Chattahoochee Child, Family, Uncategorized

Chattahoochee Child – Excerpt


Over the years, the expression “Blood is thicker than water,” gave me a new understanding about that fictitious statement. If the blood within my family circle as a child was thicker than water, I recognized our biological blood never existed.

            Savannah, my disabled sister, was always described as the least attractive and illiterate family member. When she was born, she was diagnosed with Symbrachydactyly, a condition referred to as webbed fingers. As she grew older, she found ways to use the condition to her advantage. Her right thumb refused to grow. Kids at school laughed at her and I was reminded not to hit her, or mistreat her because she was the damaged baby of our home. She would not reach the growth stature of other family members, and she would always suffer due to her disability. Violence wasn’t in my nature, so I never hit or shoved Savannah. On the other hand, Savannah learned to push, slap and shove me, simply because she was damaged goods, and she knew she could get away with any misbehavior, even though she was the oldest, not the baby.

            When she was a teenager, she excused her cruel, violent behaviors due to her not liking me and her little, undeveloped thumb.

            “You always think you’re prettier and better than me,” she spat.

            Smug inside myself, I laughed. “That’s where you’re mistaken, Savannah.”

            Pausing, I waited for her attack. “I don’t think I’m prettier than you, or better than you. I KNOW I’m both. I’m more popular than you with the boys and I have more friends. My grades in school are much better than your grades. So, dear sister – you are dead wrong about me!”

            Yes, I could’ve lowered my standards to her level and reminded her she was a bit ‘afflicted’ due to her ‘disabilities’ but I chose not to be the damaged goods falling from the apple tree.

            Now, as an adult, Savannah practiced violence constantly. When I visited, she looked at me, smug and ugly. “You still think you’re so much better than me. Look at you. Dressed in high heels and fine clothes. Just who the Hell do you think you are?”

            Choosing to ignore her, I walked away. She rushed after me, hitting me with a ruler on my back. I spun around.

            “I could do some real damage to you, Savannah, with my high heels. You do realize high heels are a good weapon. If you hit me again, I’ll call the police. I’ll have you arrested. I’ll not lower my standards to violence even though we grew up in a violent home. Obviously, you chose to walk in your mother’s shoes.”

            “Bitch. I can do whatever I want. I’m your sister.”

            “Blood only,” I spat. “You’re nothing to me.”

            Our mother met us at the door. “Just why did you come home to start fighting with your sister?” She asked.

            “I came home to make peace, not argue with her, or with you. She started this attack, not me. Obviously we can never make peace. Every time I see Savannah all she wants to do is to fight with me. I am nothing like either of you. I chose to break the mold.”

            I spun on my heels and headed to the door. Savannah rushed ahead of me.

            “Bitch. You’re not leaving until I’m done with you.” Her hand brushed my face hard, stinging like a fire or a bee sting. She shoved me, knocking me down.

            Gracefully, I stood up, brushing the dust and filth from my clothing. I smiled. “I’m leaving now. If you hit me again, I’ll call the cops.”

            “Bitch. You ain’t calling no body.”

            I pushed her away, rushing out the door.

My mother rushed to me. “I guess you’re leaving now.”

Curling my lips with a self-assured smile, I whispered. “I am leaving. I’m done with all of you. You’ll never hear from me again.”

            “Before you leave, could you give me some money? I need to buy some groceries.”

            I shook my head. “Mother, you are absolutely an unbelievable human being. I’ll not give you anything ever again. Goodbye.”

            I rushed to my car. Driving away I refused to look back, or to wave bye to the biological family I refused to become.

Chattahoochee Child, Domestic Abuse, Family, Uncategorized

Domestic Abuse — “A Family Matter”


Dearest Readers:

Below is an excerpt from “Chattahoochee Child.”

A FAMILY MATTER…

Domestic Violence…Domestic Abuse… Regardless what it is called, it is truly a vicious monster. A wild, destructive monster that roars with such anger and turbulence I vowed never to allow it to knock at my door as a grown up. There were times I felt domestic violence knocking at my door, especially whenever Garrett felt threatened by his green eyed monster of jealousy. At times I was horrified of my husband, especially on one occasion when we were fighting most of the day. He was in one of his PTSD rages, shouting at me, raising his fist, threatening, and when his anger got the best of him, he thrust his fist through the doorway of the hall. I jumped back.

“Was that directed at me?” I asked him, rubbing my face.

He smirked. “No. I’d never hit you.”

I raised a manicured finger at him. “If you ever hit me, our marriage will end. IMMEDIATELY. Domestic violence is something I will never forgive.”

Garrett rubbed his fist. “Whatever,” he said, walking away.

In my marriage I was blind sighted to domestic violence. I made excuses. He didn’t mean to swing at me. He didn’t mean to squeeze my arm so tightly, he left a bruise. I smiled at the wrong person. Garrett just doesn’t understand. I LOVE getting attention. He will never hurt me. It’s because he loves me so much… Always forgiving Garrett’s jealous rages, I tolerated his verbal abuse. Excusing his quick, hot temper as another rage from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, I apologized for making him angry. Whenever men looked my way, I quickly glanced away. I did not want Garrett to lose his temper, or shout at me. I closed myself inside my home, afraid that if he called and I wasn’t home, he would retaliate with another shouting match.

Domestic violence I knew much about as a child, although at the time it did not have the title of domestic abuse or violence. It was labeled a “family matter…” It’s just the way marriage is… Shunned…Never mentioned. Ignored! As a married woman, never did I consider that my husband might become violent, and on the day that he thrust his fist through the door, I felt the fear that a victim of domestic violence fears and I promised myself that I would not become the next victim.

At the age of five-years-old, I saw domestic violence for the first time. My mother was outside, gossiping with neighborhood women at Joel Chandler Harris Homes in Atlanta, Georgia. I was inside our apartment playing with my doll babies when I heard my daddy shouting, calling in a harsh voice for my mother. I screamed at him, “Daddy, she’s outside talking to the neighbors.”

“Go get her.” My daddy demanded.

I rushed outside. “Mommy. Daddy wants you inside.”

My mother laughed. “He can come get me,” she said. One of the five women she was gossiping with snickered. “Guess you better get inside. Gotta keep the ruler of the house happy!” All of the women roared in unison.

Living in a housing project, the women were not exactly the Donna Reed style of women, dressed in fine clothing and high heels. My mother wore bed room slippers and a dirty housecoat. No makeup or lipstick. Two of the women were dressed in raggedy jeans and T-shirts. Their hair was messy and they smelled like dirty ashtrays. I decided on that date that I would always do my best to look my best – to groom myself like a woman and wear makeup and have my hair styled. Never did I want to be ‘frumpy’ or a plain Jane.

“Mommy,” I said, my voice rising a bit. “Daddy’s gonna get angry.”

The back door closed. My daddy rushed outside, waving his fist, shouting.

“Sa-rah!” He roared. “You get in here now.”

My mother did not move. Daddy rushed to her, grabbing her arm. She pushed away from him and he shoved her, knocking her to the ground where she hit her forehead on the concrete curb. The metal trash cans by her fell over. I saw blood on my mother’s forehead. Daddy grabbed her arm. “You get up…Now.” He barked.

My mother struggled to get up. I reached to help her. I touched her forehead. “Are you, Ok, Mommy?”

I stood between my parents, my arms crossed tightly in front of me, daring my daddy to reach for her again. “Daddy, don’t you ever do that again!”

My mother glared at me. “Hush, child.”

Daddy stomped back inside. Never did he show any concern for my mother. Mommy followed. The women standing nearby snickered amongst themselves and I realized I was the only one who came to my mother’s rescue. No one cared. Domestic violence was a family matter at that time. Everyone looked away, with exception of me.

One of the women turned to move away, whispering something about a family matter while exhaling smoke from her mouth. I didn’t understand her words, but I did know I didn’t like any of these shabbily dressed women, and I hoped that woman would choke on her cigarette smoke. I wanted to shout at them, asking why they didn’t help my mama. After all, I was a small child. Too young to help, too young to have any rights or say-so. I decided these women were nothing but trouble! ‘Poor white trash,’ I thought to myself…’Nothing but white trash!’ I followed the blood trail from my mother’s forehead back to our apartment.

After Mommy got inside, I got her a cold washcloth, placing it on her forehead.

She rested on the tattered sofa of our apartment, blood still pouring from her forehead. I brought her another washcloth.

“Get me a butter knife,” my mama screamed. I rushed to the kitchen. She placed the cold blade of the butter knife on her forehead.

“Don’t cut yourself, Mama. Please. You’re still bleeding.”

“The butter knife will make the swelling go down.”

That night when I said my nightly prayers, I prayed that my mama would be all right, and I ask God to make my daddy stop hitting and knocking my mother around. After my prayers, I made a promise to myself that I would never allow any man to ever hit me, or knock me down, like my daddy knocked my mother down. At the age of five-years-old, I became the referee to my parents.

Ten years later, I served as the referee for the final time… Arriving home from Russell High School in Atlanta, I rushed inside; anxious to tell my parents I had the lead in a play at school. I knocked on my parent’s door. No answer. I rushed to my room. A voice inside my head encouraged me to go back to my parent’s door. I knocked again. I heard the shuffling of feet, and a slap. I opened the door. My mother was standing hunched over, blue in the face, gasping for breath. A handprint was on the side of her face.

“What’s going on in here?” I asked. My mother was getting weaker. I rushed to her side. My dad stood by the bed, cursing and throwing mail at me.

“She’s made all these damned bills. They’re garnishing my wages. I can’t afford this. To Hell with her.”

Moving my mother to a chair, I sat her down and moved closer to my dad. “Don’t you ever hit her again? Do you hear me, Daddy? I’ve watched you over and over again hitting my mother, and I’ve watched her hitting you, but this has got to stop! One of you needs to leave this house and marriage. One of you needs to leave before someone gets killed.”

The next day, I rushed home from school, horrified I would find my parents fighting again. My mother was sitting on the couch with tissues in her hand.

“Is everything all right?” I asked.

My mother threw a tattered pillow in my direction.

“I hope to hell you’re happy now,” she shouted. “Because of you your daddy left me today. It’s all your fault. He’s divorcing me. I hope you’re really proud of yourself, you stupid girl.”

“How is it my fault? Yesterday, he was beating you. You said you hated him. You called him words a child should not say. All I did was make him stop beating you.”

“That ain’t all you said. You told him to leave, and he did. He came home this morning. Packed up his things and moved out. It’s all your fault. You ain’t never to say his name inside this house again. Do you hear me, child? Never! Your daddy is dead. DEAD. Dead. DEAD! It’s all because of you. We’re moving from Atlanta, and I never want to see that bastard again. NEVER!”

“Where are we going, Mama?” I cried, tears rushing down my face.

“We’re moving to Columbus, to the mill village. We’re gonna live with your grandparents now. I hope you’re happy.”

I was heartbroken. I would not get to be in the play, or have the lead. I would not sing on stage. All of my hopes and dreams were vanishing.

Years later, I became an advocate for domestic violence. I was thankful when laws against domestic violence became a crime and I was thankful that I did not have to be the referee between my parents anymore. In their later years, I became their caregiver, serving as a parent to my abusive, cruel parents.

After their divorce, my dad became a new man. Kinder. Happier. Religious and gentle. I received birthday gifts on birthdays and Dad and I bonded as a father and daughter. Never did we discuss domestic abuse. We focused on happy times. The birth of my child. The home Garrett and I bought in South Carolina. Our strong, happy relationship as father and daughter. Before his death in 1999, we were closer than ever. Dad was fun to be around. Never did he show any anger or hostility at my mother. Reborn inside the body and mind of my father was a man easy to love. So different. So kind. So caring.

My mother? Slowly, she became outraged. Violent. Bi-polar. She died a questionable death after suffering a stroke. The one concern from my youngest sister on the day after her death was, and I quote, “Do you think they’ll do an autopsy?”

My youngest sister spent the night at the hospital with our mother on the night of her death. Suppose I’ll let this story decide if an autopsy was necessary, although I suspect an autopsy should’ve been completed – to discover the true reason our mother happened to die on the one and only night my youngest sister chose to spend the night at the hospital. Interesting?

And so – now I am developing the poignant story of “Chattahoochee Child.”

Family Matters…Oh how they matter!

Chattahoochee Child, Family, Mother's Day, Motherhood, Uncategorized

On Mother’s Day


On Mother’s Day, I hear so many precious stories about ‘mothers.’ How I wish I could share those precious words written with such love. I never knew ‘unconditional love’ from my mother. She placed price tags or poisonous words on all of her actions. I remember her saying, and I quote, “Actions speak louder than words.” As a young girl, I remember cleaning her house, just to remove my father’s initials, “W W P” scribbled in his penmanship. I suppose he did those ‘actions’ to tell us girls we needed to dust. Once, I wrote it tiny penmanship by W = Why = W – Won’t you P=polish the furniture to remove the dust? Quickly, I sprayed Pledge on his initials, just before he caught me. “Wooo.” I said to myself. “He almost caught me!”
 
On Mother’s Day, I always craved a hug from my mother. I recall holding my arms out to her, just so she and I could embrace with a Mother’s Day hug. She turned away. One Mother’s Day after I started babysitting to earn money, I rushed to a store with $5.00 in my wallet, so ready to find something for Mother’s Day for my mother.
 
Just what could I buy my mother on her special day? Glancing on shelves in a five and dime store, I saw a beautiful  shades of pink bowl with golden edges and four fluted legs. Perfect! The bowl was $4.99. I had just enough money to buy it. I couldn’t wait to wrap it up and give it to my mother for Mother’s Day. I imagined this beautiful bowl would be the perfect bowl to hold her potato salad or banana pudding. While I paid for the bowl, I didn’t have enough money. The cashier looked at me. “5.25,” she said.
“I’ve only got $5.00.”
Reaching inside her pocket, she smiled at me. “I found a quarter this morning, so you’ve got enough. I bet this is for Mother’s Day.”
I nodded, smiling my biggest smile.
Rushing home carefully, so I wouldn’t break the bowl, I rushed to my room to wrap it.
Later that afternoon, I gave the package to my mother. She placed the package on the table.
“Aren’t you gonna open it?” I asked, my voice quivering.
“Nope. Not now.”
“But…It’s Mother’s Day. You can use it for your potato salad.”
“I ain’t making no potato salad today. Maybe I’ll never make it again.”
I stared at the beautiful bowl. Tears danced in my eyes. I turned away. I did not want my mother to see me crying again.
On our next special occasion at home, I looked for the bowl to be placed on the dinner table. I was confident the bowl would be holding mama’s potato salad. I never saw the bowl again.
My mother died under questionable circumstances on September 11, 2002.
After her death, I wanted to have something to remember her. I gave her diamond earrings when I was 16. I asked my sister if I could have the earrings as a token, to remember her.
“You ain’t getting nothing…” She spat at me.
Two years ago, I entered an antique shop near my home. I moved from booth to booth. “Just looking,” I said. I stopped at a booth with depression glass. Since I collect depression glass I walked slowly, glancing at stemware, bowls, plates of all colors.
Resting in the center of a display, my eyes stared at a bowl. Fluted legs. The bowl was oval in shape. Beautiful. I picked it up. The bowl was heavy. Could it be?
Tracing the shape of the bowl with my fingertips, tears danced in my eyes. This was the same bowl. A bowl similar to the bowl I gave my mother so many years ago.
The price tag was $29.95. I carried the bowl to the desk. The manager of the store remembered me.
Retired now, he found his happiness in his antique shop. His hair was silver. His face embraced lines. He smelled a bit like cigarette smoke. No smoking signs were inside the building.
“How much will you take for this bowl?”
He reached for it. “Well, it’s been here a while. One of the legs isn’t even so the bowl wobbles a bit. “How about $15.00.”
I smiled. Paid for the bowl and left. Arriving home, I washed the bowl noticing the wobbling legs.
“This will be perfect for potato salad or green beans,” I said. Remembering my childhood, tears filled my eyes.
“Happy Mother’s Day,” I said, lifting my head to see the sunset. Remembering. Thinking Still craving my mother’s embrace. On special occasions, or family dinners, I use that bowl, filling it with sautéed green beans, or potato salad. Each time I use the bowl, I remember Mother’s Day.
Although I never saw my mother using that bowl, today, I have something significant to look at — just to remember her and Mother’s Day.
Chattahoochee Child, Family, Uncategorized

Chattahoochee Child – Bibb City


Bibb City – mid 1960’s

 Papa worked as a loom fitter at Bibb Mill. Wearing Bibb overalls and a denim shirt to work, rarely did he find the freedom or time to take a tobacco chew break. He knew the repercussions if Grammy caught him chewing tobacco; and he realized if he chewed tobacco at the mill someone would tell her. There were no secrets in Bibb City.

My grandparents lived from pay day, to pay day, thankful to have food on the table and a roof over their heads. Papa lived on a farm before meeting Grammy, planting corn, tobacco and cotton during the day. At night, he raised Hell, drinking moonshine and homemade wine. He had a reputation of trouble and fast times with the women. I’ve often wondered if his reputation was because he was considered a half-breed, because of his Indian heritage.

Perhaps that is why Papa and I never agreed on anything. He questioned every action taken by me. In retaliation, I rebelled from him and Grammy, asking questions, demanding answers. My philosophy in life was if someone asked a question, they deserved an answer. Papa said children don’t need answers; they need discipline, and a swift pat on the bottom. He had a pet name for me, calling me Little Miss Sassy Fras. I hated being called that and told him so. He simply cackled, mimicking the way I behaved.

At thirteen, I earned money by babysitting. I rushed to the drug store to buy makeup. Furious with me, Papa found the eye shadow, Maybelline mascara and eyeliner, tossing it in the trash. He said girls who wore makeup were whores. My new nickname was whore. When I told Papa a virgin could not be a whore, he slapped me hard on the face.

On weekends, Papa took Rusty fishing at the boat club. The boat club was a little fishing club, upstream from the mill, located about twenty miles from where the crow flies in Bibb City.

Although Papa could fish from the riverbanks by the mill, he chose not to. “The Chattahoochee waters are too muddy,” He said. “We think the mill dumps waste in the waters.”

The floating dead fish and garbage he saw floating along the crest of the dirty waters was a testament of the pollution.

Papa’s fishing boat was a small two-seater wooden boat structure, with a small Johnson motor. The boat was not fancy, compared to modern bass boats or ski boats. Papa’s fishing boat was painted a faded pea green color with the words ‘Gone Fishing’ painted in black.

 

 

Chattahoochee Child, Family, Short Stories, Uncategorized

Chattahoochee Child


PART TWO

The headlines in the newspaper caught my attention. Bibb Manufacturing Company becomes a ghost town. I stared at the caption with a tight bewildered look on my face, reading it again, picturing the desolate hope filled community of Bibb City, Georgia, the destitute textile community of my youth. Bibb City was the small cotton mill town where my footprints were imprinted within the clay riverbeds. Bibb City was the only place I had roots established. Bibb City was Home to me.

The richness of life in a mill town is disappearing now while the little town called Bibb slowly becomes extinct. Bibb Manufacturing Company abandoned the area in 1998, closing the mill, leaving a graveyard of homes, failing businesses, broken families and memories behind. The hunger for better jobs, civil rights, and the race for modern technology prevailed, leaving the Town of Bibb City devastated.

I poured another cup of coffee, reading the article again. The years of working as a reporter filled my mind with curiosities and questions about the dying communities of mill workers. I scribbled notes on a pad. My mind rushed back to my youth, playing a mental continuous loop video of memories from the small town of Bibb City, Georgia.

Why was the little town  called Bibb City distressing me? Years ago, I drove away from the Village without looking back, embarrassed to be associated with people who judged others by the colors of skin, religion, sexual preference, or political choice. Sipping a hot cup of coffee, I realized my perspective about Bibb City was changing.

Reading the article again, my body was shaking. If the mill is no longer in business, what will the residents of this precious mill village do for survival? Bibb Mill provided housing and when the Mill decided to sell those homes to mill workers, many of the hard working employees took their first steps to independence and the American dream — a home — a brick and mortar foundation where roots could remain.  My grandparents became homeowners, buying a tiny brick home on Walnut Street. Grammy  insisted on buying a home so Mom could have a place to live.

After Grammy’s death, Mom had other ideas. She sold the house, wasting away all of the money. What about the historical value of the Bibb Mill? Couldn’t the politicians see the potential for historical recording? Was everything in the corporate world about the potential for a profit? What about the families who lived in the Village?

A whirlpool of mixed emotions churned inside me. As I read the article about the abolishment of the town I knew so well, I discovered childhood feelings resurfacing. I debated my anger for a few moments, realizing I could do nothing to stop the bureaucracy of developers, who had no comprehension of the premise of life in a mill town. The one thing I could do was to write about the rise and fall of Bibb Manufacturing Company. As my grandfather reminded me, “You work for the Mill, you’ll always have a job.” Papa died before the Mill closed.

I called my editor, leaving a voice mail, expressing interest in a story about mill workers. Bibb City would be the focal point. When he returned my call, I pitched the idea.

“We have to do this story,” I said. “It isn’t just about life in a mill town. It’s a story about relationships, civil rights, bigotry, and so much more. It’s a feature, maybe even a series. We’ll start with The Rise and Fall of The Bibb Manufacturing Company.”

I waited for his response.

“Let me think about it.”

“I need a commitment now,” I pushed aggressively. “I’m packing my bags. There’s a story there and I’m going to get it,” I said. “My mother lives there. She’s had a stroke.”

“Sounds like you have some issues,” Garrett groaned.

“A few. If you’re not interested in the story, I’ll find someone else.”

Garrett laughed. “That’s what I like about you, Rebecca. You always push to the limit.”

“I’ll call you later,” Garrett breathed into the phone.

I hung up.

 

 

Chattahoochee Child, Short Stories, Uncategorized

A Toast To The Little Things In Life…


Dearest Readers:

I suppose today is a day to reminisce, in hopes I might convince myself it is time to break away from social media, interruptions, along with the intense doubts I have about the ability to write. Below is another award-winning story I wrote a few months after losing my father. Hope you enjoy!

Arriving in Greensboro, I met Joan at Friendly Shopping Center. I parked the car in the first available spot and headed towards Hecht’s Department Store. I rushed across the congested parking lot waving to Joan standing by the door. The after Thanksgiving sale crowd was anxious for the doors to open, pushing, and shoving to get closer to the entrance. Joan and I moved aside to let an elderly woman in a wheel chair take our spot in line. This year, holiday sales and life in general meant nothing to me. I’d experienced the worst year in my life, watching my father melting away from the toxic poisons of esophageal cancer and chemo-radiation therapy.

“Crowds bother me,” I said. “I hate the rudeness of women when they’re searching for a bargain.” Joan nodded. I turned my back to the street, noticing the trees decorated with bright lights. With exception of today, I’d forgotten Christmas was less than a month away.

“How are you doing now,” Joan asked.

“Okay,” I said, a little too quickly. “The trees are beautiful this year.”

I blinked several times, my eyes glaring at the spruce trees, melting snow on the ground.

“Just okay, huh,” Joan said. “It’s been six months since he died. If you need to talk, I’m here.”

Tears danced in my eyes. I looked away from her stare.

When the doors opened, I looked over my shoulder. Something caught my eye. Perhaps the uniqueness of the moment, the after effects of stress, combined with my desire to disconnect from life, forced me to see things in a different perspective. Something was lying in the road. Someone probably dropped a jacket, I thought, ignoring my discovery.

“Joan,” I said. “I’ll meet you in ladies wear.”

Curiosity of the image in the road captivated me, so I stepped aside.

An inner voice whispered to me. ‘Go check to see what’s in the road.’

I didn’t hear Joan answer me. By now, there were hundreds of shoppers pushing and shoving into Hecht’s.

While shoppers rushed for the early morning bargains, my eyes refused to leave the road. As I moved closer, I recognized the item by the curb wasn’t a jacket, but an elderly gentleman.

“He must be drunk,” I mumbled, moving closer to him. What if he’s dead? I can’t do this. Not again. I dialed 9-1-1 on my cell phone.

My mind rewound, stopping at the memories and heartache of July, 1999. That Tuesday evening in July I was late arriving at Sandpiper Convalescent Center. When I placed my hand on the door of my father’s room, a nurse intercepted me. Nurses were rushing around Dad’s bed.

“Can you get a pulse?” I heard someone say.

“His daughter is here. What should we do?”

Nurse Angie joined me at the doorway. Her eyes locked into mine.

“No, I screamed. No! Please God, No!”

Nurse Angie sat me down. She didn’t need to tell me what was going on. I knew the day had arrived, and although oncologist specialists told me in 1997 that I needed to prepare myself, I wasn’t ready to let Dad go. I still needed him in my life. He couldn’t leave me now. Not now.

Just how does one prepare for death? When I spoke with medical professionals, asking that question, no one could give me a defiant answer. Financial, I was prepared. Arrangements were made, but emotionally – I would never be prepared to lose my father.

Nurse Angie whispered. “He’s a DNR. Do you want us to do anything?”

I knew the definition of DNR, and I did not want to disobey my Dad’s orders of do not resuscitate. “I- uh – I can’t override his decision. Not even if it means—.” I couldn’t finish the words. Since childhood, Dad was my lifeline. Always ready to cheer me up. Always ready to teach me things. He and my grandmother taught me about God and prayer. Dad was the provider who taught me to stand up for myself and to speak my mind – but gently. Dad was the one who beamed with a golden halo when I sang in the choir. Dad was the one who encouraged me to reach for the stars. Now, my shining star was getting brighter, only at the cost of losing my helping hand. My lifeline.

“Dear God, give me strength,” I prayed. “Take care of my dad. Use his talents. Let him know I love him.”

A screaming horn brought me back to reality. I stared into the eyes of a driver. “Get the hell out of the way,” the burgundy haired woman shrieked. “I need to turn.”

I walked over to her. She had body piercings in her eyebrow and nose. “I’m sorry to inconvenience you,” I said. “There’s a gentleman unconscious in the road. I’m not moving him until EMS gets here.”

“Yeah, whatever,” she mouthed. “I’m in a hurry.”

“Aren’t we all?”

I kneeled down, touching the elderly gentleman’s forehead, feeling beads of cold sweat. His hair was thin, salt and pepper gray. His face was weathered, hands wrinkled but firm. “Dear God please. Don’t let him die. Not today.” My face lifted to the skyline.

His hands felt like ice. His body was thin. A gray beard covered his face. He wore a gold wedding band. By now, curious shoppers were moving closer to us. Removing my coat, I covered him. Although it was freezing cold outside, I could not allow this man to freeze under my watch. A young man with spiked hair removed his leather coat, bundled it into a ball, lifting the gentleman’s head.

“Does he have a pulse?” He asked.

“I didn’t check.”

“It’s okay. I’m a medical student.” He checked for a pulse, nodding yes to me.

The gentleman coughed.

“Sir, what happened?”

“I fell. I’m sick. My wife wanted to be here early for the sale.”

“Where’s your wife?”

“I don’t know. I drove her here. I let her out by the door. I parked the car. I had chemo this week.”

I warmed his freezing hands with mine. “Chemo,” I muttered, understanding his weakness.

Joan stood next to me, touching my shoulder. “You okay?”

I nodded.

“Cancer,” I said. “You go shopping. I’ll stay with him.”

“Sirens,” someone said. “They’re coming.”

The man squeezed my hand. “Don’t leave me,” he said.

“Your wife. Where’s your wife?”

“She wanted to shop. She’s buying me some fishing tackle.”

“You must like to fish,” I said, hoping he’d remain alert. “Is there someone else we can call?”

“My grandson. His number’s in my wallet.”

The medical student found his wallet, dialed the number.

When EMS arrived, the man grabbed my hand. “Bless you for helping me,” he said. Moments later, EMS rushed away. I lifted my head to look at the gray skyline. “Please God, don’t let him die. Not today. Touch him. Keep him safe.”

At lunch, I found myself able to talk. A sudden burst of adrenalin had me chatting non-stop about Dad’s terminal illness, forgiveness and death.

“When I was little, I was hit by a car. My Grammy said I was spared for a reason,” I said to Joan, sipping a steaming cup of coffee. “Until today, I never understood what she meant.”

“You really have a way with old people,” she said.

I laughed. “Not until Dad’s illness. I’ve never told you this, but my relationship with my parents wasn’t good. When they divorced, I was angry. Until Dad got sick, I couldn’t forgive them.”

I looked around the crowded restaurant. “Life is so short. So unfair. I guess I never took life and death seriously until Dad died. Now, I try to make the most of each day. I’ve started praying every night. That’s something I didn’t do for many years. I was living in a spinning wheel headed nowhere, until Dad’s illness.”

Biting my lip, I continued. “I suppose I’ve learned to appreciate the little things in life. Those special moments. Laughter – something I haven’t done in a long time. Smiles. Reading to a child. Listening to music. Watching a classic movie, and reading good books. Funny. Now, I cherish those moments.”

Joan smiled, nodding her head. “When I met you, I thought you were so special and I knew I wanted us to be friends.”

“I remember. You encouraged me while I pulled away. All of my life I’ve had friends I couldn’t trust and I realized I needed a good friend. I’m so thankful we are friends.”

Joan sighed. “I don’t mean this to be critical. You were amazing with that man today. You put your needs aside while you held his hand. You wouldn’t leave him. I watched you.”

“Life is so short,” I said, biting my lip. “I didn’t do anything you wouldn’t do.”

“Yes, you did. People were rushing by you. You stood your ground, holding that frail man’s hand. You probably saved his life today.”

“No. I did what I had to do.”

“Maybe it’s time you did something for you! Losing your dad changed you. You must move on while remembering your dad and those special moments you shared. He wouldn’t want you to be so depressed, or to shut yourself and your life away. We’re all worried about you.”

Still in denial, I nodded, attempting a smile.

“Do you know Dad came to me one night in a vision? You do know I’ve had visions all of my life, but this one was different. I was tossing and turning in bed. I saw a ghostly white figure at the foot of the bed, and then I heard his voice. He pinched my toe and told me, and I quote, “You need to move on with your life. I’m fine. Stop worrying about me and grieving me. I’m all right!”

I glanced out the window. “As quickly as the vision came, it left, and I knew Dad was telling me I needed to move on. People think I’m crazy when I tell them I have visions, but I do. It’s a gift my grandmother gave to me when she died. I know Dad is all right. It’s just hard to let him go.”

“You have to continue living your life. You were there for him every day of his illness. You were the perfect daughter to him.”

I laughed. “Perfect? Hardly. But when the time came, I was there, and I know I have to live again. I have to make each day a good day while enjoying the sunshine and all of the little things. I think I finally understand. Perhaps this year, my Christmas tree will have a theme of ‘Little Things.”

Joan smiled. “Here’s to the little things in life, and the friendship we cherish.”

Wiping tears from my eyes, I smiled at Joan. “Maybe we should order two glasses of wine – just to celebrate the little things, Christmas and new beginnings.”

 

 

 

 

Chattahoochee Child, Family, Uncategorized

NOT MY PAPA


Dearest Readers:

Below is an award-winning short story written many years ago. Hope you enjoy!

 

NOT MY PAPA

by

Barbie Perkins-Cooper

The screaming telephone jolted me out of bed. “Hello,” I groaned rubbing my sleep-filled eyes.

“Were you asleep?” My mother’s crude voice whined.

Rolling my eyes to the ceiling, I whimpered, “Not anymore.”

“Your papa is ill. “ He’s lost his mind, cussing like a drunken sailor, and saying the Lord’s name in vain. The doctors say its old timer’s disease…”

“Alzheimer’s,”‘ I corrected my mother, yawning again. I turned on a light. Rising from the bed, I stretched, while my mother chatters away. I could not visualize Papa swearing. Not my Papa … He’s a member of the Church of God and a deacon. He and Gramma never allowed their grandkids to swear. Once, as a rebellious teenager I said the Lord’s name in vain. Papa rushed me to the bathroom of the tiny mill house we lived in, to wash my mouth out with a bar of Ivory soap.

Listening to my mother, I pictured Papa ‑‑ frail and aging into a skeletal frame I no longer recognized.

Strolling into the kitchen, I sighed, as I poured fresh coffee beans into the grinder.

Three days later, I head towards Columbus, Georgia, thinking about Papa.

As a child, Papa amazed me with his stories, and I picture him tall and slim, chewing Juicy Fruit Chewing Gum and smoking long cigars. He wears overalls covered with cotton lint fibers and old raggedy flannel shirts. A baseball cap protects his thinning hair.

Working at the textile mill of Bibb City, Papa speaks to everyone in the village. He tells me stories ‑‑ like how it was to live during the Great Depression; and how, as a young boy, he grew up on a farm picking cotton and cropping tobacco in the fields.

I love listening to Papa. His eyes always twinkle when he speaks of my grandmother, Miss Winnie. At the age of sixteen, he saw a pretty blue-eyed blond sitting in the church pew and when she smiled at him, Papa fell for her. Fifty two years later, he still speaks of her with a passion I envy. I know Papa misses her, and so do I. Now, she sits up high in the Heavens, watching over us; but to Papa, she is still beside him, holding his hand, smiling.

When I was a small child, Papa took me fishing at the boat club. We got up before dawn to watch the sunrise on the dancing waters of the Chattahoochee River. I remember Papa catching catfish, while I caught eels and turtles.

I tugged at Papa’s overalls and ask, “When will I catch a catfish, Papa?”

Papa smiled at me, patting my head. “Shucks, you gotta be an antique to catch a catfish,” he laughed. “Yes Ma’am,” he chuckled, “An antique like me to catch a catfish. He reached inside his overall pockets, handing me a piece of Juicy Fruit Gum.

“What’s an ann-tique?” I asked.

He laughed, baited my hook, and threw out the fishing line. “Don’t you be fretting…? You’ll be one before you can say scat.”

“Scat,” I said, reaching for the cane pole, hoping to catch my first catfish.

Entering Columbus, Georgia, I make a right turn, heading to Bibb City. I parked my car on Walnut Street, noticing a mixture of colors. Black. White. Mexican. So different from the colors of skin I recognized as a child. The Bibb Mill is closed now, no longer the dictator or Godfather of the village. My mother hobbles outside. I open my arms wide, hoping she will hug me. Her arms are crossed. Still, as a grown woman I am hungering for a mother’s embrace. “It’s about time you came home. The hospital just called. They’re moving him to a nursing home,” she cries. “I can’t take care of him. It’s hard enough taking care of me. Daddy’s old now – an antique. He’s at the nursing home where Mama was, when she died…”

Home is where the heart is, I mutter to myself.

“It’s okay, Mom,” I said, “We’ll work something out.”

My mother seems concerned now, gentle, and caring, so unlike the mother I knew as a child.

A few hours later, at the nursing home my mother wipes her eyes, biter her lips. “He looks so old and weak. You better prepare yourself.”

“I know,” I whisper, “Papa’s an antique. He hasn’t been the same since Gramma died.”

“None of us have,” my mother speaks, the bitterness returning to her voice. “It’s just not the same.”

“Life is filled with change Mom,” I comfort her, giving her a slight hug. She pulls away.

The scent of medicine and stale air hits me in the face. I smelled the same familiar scent that cold October morning when Gramma died. My mother looks at me, never saying a word, but I can tell how hopeless she feels. It’s written all over her face. My lips struggle a smile. An apple shaped nurse with slump-backed shoulders nods.

“Excuse me,” I interrupt, “we’re here to see Mr. Hunter.”

She turns to me, her arms crossed, her face tight with tension. “Room 318 Medicaid Wing.” She snaps to attention, pointing down the hall.

“Thank you,” I smile, “Have a nice day…”

My mother opens the door to Papa’s room. She looks at me again, and for the first time, I notice salt and pepper gray in her hair, lines of age blending into her face. I touch her shoulder. She pulls away from me. Her body stiff. “Mom, it’s okay.”

When I slip into Papa’s room, I’m not prepared for what I see. An ancient, crippled man is strapped into a wheelchair, facing the window. His face is hollow, skin the color of mustard and blotchy, with brown spots. His hair is slightly gray. His eyes are sunken. No twinkles do I see. His head bops up and down, reminding me of a newborn infant. He drools.

“Papa,” I whisper, choking back a tear.

His head lifts for a moment. I see a vacant stare in his eyes as he watches a swallow fly away. “Mama,” he whispers. “Is it you? I wish I could fly away.” Papa kicks his feet angrily, wishing to be set free. “God-damn it … get me out of here.”

I touch his icy cold fingers, noticing the clamminess of weathered skin. “Papa,” I said. “It’s me … Barbara Jean.”

I laugh to myself, surprised I’ve addressed myself as Barbara Jean. As a child, I refused to answer to the name, “Barbara Jean.” I held big dreams. I remember telling Papa I would become a movie star or a singer and see my name in bright lights, not the name “Barbara Jean.”

I touch Papa’s hand, hoping for a response, but he sits in a daydream, without a mind, only a skeleton in life. Again, I whisper, “Papa, it’s me … B-B Barbara Jean…”

“God-damn it,” he speaks, his voice shouting. I look at him again, realizing this frail, crippled person is not the gentle, and kind Papa I remember. Pulling up a wooden chair, I sit down, reaching inside my clutch, I remove a lace hanky. I wipe the drool from his mouth.  Papa’s eyes are a vacant stare.

If  Gramma were alive, she would scold him, reminding him the Lord was her keeper, her shepherd, and her best friend. Then, she would hand him a bar of Ivory Soap to eat, to wash the filthy words away.

“God-damn it,” he mutters again.

I look at him, choking back tears. I can’t let Papa see me this way. I walk over to the window. If only Papa would say hello, Barbara Jean.

I walk over to him once more, kissing his head. He smells different, without the scent of 0ld Spice and Juicy Fruit Gum. I touch his bony shoulders. He doesn’t respond.

“God-damn it,” he says again.

“Papa,” I speak aloud. For a moment, he looks at me, squinting his eyes. “It’s me, Barbara Jean. I caught a catfish last year.”

Papa moans.

“It’s funny,” I say to my mother. “The only word he knows is a word Gramma hated.”

“He’s got no brain,” she shrieks.

“I know,” I cry, tears rushing down my face. I glance over at Papa, looking at the broken man strapped so tightly within. If only he could see who I am. And then I wonder ‑‑ would he be proud of me…Barbara Jean …the grandchild with starry eyes?

Later, I speak to the doctor, listening to every word. I suggest bringing Papa home so he’ll be around familiar surroundings. The doctor shakes his head. “You don’t understand his condition,” he reports. “Your grandfather needs skilled medical care. He gets violent when he doesn’t get his way.”

“Yes,” I know, the vegetable you have strapped to that wheelchair doesn’t exist. My papa was lots of fun! He took me fishing. He told me funny stories, and he Never took the Lord’s name in vain. Gramma would be furious.”

My mother interrupts. “Don’t you see, “she says. “ Jesse isn’t asking to go home to us. He wants to ‑ go home.” She points her finger towards the sky.

A few days later, my mother and I sit on the porch sipping sweet iced tea with lemon, remembering Papa, my childhood and the struggles of life in a mill town. We reminisce, reaching a new understanding.

It seems my mother was envious of me when I was a young girl. She said I was intense, stubborn as a mule and bull headed too, with a persistent independent streak. I had something she wanted but failed to find. Funny, I never knew she saw the real me.

In my eyes, I was a child, starving for attention. Now as we sit, looking at old family albums, it’s easier to dig into the shells of our souls, discovering who we are, and most of all, what we are. Still, I wish to bring back those times to repair the damage. My mother shakes her head no. She doesn’t want to go back. She bites her lip. If only she knew how difficult my life as an artist has been! I touch her hand.

“It’s okay,” I whisper. “I’m grown now.”

“I don’t want to remember how cruel I was. Can you forgive me?”

Nodding my head, I whisper, “Already done.” I wish to hug her, but I hold back knowing she will not return the affection.

The phone rings. “Hello,” I say.

My mother stares at me, listening to a one‑sided conversation.

“It’s Papa. We have to hurry.”

Not a word is spoken as we drive in rush hour traffic, frightened we won’t make it. My mother tightens her seat belt, taps her foot on the floor mat. “Hurry,” she says.

The door to room 318 is closed. I knock while pushing the door. I see an empty wheelchair. The bed is covered with a white sheet. I look at my mother, tears spilling onto her cheeks. “We’re too late,” she cries.

The door to Papa’s room opens again. The apple shaped nurse enters. “He’s gone,” she states coldly. “Mr. Hunter died twenty minutes ago.”

I slump into the wheelchair, screaming from the pain of my grandfather’s death.

“He died peacefully,” the nurse comforts. “He was singing a religious song, mumbling and talking about catfish, and asking for Barbara Jean.”

“Barbara Jean,” I whisper.

The nurse looks my way, “He called me Winnie. He said he was waiting for Barbara Jean. A few minutes later, he started singing about coming home again.”

My mother and I nod, knowing Papa has found peace. We don’t say a word, as tears stream down our faces. Then, she opens her arms to comfort me.

 

THE END

 

In Memory of My Papa, Jesse V. Hunter

Chattahoochee Child, Uncategorized

Special Words and Goals for 2016


Dearest Readers:

The new year of 2016 is here, and here with this new year, I am somewhat behind. Behind??? Yes, definitely. As an active blogger and writer, I like to be on ‘top of things…’ ‘Ahead of the game.’ And I do not like to procrastinate. Here it is — Friday, January 8, and I am finally writing and wishing all “Happy New Year.” So sorry to be ‘behind the times.’

For this year, I have decided not to set a goal for 2016 — I am starting the year off with one seven-letter-word. BELIEVE! While I was at lunch today with two of my dearest friends locally, I shared my word, after Tammy shared her word for this year. “Simplicity,” she said. I snickered saying, “Funny, we are a lot alike. I’ve decided not to establish ‘goals’ for this year, but to fulfill 2016 with one word — “Believe…” Or perhaps, I should say — BELIEF — in myself. In my abilities to express myself and to share my stories with the world.

I have the tendency  not to believe in my writing skills or talents. I have received several writing awards for screenwriting, novel writing, non-fiction and photography awards plastered on my wall across from my desk. I was hopeful those awards would encourage me. Alas…They haven’t.

For too many years, I’ve had a story dancing inside my head. A beautiful little Pollyanna ballet dancer is eager to share this story with the world, only — every time I attempt to allow my fingers to dance across the keyboard and write more of this story, I hear words of cruelty – not dancing but pounding inside my brain, laughing at me, screaming, shouting abusive language saying “You stupid child. What makes you think you can write?”

Reluctantly, each time, I walk away from the keyboard. Sometimes to sing since music, dancing and singing are my therapies. Other times, I rush to my bedroom, closing the door, escaping to a place I know just a bit too much. I slide on the bed, curling myself into a fetal position, and there, while all alone, the demons of depression captivate me once again.

Years ago, when I thought of this story, I thought of the title first, only to realize while I might have a ‘catchy’ title, I did not have the plot, characterization and timing down. Reluctantly, I placed the title, story outline and ‘compost files’ inside my computer, inside of files, stashed inside notebooks. Those of you who are writers probably are nodding saying to yourself, ‘Oh Honey…I know just how you feel!’

My readers probably are nodding too — thinking — just what is your problem, Barbie — don’t you know you CAN write?

At times. And then, there are other times — when the monsters dance inside my head, laughing at me — almost hysterically — saying — “What makes you think YOU can write???” I’ve allowed the poisons of my mother’s words to torment me for much too long. Now, in the year of 2016, I recognize, it is time for me to stop allowing the torments of the past to continue poisoning me now.  I must toss the past away, allowing all of these mental aches and pains  to float into the air, or into the darkness of fog, or maybe into the oceans, just to wash them away for the final time in my lifetime. May they never return. I must be accountable and now, I must reach for my stars.

And so, I start this New Year fresher than the ending of 2015. One word which will teach me to bury the past and BELIEVE! I must BELIEVE. I can write this story…and this year, I will!

BELIEVE — According to Dictionary.com, Believe is:

“to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so:

Only if one believes in something can one act purposefully.
verb (used with object), believed, believing.
2.

to have confidence or faith in the truth of (a positive assertion, story, etc.); give credence to.”
Yes, it is time for me to BELIEVE. To write with passion. To allow my fingers to dance across the keyboard…To open those forgotten files I found last week while searching for something else. This file contains the documents I have been searching for so I can get the story written! I was ecstatic when I found this file! BELIEVE! Not just a coincidence, but a belief!
Yes, a seven-letter-word is my word for 2016. I simply Must BELIEVE!
Josh Groban sings a song titled BELIEVE. My favorite lyrics of this song are:
“Believe in what your heart is saying
Hear the melody that’s playing
There’s no time to waste
There’s so much to celebrate
Believe in what you feel inside
And give your dreams the wings to fly
You have everything you need
If you just believe.”
Perhaps this song will be my belief for this year — “You have everything you need IF You just BELIEVE!
ARTICLES, Chattahoochee Child, Friendship, Holidays, Losing Weight, On My Soapbox!, Uncategorized, Weight Watchers

My Thoughts About The New Weight Watchers…


My thoughts regarding “Oprah” and the changes are simply this: Those of us who are overweight have had difficulty with belief in ourselves…We have the tendency to cater to ourselves via comfort foods, sweets…temptations…etc…when we should be caring about ourselves. Instead of negative thoughts and “I’m done with Weight Watchers” posts, what we should do is say this — “We are good…We are worthy…We are strong…and together…We Can Do This!” I have the tendency for depression, and when I am depressed, nothing will stop me from eating bad things. Thru Weight Watchers, I’ve seen changes — in myself…my faith…my belief…I am strong…I’ve made loyal friends with several members at our meetings. I am blessed! Maybe I am beautiful…Maybe I truly believe in ME — now! Thank you, Weight Watchers. I believe change is good. Without change, we cannot grow. If we do not grow, we do not find success, happiness and belief in ourselves. Just my two cents worth for today! BELIEVE!!!

I’ve been a member of Weight Watchers since 2011. Four years. During my four year journey, I’ve seen changes. I am one who believes in life we ALWAYS have changes. Weight Watchers has been around for 50 years now, through many changes – everyone of these changes is for the better! I’m one of the rare people who truly believe life is all about change. Without ‘change’ we cannot grow. If we do not grow, we are not successful. So, you ask — what is the BIG DEAL with the changes at Weight Watchers.

Honestly, I cannot answer those questions. My meeting is on Thursday of every week. It is my “Weight Watchers” day. I plan my schedules around this day. No doctor’s appointments…meetings, etc. on this date. After our meeting three of us go out to lunch – to do what most great friends do together — to talk…to get to know one another…to build friendships! To support!

At the moment, people who are members of Weight Watchers are FREAKING out! On social media sites, they are asking, “what are the changes?” And — “why are they changing things?”

I suppose they want someone to tell them ahead of time about the changes. News Flash – people — Weight Watchers, their leaders and those who work for Weight Watchers are FABULOUS about keeping secrets!

No, Weight Watchers is not a secret society. They are there to help us; nevertheless, there are many changes rolling out this week. ALL of these CHANGES are to build a better Weight Watchers for all of us to succeed. They DO want US TO SUCCEED! By now, you’ve probably heard millions of complaints about the new plan…”It isn’t working…I can’t log in…” And — “Why did they change something that isn’t broken?”

Correct me IF I’m mistaken, but Weight Watchers is interested in the self-worth of a person…not only is it a corporation established to help those who are struggling to lose weight…Weight Watchers is helping us to BELIEVE IN OURSELVES!

We’ve had discussions about Belief. Self Discovery…and How We Can Break the Plateaus. Activity…Mind Over Matter…How to Cope With The Holidays and Social Events…and so on. All of these weekly discussions are building us to truly find the person we want to be. None of this is related to Oprah Winfrey. These “changes” were in the works earlier this year, not when Oprah signed on.

Speaking only for myself, Weight Watchers has changed my life for the better. Yes, I am eating healthier. I am more active – able to walk the Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge…able to dance and to sing. I have found a new and better person previously locked away, deep inside my soul. In March, 2011, Jennifer Hudson was the spokesperson. I was struggling to lose more weight, and I kept telling myself — “One day, I plan to walk that bridge.” For those of you who do not know, that bridge [Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge] opened in July 2005. Just WHEN would I walk it?

In 2011, my life changed for the better, and I feel confident that the New and Improved Weight Watchers 2016 will lead the way for me to embrace the change and get going with my weight loss. After all, I have goals (secret goals) I will not share – yet. Hopefully soon, I might share a few of those goals on my site.

Today, I will go on record to say – Hello, 2016 — it is ready, and it is time for me to move on with my writing and my story, “Chattahoochee Child,” and it is time for me to get moving more with Weight Watchers. Many members are throwing their hands in the air, as if to say — “I’m done.” The question they should answer is this — as a member of Weight Watchers — online, or a weekly member who attends meetings — are you really ready to give up on yourself? Think about it. Change is good. I embrace it!

 

 

 

Chattahoochee Child, Family, Thanksgiving, Uncategorized

Thanksgiving 2015


THANKSGIVING, 2015: Three Pennies From Heaven

by

Barbie Perkins-Cooper

               The morning of Thanksgiving, 2015 began like most mornings for me. Awakening at 6:45 a.m., I stumbled out of bed, my body felt exhausted, as if a 25 lb. weight clung to my legs. The Cuisinart Grind and Brew groaned while brewing the delicious hot caffeine that would get this day going. Opening the fridge, I grabbed the turkey, celery, three onions, garlic, carrots and other vegetables I needed to cut and prep for the infamous dinner. I turned the oven on, placed the turkey in the roasting pan and sat down to enjoy a fresh, hot cup of coffee.

Thanksgiving, 2015 was here. This Thanksgiving will be so special since I have company coming – family! Sitting at the kitchen table, I glanced out the window, thanking God for this special day. Today, I have family sharing this special day with us. I am so blessed. Thank you, God.

               My oldest sister Dolores, her daughter Vada, Vada’s husband Shon, their daughter Chelsea, her fiancé Cody, their baby girl, Kinsleigh, and Vada and Shon’s son, Timothy, were here. Soon everyone would awaken and come to the house for Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving 2015 will be one of the most precious holidays for me in at least 16 years. Today, Dad would not sit at our table since he died on July 6, 1999. Every Thanksgiving after his death, I stared at the empty chair where he always sat while I choked back tears. Thanksgiving Day for three was not a factor for us today. I reminisced, retrieving the sound of his voice. His theatrical laughter and fun we shared as a daughter and father, and I was so thankful that during the holidays of 1997, I was able to reconnect with Dolores and her family after locating their phone number again, only to share the sad news that our father was terminally ill. The holidays of 1997 were not shared with family, nor Dad. He remained in the hospital, fighting desperately to live. Esophageal cancer was slowly causing his body to melt away. Thanksgiving Day 1997 was a faint memory as I watched my beloved father slowly melting away from me.

Today is a new day, a new day of Thanksgiving. Please God, let it be a great day. After the death of Dad, I learned to let go of the past…to move forward with life…today was no exception.

I’ve always been told that our loved ones who have passed leave us signs when they are nearby again. Tuesday afternoon while vacuuming the rugs, I discovered three shiny pennies lying on the carpet in the guest bedroom where dad slept when visiting us. That’s strange. Just where did these pennies come from? I picked them up, placed them on a table, turning the vacuum on again. Pennies from Heaven. I laughed. God is giving me another sign. Three Pennies from Heaven – one representing our father. Another representing my sister and our reconnection, and the third penny – representing me. Although I cannot see my dad, I can feel his presence. Thank you, God. A coincidence? Perhaps. I fully believe the shiny pennies were a visual sign telling me Dad is still here with me, and he was so proud that Dolores and I were close, reconnected – like family should be connected.

While preparing dinner, I remembered the shiny pennies, although I did not mention them to anyone. All of my life I have had visions – signs to guide me along my path in life. After losing my grandmother to breast cancer, the signs increased. The night I met my husband a voice told me to go to the dance. Something special will happen to you tonight. Do not miss this dance. Reluctantly, I went to the dance, meeting my husband on the dance floor. A coincidence? I think not.

While my husband was in Vietnam, I had visions, only these were nightmares. In one nightmare, I was in Vietnam, walking in the muddy fields of Vietnam during Monsoon season, struggling to get closer to my husband, only to have something grab me, pulling me back from the fields of war. I forced myself to awaken, grabbed my calendar, circling the date. I turned the lamp by the bed on, and wrote a letter to him, telling him I knew he was in danger, but I was confident God would protect him. I mailed the letter the next day. Three weeks later, I got a reply from him, telling me my dream was real, although he could not elaborate with details. I knew the Tet Offensive was ‘hot and heavy’ now in Vietnam. I suspected I was becoming a witch!

I glanced at the shiny pennies again, thanking God for giving me a sign. Dad was here, and he knew that two of the four daughters he and my mother created were embracing life and each other again. I felt confident he was proud of us. If only the remaining estranged sisters would do their best to rebuild their lives again. Several attempts were made, only to have another disappointment and verbal attacks of jealousy slammed in our faces. Although I believe in ‘forgiving those who have offended or mistreated us,’ I refused to allow them to hurt me again. There comes a time in our life where we must move forward. We must stand tall and not let others destroy what we’ve built.

               At Thanksgiving dinner time, all nine of us sat at our dining room table. No cell phones sat on the table. This was a special time for family to sit together…eating the bounties of Thanksgiving dinner…and to chat with one another…the small talk of families enjoying such cherished times and laughter while we watched little Kinsleigh make silly faces like children do while growing into adulthood. Christmas dinnerware, silverware, and dinner napkins were anxiously awaiting all of us to gobble down the traditional meal of turkey with dressing, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce and more. Our plates were filled. I reached for Phil’s hand, and asked Cody, Chelsea’s future husband and the father of little Kinsleigh, to say grace. At first I thought I saw a bit of fear in his eyes since I had probably put him on the spot. He swallowed, reached for Chelsea’s hand, and said a most special prayer. Today, Thanksgiving 2015, new traditions were created. I’m certain our father is proud of us, especially on Thanksgiving. Although this tradition might not occur every Thanksgiving, I shall cherish the memories we built on this most special day. Maybe I will get those three pennies from the table and place them in a special place to remember the signs our dad shared. He is still here. Watching over us, occasionally leaving a sign as if he is saying, “Well done.”