Tag Archives: Family relationships

Bearings

Bearings

“I’ve lost my bearings,” she said to me, perplexed. She was sitting alone in her room, surrounded by piles of clothing on the bed and floor around her—the collapsed small tents of abandoned full skirts, the shards of scarves and small mismatched clutterings of shoes.

She had been abandoned in a daydream world that only she lived in, but that she seemed as confused by as she was by those of us who tried to visit her there. For her, even changing clothes had become an insurmountable obstacle—a challenge that rivaled childbirth, an unfaithful husband, an addicted son, an autistic grandson. It rivaled the war she’d staged against her much-younger sister—the power she held over that sister by her rejection of her. It rivaled her efforts to enter the world again as a single woman and to try to win the world over to the fact that it was all his fault. It rivaled her insistence that it was the world that was confused in refusing to go along with all her beliefs and justifications.

She had barely if ever left a word unspoken when it came to an argument. It was so simple, really. She was always right. That everyone in the world, and more particularly her younger sister, refused to believe this was a thorn in her side. The skin on her cheek itched with the irritation over the unfairness of the world. She had worn a path in it, carving out a small trench so that the skin even now was scaly with that road traversed over and over again by one chewed-off fingernail. “Are you she?” She asked me, and when I admitted I was, she added, “Oh, you were always so irritating. Even as a little girl. Why could you never be what anyone else wanted you to be? You were always so, so—yourself!”

It was my chance, finally, for an honest conversation with this sister 11 years older—more a crabby mother always, than a sister. A chance if she could keep on track long enough to remember both who I am and who we both once were.

“So what was wrong with how I was, Betty? With how I am?”

“Oh, you were always so . . . . “ She stopped here, as though struggling for a word or for a memory. I saw her eyes stray to the floor between the door and the dresser. “There’s that little fuzzy thing there,” she said. I could see her eyes chart the progress of this creature invisible to me across the room.

I hung on to the thought she had so recently abandoned. “But me, Betty. What do you find wrong with me?”

Her eyes came back to me and connected, suddenly, with a sort of snap that made me think we were back in the same world again as she contemplated by last question. I tried to keep judgment out of my own gaze—to keep her here with me for long enough to connect on at least this one question.

“You were,” she said, and it was with that dismissive disgusted tone she had so often used with me since I was a very small child. “You were just so mystical!”

I was confused, not sure that the word she had used was the one she meant to use.

“What do you mean by mystical, Betty?” I sat on the bed beside her and reached out for the static wisps of hair that formed a cowlick at the back of her head—evidence of the long naps which had once again taken over her life, after a long interim period of raising kids, running charities and church prayer circles, and patrolling second-hand-stores, traveling to PEO conventions and staying on the good side of a number of eccentric grandchildren.

“Oh, you know. All those mystical experiences! The E.S.P. and all those other stories you told my kids. And Mother. Even Mother believed you.”

Then a haze like a layer of smoke once more seemed to pass over her eyes, dulling her connection to this time and reality and to me.

Her chin trembled and a tear ran down her cheek. She ran one fingernail-chewed index finger over and over the dome of her thumb and her face broke into the crumpled ruin of a child’s face who has just had its heart broken, the entire world of sadness expressed in this one face. I put my arms around her, and for the first time in our lives, she did not pull away. We rocked in comfort to each other, both of us mourning something different, I think. Me mourning a sister who now would never be mine in the way that sisters are meant to be. Her mourning a self that she had not been able to find for a very long time.

“Oh, the names I have been called in my life,” I was thinking.

“Oh, the moon shadows on the table in the corner. What do they mean?” She was thinking.

The last time I gave my sister a fortune cookie, she went to the bathroom and washed it off under the faucet, chuckling as though it was the most clever thing in the world to do. She then hung it on a spare nail on the wall.

When I asked her if she needed to go to the bathroom, she nodded yes, and moved in the direction of the kitchen. Then she looked at the news scroll on the television and asked if those were directions for her. If there was something she was supposed to be doing. And that picture on the wall. What was it telling her she was supposed to do?

In the end, I rubbed her head until she fell asleep, covered her and stole away. I’d fly away the next morning, leaving her to her new world as she had left me to mine from the very beginning.

Prompt words today are hang on, contemplate, daydream, bearing and surround.

Self-Realization

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Self-Realization

He’s going to take a small vacation—a hiatus, so to speak—
but his family has mixed feelings toward what it is he’ll seek.
He says he must discover the words to his own song,
but they wonder why it is that they cannot sing along.
It seems this is one journey that he must make alone.
They can’t Skype him from their laptops. They can’t call him on the phone.

Organization for his  journey will be strictly alphabetical,
making for a travel plan that is less theoretical
but based on whimsey—something that’s been missing from his life
since he embarked on his career and since he took a wife.
He might start with Algeria, Australia or Agora.
And next choose Bangladesh, Berlin or Bora Bora.

Then he’ll take a plane to Cuba, to Columbia or Crete.
Until he’s finished the whole alphabet, his trip won’t be complete.
What he’ll learn on this journey, they’ll have to wait and see.
“This journey’s not for you,” he says. “This journey’s just for me.”
He’s retiring from his family for a year or two.
“I’ll be a different man,” he says, “when I come back to you.”

His family can’t believe it when he commences packing,
and when he’s gone, at first they feel that he’s sorely lacking.
But after a few months, the hole he’s left just slowly fills.
The kids take problems to Grandpa, and Mother pays the bills.
His son enrolls for driver’s ed and learns to drive the car.
A new guy comes to town to fill his old spot at the bar.

At dinner parties now his wife becomes the handy single,
so she can pick and choose occasions wherein she can mingle.
The TV’s set on programs other than golf and fights,
and no one ever chides them to turn off all the lights.
His daughters’ dates don’t have to meet with him to be okayed.
His wife does not consult on each and every purchase made.

Slowly, all his family feels less and less bereft.
After a year they barely remember that he’s left.
So when after two years they hear a key turn in the lock
one night approaching midnight, it’s somewhat of a shock
to find their old dad home again–bearded, stooped and worn,
long locks descending from a head formerly neatly shorn.

No arms reach out to greet him. No shouts of joy are heard.
They find his presence strange and his appearance most absurd.
When he sees they’re watching “Dancing with the Stars,” he’s clearly shaken,
and he’s crushed they are not curious about the path he’s taken.
In every empty room, there are still lightbulbs glistening,
but when he starts to chide them, he finds no one is listening.

When he goes to check his car, he finds that it is missing.
He hears noises in what was his den and finds his wife who’s kissing
a stranger he’s not seen before. Has his whole life gone crazy?
He takes some time off for himself and things go upsy daisy?
Then, finally, the truth hits. While off looking for himself,
it seems that his whole family has placed him on a shelf.

His son has commandeered the car, his daughters came and go,
never introducing their dad to any beau.
His old job has been filled and his family’s fine without him.
Even buddies at the bar seem somehow to doubt him.
He sleeps down in the basement while some guy sleeps in his bed.
He’s been divorced for desertion, or so the papers said.

His wife’s new husband’s given him a week to pack his stuff
and head once more into the world, where living will be rough.
All those years he quested to find out more about him,
it seems to be the truth that his life went on without him.
So though he found himself at last, there’s no place where he fits.
Having a self with no place left to put it is the pits!!

 

 

Prompts today are mixed feelings, theoretical, hiatus, song and journey.

Black Sheep

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Black Sheep

Your baseball cap conspicuous among the Easter hats,
you intersperse beatitudes with sounds of batting stats,
and when you are not muttering, you whistle or you hum.
Everywhere we’ve gone, you have stuck out like a sore thumb.

I try to introduce you to acquaintances or friends,
but your chatter never ceases. Your prattle never ends.
These one-end conversations are getting rather dry.
We cannot get a word in, so in time we do not try.

Last year you kidnapped Grandpa and took him to a bar,
then left him in an upstairs room—teeth floating in a jar.
Once we had reclaimed him, we gave thanks that you had vanished,
and this note is just to tell you we’ve decided you are banished.

You’ve embarrassed us at Christmases, at Easters and Thanksgivings,
so we have decided that we have certain misgivings
regarding future visits. In short, we hope you’ll never
seek to reattach past family ties we hereby sever!

Prompt words today are sound, carriage, conspicuous and baseball.

Confession to an Errant Grandchild

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Confession to an Errant Grandchild

From the first, I called you “Piggy,” my small bundle in a poke.
You grew into a ham, as though you got the silly joke.
In return, you called me “Brammer,” for your whole younger life.
I ignored your teenage insolence, which cut me like a knife.

For years, you called me nothing, while off roaming with your friends.
I waited for your twenties, when you would make amends.
Those foggy baby early years, I’d held you in my arms,
your most ardent admirer, a captive of your charms.

When your parents fussed, I was always on your side.
Made cookies for your naughty friends, embraced your errant bride.
Wiped your babies’ noses, patted their small behinds,
as they toddled off to school, observed from behind blinds.

 So many decades later, sitting by my bed,
not knowing it was just a cold, fearing I’d soon be dead,
you asked why I was always there and why I didn’t balk
at your teenage indifference and your dismissive talk.

What was germane to the matter, I finally confessed,
was a truth which on your own you might have never guessed.
As I observed the recklessness of you and your rude crew,
In every naughty act, I saw a bit of me in you.

Prompt words today are brammer, germane, foggy, ardent and joke.

Career Guy

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Career Guy

By the time that he gets home at night, his wife is muttering,
but he’s too busy for analysis. Therapy’s not his “thing.”
She says they must examine whether they should part.
He says business takes precedence over affairs of heart.
Even when he’s finally home, his attention’s rarely won
by all her little anecdotes of what the kids have done
at school and right here at home. She tries to draw him in,
but still his mind’s not with her. He’s intent on where he’s been.

This goes on for years and years until one day he finds
when he gets home at nine o’clock, that she has drawn the blinds.
And when his key turns in the lock, there’s no one there to greet him—
no friendly cooking odors or kids are there to meet him.
Nobody in the bedrooms. Nobody in the hall.
When he enters the kitchen, nobody there at all.
He tries to think what day it is, but he doesn’t know.
Could it be a Friday night? Could they be at the show?

He searches for a note that says where everyone may be,
but his intensive searching ends in futility.
No toys are scattered on the floor. Their closets are all bare.
No TV noise is blaring. No footsteps on the stair.
His briefcase on the table has papers sticking out.
He has a lot of work to do. Of this there is no doubt.
And since it’s not his nature this paperwork to shirk,
he mixes a martini and settles down to work.

Of course his business flourishes once there are no distractions.
He need not fill his home life with discussions and reactions.
He has gained three hours or more to work thus unencumbered.
Frozen dinners and new contracts filled his life until he slumbered.
He saw their pictures on the fridge when mixing a libation,
and once a year he saw them when they were on vacation.
He walked his daughter down the aisle the day that she was married,
trying to fulfill his role, though he was slightly harried

over the Dixon contract, yet he sat worry aside
just long enough to witness as she became a bride.
Later there were grandkids and other celebrations.
He sent his warmest wishes and his congratulations.
He always paid the child support on time with no exceptions.
He made a show at baby showers and birthdays and receptions.
But he never really showed them his affection much until
he finally revealed it, much later, in his will!!!

 

Prompt for today are busy, anecdote and examine. Here are the links:
https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/04/17/rdp-wednesday-busy/
https://fivedotoh.com/2019/04/17/fowc-with-fandango-anecdote/
https://onedailyprompt.wordpress.com/2019/04/17/your-daily-word-prompt-examine-april-17-2019/

Generational Angst

Generational Angst

She could not quench her anger over all the agitation
caused by her father’s ire, or her mother’s castigation.
Their home life was a parody of what a life should be.
They were a group of separate “I’s.” There was no “us” or “we.”

He surveyed his daughter mainly from afar.
The only time she deigned to talk was to usurp the car.
She was so disrespectful he could barely hold his tongue.
Why was it so difficult to converse with the young?

She’d thought she’d have a daughter to fuss over and dress.
but when it came to this one, she was driven to confess,
her daughter lately gave no sign that she had once adored her.
Rather, all the indications were that she abhorred her.

Her mother dressed in mom jeans and her dad tucked in his shirts.
Then looked askance when she appeared in bandeaus and short skirts.
When they tried to speak her language, it only caused distress.
TBH, they had not a clue, and she could not care less.

This is the modern family. The parents sorely vexed.
The daughter is embarrassed, her mom and dad perplexed.
Why can they not communicate? Where is the veneration
that seems to be missing in this modern generation?

Parents cannot understand because they don’t recall
all of the resentment, embarrassment and gall
that they once felt for parents back when they were teens.
This disdain from their daughter was passed down in their genes.

This too shall pass, I’d like to say. Give it a little time.
The year will come when being parents will not be a crime.
Her growing up and having kids will be the end of it.
You’ll be her heroes once again when you can baby sit!

 

Words of the day are quench, parody and castigation.

It seems that Daily Addictions is no longer publishing prompts, so if someone knows of a daily word prompt not given below, please leave a comment for me in this post with a permanent link to that prompt. (One that will work everyday)

Here are today’s links:
https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/11/12/rdp-monday-quench/
https://fivedotoh.com/2018/11/12/fowc-with-fandango-parody/
https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2018/11/12/castigation/

Family Night

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Family Night

Grandma’s tired of pussyfooting, Mama’s tired of tact.
Daddy has lost his silken tongue. I fear that is a fact.
Grandpa has no further wish to sugar coat and pander.
We’ve had an epidemic of hereditary candor! Continue reading

Dental Retaliation

 

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Dental Retaliation

Do you remember toothbrushes lined up on a rack
in the medicine cabinet, at the mirror’s back?
Your father’s brush was ocean blue, your mother’s brush was green,
your sister’s brush the reddest red that you had ever seen,
whereas your brush’s handle had no color at all—
as though it was the ugliest sister at the ball.

How you yearned for color, reaching for your brush
as the first summer’s meadowlark called to break the hush
of the early morning while you were sneaking out
to be the first one out-of-doors to see what was about.
Making that fast decision, your hand fell on the red,
thinking your sister wouldn’t know, for she was still abed.

You put toothpaste upon it, wet it at the tap
and ran the brush over each tooth as well as every gap.
Each toothbrush flavor was different, your older sis had said,
so you thought it would be different brushing your teeth with red.

Your father’s brush was blueberry, your mother’s brush was mint.
Your sister’s luscious cherry—its flavor heaven-sent.

“But because you are adopted,” your sister had the gall
to tell you, “they gave you the brush with no flavor at all.”
You waited to taste cherries, but that taste never came.
That red brush tasted like toothpaste. It tasted just the same
as every other morning when you brushed with yours.
You heard your sister stir upstairs, the squeaking of the floors.

You toweled off her toothbrush and hung it in the rack
and started to run out the door. Then something brought you back.
You opened up the mirror and grabbed her brush again.
A big smile spread across your face—a retaliatory grin.
The dread cod liver oil stood on the tallest shelf.
You were barely big enough to reach it for yourself.

You dipped her toothbrush in it, then quickly blew it dry.
Replaced it, shut the cabinet, and when you chanced to spy
your own reflection in the glass, each of you winked an eye.
Then you ran out to cherry trees to catch the first sunbeam
and brush your teeth with cherries while you listened for her scream.

Yes, we really did have a cherry orchard behind our house. You can see the trees peeking up behind the wild rose bushes directly behind the trellis in the picture above. This is my older sister Patti and I.  Yes, she really did tell me I was adopted. (I wasn’t.) No, I never did smear her toothbrush with cod liver oil. The retaliation part is just a mental one, sixty-some years too late, I’m afraid. She has since redeemed herself.

The prompt today is toothbrush.

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.”

Wish List of a Youngest Daughter


Wish List of a Youngest Daughter

Off and on, I’ve been wishing
my dad and I could go fishing.
I guess my sister could go along
so long as she does nothing wrong
like catch a fish bigger than mine
or tease or hum or brag or whine.

Perhaps she’ll sit back in the bed
and not up in the cab instead,
so Dad and I can be alone—
the truck a sort of “private zone.”
He’ll hit the bumps real hard so she
will wish she was in front with me.

Just like I always pray and pray
her friends and she will let me stay
with them, when they come for the night
and play without me, door shut tight.
Marvelous fun had down the hall,
but not with me.  I am too small.

That’s why, when Dad tells me a joke,
I’ll laugh real loud until I choke;
and my sister, sitting there behind
might feel left out, but I don’t mind.
And when we get to where we’re going,
to the stock dam, cattle lowing,

Dad will bait my hook for me
and sister, too, and then we’ll see
who will catch the biggest fish.
I guess it’s obvious that my wish
is that I’ll catch the biggest one,
and sister will go home with none!

The prompt today is “Fishing.”