Archive for June, 2014

Finding Daddy

michelle nicole photography

michelle nicole photography

 

I have a father, but I’ve nev’r met him. I know he exists, ’cuz well, I’m here, an I’s born ‘cuz of his part in creatin’ me, just like you. I ain’t even seen a photograph of him though, but it weren’t for looking. When mama napped I’d sneak off into the attic where them old boxes is stored and dig through, but never seen even one of mama wit my father.

Oh, as I’s growin up, I asked mama lots a questions and she’s always had an answer. I’d git to thinkin’ ‘bout him at night when things was all quiet round the farmhouse. Mama’d tuck me in whilst she sing hymns, and the breeze blew curtains and crickets was makin’ like the church choir. We’d say our prayers thank’n Jesus for alls we had and askin’ for another day to enjoy it. After the last kiss when she was a headin’ out the room, in the darkness I’d call to her;

Mama, where’s my daddy?

Oh, he’s here and there, goes ‘bout everywhere. She’d say softly.

Why’d he leave us mama?

He had work to tend to. I’d hear her footsteps gittin’ closer to the door.

When is he comin’ back mama?

I don’t rightly know child, but he promised he would, an he always keeps his promises. Now off to sleep wit ya.

Night mama.

Night Iva.

Tha’d be good ‘nuf for the time, then I’d fall to sleep dreamin’ of him. Sometimes in my dreams, he’d a let me ride with him on the tractor, like paw-paw did or take me wit him to the hardware store for feed or nails to fix the ‘ole fence. He was always nice and smilin’, an take my hand as we walked. Then he’d be gone and I was off in dreamland ridin’ ponies that chased rainbows through forests of daises. In the morn’n the questions start all over a’gin when I sat at the vanity whilst mama brushed my hair.

What’d he look like mama?

Who?

 My daddy. Do I look like him?

Oh yes! Look in that mirror Iva, an you will see him. He gave you these gold’n curls.

Did he see me born?

Oh yes, he was there, if it weren’t for him I’d never git through it. There ain’t no pain like birthin’ pain.

Mama made a neat part in my hair dividin’ it into two sections.

What’s he do, is he farmer?

Yep, an inventor too. She said as she tied ribbons at the end of my plaits.

Wha’d he invent mama? I’d ask, my eyes gittin’ all wide an I’d start to wigglin’.

Oh he created things more beautiful than even you can dream; that’s where you git your ’magination, his gift to you. Now sit yourself still so I’s can finish gittin’ you fixed, we don’t wanna be late for church. Ms. Lottie is sick and I am playin’ the piana in her stead.

That’s how it went for a time. I think mama got tired of all my askin’ and told me that I could talk to him m’self whilst I was out playin’. She said even though he weren’t here, he’d hear me, so when I was alone I’d ask him things like where is he right now, was he mad at us, an did he go ‘cuz I was bad or I din’t make my bed or eat my peas like mama told me to. Then I’d see my friend Ginny comin’ over the hill to play, we’d take hands and run through the field chasin’ the butterflies,  I’d forgit all ‘bout it; always did when I’s wit Ginny, we were alike, she din’t have no daddy right then neither, she know’d him though for a spell ‘til he got killed when the tractor rolled over.

I thought fa’sure daddy come back when paw-paw passed. I sat on the porch steps in my pretty Sunday dress just a wait’n; lookin’ at every man that come up them steps, ‘spectin for one of ‘em to scoop me up and carry me in his arms whilst he said his peace to paw-paw. I waited ‘til there weren’t no more people come to givin’ respect and mama said I had to go on off to bed. That night I decided I’d stop my lookin’. You ain’t never comin’ are ya? I cried into my damp pillow, tuckin’ them memories I created into that place where bad dreams hide.

Then it happened ‘round about the time I turnt 15, I met a boy at church and I started thinkin’ ‘bout daddy a’gin. Prolly cuz Seth Peters was all them things I dreamt my daddy was; tall an good lookin’, smart and kind. Oh, that boy did something to my heart I tell ya. When he smiled at me, I felt my face blush and I wondered if my eyes got all soft like mama’s when she talked about daddy. That set me to wonderin’ how mama met daddy, an I asked her one evenin’ when we was shukin’ corn.

How’d you meet him, ‘um you know, my daddy?

There was silence for a bit then she sighed real deep an her beautiful face softened, like always when she talked ‘bout him.

We met at a church picnic on a warm summer day during a revival.

Did y’all court real long? I asked reachin’ into the bushel for another ear of corn.

Oh, he pursued me for a good spell, I was a tough one though, resisted him I did, but he never gived up on me. She stood up and took the pot of corn to the sink.

How’d you know he was the one for you, I asked. Did stars shoot from your eyes an lil chubby angels with harps fly ‘round yer head? She turned toward me wiping her hands on her apron, then put them on her hips and said, Iva, whatcha y’all gittin at – you’re in love, ain’t ya? Is it that Peter’s boy? He’s a right nice young man.

I was just thinkin’, that’s all; I said with my head down; I couldn’t look at her, then it done burst outta my mouth. I mean I got no daddy, an when I git hitched who is gonna give Seth, I mean the boy, his blessin’ and who is gonna give me away? Mama didn’t answer and turned back toward the sink.

Did he talk to paw-paw, you know propose? I asked quietly.

Yes, in a manner of speakin’. She stared out the window for a long time. He proposed that I spend the rest of my life with him. Tap water was flowin’ out the cookin’ pot as mama stared out the window off into the cornfield.

You said yes, right mama? She din’t answer right off.  Mama? She grabbed her middle and then steadied herself on the sink a’fore turning around.

Of course. Now heft this pot onto the stove for me.

I poured some of the water off the pot and lifted it outta the sink. An then you planned your weddin’ and got your dress and asked your girlfriend to stand wit you as witness and gran-maw made food with the church ladies and then you went away on a trip an got me, right? I moved the big pot to the stove and got the matches to light the burner.

Mama made her way slowly to the stool by the pantry and sat down. She breathed heavy for a few minutes and then said, No. No fancy dress, no flowers an no girls. There were a small ceremony with friends attendin’ and yes there was a reception afterward.

I poked the corn aroun’ in the pot and happened a glance at mama, she was holdin’ her belly a’gin. Can I see pictures? I asked?

There ain’t none Iva.

You din’t git even one for the mantle like gran-maw and paw-paw have? Why, how you ‘sposed to save your memories wit no photos?

I din’t need no photos, to remind me of the best day of my life. I keep them right here in my heart. She said pattin’ her chest and then she got up slowly.

Finish cookin’ the corn will ya sweetie? I’m gonna lay on the bed.

 Yes ma’am, I said, my back to her. I couldn’t bear to watch her leave the room. I know’d she be using the wall for support. I can’t see in your heart though, I said under my breath when I heard the bedroom door close.

Well now I was a smittin’ wit Seth Peters, I tell ya! Why I could hardly git through my studies for thinkin’ of him, but the good Lord know’d and he kept me busy with chores from one Sunday to the next wit the washin’ and the cookin’ after my studies b’cause mama was gittin’ tired more easy spending lotsa time abed, and gran-maw was in her room helpin’ her. Oh I could barely wait for church ev’ry Sunday; Seth and me’d sit right close sharin’ the hymnal, oh how my heart would a set to flutterin’ when his hand a touch mine. I was sure he was the man for me. Then one evenin’, Seth come to the house with a bunch a daisies. Gran-maw sent me to my room and I heard her git mama outta bed and shuffle down the hall. Seemed like an eternity that I was shut up in that room hearin’ them talk. Fin’ly gran-maw came to git me an told me to put on a pretty dress so I’s can receive a suitor. That’s how me and Seth started courtin’. It was all proper a’course. Seth’d come over for supper and then we’s take walks along the lane ‘til the fire flies start their glowin’ and he’d come over ev’ry week after church to help wit the fixin’ that was needed. Gran-maw said we needed a man to help now wit paw-paw gone as we din’t have no money for a farmhand. It went on that way for months an t’was clear that me an Seth be gittin’ married afore long. He done asked mama for her blessin’ on one of them good days when she was sittin’ in the ‘ole chair on the porch. O’course she give it an then started talkin’ crazy ‘bout how she’s gonna give him the deed to the farm as a weddin’ gift and made him promise afore God that he weren’t gonna let nobody take it or so help her she was gonna come down and scold him.

Then late one night grand-maw come in my room just a hollerin’ to get up as mama was having a real bad spell. I hurried past Doc Smith who was standin’ in the hall outside her room, went in and knelt ‘long side her bed. The light from the moon was streamin’ in the window luminatin’ the room just ‘nough for me to see a figure lyin’ there, but it din’t look like my mama. A frail hand reached up and motioned for me to come close and as I did she took my hand, whispered in my ear and kissed my cheek. My head was spinnin’ and my stomach churned, I stared not believin’ what I done heared as I looked in them sunkin’ eyes searchin’ for the softness she always had when talkin’ ‘bout daddy, but it weren’t there. I fought back tears and kissed her hand. I promise mama, I said. I don’t rightly know how long I stood there starin’ down at her. It felt like I was dreamin’, sounds were all muffled like, thunder rumbled somewhere in the distance, and the leaves of the trees were a stirrin’. A warm breeze whistled through the window an the curtains reached out like the angel’s arms beckonin’ to carry her off. She sighed real deep and then her hand went limp. I gently put in down by her side, kissed her forehead and walked outta the room, through the parlor and to the porch. I heard the screen door open, but din’t move. I wanted it to be mama come to give me hug tellin’ me everythin’s gonna be fine, ‘cept I knowed it wasn’t.

You wanna know ‘bout your daddy girl? Well it’s all ri’chere. Gran-maw said real sharp like an handed me a bible. The cover was tore an the gold edges was wore off in some places. It got everything you need to know tucked right in ther’. I writ in it myself as did my mama, it got the names and dates your kin was born and died. She went back into the house, the breeze carrin’ off her sobs as a single raindrop hit the bible in my hand. I opened the cover all gentle like, ‘fraid of what I might find and ran my finger down the hand writ list a names and dates. There it was, the date of mama’s baptisim and the date I was bore. Mama always told me true, there weren’t no dress, or flowers. I understood now why’s there weren’t no photos. I laid the bible on the chair where mama used to sit and ran off into the field. Wind whipped though my hair and rain stung my face as I looked up and screamed, Where are you? I need you!! I fell to my knees and cried. T’was there, in the darkness that I found my Daddy. He come to see mama home, an just when I needed him most, he reached out his hand and took mine. Mama was right, he’s ‘bout everywhere and nev’r left us, I just wasn’t lookin’ in the right place to find him. How’s I s’posed to keep my promise to mama? I called out into the darkness. I felt a peace wash over me and it was then I knowed that if mama could forgive them boys for what they done to her, then wit Daddy’s help, I could too. Just like the preacher said, “What they meant for evil God used for good.”

Weren’t long afore gran-maw went onto Glory too. The church ladies said she done died of a broken heart. So there I was, left an orphan but since I’s of age, Seth an me asked the preacher to unite us as man and wife. Just like mama, there weren’t no dress, and no girls. Ginny got sent off to the city to live wit her aunt Mae, so I put on my Sunday dress and Seth picked some daisies, like he did when he come to court me and gived them to me to carry. The church ladies made food and one of them took a photo soas I’d have one for the mantle to sit right next to gran-maw an paw-paw’s.

Iva stopped speaking when she heard the floor boards creak.

“She feedin’ good?” Seth whispered to his wife as he crept into the dimly lit room making his way to the old chair where Iva nursed their newborn baby.

“I reckon. She done fell off to sleep whilst I was tellin’ her about my mama an how I met her daddy.” Iva smiled up at her husband. “Would ya put her abed?”

Seth bent down to pick up his child, and kissed his wife on the forehead.

“Faith, you is one beautiful girl, almost as purdy as your mama.” He gently laid the infant in the cradle beside their bed. “We’s takin’ her to church t’morrow for presentin’, right?” Seth wrapped his arms around Iva, the two starring down at their tiny gift as she slept.

“Oh yes,” Iva said, “I can’t wait for her to meet my Daddy.”

From This Day Forward

michelle nicole photography

michelle nicole photography

 

A few weeks ago I took a walk, the walk, down that matrimonial aisle;

again.

It had been 20 years since the first time my best friend and I joined hands expressing our intent for all eternity, before God, family and friends; as such, Tom and I felt it fitting to reaffirm our commitment having experienced “for better or for worse” over those years to the fullest extent. A renewal ceremony was important to us on many levels, not the least of which was achieving this marriage milestone undeterred by the statistic: 67% of second marriages fail and according to the National Health Interview Survey, there is a 75% divorce rate among the chronically ill, a double whammy for sure! For me, that short jaunt, escorted only by our grown children, unassisted by ambulatory aides despite 19 surgeries; provided a sense of victory over the bleak prognosis that we were given 22 years ago. The frank words of my doctor still taunt my psyche to this day;

You can expect to be in a wheel chair by the time you are forty with a rod from your neck to your bum”.

 Which in my book, is the equivalent of calling me yellow and will always spur me into action faster than Marty McFly.

In preparation for our ceremony, Tom and I hopped on the trusty inter-web trying to find just the right words suitable to convey our feelings with two decades of wedded bliss ensuing. After pouring through a plethora of variations, we chose the more personal approach and decided to write our own vows. As I read the lists of professions and pledges, I recognized that no matter the tone, be it traditional, secular, religious, non-traditional or even humorous, each contained this promise;

I promise to love you unconditionally despite the circumstances.”

These words resonated deep within me, and after much reflection, I understood why. I had repeatedly failed to uphold this vow, not to Tom, but to myself.

From a young age, we are taught to treat others as we would like to be treated and to love one another as we love ourselves. This sounds easy enough, and even a little cliché but often, exceedingly difficult for those of us with chronic conditions to put into practice, not because we have invisible illnesses, but because we can allow the illness or condition to steal from us the reality that we are someone deserving of unconditional love. Surgeries, treatments, medications and the side effects from them can rob us of self-esteem leaving little to like about ourselves let alone love.

I submit to you dear ones, that to be the best spouse, parent, sibling or friend, we need to accept how we are despite the current medical condition, prognosis or unmet personal goals and embrace who we are. Make today a day to celebrate by renewing an important commitment, the one to yourself. Take a step in the right direction, go to that place where your beautiful inner child takes refuge, hold hands and repeat after me:

  I take you as you are, loving you for who you are now and who you are yet to become. I promise to listen to you, learn from you, and cherish your uniqueness. I will celebrate your triumphs and mourn your losses. I will love you unconditionally and without hesitation. I vow to encourage, honor, respect and protect you. I promise to accept you as you are in sickness and in health, in times of want and times of plenty. I will care for you and stand beside you regardless of the obstacles we may face. Together we will grow in mind and spirit to create a life filled with learning, laughter and compassion from this day forward as long as we shall live.