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Archive for the ‘fathers and daughters’ Category

The mystery of kin . . . family in dark and light and in between

I stumbled on this in my archives while searching for something else. It was on the cusp of my 50th birthday, five-ish years ago. Now Daddy is gone. In photographs, the people are disappearing one at a time, and when you stare at the photographs, you do not know who will disappear next. It is a mystery, same as the heart can be. I don’t often re-post, but I’m still away from home – weather in NC and around-about has delayed my returning . . . .

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“I don’t belong here, and I’ve had to turn my not belonging into a triumph.” — Lynn Freed

All along the mountain and in the valley and in the corners and nooks and crannies and odd little places no one has ever seen except in passing barefoot while keeping the eye on a future and a past that lurks somewhere around the corner, and in those places were rocks hide small creatures, and in the shaded areas that hold critters great and small, and in those high high tops where hawk flies, and in the low places where the rodents run, in all those places, here and there on the mountain and in the hollers, there hides the secrets and mysteries that make up our families, ourselves.

Dear Readers, my dear ones, do you wonder about the mystery that is your kin? Or have you received the answers you are proud to know, or some that you’d rather not know? Do you remember what you thought and felt and longed for when you were a child? Do you think: Who was that child? What and who made me? Why do I long for the things I can’t have or can’t know?

This me who is Me holds mystery, and as I charge into the exact middle of one-hundred, I look into the corners where the dust lies, look where the cobwebs undulate with my passing, where the tiny cracks in the floor hold specks of dirt that have been tread down and down until the soil is a part of the wood. I look into the dark places, shining a light that can barely penetrate that which does not want to be found.

daddy

And it was while my daddy visited me, when we rocked together on the porch, staring out over the mountains as the creek sang to us, the wind pushed against the trees, the coffee steamed like tiny ghosts from our cups—it was then Daddy told me how my biological momma’s brother, my uncle, had years and years ago killed a man and was sentenced to death row.

I stopped rocking, turned and said, “I had an uncle on death row?”

Daddy nodded. “Your momma and I wrote letters of appeal and those letters got him released.”

I said, “I never knew him. I never knew that.”

He told me what he knew, which isn’t enough. Secrets are buried deep into the West Virginia mountainside.

I want another cup of coffee with Daddy, soon, soon. I want to rock and sip while he tells me stories of relatives from my momma’s side, and I want to cajole from him stories of his own kin, those Tennessee relatives I know very little about. Too many secrets on both sides. Perhaps some are too painful to speak aloud—I can guess from the black and white photographs holding the spirits of people who stare back with haunted eyes—as if uttering memories will make them come alive and wanting and real again, the spirit-words taking the awful shapes of those who would harm and become a full and dense being, a dark and ugly billow of smoky spirit shape.

I insert images of my momma running barefoot in the in the mountain forest, her feet turn black from the West Virginia soil, her skin is brown from the sun, bird-track freckles across her nose, her hair fans out behind her, her mouth stretched in a smile. She runs to catch a glimpse of the wild horses in the valley below, and she aims to capture one, jump astride him, and ride rider ridest!

And there’s Daddy! Young and strong in Tennessee, his hair stands on end, fingers greasy from peanut butter and fresh-churned butter sandwiches, his legs pocked with mosquito bites, one hand scratches the inflamed bumps while the other hand points and laughs at a friend dangling from a hickory tree. And he runs to the tree, a full-force boy run, and up up he climbs to find his own thick branch, and he suspends, feet hooked across the limb, the back of his legs bark tattooed, his head pointing to the ground, and the laughter falls from his mouth and down into the ground where it sinks into the earth and spreads until there is a tremor, an erupting, and up from the dirt pushes hope. Oh. I can see it. Can you?

My uncle killed a man, stabbed him until he was dead, went to death row, and was released. My momma and my daddy wrote letters of appeal, “It’s not his fault. You must understand that it’s not his fault. If you only knew his poor young life you would not do this thing.” And such was his young life that they released him. Such was his young life, that they released him. They released the young boy who became the man. I am at wonder with thinking of that.

I think about my blood, and what is rushing in my veins that comes from kin. I think about the black and white photos. I think about the unsaid things. I think about my blood—at times hot and boiling from the ancient line of my people.

I claim the title of Proud Mountain Woman. I claim the blood of my relatives that erupts wild with heat. I claim the blood of my Great Great Grandmother, that Proud Blackfoot Woman. (Do I claim the blood of the murdered man?) My kin, my blood. My proud Hillbilly blood is deep, buried far underneath my skin, down into the marrow of my bones, my strong gleaming bones.

My uncle kills a man, spills his blood upon the earth and it seeps far far into the West Virginia soil, seeps down deep, red turning to brown turning to black, and the man falls hard, his last thoughts no one but he knows. And my uncle stands with his legs apart and raises his eyes to heaven, a keening howl issues forth from his throat, and he lifts his hands to the sky with that man’s blood upon them, an offering. On death row he sits. Death row he waits until the boy is set free. And I see him well before his blood boils over to bursting, a young boy running from his demons (the ones my momma does not want to remember as she runs to catch a glimpse of the wild horses) my uncle’s skinny legs pump hard, the tears drying on his battered cheeks, fast, faster, fastest, his young red blood not quite blistering, only the simmer is there, rushing pumping beneath his skin as he runs to hide in the deep mountain woods, hides away from the terror that is his father.

When I was a little girl, I had no thoughts of lost relatives. No solid remembrances of my biological momma’s hand on my fevered brow—the hand I knew came from my adoptive mother, Daddy’s wife. I had little girl wishes and wants and magical thinking. I imagined myself astride a dark stallion, racing through the forest, his mane flying into my face, my long ponytail whipping behind me. His hooves thundered, matched the beat of my young girl’s heart. I rode to things (and I rode from things). I’d come to a clearing in the woods, dismount, and from my pack I’d withdraw a curry brush to wipe the sweat from my stallion. I’d drink a bit of water, and eat one of the apples, the other apple saved for Flame, or Midnight, or whatever horse name I was young girl in love with at the time.

When you are nine, ten, eleven, twelve, well, any future is possible than the one you really have! So I’d dream and imagine and wait. I’d ride my bike, pretend it was my stallion. I’d say, “ho boy, ho,” and make that gnick gnick sound to get him to trot, then canter, then gallop, then full speed we’d go, our hair flying.

Now, not young, not quite old, I still imagine myself astride my dark stallion, hooves thrumming through the forest, my head lowered, his mane flying into my face, my short hair sticking up crazily from the whipping wind. At the clearing, I call, “ho, boy, ho,” and dismount to brush out my beauty, drink my water, eat my apple and give the horse the other piece of fruit. And we look out over the Great Smoky Mountains. My Stallion lowers his head and munches grass, and I lower myself to the grass and lie on my back to watch cloud formations, listen to the crunch and snuffle of my imagined horse.

I lie still and think about my blood, and who I am, and my secrets and their secrets and our secrets. I think about family and strangers and friends. I think about my mother, the woman who opened her arms to raise my brothers and me as her own. I think about my biological momma running to catch the wild horse without knowledge of my one day coming to her so she could one day release me. I think about my daddy running to climb the tree high higher highest. I think about my uncle running from everything that hurt until he finally hurt back.

This is what I am thinking about today.

 

Wednesday F4A: Strange Occurrences – Shadow Men, Strange Lights, and Synaptic Weirdness abounds? . . .

There are things we simply cannot explain. They may seem as if a dream, but we know they are unlike any dream we’ve ever had—somehow we sense they aren’t dreams at all, but something more, and what that more is, we cannot exactly fathom. As when we dream of a friend or loved one after they have died, and though we may dream of them many times, there is that one particular dream that is Different and in that difference we feel there is a message or something we should pay attention to or some, dare I say, visitation perhaps?

I wrote a few years ago about the Shadow Man who visited me. I was asleep on the couch and I awoke and there “he” was – darker than the night, a “living shadow,” a complete dark shadow man. Though I saw no features, I “knew” he watched me as I slept. One hand was draped casually on the back of the couch. I thought, “Who is this? What is this?” but I fell back into sleep again, unafraid.

A went back to the couch several nights to see if he’d return, but he did not. I at last went into in my living room, in my nightgown and slippers, my hair wild and my eyes searching, and didn’t feel silly a bit as I said, “Go home, okay?” Maybe he did.

A shadow man had come before, right after my beloved brother died, in 1994. Oh-so-briefly he was at the side of the chaise longue I’d fallen asleep on. That time I was startled and afraid and he left very quickly—perhaps it was my brother and he sensed my fear and left me. I sense someone, David?, beside me the next day of his funeral, walking with us. I know I did. Imagination? Wish?

Then came the night about a year ago where I closed my eyes and I do not know if I was awake or asleep or in that strange in-between, but I saw this incredible light, inside my head not in the room, and the light glowed like no other light, and a “doorway” appeared, and in that “doorway” I saw a shadow man. This shadow man was taller and thinner than the one at the couch. He stood in the “doorway” and behind him was that light, and I felt this incredible peace, this sense of well-being. I hate to say it, but I felt what people describe when they have a near-death experience, except of course I was not and am not dead—lawd, maybe you all can verify this for me by acknowledging my existence *laughing* lawd.

Then, a few nights after that, I saw the light again, but this time it was very brief and much more like lightening, brighter and more intense, but flashed and flashed and then was gone. My synapses run amok? I’m having strokes and don’t know it? I’m going insane? I’m just weird and that’s that and that’s that? Who knows. Perhaps my brain is in over-drive. It oft-times is, in different ways. But it peaks my curiosity.

Is all of this connected? Am I losing my mind? *laughing* I think a writer’s, or anyone else’s, imagination is a wondrous thing, and I like to think I stay in the reality of knowing some things are imagination and some things are explainable and some things unexplainable simply because I unintentionally make them more than they are, or simply because they are anomalies I cannot explain away.

What of the light? A dream? What of the shadow man watching me as I slept on the couch? Another dream? Who are these shadow men? What do they want? Or if I have conjured them, why have I? What is the purpose of it? Oh, the mysteries!

The last image I will share is one I had when my father was dying this past October, and at this time he was in a coma-state. I laid beside him many hours, but in this particular time, I had my head against his and I fell deeply asleep—we were all so exhausted—and I had this most beautiful surreal dream that was unlike any I’d had before. In this dream was a gorgeous horse and the horse galloped up up up into the blue sky. Sometimes I think the horse itself was blue, but now I have a hard time remembering that. Mostly, I remember the horse gracefully galloping into the clouds above and then I woke with an incredible peace and serenity, and a wondrous awe. I felt, well, special, for having seen this horse.

I assure you, I am perfectly sane (hahahahha –my friends and family beg to differ. Haw!) But when I write all this, it all sounds a little “out there and woo woo.” Maybe having a “creative mind” brings things both conjured and not conjured, and I accept this as theory/fact/zippity do dah zippity ay. Maybe the brain is too active on the creative/non-logical side and flips and blips and snaps—wheeeeee!

Not long ago, I watched a show on National Geographic about savants (I am not a savant, I am not saying or implying that) whose brains were affected at birth or by a trauma and the “creative side” was more alive and active than the “logical side” – the logical side was almost “dead.” These savants were Mega Ultra Creative – some no longer leading “normal” lives. I wonder, then, and it seems plausible, if some creative minds are somewhere in between, caught in some kind of synaptic wonderland that causes blips in the brain, and thus . . . well, these kinds of occurrences that seem “odd” or like dreams or imaginations come and go and we are left scratching our pea-heads about them. *shrug* beats me! *laughing*

What about you? What “strange” or surreal occurrences have you experienced that you’d like to share? If you have never had any, then what do you think about those of us who do? Be honest!

Friday Shoot Out that didn’t happen…and "God Bless the Child Who Has a Home" discussions, etcetera!

The photo is my beautiful mother Ruth Virginia who adopted me, and my two brothers. How young she looks! How hopeful for the future she has no knowledge of, but she did not turn away. She is holding my younger brother.

I will be late with my Friday Shoot out (which is outdoor food: something that will be difficult for me to photograph – but, I will use my imagination if I have to: I encourage you to visit the other Friday Shoot Outers, though!). As I am late with telling my Vegas Trip Tales. As I am late with telling of my Book Club Tales. As I am late with . . . so much more!

I have really good reasons.

First, I became interested in the post discussions below, about Mothers giving up their children; and do Father’s get a pass? And what about Fathers who want a bigger role in their children’s lives and are not given that opportunity, and what about Father’s who do take that role of mother and father, etc etc. I hope you will join in. Of course, this is a theme I am interested in for personal reasons, and for Tender Graces reasons, and, just because I see how much passion it brings out in people, particularly women, as not many men have responded: Barry and Gary have (Gary on Facebook-where my blog posts also go and the discussion is there, as well).

I also want to direct you to Angie Gumbo Writer’s space. She is asking a question about literary mags/zines, and this is something we both are interested in knowing the answer to . . . Visit here at Gumbo Writer and throw in your two cents, or a dime, whatever you can afford *smiling*

Tonight is the author’s reception at Osondu; tomorrow is the Book Fair. Hope to see you there, those of you who can attend.

(PS – Missy has started this at her book nook , supporting local authors, and I think it’s a great idea, and no, not just because she featured TG first *laugh*….)

Let me tell you bout the birds and the bees and sad stories under willow trees

I’ve decided to put up a little gentle short story – a bit at a time – I’ve always loved this little story. It’s just something I wrote one day because I saw a man and child fishing, their backs to me, and I can’t remember why this particular story needed to come out in the way it did. There’s no place for it, really, so I will share it here. I’ll put up a bit at a time, and it should take 4 or 5 days to have the complete story here. If you haven’t been by Eazy Cheezy’s place, I’m still there! And more guests will be coming ’round, too….

The next book giveaway “contest” is going to be on Thursday!

Here is the first section of “The Fishing Day”–
Their two backs face a weeping willow tree. Long wispy branches reach out to them as the breeze lifts things lighter than the heaviness. The sun is rising, illuminating what only a few hours before was hidden in shadow. The father shows his daughter how he baits the hook with a worm. She watches, her nose crinkles and so do her eyes—she is smiling because her father is smiling, because they have this day. The father’s shoulders are broad shoulders, but he is thin. The thin caused by unnatural loss of appetites. His once robust frame has wasted away over the months, and he cannot notice to care.

Strands of the daughter’s long brown hair, the kind that is never thick and wavy, but straight and delicate, blow like the willow branches, up and over, landing across the father’s arm as he bends toward her. He cannot feel the tickle of her hair as he concentrates intently on his task of baiting the hook. The tiny hook is sharp, and he accidentally pokes his finger with it, and watches as the blood beads quickly at the surface. The wound feels numb now, but he knows it will hurt later, throbbing in the middle of the night while he lies sleepless. The small puncture will spread inside, unseen, until it becomes infected, red and raw. He knows he will worry it at night, rubbing his finger against the bedsheets to stop the itching pain. For now, it does not matter, for the numb allows him to pretend it will not hurt later.
When at last the worm is threaded, the daughter throws out her line and watches as the cork bobs and then stills. She likes how the minnows swim up to investigate, then dash off, little silvers of light. Her father readies his own pole and casts the line, his cork landing farther out and away from his daughter’s line.
There are only nature sounds, the birds calling to each other, splashes from fish chasing the minnows, the occasional branch falling in the distance. Ducks glide toward each other, meeting in the middle to dip their beaks, their sleek reflections wavering on the pond’s glassy surface. A fat bee buzzes by, then turns back, circling the daughter’s head three times. Another bee, just as fat and black and yellow, joins it. With unseen wings, they quickly fly around her before racing off together. The daughter laughs. The father wants to laugh, but finds he can’t help but stare across the pond beyond the other side. His lips haven’t laughed in so long, they are stiff and unnatural feeling. He works them, trying to smile, trying to mold them back into the shape they used to be, when he laughed, smiled, and said I love you….
(to be continued…)
(image from fotosearch at google images)
PS – from Kimmi’s place I saw her Wordle, so I had to do one (Angie – it reminds me of your poetry you did – the one for Dancer’s Cap!) – I did mine – it’s in the sidebar – pretty cool!)

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