Untold Stories

Untold Stories

When her death left us all behind,
so many questions came to mind.
Why couldn’t I have asked them when
she could have answered, way back then?
What she told voluntarily,
about her life and family tree
was always very carefully chosen—
the details all rehearsed and frozen.

The same stories she told over again
about the things that once had been,
but so many things she didn’t say,
afraid, perhaps, she might display
sad facts of life she always hid—
the underside that she forbid.
We would laugh and joke and kid.
Unpleasantness we never did.

She was a good mother. Supportive, kind,
always helpful in a bind.
Generous and always there.
Full of loving, thoughtful care—
that same care that I tried to show her,
although, I fear, I did not know her.
That little girl who lost her dad
and favorite sister.  Was she sad?

Mom never talked of it so we
simply let the subject be.
The stepfather she didn’t care for—
what were the details and the wherefore?
How did it feel to give her hand
to a stranger, then to move to land
so bare and rolling with grass like seas,
empty of people and of trees?

Was she lonely? Did she have friends?
How did they come to make amends
the time she left my father and
took my sister by the hand
and went on home, angry and bitter.
Did my father come to get her?
All these family stories bold
were hinted at but never told.

My mother’s foolish Southern pride
would not permit the underside
of life to show. She tucked it in—
to display unhappiness was sin.
To please her, we followed the rules.
Joking and kidding were the tools
we used to hide unpleasantness
and thereby circumvent the mess

of sadness and humiliation.
Easier to show elation.
We told our secrets to friends, but we
withheld them from our family.
What stories took they to the grave,
my parents, generous and brave?
All those things they thought to spare us
come about to greet and stare us

in the eye on occasions when
we reminisce about back then.
“I  wonder what?” is perpetually
my thought about my family.
With parents gone, I don’t know how
we’ll ever know the answers now.
And because I barely knew my mother,
I am still looking for another.



The Day 10 NaPoWriMo prompt—yes, two days late—was to write a poem that is a portrait of someone important to you. The WordPress prompt was “pleased.”

35 thoughts on “Untold Stories

    1. lifelessons Post author

      She did. I feel that I’ve somehow misrepresented her. She loved us and was always so supportive. The only thing she ever didn’t want to know was anything negative, and so there were huge chunks of my life she never knew, and we never ever heard about any of the sadness in her own life. Nor did she want to hear about problems. She sometimes intuited them and tried to remedy them, but they were never ever talked about and the few times I tried I was answered with the phrase, “I never told my mother anything that I thought would make her unhappy.” Implying, of course, that I should do the same. So I did.

      Liked by 3 people

  1. mumsthewordblog1

    Ask while you can because tomorrow they may no longer be able to answer!
    Beautiful post, but sad. As a Mum, I want my kids to feel they can tell me anything, good or bad.🐻

    Liked by 2 people

    1. lifelessons Post author

      Thanks, Jilly. I feel the most poignant longing for answers to those questions every time I think of my mother. She was fun, loyal, generous, smart and a good poet. I just miss those details that really fill in a person and foster greater intimacy.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. calmkate

    My mother is so similar … no talk of troubles or addressing of issues … no conflict ever allowed so many things go unresolved. But beauty is that she was one of ten … so what she wouldn’t share we got from her sisters. When ill or needing to talk at a deeper level there was one aunt who filled that gap! Sadly she is the last of the ten and still avoiding …
    Fortunately this gave me the choice to be like her or not … I like to confront issues head one. Many are put out by my direct manner but I’m learning more ‘diplomatic’ ways. And had a career listening to others problems.


    1. lifelessons Post author

      Sadly, my mom was the youngest so most of her sisters weren’t there to know what was going on and the sister who died at a young age was the one nearest her age. My aunt did help reveal one chilling story told to me after my mom’s death. I should tell that story one day but it is rather unbelievable so I balk.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Debbie Lynn

    Powerfully written. Maybe its best not to know every little thing about someone and love what they gifted us. I don’t know…it’s that way with my dad. He shared so very little about his growing up years. I try not to dwell on the unknown and marvel at what a great father he was. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lifelessons Post author

      I think it was the same with my father and mother. Optimism and a need to create a better life, but my dad would have periods of silence one every few years that rocked our world. I think he felt he couldn’t share his worries and so he internalized them and became morose. I will always wonder what it was that drove him away from us during these periods.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. D. Wallace Peach

    This is lovely and moving. I think many families have secrets. And even if they don’t, as children we rarely think to ask about our parents’ lives. Only later in life, when we discover how complex and poignant the human experience is, do we seem to desire more understanding with our parents’ stories. Wonderful post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Allenda Moriarty

    This is such a fascinating piece. Look forward to reading the one you alluded to described as chilling. Don’t balk, I am a believer!


    1. lifelessons Post author

      Remind me in a few days, Allenda? Hectic right now editing a new book. Give me a hint as to the subject as I won’t remember by then. I’m hopeless. No kind neighbor to serve as my memory. Duckie does a pretty good job of it, though.


      1. lifelessons Post author

        Oh no. I’ve already forgotten what story I was going to tell. For the life of me, can’t remember any chilling story..Oh. Just did. If I need reminding at a later date, it is about the bed at the top of the stairs. That should jolt my memory…


  6. http://www.salpa58.wordpress.com

    I find that parents of my mothers and fathers generation didn’t want to talk about anything upsetting to them. All of my grandparents had passed before I was born. I did ask questions but the answers I received were not totally true. I found out some truths after my parents had passed but there are many unanswered questions. We had great parents, they loved all six of us but maybe because they all went through such hard times they just wanted to forget and live for the future. I guess we’ll never really know the whole truth, but, love conquers all I guess.
    Great post, you’re not alone.


      1. lifelessons Post author

        ???? I can’t imagine why I would have said it was about an imaginary family. I must have been referring to a different poem or story as this one is all true. Strange what we find when we go back to read old posts!


  7. Pingback: Maternal Support | lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown

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