?”

Two years after her death Garrett and I drove to Columbus. We dropped by the cemetery to see my mother’s grave. The years of mental and physical abuse from my mother were buried with her. I placed a bouquet of red roses on her headstone, kissed it and whispered, “I know we were never close, but I hope you’ve found peace now. May you rest in peace, Mom. I loved you.”

Thinking about my childhood, the physical and mental abuse, I found it strange that Savannah was repeating the vicious cycle of physical abuse while I found peace, refusing to allow violence or abuse of any kind within my family.

On Mother’s Day, 2015 I reflect on my mother, our estranged history together and the questionable circumstances of her death. Savannah buried her in a closed casket. Due to another bout of acute bronchial asthma, I was unable to get to the funeral. Perhaps there was a reason for an autopsy to be performed, but now, my mother rests in peace. I hope and pray she died peacefully. Mother’s Day is always a day of reflection, sadness and curiosity and I pray that all mothers will have a wonderful day enjoying motherhood.

Chattahoochee Child – Excerpt


Dearest Readers:

Posting a bit of the story I’ve had dancing inside my heart and soul for many years. Too many years to mention. Yesterday, I realized I have to let go and write this. I hope you enjoy.

 

Yesterday, my husband and I went to the theatre to see “I CAN ONLY IMAGINE.” Based on the song, “I CAN ONLY IMAGINE,” recorded by Mercy Me in 1999, I remembered when I first heard this song and how the lyrics affected me. My dad passed away in July, 1999. I was in such a severe depression after losing him, I prayed to die, realizing I was being selfish. I still had life to live. People to care for and love. Visiting with my doctor, she asked if I was suicidal. I laughed, realizing she knew me better than I knew myself.
How can a song affect someone so passionately? Writing this question out, I recognized I failed to have an answer. Kneeling at my special window, I looked up into the Heavens and prayed, only this time, my prayer was different. I asked God to help me live and to learn to forgive.
My mother and I were alienated since 1988. After my high school class reunion, I discovered my mother told our little boy his mother was a whore and a drunk. The morning after the reunion, little Michael David rushed to me asking me what was a whore. “I know what a drunk is since Grandpa in Charleston is a drunk, but I’ve never heard the word whore. What is it, Mommy?”

I scooped his tiny body into my arms and bear hugged him. “Mommy is not a whore. A whore is someone who goes out with other men and sleeps in the bed with them. I’m not a whore, Michael David.”

“Granny called you a whore. But you only sleep in the bed with my daddy, Mommy.”

“It’s not a nice name and it’s a word you should not speak again, at least until you’re grown.”

“Why would she call you that word?”

“Granny doesn’t love Mommy the way you and Daddy love me. That’s a good question, and I will ask her in a minute. You go back to sleep.” I kissed Michael on the cheek, tucking him in with his father. I slipped on my robe, walking toward my mother’s room.

I knocked three times. She opened her eyes. “Why did you call me a whore?” I shouted.

“I did no such a thing.”

“Yes, you did.” Michael stood next to me. “You said my mommy was a whore and a drunk.”

The argument continued for an hour. Garrett awoke to the shouting. Recognizing this conversation would be an eternal shouting match of two stubborn women who butted heads all the time, he said we were leaving. I grabbed our luggage and stormed out of the house, refusing to look back.

I cried an endless ocean of tears from Columbus, Georgia to Charleston, South Carolina. Michael David apologized for starting the argument. I responded that he was not the problem. My life as a child of the Chattahoochee, the daughter of a woman who could not show love at all, was the problem. The only solution was to build my life with my family, Garrett, and Michael.

In 1988, I realized home is where the heart is. My heart was in Charleston, not Bibb City, or the Chattahoochee. My life in Charleston was filled with suburban roots, and a solid brick foundation, not a detour route of housing projects, mill villages, shouting matches and nothing to refer to as home. The windows to my world reflected love, pride, and ambition. I pinched myself to bring myself back to reality. I did not wish to remember the annoying disconnections I shared with my mother, nor did I want to walk in her footsteps.

I lost my mother on September 11, 2002. She died a ‘questionable death,’ after battling to survive a stroke. Since that time, I’ve discovered she choked to death by inhaling nuts. My mother was allergic to nuts. Her body was paralyzed on the right side. How she was able to inhale nuts and choke to death is a question I need answering. When my sister phoned me telling me of her passing, the one question she repeated to me was: Do you think they’ll do an autopsy?

Interesting question I failed to understand since I was ill with acute bronchial asthma at the time and failed to comprehend what my sister was asking.

Do you think they’ll do an autopsy? Interesting question…

I can only imagine!DSC_0061
 

When the Lightning From Storms Frighten Me


Dearest Readers:

Although someone might say it isn’t early morning, for me it is since I slept fairly well last night. Crawling out of bed just before 9:00 am, I yawned, stretched and was thankful for a bit of sleep.

Today Phil and I will go shopping. Seems he wants to go to Tanger Outlet. So, I suppose I’ll drink another cup of coffee, just to get me going!

Last night, we had another band of those dreadful storms we’ve been having lately. Driving in my car, every time I saw the lightning flash, my body jumped.

Why am I so frightened of lightning, you might ask? Allow me to explain. When I was a child, I recall my mother telling me if I did not behave…IF I wasn’t a “good girl,” God would send the lightning after me. I remember her saying, and I quote: “If you don’t behave God is gonna strike you dead with that lightning.”

Every time there was a storm with lightning, I would jump. Mama would laugh at me and say: “You’re such a stupid girl. God don’t love ugly and that’s why He sends the lightning to you. He wants the lightning to hit you. God don’t love ugly and you are one ugly thing. I hope God strikes you dead!”

I was the middle child. One of my sisters was quiet. Timid. She never questioned authority. The other two – I’m still not certain. Let’s just say, our childhood was not the typical childhood of four daughters.

As for me, I was boisterous. When I entered a room, I made an impression. Good or bad…I’m still not certain. I loved to hop on stage and let the world know I was around!

Once, while walking home from the library in Atlanta, Georgia, a summer storm horrified me. I saw the lightning flashing. I remember rushing. Running. I had to get home to get inside my closet so the lightning could not find me. I was horrified!

Arriving home, I grabbed a towel to dry my hair and face and I rushed into my closet, shutting the door tightly.

Stopping at a red light last night, Phil saw me jumping when the lightning flashed. He asked me why I was so afraid.

“Haven’t I told you what my mother did to me as a child and as a teenager?”

“What?” He asked, turning the radio down so he could hear me.

“When I was a child, my mother told me I must always be a ‘good girl.’ She said IF I wasn’t a good girl, God would send the lightning down to strike me dead.”

“Did she do that to your sisters?”

“I don’t know. We never discussed it.”

Although I have three sisters, I do not recall if we ever discussed the cruelties of our mother’s poisoned, venomous tongue.

I suppose even though I am now grown and smart enough to know her words were cruel, I should also know God isn’t a mean power. He is my strength. My faith. He is the power who made me what I am today.

God would never want anyone to be struck by lightning. Storms are simply storms, filled with energy, rain and power — but of a different kind.

How I wish I could get over my fear of lightning, but I suppose I will never accomplish that. All of my childhood, I was frantic. When friends would say they love to see the flash of lightning, I cringed. My body shook. My hands and legs trembled. I gasped. Sometimes I screamed. Lightning is bad. It’s gonna strike you dead!

As a newlywed, and years later, each time the lightning flashed at night, it would awaken me and scare me half to death. I wear a sleep mask now, to help keep the lightning away. Sometimes, I wear two sleeping masks, just to keep me safe. Yes. I know. It’s silly. After all, the lightning is only lightning. It reminds me of a mad, vicious animal, growling, searching for its next prey — ME!

Once I asked my mother why she said such cruel things to me about the lightning. She laughed, a cruel, vindictive laughter. I left the room. I knew she would never explain.

Today, more storms are forecast. If they occur, I will close my eyes and try to tell myself: this is only a storm. It will not hurt me. I will be fine.

Looking out the window, while writing this, the skies are thick with a blanket of gray. Treetops are moving, dancing the breath of an approaching storm. I do not hear thunder, nor do I see lightning. I’m hopeful we will have a rain storm. Nothing more.

Although I will see more lightning when these torrential storms arrive, I will remind myself that the approaching storms are not to harm me. The rains water our gardens. The breezing winds give us a bit of coolness after we’ve had such a hot summer, filled with sauna like temperatures. As for the lightning, for me, all it creates is a VIOLENT  energy. Sometimes a wicked energy. I can still hear my mother’s sharp tongue. Her cruel words. “You’re such a bad girl, and God don’t love bad girls. He’ll send the lightning to get you. You better be a good girl.”

Maybe I should’ve asked my mother: Just what do you think a good girl is? I’m a good girl. I obey you. I do as I am told. I don’t do drugs. I go to church and in school, I get good grades and I behave. Why can’t you see I am a GOOD GIRL! I’ve never gotten into any trouble – EVER! I’m a GOOD GIRL!!!

The winds are blowing harder now. My mimosa trees are dancing a soft ballet of motion, swaying ever so elegantly to the left and right. The grass is so tall it needs cutting again, and we cut earlier this week. No doubt there will be another storm today. I suppose I shall pray once again: Dear God. Please don’t let the lightning strike me dead like my mother wished when I was a child. Please keep me safe.

Glancing out the window again, the breeze is still. The mimosa trees are hardly moving. The skies still thick with the blanket of storms anticipated. Another day of ‘the calm BEFORE the storms.’

Dear God. It’s me again. Barbie. Please. When the storms arrive, and the lightning flashes, please remind me that you will keep me safe. Please don’t let the lightning strike me dead.

 

 

Lightning…Thunder…and The Roar Of Chattahoochee Child…


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Dearest Readers:
It is early on a beautiful Sunday morning in Charleston, SC. The weather forecast for today is H-O-T — AGAIN! Reportedly, it is supposed to get to 85. No doubt, it will be another steamy hot day. Stepping outside in the heat of the day is like stepping into a sauna. Yesterday, we had a late storm brewing after we went to bed. I suppose I slept through it, which is something I do not normally do.
Whenever I see lightning, I jump out of my skin, almost. My husband says even when sleeping, I will hear the thunder and lightning and jump or tremble. I do not remember doing it. Just a few days ago, we had a summer storm in the afternoon. I was in route to get my doggies from the groomer. Every time I saw the lightning flash, I jumped, while driving. It isn’t a pretty sight. Just how can a grown woman be so frightened by lightning?
I suppose I should share my story here. If you follow my blog and read a bit of the “Chattahoochee Child” stories I’ve posted, you will understand. During my childhood, I was always the child with an opinion. In my dad’s diary, he wrote, and I quote since he is deceased now: “Barbara is really a child with opinions. She likes to get noticed, and even though she is only five-years-old, she does vocalize her thoughts, rather well.”
Humph! I cannot imagine what he was referring to, but after high school graduation, I have learned to ‘vocalize my thoughts and opinions…’ AND — I DO question authority. I suppose it is the journalist deep inside me. I suppose you could say, during high school I was quiet. I confess I went to six high schools during eighth grade thru graduation. What? Might you say? Most people only go to one high school. It is simple. My family and I moved a lot — like gypsies. So, just when I got comfortable in one high school, off we go to another, so no one really got a chance to get to know me until we moved to Columbus, Georgia. Finally, I was able to attend only one high school for two-and-a-half years until graduation. Figure that out, if you can! Let’s just say, during high school I was considered shy and a wallflower. Heck. I was afraid to get to know anyone and forget the high school boys. All they wanted to get to know was —! Never did I date high school boys. They always had ‘rushing hands,’ and I did not want to have a battle with them. Their libido and testosterone were quite active, so I decided I would not date them.
Since I’m free writing, it is back to my fears of thunder and lightning.
When I was a child, my mother disciplined me constantly. “You ask too many questions,” she said. “Just do what I tell you to do and stop being so opinionated… “You stupid girl. One day I hope you’re struck by lightning…just so you’ll know you shouldn’t say so much or ask so much.”
My mother loved to call me her ‘stupid girl.’ How I hate that description!
I suppose it is easy to say, as a child, I probably had too many opinions, but when lightning occurred, I remember my mother saying, “I hope you get struck by lightning soon.”
Each time I saw lightning, I cringed, sometimes rushing to hide in the closet of my bedroom so I would not see the lightning. When thunder roared, I screamed. Still, to this day, when we have storms I do my best to hide under covers, close the blinds, or stay in a room where I will not notice the roaring sounds and sights of thunder and lightning.
I still hear my mother’s cruel words. If my memory is correct, and I do believe it is when she would say, “Girl, I hope that lightning strikes you down,” I felt as if she had no love within her body for me. The other girls in the family never heard those words, only me. All of my three sisters did whatever our mother ask them to do. As for me, you guessed it. I placed my hands on my hips and I would say, “Why must I do that? Why is it only me that cooks and cleans?”
My mother’s reply: “Stupid girl. Just shut your mouth and do it before I get a switch.”
One of my sisters could not even boil water when she married. The other two, expected the men to do everything. I suppose they got a real ‘wake-up call’ in marriage, and maybe that’s why their marriages did not work out. I haven’t a clue. I do not pry into their lives. Marriage is truly a work-in-progress, every day!
I do know one of my sisters had a brutal marriage. Her husband loved to hit on her, leaving bruises and scratches she attempted to cover up with makeup. In 2002 we drove to Michigan to rescue her and her son from a safe house.
It is easy to observe I was the Cinderella of our family, or maybe I was the ugly stepchild. Regardless, I was the one who did the cleaning, cooking, and housework. My mother continued her verbal and physical abuse after my parent’s divorce. As for me, I could not wait to leave the family. Growing up where abuse is shared like daily activities, I vowed to myself I would break the mold and never behave in such a manner. My children would not grow up afraid of lightning and thunder.
Last night, I woke myself up listening to a voice speaking. Recognizing this was my ‘sleeping voice,’ I heard myself saying:
“Your mama is a whore and a drunk. Just look at that dress she wore tonight to her reunion. A long black dress with a plunging neckline and a low back. Only a whore would wear that.”
My son was seven-years-old when he heard his grandmother describing me. Just like me, he was opinionated. Reportedly, he did not appreciate what his grandmother was saying about me, so he chose to speak up and defend me.
“My mommy is not a whore and she only drinks wine. She is not a drunk. I’ve never seen my mommy drunk. Don’t say those things about her.”
My mother was caring for my son on that night. She promised him they would have a good time. I should’ve known she would pull some of her stunts, but I was hoping I could give her a second chance.
Awakening from the Nightmare, I sat up in bed, remembering the scenario like it was yesterday. I remember when we arrived to pick him up, he was sound asleep. The next morning, a bit early after a night of partying at a high school reunion, my son rushed to me. “Mommy,” he said. “Granny said you were a whore and a drunk. You’re not a whore and a drunk, are you Mommy?”
“No,” I said, scooping him up in my arms. “Mommy is not a whore or a drunk. Please don’t say the word whore.”
“It’s a bad word?” He asked.
“Yes. Whore is a bad word. A very bad word.”
He looked into my eyes.
“Whore is a woman who sleeps with lots of men, and that is not your mommy. I sleep with your daddy only. And I am not a drunk.”
Later, we drove to my mother’s house to confront her and say goodbye. When we arrived, my mother was still in bed. I knocked on her door, then I opened it and let the words fly. I warned my husband to let me handle the situation.
“How could you call me a whore and a drunk?” I asked. “Especially in front of my son. Your grandchild. Just what kind of grandmother are you?”
My mother opened her eyes and struggled to sit up. “I did no such of a thing.”
My son burst into the room. “Yes, you did,” he said, tears falling down his face. “You called my mommy a whore and a drunk. Sorry for saying that word, Mommy, but she did say it!”
I rushed him out of the room. I knew this scenario was getting ugly.
After a verbal battle, I knew I was defeated. My mother would never admit she said those words, nor would she apologize. My husband knocked on the door.
“We’re leaving,” I said. “I cannot tolerate this abuse anymore. It’s bad enough I tolerated her abuse all of my childhood, but to say those things in front of my child is something I will never tolerate. How could you, Mom? How could you be so cruel to him?”
On that morning, as we drove home to Charleston, I decided I would not see my mother again. Arriving home, I had several messages on the answering machine from my mother. I erased them all, not wanting to listen to her cruelties anymore. There comes a time in life when we must cut the cords of abuse. My time was now. I had to protect my child.
Motherhood is never easy. We all have regrets of things we would change, if only we could. We would be more patient and kind. We would not shout, nor would we lose our temper. One rule I kept is the rule of if I am angry, I will walk away. I certainly had times when I saw my mother inside me, and when that occurred, I would go to a window and pray. Just like my maternal grandmother taught me.
As for my mother and I? Rarely did I go back to Columbus, Georgia. I attempted another reunion, stopping by to see my mother. A surprise visit. We stayed for a few minutes and left. We had hotel reservations and another reunion to attend. Neither of us felt welcomed. My mother did not rush to hug me, like other mothers do, nor did she show any affections. Her health was deteriorating and she limped when she walked. Four years later, I phoned her telling her I was coming to Columbus to attempt to ‘bury the hatchet.’
On that visit, we had another shouting match, so I left, in tears. My mother always had a way of getting to me, bringing me down. Making me feel worthless and unlovable. Was I really such a horrible person? After a bit of soul-searching while driving, I recognized I was a good person. My mother refusing to love me was her problem, but as a child and a grown woman, I still craved a mother’s love.
How I wanted and prayed my mother would change, but she did not. In 2000, she suffered a stroke. Her left side was virtually paralyzed. I drove to see her on Mother’s Day, bringing her a gift wrapped box of pearl earrings. She attempted to speak, but only slurred her words. When I opened the box of pearl earrings, she gasped and touched her right ear. I placed the earrings in her ears, and she attempted to smile, her face wrinkling with a scrunched lip and new wrinkles I did not remember.
I never saw her again. She lived in a nursing home for the remainder of her days. I sent letters to her, gifts and when her dentures got broken, I paid for a new set of dentures. On September 11, 2002, she died. A questionable death, to say the least. When my sister phoned in the late afternoon of September 12, her question to me was: “Do you think they’ll do an autopsy?”
Dreadfully ill with bronchial asthma, I did not attend the funeral. The question of “Do you think they’ll do an autopsy?” played in my mind. I made a few phone calls, including a phone call to the coroner’s office, and the nursing home. Never were those calls returned. I suspect the reason for my question was a simple my mother died under questionable circumstances.
Did I want to stir the pot and get these answers? Since I was so ill and weak, I chose to take care of myself since my husband was away on business in Italy. I needed to rest and get well.
Those years and those nightmares of my mother still play in my mind as the dreams did last night. Although my mother was a difficult woman and not exactly mother of the year, she was my mother. I did not hate her. I lost respect for her over the years, and I worked diligently to improve our relationship, but it wasn’t meant to be; nevertheless, the way she died is questionable and I suspect my sister knows the real story. She will not share it. I’ve done enough research to complete my story, “Chattahoochee Child.” I pray my mother is at peace.
I pray I will not have any more nightmares about my mother. They always leave me shaken and heartbroken but today is a new day. Maybe last night’s nightmare was a result of the lightning and thunder? The sun is shining today. Clouds are overcast, but it is another beautiful day and I am certain it will be another steamy day of perspiration (or is it glitter that women release in the heat) while I attempt another day of yard work.
My husband and I plan to work in the back yard of our home today, moving the debris of weeds, tree branches and dead limbs he worked on yesterday. I must say, I’m not looking forward to being in the heat, but once I am outside, I will work hard to get everything thrown away, and if a storm brews, or if I hear lightning, just watch me run to the back door to get to safety. I cannot get over my fear of lightning, regardless what I do or tell myself. After all, it is only lightning. It hasn’t struck me down — YET!

On Father’s Day, 2017…


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Angel Oak Tree, a gorgeous tree embracing Johns Island, SC

Dearest Readers:

Happy Father’s Day to all of the father’s in the United States of America. Today is a special day, to give thanks and celebrate our fathers. From the moment we were born, most of us had a father. Maybe you have precious memories of your father, and perhaps there are some, like me, who have — shall I say — interesting, sometimes traumatic memories.

As a little girl, I looked up to my father, sometimes squealing for him to scoop me into his arms. However, at five-years-old, I saw a different side of my father, and I must say, he scared me. At the time, we were living in the projects in Atlanta, Georgia. I hated the projects! My mother loved to go outside and gossip with all of the nasty, ugly, snide women who lived in the projects. On one crisp Saturday morning, my mother was outside. Sitting by the curb, legs spread wide open, wearing a dress. I couldn’t understand why my mother always told me to keep my knees together when I sat, wearing a dress, when she didn’t practice what she preached, but I listened and I didn’t dare open my legs wide in a dress. On this morning, Mom was laughing with the women, talking about the neighbors, the fighting and the ugly gossip always shared when wicked women get together.

I was sitting on the back porch playing with my dolly when Daddy opened the back door, screaming for my mama. She ignored his call. I looked at my daddy, seeing an evil look in his eyes. He pointed his finger at me, shaking it furiously he said: “You go get your mother and tell her I want to speak with her.” He paused, and then he screamed at me, “NOW!”

“Yes Sir,” I said, placing my doll on the floor of the porch.

I ran as fast as my little legs could move. “Mama, Daddy wants you. He’s been calling for you.”

She laughed, scratched her inner thigh and looked at me. “Well, girls I guess I better jump and go to him. You all know how these men in the projects get if the little woman doesn’t obey.”

They laughed. As Mama rose, Daddy met her. He shook her shoulders. Words were expressed, but I can’t remember exactly what he said. She laughed, then thrust her arms at him. He pushed her, knocking her down on to the concrete next to the metal trash cans. Mama hit her head on the trash can and when she fell she bruised her knees.

The gossipy, wicked women rushed away.

I struggled to help my mama up. I looked at my daddy, standing tall. Anger seeping from his eyes. I put my hands on his legs and said, “Daddy move away. Mama’s coming. Don’t push her anymore. That was a mean thing to do.”

I suppose one could say, on that day, I became the referee for our family. I was the middle child, but I refused to tolerate abuse and every time I was around, watching my daddy and my mother fight so dreadfully, I remember squeezing into the middle of the fight, placing my arms out to make them move away. I would always say, “Daddy. Mama. Stop this fighting. If you want to beat someone, beat me!”

When I was fifteen, I stopped the final fight. I arrived home from school. Excited to share that I had a lead in a musical! I was so happy and proud of myself on that beautiful Tuesday afternoon. Walking inside the house, I heard shouting and I knew, another round of fights was on. I listened to the shouts, cursing and the horror. I knocked on the door, then I pushed it open. Mama was bending down, gasping for breath. Her face was blue. Daddy stood, watching her, holding a stack of mail.

“You two need to stop this,” I screamed. “Look at her. She’s having difficulty breathing. You need to stop this fighting before one of you kills the other. One of you needs to leave.”

Daddy threw the mail in my direction. “Look at this. Just look at what she did. She bought a diamond ring and didn’t tell me. Now they’re going to garnish my wages. We’ll have to file for bankruptcy. Just look at what she’s done.”

I glanced at one envelope stamped with an orange Past Due notice.

“The fighting needs to stop before one of you goes to prison,” I said.

Little did I know how things would change.

The next day, I walked home from school, trying to work things out in my head. I knew domestic abuse wasn’t healthy in a family situation. I felt helpless. I had no one to talk to. None of my relatives would understand and I was certain if I said anything to anyone, I would become the trouble maker of our family. I remember hearing people saying fighting in a marriage was “normal”… “A Family Matter…”

Opening the door to the house, my mama was sitting on the couch in tears.  She rushed at me. “This is all your fault. I hope you’re happy now. Your daddy left us today. He’s dead. Dead. DEAD. I never want to hear his name again in this house and you are never allowed to talk to him, or mention his name again!”

The following Saturday, Mama moved us to Columbus, Georgia. Four children. One adult, living in a two bedroom mill village with our grandparents. To say we were crowded for space is an understatement.

I had to follow the rules:

Church on Sunday.

Wednesday night prayer meetings at church

No makeup (I broke that rule)

No rock n’ roll music, only Christian music

Go to school

Nothing more.

I hated this new life and rebelled. No, I never did drugs. Never tried alcohol. I rebelled by staying alone, taking walks, retreating to the Chattahoochee River. At school, I became a wallflower, refusing to try out for plays, musicals, or anything interesting. I wrote to my dad, letting him know I loved him.

Never do I really remember celebrating Father’s Day for my dad as a child. As a grown up, married with a child of my own, I chose to make Father’s Day special. I bought cards for my dad. When he visited us, he was different. I actually heard him laugh, and I watched him playing with my son. Gone from his demeanor was the anger, hatred, and abuse. Never did I hear my dad say anything ugly about our mother after their divorce. He was truly a changed man. No violence. No shouting. Just a kind, and loving man filled with Laughter and Happiness within himself.

In December, 1997, my beloved father became ill with esophageal cancer. Serving as his caregiver until his death on July 6, 1999, I truly saw a beautiful person within his demeanor. On one occasion, he thanked me for what I said on the last day before my parents separated. He admired my strength to serve as the referee. To my knowledge, no one within our family circle knew about the domestic “family matters” of our family.

As a writer, I’ve written many articles about domestic abuse. How it changes a family. How it paints a vivid, horrifying picture about marriage and I vowed to myself that no one would ever abuse me. I suppose I overlooked another side of domestic abuse – the verbal abuse, and for years, my husband who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD] from Vietnam, would get into rages, shouting at me. Once, he shoved me and when he did, I fought back, standing firm to him, letting him know he had to stop his rage, or I would end the marriage.

I’m proud to say, we worked those issues out, and now, we do not scream, shout or verbally fight. Our home is a happy home. Father’s Day is always special. I give thanks to God for guiding me and giving me strength.

And so, on Father’s Day, 2017, I give thanks to God for all He has given me and my family. It is my wish for all of you reading this, to please take a moment to give your father a bit of special care and love on this Father’s Day. Although I am still sick with bronchial asthma, I will find the energy to make this a most special Father’s Day, to my dad in Heaven, and to my husband while he sleeps.

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY to all the fathers!

Thinking of Sir Shakespeare Hemingway


035Dearest Readers:

Yes. I know, I’ve been a bit negligent with writing in my blog. If you recall, on March 7, 2017, I lost one of the loves of my life. My little Sir Shakespeare Hemingway. My life appeared to stop after losing him. I cried. Oh…How I cried. The tears were an endless, rushing ocean of tears I referred to as a tsunami.

My friends didn’t understand. Heck. I wasn’t certain I understood. I kept telling myself that I had to move on. After all, after the death of a loved one, life continues. The sun still shines. The rains pour. Bills are due. Life continues. But how? How could I learn to live without little Shake n Bake?

I do not have an answer to that question. I still called his name. I looked for him outside, resting on the corner of our lot, where he always rested to get his sunshine. He loved sunshine. I clapped my hands three times, so he would hear me and realize he needed to come inside, only he wasn’t there. I prayed for God to guide me and to ease my grief. I needed a sign and one morning, a fly flew into my coffee cup. Shakespeare knew me well enough to realize I wasn’t a bit of good to anyone without my second cup of coffee. On that morning, I picked up the coffee cup, ready to sip the second cup, only to find a fly floating in the cup of hot, fresh coffee.

I laughed! “Shakespeare,” I screamed! “You sent me a sign. Thank you. Thank you.” Tears rushed down my face again. Another torrential endless waterfall of fresh tears I could not stop.

I must explain. The water bowls for my dogs are strategically placed in the kitchen, bedroom and where I write. If Shakespeare was thirsty and something was in the water bowl, he refused to drink. He would place his paw in the bowl, attempting to remove a dead fly, or a bit of dirt. If that didn’t work, he would kick the bowl over, to let me know he wanted CLEAN water, not a dirty bowl!

So Shakespeare!

In four days, Shakespeare will be tucked safely inside my heart for three months. Yes. The tears are flowing again, and even though I am blessed with other dogs, I cannot stop these tears at times.

This week I’ve been super busy caring for my husband. He awoke on Wednesday with chills and fever. Knowing enough about medicine and health to understand that when one has chills there is normally an infection inside the body. I mentioned this to my husband. Of course, he grumbled, called in to work and stayed in bed. I decided it was best to ignore him. After all, I had planted the seed that he probably had an infection, or maybe…  he had pneumonia.

About 15 minutes later, he walked into where I was sitting at the computer. “I think I should go to ER.”

“That’s probably a good idea.”

Shutting my computer down, I changed clothes. Off we go to the infamous Ralph H. Johnson VA Hospital, ER. No doubt, this day will not be productive for a writer.

We arrived at ER about 8:30, maybe a bit later. Checked in to ER and waited. Moments later, someone calls his name and we enter ER. Those of you who know what it is like to go to a VA hospital will understand just how long it takes to see doctors. That didn’t happen for us. The doctors arrived, checked him over, ordered tests, chest x-rays, blood work, etc…Etc! At lunch time (1 o’clock or so) Phil mentions he is hungry. The nurse (a wonderful, caring male nurse) mentioned he would order him some lunch. Phil suggests that I go to the cafeteria and get some lunch since I haven’t eaten either.

“Oh, no.” I said. “I remember how disastrous their salads were the last time we were here. I’ll be OK.”

When the lunch arrives, it is much to my surprise, lunch for two. I seem to recall that when Phil and I were chatting earlier about my going to the cafeteria, I mentioned they would bring him lunch, but the wives, or caregivers who were with the veteran were treated as second-class citizens. “They do not consider how we might feel or we might be hungry and hesitant to leave the area since our veteran is sick.”

Oops. Looks like my voice must’ve been heard I say quietly as I open the box to a hamburger steak, lightly covered with gravy. Well done, limpy vegetables and cold egg noodles, but what the heck. I’m hungry! Believe me, I’ll not complain. It was a most considerate thought for the nurse to order two lunches!

About 2pm, the doctor returns. The diagnosis, “a bit of pneumonia.” When he shares the diagnosis, I think to myself  — Is that like a little bit pregnant?  I remain quiet. Listening…

Today, Phil is resting still. Earlier, when I checked on him, he was coughing. How I pray this ‘bit of pnuemonia’ leaves him soon, and I pray I do not get it. I’ve had pneumonia three times as an adult and when I get it, I am sick for weeks.

And, so today, while at the computer, I attempt to write again. Something I haven’t done much lately. At times, I don’t feel like a writer anymore. I suppose I’ve allowed myself to be lazy about writing. I must change that behavior and get myself back to the busy-ness of writing.

For now, I must go make my infamous homemade waffles for Phil and I to share for breakfast, or maybe an early brunch.

I’ve made a promise to myself this week. A promise to write more on my blog and a promise to get the story of “Chattahoochee Child,” completed.

I simply must WRITE again! Maybe in memory of Sir Shakespeare Hemingway who always rested curled at my feet when I wrote. I still find my left foot moving ever so slowly next to his curled little warm body so I can rub him while writing. Only now…that precious little boy isn’t there. Will this grief ever leave? What can I do to make it leave me? I don’t have any answers, but my heart is so full of his love.