My thoughts: Survive

My thoughts: Survive

 

Survive

 

The art of not giving up. Life is survival. If there is a symbol to represent survival it would be ” the dash- a run for it”- It could be a hyphen,  placed so deliberately between the year one is born and the year of death. In my own life I survive when the family falls apart-when the dog has to be put down-when a friend becomes distant and silent.

I see refugees and immigrants being tossed across the world by the storms of war and apathy. Nobody seems to notice their pain.  They survive.  Some don’t.

We stand up when it would be easier to lie down or stay down. We endure heart breaks and separations. We survive poverty.  We pull though. We exist like green blades of grass that grow in the cracks of concrete.

Survival skills include the word ” wilderness.” it is an area of desperation and desolation. Void of love, kindness and nourishment – be it for the body or for the soul.

Tortured souls become numb and pass out when the pain is unbearable.  Every human being as a breaking point. A broken heart is a heart attack.

There are those days I grieve- the loss of youth- ignorance and vitality. We have regrets and ambitions.  We survive the consequences of bad decisions.

Maybe it was omission. ” I should have but I didn’t.”

Maybe it was greed. ” I asked for too much.”

Maybe it was delusion” I imagined the outcome differently.”

Whatever you think survival is.  I think it’s life.

 

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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Heartaches

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Heartaches

Made in 1963 at my grandparents 4 room house in Cross Plains, TN.
My family.

 

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words.  This one is a look into the future.  It was made by my GrandBonnie with her little Brownie Kodak in 1963 in her yard in Cross Plains, Tennessee.  No one is standing close enough to touch anyone else even my youngest brother, Clay is trying to find his mother.  My mother’s fingers touch his hair.  He is her child.  My brother, Dale standing with his hands to his sides like an obedient soldier is protected by my father.  It is best not to move and to smile for grandmother. Of course , I stand on the end of the line with flowers in my hand.  I am the one that clings to nature.

In 1986, My brother, Clay was murdered in the streets of Nashville.  He was twenty six years old.  It was an honorable cause: to rescue and protect a damsel from her ex-husband.

My mother died in Jan 2012 from a heart attack.  I think it was more a ” broken heart.”  In my family people buried their worries, their feelings and when my brother passed my mother’s persona changed to that of an addicted gambler.  She spent her days of sorrow at ” Kentucky Downs” an appropriate name.

My father died Nov 2014 from lung cancer.  He chewed on cigars when he was upset.  I inherited his car.  The auto repair man said, ” This car was driven by an angry man.  The pressure to the brake pads is worn out.”

My brother, Dale has had heart attacks, heart surgery and now self-medicates with whatever he can smoke or swallow.  He has inherited the farm and can now change the sign in the front yard,”  Harold Covington and Sons.”  I passed the other day.  The sign is rusted and faded.  It still says the same thing, ” Greenwood Farm.”  Nothing is living there so I doubt the green.

Today I am sixty two.  I have a husband that works in North Dakota.  I live in Nashville. My two children have chosen their own pathways-the opposite direction of mine.  I cling to nature and smile.

I ask that you drag out of the shoe boxes and the albums old pictures of your family.  Maybe you will see something you have never been aware of.

 

 

Feeding Babies

Feeding Babies

Wbreast feedinghen a mother is told ” Your milk is not good enough.”  Capitalism is born. For the USA it started in 1950.  Milk companies taught mothers to be ashamed of their bodies and to doubt the integrity of nourishing their babies with their own breast milk.

I was born in 1953.  My mother feed me with Carnation milk and Karo Syrup.  Quite nourishing- growing babies on milkshakes- no vitamins-no antibodies- nothing except sugar and milk.

In 1978 I had my first child. My mother marching up my front porch steps had a very big box in her hands.  It was a dozen glass baby bottles.

Looking at her struggle with the container I smiled and said, ” Mom, I don’t need these.”

She didn’t understand.  We didn’t talk about female issues:  menstrual periods, sex or having babies.  That topic was more like underground conversations- polite people didn’t utter such words.  Pregnancy came and babies were born- that simple. Her face wrinkled into a frown and then she looked up at me and said, ” Is the baby ok?” I assisted her to sit the box on the porch floor and opened the front door.  We settled at the kitchen table.  The kitchen table was the hearth of conversations and relationships. It was annointed with glasses of sweet tea with sour lemons.

My due date was only a couple of months away.  It was her intention to supply me with glass bottles and cloth diapers.  She sat in the chair and settled into a cigarette.

” No bottles?”  How are you going to feed a baby?  Are you crazy?”

” I’m going to breast feed, mother?”

” How?” she asked.

” I guess I can do it. Mothers have fed their babies for thousands of years.”

” It’s just risky, she said.  You have to depend on your own milk and most women can’t do it.”  She puffed and took a big hit off her Viceroy cigarette.  The kitchen filled with smoke and confusion.

I noticed her hands.  Brown and callused. Her hair was thinning.  Her wrinkles not ready to display her face of worries quite yet.  She was only forty nine.  Her menopause had been quiet and tormenting.  She never said a word.  I was too wrapped up in my own hormones to notice.

” When I had you women were told to be ashamed, to cover their breasts that only poor women fed their babies ‘ that way.’ ”

” Well, I think I can ask my grandmothers.  They fed you and dad.  It was only your generation that started having this ” no-breast-baby-generation.”

Years passed.  I had two babies.  I breast fed them both.  I could have done better but I had to go to work and still it was unacceptable to feed babies after the age of  one.

My daughter has fed her daughter by breast feeding. Both are happy, healthy and bonded.

The world didn’t pollute them.  Capitalism was killed in that connection.  Mothers learn that they are capable of feeding their babies without a milk company. Women are powerful. We cannot lose our power and self appreciation.

 

 

 

She turned trash into gold.

She turned trash into gold.

My mother’s ruby red glasses were made out of gold

A thin layer of shinny crystal on the brim

They were her most valuable possession

A lasting impression.

She turned trash tobacco leaves into gold.

It was a time of happiness,harvesting the crop.

Mother had little education. No degrees.

Working hard, as any man.

She  turned trash tobacco leaves into gold.

Out into the hot sun she dared to  go.

Along with sweaty sunburned men

She endured the long hard days

Bending love with callused hands

She tied dirty leaves  with a rubber band.

She could have married a banker

She could have owned a diamond ring

Across her brow she wore a long bandana

To keep the salt from out of her eyes.

 

Way before the dawn the cooking pots were steaming

The hungry men  surrounded her table

until the food was gone.

Back to the fields till the sun went down.

Today my mother passed away.

No more will she pay …

Those ruby red glassess , they’re worth a fortune.

Golden ruby glasses

made from trash tobacco leaves.

Made from trash tobacco leaves.

 

 

 

 

 

Cut

Cut

blood-scissorsThe Vines  choke the trees.

Cut them with an ax.

Slice them with your knife

Cut them. Cut them.

Carve wood into little animals.

Saw them with the chain.

Slash the weeds at the root.

Eat them with a machine.

Cut them. Cut them.

Pierce your ears. Poke them with a needle.

Push it through the ice.

Be careful not to cut them.

Sculpt a human face. Mold it in your hand.

Shape it to a form. Cut the eyes into  place.

Shave off the whiskers. Shave the fur from your face.

Defuzz your hairy armpits be careful not to bleed.

Trim your nails. Trim the tree. Trim the dress. Trim the grass.

Stab the chest. Stab the pus. Stabbing wound.

Bleeds into the grass.

Rip the shirt. Ripped with anger. Rip it up so fast.

Chip it up into little pieces. Hammer into glass.

Stop being so destructive. Stop being so cruel.

Cut it .. Cut it. Cut it  out.. you fool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Empty Life

An Empty Life

 

pill bottle

 

What do I have left over from my mother’s life?  Today it is a plastic drug bottle that I found in a drawer- no top, and a label that read:” Gabapentin take 1 to 2 tablets every evening for sedation.” The date on the bottle is 3/16/2011. A yellow sticker reminds her to not drive.  The drug has had numerous lawsuits.  It’s rarely used for its original intention and is used more for old age complaints like muscle pains than it is for “epilepsy.”  I don’t know why I saved the bottle.

My mother died Jan 6, 2013 from a heart attack.  I think it was a broken heart. Two days ago she could have celebrated her eighty sixth birthday- not that she ever celebrated birthdays.  She died alone sitting in a chair in her living room.  I heard the story of the ambulance and the ride to the emergency room at the graveside ceremony by a minister who had little to say about her: “She bought me a cup of coffee at the diner in Cross Plains.”

Nobody called me when she left to go the hospital.  It took fourteen hours and a phone call from my daughter that was in another state to let me know she had died.  Nobody called to tell me to go to the “family viewing before her funeral.”  Her funeral lasted one day.  There was no viewing or family creating neighbors.  It was all over quickly.  Her obituary was two lines.  She lived. She died.

The last time I sat beside her she tried to slap me. We were sitting on the sofa. In her right hand she clutched a pill bottle. She was waiting for my father to take her to the doctor.   It was the same doctor that had written the Neurontin (Gabapentin) she clutched in her hand.  For the last few weeks she had all the symptoms: insomnia, dizziness, no appetite and the worst: a look of fear and terror in her eyes.

“Mother, let me take you to another doctor.  The reason you feel this way is because Dr. Jordan did not renew this medication.  I looked it up and the warning clearly states, ‘Do not stop without slowly reducing dosage.’”   She turned away and looked out the window.  Seeing my father and Tammy, my sister-in-law, in the driveway.

“I have to go.” Her voice sounded like a sickly child.

Her hands were trembling. She clenched her teeth and made a feeble attempt to slap me-not with her right arm because her shoulder was dislocated and had been for six years.   After an accident on a tractor where she fell off a platform rigged by my father to spray Round-out, weed killer on weeds growing in fence rows.  He was driving.  It was a rocky unbalanced terrain.  She tipped over from the plastic chair that was not secured to the tractor.  She landed on the hard Tennessee clay. The first surgery didn’t work and after that she said, “I’m not doing this again because it might hurt.” She started eating with her left hand, writing with her left hand and eating in paper plates.   The injured shoulder remained dislocated and useless.  Her shoulder drooped. Her right arm was now longer than her left.

Tammy opened the front door in time to witness the scene.  In her giggly voice said, “Let’s go, Beamama.  Granddaddy is waiting!”

“Do you think you know more than the doctor, she growled?”

Tammy held the front door ajar.

“No, mother, but I do care more.”

That was the last time I had a conversation with her.

Months passed.   Food I took to her was laid out on the front porch, uneaten and untouched. No one returned my phone calls.  At first I went to visit her by sneaking in the house while my father was outside.  He spent his life outside: as a construction worker and after retirement he bought a riding lawnmower. He didn’t have respect for people who “worked in the house.”  He either mowed the grass till it refused to grow or went to his barn “to visit my real friends.”  They weren’t people.  They were horses.  He was over eighty years old and had fallen off of three of them.  He’d been in ICU in Vanderbilt and the last time he’d had to stay in rehab for a broken femur.  He had the horse shot. It wasn’t the horses fault.

Opening the front door I noticed the rugs laid on the beige carpet. It isn’t normal that people have rugs on carpets. My mother was deathly afraid of being called dirty.   On the rugs were fringe-the fringe were arranged and spaced in a uniform way- laid out like soldiers in a row. There was so much silence in the house. I felt-empty and almost like a burglar. One can make no sounds when you walk on carpet.

I called out to her. She didn’t answer.   She wasn’t in her bedroom. The room was immaculate. Pillows laid in rows across the head of the bed.  It all looked like a “Better Homes and Gardens” display- everything matched. The room smelled like “old people.” – a sort of moldy heavy odor. I ran out.

On the other side of the living room, down the hall was my father’s bedroom.  My mother discovered that his bedroom was the farthest away from a blasting TV. When she moved in his space he slept on the sofa or in a recliner complaining that she was taking over again.

Upon entering his bedroom I saw her- a small body, a lump of sorts, under the white sheet only her gray hair was showing.

I remembered my father in one of his rants said, “Your mother has been trying to die for six years. She’s given up eating food months ago.  She dared not drink water because she said, ‘I’m tired of peeing all over myself.’”

I knew what he was talking about.  Since they’d moved into this house everything that was her life was left in the old house: flowers planted in crooked rows when she was pregnant, stories and conversations with friends, visiting on the porch and watching the birds come to their feeding places her children growing up. My mother was my friend.  We raised cows, mowed yards, took care of grandparents, and went to skating rinks and swimming pools.  At that house she was in control.

Upon seeing her lifeless frailness I didn’t know what to do.   I left her house.  She died five months later.

She has been dead more years than the date on her tombstone.

Today is Christmas Eve.  Trying to organize my desk I find her memory: an empty pill bottle of sedatives to remind me of the last Christmas with her.

 

pill bottle