I believe that from the moment of conception I was searching for a Miracle – I am far past the time when I can hope for a miracle. The hours before dawn, and a cold rain outside the tiny slave quarters pounds into my tiny heart. The grief is fierce as it raises and consumes my spirit, assaulting my senses. Memories emerge from the darkness, becoming one with my soul. I left a place of warmth and goodness to be channeled into a world of heartache and disappointment. In the depths of my wounded courage; I am listing in a sea of sorrow my life filled with more grief than many can bear. It is the hard cold hour before departing this misery. I search for a miracle, hope merges with despair, is my destiny to leave stop the beating of my heart and return home. I chose this path to learn of such things to take back to my creator, to show and feel human despair
The poem below was created by my thoughts about my grandmother, whom I never knew. The influenza pandemic of 1918–1919 was the most severe influenza outbreak of the 20th century. A virus called influenza type A subtype H1N1 is now known to have been the cause of the extreme mortality of the influenza pandemic of 1918–1919. The disease that caused this devastating pandemic has also been called the Spanish flu.
The influenza pandemic of 1918–19 resulted from such an occurrence and affected populations throughout the world. An influenza virus called influenza type A subtype H1N1 is now known to have been the cause of the extreme mortality of this pandemic, which resulted in an estimated 25 million deaths. However, some researchers have projected that it caused 40–50 million deaths. Many were not reported; they got sick and died without it being reported. During this pandemic, an estimated 25 million persons worldwide died of the so-called Spanish flu, which was first widely reported in Spain but originated in the U.S. state of Kansas.
My grandmother got sick and was dead three days later, on January 11, 1919. It would be 1954 before my daddy would place a tombstone at her grave; I was 15 years old. All those years later my daddy let me pick out the writing on the stone. “Mother is not dead; she is only sleeping.”
Two days after her death, she was buried. My daddy always believed that she was in a coma. He would say that they opened the casket for him to say goodbye to her, and her hand felt warm. He ran from the cemetery and did not stop until he reached the woods surrounding Tarrant City, Alabama. He spent several days roaming in the woods to find a reason for her leaving; she was only 34 years old.
The tombstone states Emma Hall Evans, but she was never married to but one man, Thomas Johnson, my daddy’s father. His grandmother Jane Hall had asked him not to be placed on her tombstone. My daddy said she was never married to any man. She lived with Thomas Johnson until he found a younger woman. Her maiden name was Overton; she had two children by two separate men that no one ever knew. She called them both Evan’s. He was a womanizer. She was never supposed to go anywhere unescorted after moving back into her mother’s house when Thomas left her. It was always thought that my daddy’s siblings were his half-sister by a white man and his half-brother by a Hispanic man. Yes, she led a colorful life, slipping out of the house at night going to the nightspots in Birmingham, then she slipped back in before daylight. Daddy’s grandmother had him sleep in his mother’s room, thinking she would not leave or that he would tell on her. He loved his mother with all of his being. He never told of her roaming around in Birmingham, Alabama, after her mother went to bed. He would be punished when it was noticeable that she was pregnant. He remained faithful to her until her death.
Few have known this kind of love between a mother and her children. I have been so very fortunate that the love between my children and me has followed in my grandmother’s and daddy’s footsteps. I was married to their father, he is now gone, but the love and trust between my children and myself have not waivered very much throughout these years.
During most of my life, I thought that I would die young; now at eighty-two I know that is not going to happen. I passed the deadline for that one years ago! I now live in that overwhelming situation that many elderly people find themselves in; sick enough to think that I am dying and well enough to keep breathing.
My body is bent and broken as I lean into that proverbial forest where I know that I will not go without food as I may have done in those younger days. Yet, the question may be how or why you hunger at all. Survival is no longer the situation; thought is given to if I even care?
Many of you may have had parents that would tuck you safely in your bed at night, tell you that “Everything will be all right”; but I did not have those parents. Mine dying of old age has since passed on, decades ago, my mother would not come home until long after I would have been in bed. My daddy, he patted me on the head like one of the dog’s saying “Nite”. If it was during the school year after the man chores, I was responsible for, I would finish my homework by an oil lamp, putting myself to bed.
The feeling became normal to living; I would eat whatever a nine-year-old could cook for myself and my daddy, write in a Big Chief note pad, love them both with all my heart and will until I join them wherever that may be! Well, just a note from memory!
I am back on-line and out of the hospital once again. I want to let you know about my latest episode with “Multi Myeloma”, bone cancer. I went into the Oncology center for my “Chemo” treatment Friday, August 20, 2021; the ride was uneventful as was the blood draw. I was taken to Dr. O, office for a consult before treatment. It was there that she informed me that my oxygen was low and that she was sending me via ambulance to the ER. The ride to the ER was the last thing that I rationally remembered.
I remembered one of the ER Doctors saying that I had, a fever, lungs filling up, Pneumonia, for many my age this is a death sentence! They begin treating the infection immediately, I explained that I needed to go home, that I had been in the hospital for two-half weeks, Rehab for two-weeks, and I had been gone from home for over one-month. Home only one day and was in Oncology for Chemo, I needed to go home. I remember IV’s and confusion!
I opened my eyes and it was still dark outside, a nurse told me it was August 21, 2021, I told her that I thought it was December 21, that my room was decorated for Christmas. She was very kind explaining that I had entered the hospital on August 20, 2021, it was early morning and there were no decorations in my room. Thank goodness she stayed with me continuing to explain that I was taking “mega” medications and that may be the reason for the delirium. I “thought” that I got up out of bed making my way outside where there was snow on the ground, a scene out of a movie “Four Season” that I had watched recently. I tried to remember the names of the other couple go no avail, not even the stage names or the man I was with, Alan Alda. My thoughts, I was dying and my children had decorated the room making it Christmas for me.
When morning light began to creep into the room my mind took another turn into the fantasy world of delirium. Christmas had disappeared, staff came in and out, I believed it was time to “shut up” and take in my surroundings, the only real thing was my son, Chuck.
With Chuck being there and a telephone call from Carl make me realize that they too had experienced this type of delusion, and Mia a wonderful nurse that stayed with me until he shift had ended. I continued to weigh in on my surroundings, I was suspicious of many things, and I tried to keep up with the staff, their names, and their positions in the hospital. I read each IV that hung over my head, the contents and did I know what they were giving me. My little knowledge of medicine gave me no help, but some of them I understood. The hospital was not trying to poison me! Chuck and Mia talk to me, he seem to have a great deal of understanding of what she was telling him, she had hugged me earlier, which was nice. I did begin to come out of it and by Saturday afternoon, once again had control of my senses.
My delirium is now gone… I had to spend several days in the hospital. The combo of medications placed me in that position, which I did not care for and hope to never experience again. I am back at the computer and tomorrow plan to work on my book.
My plan is to take all of the experiences that I have endured to put in the book that I had started before all of the health problems begin, Severe Anemia, Vitamin D Deficiency, No White Blood Cells, Cancerous Red Blood Cells, Bone Cancer and the latest a Broke Back and a Right Fracture of the Ankle, and on top of all of that Pneumonia. Yet, here I sit pounding out my latest story for all of you on the old keys. I and down but do not count me out!
I love each and every one of you and hope to work on a poem to post over the weekend, along with writing as much as possible on the book. The days are getting shorter and the deadline may be at hand. I hope that you will find my poetry books interesting and the book about my daughter compelling.
Take care of yourselves and each other.
*What are your thoughts on Sirhan Sirhan getting paroled?
On a cold March day, in a cold damp room, soft moans came from the young woman lying on the bed; a live skeleton covered with pale flesh, beneath her a cornhusk mattress covered with a collection of old newspapers and a worn out sheets made from bleached flour sacks. She had no choice but to wait for the reality of giving birth to an unwanted child. Her strength gone, she looked out the window at the moon; it appeared to be hanging on an invisible thread in the early morning darkness. She prayed to who she thought may be holding the moon in place; another invisible person like herself…GOD. In the waning March moonlight tears fell from the corner of her eyes as the unbearable pain finally ended. She looked toward the motionless baby at the foot of the rusty iron bed; maybe it was dead, she heard no crying.
“Miss Ruth you has a baby girl.” Allimay Schumaker was a neighbor and a mid-wife she whispered softly as she tried to place the baby in her mother’s arms.
“Get it away from me,” the sound came between clenched teeth, like a caged animal yet it was only a whisper.
Mrs. Schumaker tried again to place the baby in her mothers’ arms, “She so tiny Miss Ruth, I doubt she will live don’t you want to hold her”?
“Get it away from me”!
Ruth Viola White married in early May seven years before, she was a socially inexperience girl of nineteen who had never been out of Morgan County, Alabama. Raised on a farm she knew that sex brought on babies. It was her first time, and she became pregnant. She sat up on the back seat of Aubrey Drivers old car that Roy a man that she had known for a few weeks. I was her first time, she was nineteen and her parents were going to kill her. She insisted on getting married, the next morning in fear she rode with this handsome stranger and his friend Aubrey to Somerville, Alabama where they married, May 7, 1932. There would be no argument from the twenty-nine year old whiskey runner; he had been shot at enough in his lifetime. He came to Morgan County to hide from the law who wanted him all the way from Birmingham, Alabama to Chicago, Illinois.
Eight and half months later, Ruth had a healthy baby girl, she called her Billie Wayne; a name that no one had heard of, maybe someone she really loved. Ruth settled into the life of a farm helper’s wife, the little girl that ran beside her all day was beautiful, intelligent and the love of Ruth’s life. She hand sewed her clothes from printed flour sacks and lace given to her by neighbors; with a perfect child she did not want other children, she had hopes and dreams and they could not be accomplished with more than one child. In fact she did not want the husband that she did not know, but this was the South, in 1932, you married for life.
Ruth came from wealth that was gone by the time that she became the oldest of nine children. She knew what having money meant, and she knew that her husband would never provide it for her plowing fields and planting cotton. Ruth swore that she would one day have the respect that money could buy. She would hold onto the dream that would never materialize for her and her child? She held her new husband away as much as she could, he was a shy individual and his respect for women kept him at bay.
In July of 1938, Ruth found herself pregnant again; the hate was so severe that bile rose in her throat. How could this happen to her, the dreams for a future began to fade. Taking a dollar from their money jar she left Billie with a neighbor, Mrs. Schumaker and walked the rocky path down Burleson Mountain to where the old lady Ruby Ragsdale lived. Everyone thought she was a “witch”. The talk was that this old woman could mix a drink of bitter herbs that would do away with a pregnancy. Ruth was unyielding in her need to continue get rid of the baby and she would continue to drink it after she lost the baby making certain, no more babies, Billie was the only child she had ever wanted and she would be the only child she would ever have.
After a few weeks when Ruth found herself still pregnant she continued to drink the poison bitter herbs hoping it would get rid of it, she ate enough to survive and take care of Billie and the old log house they lived in. Her thoughts were, if she starved herself, she would starve the thing inside of her.
Ruth, still in pain felt the tiny blob slide out of her. She did not know if the baby was early or not, it was here and it was breathing. She vowed that she would not care for it and she would not be a mother to it. Ruth heard Mrs. Schumaker leave the room, she turned over and let the horror she had been through take over her mind. She did not know if she was praying to God or the Devil she hoped it would be possible that her prayer s would be heard, and this thing on the bed would die?
A barrel in the yard filled with burning wood shot flames into the morning air. The soiled bedcovers and the baby’s lifeline to its mother crackled as it fell upon the sizzling wood. Stirring the barrel with an old poking stick Mrs. Schumaker walked toward the breezeway separating the sleeping room from the room used for cooking. The house set in the middle of a cotton field located on top of Burleson Mountain, the logs were gray from age, built in the early-eighteen hundreds. Fieldstone fireplaces in the rooms were used for heat and cooking. However, Mrs. Schumacher admired Miss Ruth for turning the old place into a home for her child and Mr. Roy too.
Mrs. Schumaker returned, picked up the baby paused for a moment pulling back the cover from her face; two dark blue eyes stared back at her, curly dark hair curled around the baby’s shoulders; it was time to meet her daddy. Giving a heavy sigh she crossed the breezeway and walked through the door.
Roy Brown-Hawk sat on a handmade chair in front of the fireplace in the cooking room. He worried about his wife, and his new baby; his biggest fear, losing one or both of them. He had sat there for hours, he heard no moaning or cries of pain, the silence between the two rooms was still like an unmoving fog. Perhaps both his baby and his wife were dead.
Quietly Mrs. Schumaker came into the room, so softly that not one board creaked from the weight of her colossal body, she smiled, holding out the tiny bundle.
“Mr. Roy, you have a baby girl, dark hair just like you” she gently laid the baby in his rough work worn hands. He had rubbed lard into them all morning trying to make them softer knowing he might hold the baby. He laughed as he pulled back the covers from the tiny bundle so small she fit in one hand. Her little feet fell to his wrist and her neck rest on the tips of his fingers. She was the tiniest baby he had ever seen.
“Mr. Roy you need to get ready to maybe lose this little one, she is so small, I am worried about her and Miss Ruth she got no milk, and she don’t want her”. Mrs. Schumaker stood wringing her hands together dabbing at her eyes with the edge of her white apron. While Roy held the baby Mrs. Schumaker told him how to make a “sugar tit”,” I see you got clean white rags in a box in the other room, cut a small piece, wet it and put a spoon full of sugar in the middle; twist it until the end looks like a nipple on a tit”.
“I’m telling you Mr. Roy, I am sorry but I doubt she will live, her little lungs are not ready for breathing; I’m afraid she will die before she can feel her mama’s touch, it is so sad not wanting your own baby”. She looked at the baby, silently praying while her thoughts wondered.
Allimay Schumaker knew all of the White family, they were all pretty uppity, thought they were better than most people. Old Massa Robert White Miss Ruth’s grand pappy was a Captain in the Confederate States of America. He bought land all over Morgan County before and after the War; he owned the Mercantile Store in Hartselle, Alabama and a large Plantation not too far from town. His land holdings below Burleson Mountain was about two-thousand acres stretched from Rural Grove Road south under the Bluff, north to the Pool Bottoms that edged the Tennessee River backwaters and west to Flint Creek, of this land he deeded five-hundred acres over to his daughter Ira Mae and her husband Prentiss White when they got married. He built them a big house because he wanted lots of grandchildren. He lived long enough to regret his decision.
Miss Ruth’s daddy Prentiss White was the son of Robert and Annie Weston; Robert served in the War as well. He was comfortable after the war, but never acquired the wealth of the Whites. Ruth many times referred to her daddy as a whoremonger. Prentiss drank chased women and sold off the five-hundred acres of prime land to grow cotton bit-by-bit, he was too lazy to work and this would provide him with an income; by the time Miss Ruth married he had about five acres for corn, a ten acre pasture where he rented out for beef cattle to the owner of a tire dealership in Decatur, Alabama, E.G, Hamilton; he had the barn and the house on Rural Grove Road. A big garden, chickens, pigs and milk cows to help feed the family. They made a living off the land they had but no more.
Mrs. Schumaker knew about life taking a sad and depressing turn for Ruth when she got pregnant; but within eight months she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. She placed all of her time and energy on Billie. She treated Mr. Roy like an outsider and spoke down to him, now after seven years he spoke only when she spoke to him. Mrs. Schumaker wondered if the disgrace of her daddy, their being poor or being a field hand for him and the caretaker of the family made her horrible and mean spirited. The whimper from the tiny bundle in Mr. Roy’s hand brought her back to the present.
“Well Mr. Roy she is all clean and you need to call out Miss Ruth’s Uncle; that Doctor White from Hartselle”. She repeated herself dabbing at her eyes; “Miss Ruth shore don’t want this baby”.
“Well, I have to go, if you need me ring the dinner bell on the porch somebody will hear it. I have to go take care of my family; by the way, I’ll keep Miss Billie for a few days”.
“Thank you Mrs. Schumaker, I’ll be lying in a cord of wood for you helping Ruth”, Roy sat staring at the tiny life he held in his hands no more than twelve inches long and maybe two pounds.
Allimay Schumaker had nine children of her own, one more would not matter; she glanced in one more time on the lifeless woman on the bed.
She closed the door walked slowly up the narrow rutted road that lead to her house. She and her husband William had lived on Burleson land since their birth; both families had lived there for generations. Old Massa bought slaves but never sold them off, the old William was bought from the Schumaker Plantation, he was her husband’s granddaddy and he kept the name of his former owner. Allimay family had been on the Burleson Plantation for a long as she could remember; families born there remain together for a life time. Old Massa was a General in the War Between the States; it was a mystery how the Plantation survived, but his son kept it going, always believing the old South would someday return. Before she knew it, Allimay was surrounded by screaming happy children including Miss Billie. Now, to take care of the Schumaker brood.
Roy shook his head bringing himself back to reality; Ruth had gotten rid of the baby bed years ago, announcing that she did not want any more children. He lay the baby down on the fireplace hearth, going into the other room to search for a box. He found an old boot box, returning to the baby never looking at his wife. Ruth chose starvation trying to lose the baby, it made her weak and her meanness came out. He could not force her to eat, and he believes that her method may have worked as he stood looking down at the result of her starvation.
Ruth lay still on the bed, pretending to be asleep so she would not have to look at Roy, she knew “it” was alive and wished it would die. The watery blue liquid dripping from her breast did not bother her, she remembered the rich milk she had for Billie, but the memory did not soften her thoughts. She closed her eyes and fell into a fretful sleep.
Roy weighed the baby with a two-pound cotton pee and the she could not pull it down to measure, the baby was less than two pounds. Cotton pee, a bell like objects with a hook on it; was made of solid steel. A measuring bar would have a sack of cotton on one end and a pee of various weights put on the other to measure the cottons weight; this time the scale did not budge.
The Bown-Hawk’s and Schumacher’s, they all tried to survive the miserable days following the depression. Roy worked for Mr. Burleson, one of the wealthiest men in Morgan County; the land that their old log house stood on was Burleson land and at one time housed slaves that worked the land. They used the same well, the same chicken house and stanchion for the cow; the only difference in the house floors had been laid in several years ago.
Roy believed that Mr. Burleson respected him, he was a hard worker, and the land he worked yielded more than most who sharecropped. Time had not taken away the horror brought upon those long ago tenants; most people in the south continued to believe that Indians and Negro’s were lower than the animals on the land.
Roy returned to the baby in his hands, he stoked at the fire his thoughts wandered again toward the time when he first met Ruth. She was at a local Roadhouse in Flint, Alabama with her sister Emma Sue. Emma was out on the dance floor having a good time; Ruth sat at a table in the back of the room hoping no one would see her. She and Emma Sue had slipped out after their parents were asleep; Emma Sue had a boyfriend; they would meet at the bottom road below Burleson Mountain. If they were caught, it would be Ruth that got beat. She would be told that she should know better, not Emma Sue. She did not look like she wanted any company. Roy had known of the place for years, it was one of his stops when he was running whisky from South Alabama to Chicago, Illinois. No one could have told him then that he would have a wife and two daughters a few years later on that early March morning.
He had come to Morgan County because of Ma, his grandmother. His last run was a bad one, his car had been shot up by Tennessee law enforcement, and he had barely got away from them. People hired him to run whiskey, every law throughout five states was paid off except them ole boys in Tennessee, and they did not take bribes! He drove through Tennessee with his speed surpassing the power of any car and put the needle on his dash out of sight. He would laugh every time he told that story. Ma was right he needed to lay low for a while; it had been his dream to return to Birmingham to play baseball for the Birmingham Black Bears, a minor team. No one knew that it was him driving the car, no one knew his name. That was all gone, playing baseball lay dead in his past he had responsibilities now!
Ruth lay on the cornhusk mattress in the other room thinking of Billie, she was the only child that she wanted. Ruth had nine brothers and sisters, she help deliver most of them and raised them until the day her mama kicked her out for marrying Roy. Ruth had hope to stop at giving birth to one child, she was tired of being poor; she wanted to make a better life by going to work. She lay crying thinking that maybe her strength would return so she could take care of herself and Billie, for days she still held onto the idea that this baby would die.
Ruth could not help but think of Roy’s sister Vina, she hated her and the fact that her husband’s half sister lived well made it worse; Vina was a beautician that owned her own shop in Birmingham, Alabama. Her husband Wesley worked for a Birmingham steel mill and brought home good money, Ruth was envious and she did not care who knew it.
Vina had always thought that Ruth had not planned Billie either. Vina believed that Ruth found herself pregnant after a few roadhouse visits with her sister, after meeting Roy. She let it slip one day that once she had sex, and being a virgin, she insisted Roy marry her. Roy was the kind of man that he did just that, and Billie had been born eight months and two weeks after they married. Roy had not planned a child either. His dream did not lie in the cotton fields of Northern Alabama. Nevertheless, he was a decent man, and he thought this was the right thing to do.
Ruth appeared disappointed that the baby had survived such a difficult birth. She was very ill herself, both physically and mentally; unhappy that she had another child, one she did not want. She could not think about it any longer, she rolled over falling into a fretful sleep; maybe when she woke she hoped that she would have a funeral to attend.
Old Doc White, Ruth’s Uncle came after the day after the baby was born; he was her mother’s brother lived and practice medicine in Hartselle, Alabama, and he traveled all over Morgan County attending people who could not get to him. He said the baby was too small but seems healthy enough and Ruth was despondent as many mothers are after delivering a baby. He said only time could help his niece or the baby. He left saying he would register the baby’s birth when he returned to Hartselle. Absent minded as he was, he registered a no name baby girl. His niece had said she would not name a dead baby.
Ruth chose not to have anything to do with the baby; she left it up to Roy to care for her. Their oldest daughter, Billie tried to help but the ability to care for a tiny baby and her mother was possible.
Roy could see that it was impossible to leave Ruth, Billie and a baby to work the fields. He walked a few days later to the Schumacher’s and called his sister Vina. She came that night to stay with him for a few days. Vina had given birth to baby girl born only weeks before, the baby was stillborn. She and her husband Wesley had two boys, Everett and Jimmy, and they hearts could hardly conceive losing her. She was in mourning, but she loved her brother and he needed help. Vina knew that Ruth did not care for her but she always tried to overlook her actions. When she arrived, she found Ruth despondent and Roy worried, both were at odds with each other. Ruth had refused to try nursing or care for her baby. Now she was upset that Vina was there, within days, Roy agreed that the baby could return to Birmingham with Vina. Vina, left with the baby in a boot box stuffed with cotton from the nearby field and covered with several flour sacks for a blanket, Ruth had not prepared any clothes or diapers. It would be several years before Roy would return to his sister’s to bring his baby home, that would also be on a warm March day.
March is a beautiful month in Northern Alabama. The buttercups, lilac and forsythia bushes were blooming around the Two-Pen cabin Roy called home. Kudzu vines would have covered the makeshift chicken house and the “Outhouse”. Beyond, a small barn surrounded by razor sharp Johnson grass bordered acres of freshly plowed ground waiting to nurture the seeds growing into what the south called white gold … cotton.
Author’s Note: This is the true story of Aunt Francis, an old colored lady who came to live at the farm where we lived in 1944. She was respected and loved by everyone who met her; except for my mother and sister.
Aunt Francis as she told me to call her lived on this earth over 100 years. Aunt France born in 1865 was the daughter of slaves. She thought herself to be watched over by the Angels, her mother and father were never sold; they were still together at the end of the War. They died and were buried on the same plantation where they were born.
Her birth name was Sarah Francis Belew; she came into my life when I was five – years – old; she was seventy nine. My daddy needed someone to watch over me while he was in the cotton fields; and my great-grandmother was getting on in age, ninety-five. My mother worked in town and she would come home most times after we were all in bed and she would be gone before most of us got up. She asks to be called Aunt Francis. I realize when I became older that calling her that could be placed in the racist category. However, in those days my daddy who was discriminated against himself; nor I knew much about being racist. My mother and sister on the other hand I doubt thought much about being racist, with my mother it was more hate than anything else; and my sister followed in her footsteps.
Aunt Francis was because of several conditions. Daddy went to the cotton gin in Priceville, Alabama, pulling a trailer of freshly picked cotton with his tractor. When he returns in the trailer, where the cotton once lay was Aunt Francis sitting in her big rocking chair, it would be safely to say that I wondered how her legs could carry this gigantic woman; but there she was an indigo blue dress with pink flowers scattered across the material. Covering the dress was a white bib apron that like the dress reached to the top of her shoes. Beside her a huge trunk which held all of her worldly belongings.
It was a Monday, mothers off day from the beauty shop. A “fight” quickly develops when mother ran to the back porch of our farmhouse wanting to know why “the old colored woman was there”. She knew Aunt Francis, but act as if she were a total stranger.
Everyone in Morgan County knew that she live in a lean-to in the back of the general store. If one does not know what a “lean-to” is, it is a three-sided building place against another building, no windows, and one door in, one door out. She lived there with her son Gus. It was her only child and the story was that she was raped b a white man, the results being Gus. She was too old to work the fields and no one wanted her for a maid or cook. So, she and Gus lived behind the store. He worked for the store at night cleaning it for a place to live and groceries. He had been accused of stealing money and placed in jail with a one-year sentence. The owner of the Priceville General Store put Aunt Francis out on the edge of the road, her rocker and chest. It was said that he had someone to tear down the lean-to and burn it along with the beds, table and chairs.
We had a little one room shack across from our house, it had a small pot belly stove and a table and chairs, and bed. I help as much as I could and we cleaned up the shack and moved her in, daddy cut wood for the stove and brought her canned fruits and vegetables out of mother’s pantry, to tell her when she wanted meat he would bring it from the smokehouse. He also told her that I would bring her potatoes from the garden. Fresh milk and water from the spring house. She was all set up before the sun set that day.
Mother did not want her there, but took advantage of it by saying she could clean, wash and cook for the family. Daddy looked at her saying, that she was not brought there to do any more than help watch me and my grand-mother. My mother was very unhappy with the situation. Now she had two to “put up” with.
She disliked Ma my daddy’s grandmother living with us, and now an old colored woman. Daddy’s grandmother had raised him when his mother died of the Spanish Flu. She was a full-blooded Native American, Chickasaw. Daddy sometimes would say to me, “You know that your mama married beneath her upbringing”, I would be much older before I understood the inference of what he said. I also felt bad for my mother she had made the mistake of marrying one of the most handsome men in Alabama. Dark, strong, a beautiful Chickasaw man. Well it was not the kindness and love caused her to marry him. My guess is that when my sister was born eight months after she med him, that was the answer. Of course, it always set my sister off into a tantrum when I would say that they had to get married. When I was born, my mother did not want another child. She gave me to my daddy’s half-sister, she kept me until I was three – years- old; when I could almost take care of myself daddy wanted me home. I had some of the most wonderful care givers in the world, my daddy, Ma (my great-grandmother) and Aunt Francis.
Therefore, I grew up learning how to act, live and survive; these lessons came from Ma and Aunt Francis. I was a young woman when I lost both of them. Ma along with my daddy had given me full knowledge of “The Ways” of their people, the nobility and strength. Aunt Francis gave me the meaning of life, to be alive and how to survive. She also, gave me the graciousness, and how a young woman should act. I doubt that I have lived up to their expectations of me, I have tried.
When I returned to Alabama to attend the funeral of Aunt Francis, it had to be one of the darkest days in my life. My daddy had taken care of her until the day she died. She moved into town when daddy left the farm when I was twelve- years – old, he found her a house and paid her rent. He gave her spending money and brought groceries to her weekly, from a list she prepared for him. My heart aches at the thought of how much she meant to us. In many ways I miss Aunt Francis more than I do my own mother. She raised me gave me the love I did not get at home.
Later in life I painted a picture of Aunt Francis in Acrylics, I wanted her to be young and alive. I have the picture today. Then much later I begin to write poetry, naturally the piece created “Another Spring for Aunt Francis” was for her. I have to smile at remembering her huge body walking across the creaky boards of the old tarpaper shack. The long dress covered with a starched white apron. Most of all I remember her hugs and kisses, she loved me and I loved, still love her.
Oh yes, the racism, being raised by Native American daddy, my Aunt (daddy’s sister), a great-grandmother and Aunt Francis, the daughter of slaves. I went into life with a different perspective than that of my mother and sister, and all of my mother’s people. I myself was discriminated against because I was the daughter of a poor Chickasaw farmer.
The poem below was created for my Aunt Francis…
Another spring for Aunt Francis
Her knees bend forward away from the worn out rocker, her legs getting their bearings while she made a puckered brow while looking out the window at the garden. Everything dies she thought; soon the fragrance of spring will be gone.
She narrows her eyes looking into the hedgerow at the end of her flowerbed to see if the sparrow hawks have returned, slowly she turns keeping contact with the old chair, holding onto its arms. After one-hundred listless summers, her soul still feeds on emotions of the stillness of the sweet-scented honeysuckle growing around her front porch.
Holding her breath she falls back into the chair, it shudders under her weight. She knows not to take her being able to stand for granted. Closing her eyes to rest, bible in hand, and her thoughts were none other than she could get back up another time, another spring. Maybe!