Death Becomes Her

death becomes her…
smoothed the seams
that lined a tired face
erased the hurt
from eyes of green flint
hushed the blush
that colored angry cheeks
purged the pain
of a life, empty and spent

death becomes her…
hollow hope packed
its overstuffed bags
romantic ruminations
stepped out the door
borrowed tomorrows
went on vacation
and now sleeps serenely
beneath sandy shores

© 2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

Myra’s Funeral

So this is how it all ends, Myra Dunbar thought. My whole life laid bare for the entire world to see.

Well, not quite the entire world; just her family, friends, and a good portion of Welbly, Louisiana, the town she had lived in her entire life.

It was a good turnout, and it pleased her that so many cared enough to come see her off. But it was embarrassing too. After all, who in their right mind wouldn’t turn a bright red to hear their worst transgressions read aloud.

She was glad that John had already passed. He wasn’t sitting here now on the pew in front of her and the current speaker, their daughter Lily, while Lily recounted the time Myra had gotten high and let the five-year-old cook her own dinner, resulting in a nasty burn.

But Myra got through that and a few other mortifying tales without squirming too much in her seat. And Lily moved on to more mundane memories that characterized what an exemplary mother Myra had been.

She was doubly glad John was gone when the last speaker, Marshal Whitacre, the town recorder, took the podium. As was custom, he recited her list of sins first, starting with the time in third grade she had called Milly Simpson a soulless ginger, making the redhead cry, to her third affair that had ended shortly after John’s passing. Myra had learned at John’s funeral that he’d had four flings, sort of evened them out, she supposed, but was still glad he had gone on not knowing.

Then Marshal moved on to her list of deeds.

Head held high and shoulders squared, Myra’s lips curved in a small, modest smile as he recounted her acts of kindness, and exalted her public service, respect for authority, party loyalty, and small carbon footprint.

Ending with her work history, Marshall said, “As most of you know, Myra Dunbar devoted most of her adult life to the upkeep of our library, overseeing the uploading of countless books and their distribution over the internet. And just as importantly, she tracked down and deleted books banned by the Party, even going so far as to erase all mention of them on rogue servers. Furthermore, she was a front-runner in the Party’s initiative to ferret out and destroy false narratives, from history to science that pervades the internet, poisoning our children’s minds.”

Beaming, he turned to Myra. “And so on this day, March 25, 2031, we owe her our thanks for a life well lived, and a job well done.”

The mourners clapped. Myra demurely lowered her eyes, as was expected when one was praised.

When the applause died down, Marshall continued. “Today Myra Tyson Dunbar turns seventy-five, and as is custom, she passes from us. But she will live forever in our hearts.”

Applause again broke out.

Marshal took Myra’s hand. “Come,” he said.

She stood and looked up into the smiling, middle-aged face of her son-in-law.

“Are you ready?” he whispered, tucking her arm through his.

“Yes…yes, I am,” Myra said, though now that the time was here she wasn’t so sure. But she knew she had to put on a brave front, if not for her own pride, then for that of her family. It didn’t sit well on one’s permanent record if a family member behaved badly, even at their passing.

All stood as Myra walked with Marshal down the center aisle toward the back of the room where two soldiers waited on either side of the double doors.

Among the applause and smiling goodbyes, Myra heard a woman whisper, “Can you believe that young people used to have to fight the wars? Imagine squandering productive life that way. Barbaric…”

Then white-haired, stoop-shouldered, Myra Dunbar passed through the double doors and into the Army.

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

A Father

What makes up a good father?

I would imagine there are as many answers to that question as there are people. And I would imagine that most answers would be influenced by what one’s own father brought to the table, or what he lacked in parental skills.

My father was “Daddy” to us kids, and later on, “Pa” to his grandchildren and great grandchildren. His oldest grandchild, Johnny, christened him Pa—probably short for grandpa—and it stuck. It suited my dad; he was an informal man.

To me, he was a perfect father, or as close to perfect as one can be. He got to be the fun parent, and to my mom fell the roll of disciplinarian. Looking back, I can see how it worked out that way. When I was a child, Daddy was gone a good part of the year, working as a lumberjack in Northern California, while Mama kept the home fires burning. When Daddy came home for a while in winter, it was almost like a holiday.

My earliest memory of him is him holding me up in the air, and me looking down at the humongous grin on his face. My last was the final words he spoke, at the age of ninety-four, before he closed his eyes for the last time: “I think I’m gonna go find Ma’am now.” Ma’am (what he called Mama) had passed away a little over a year previously.

And in between, so many memories—

Daddy playing the harmonica, and singing “Bimbo”. Holding my hands while bouncing me on his foot. Rubbing my cheek with his whiskers while I shrieked in delight. Running and jumping onto his lap when I had gotten in trouble with Mama, and him telling her not to spank me, I’d be good. Watching boxing on TV, grunting and shifting in his chair as if he were in the ring. Walking out among his cows, patting their backs and calling them by name. Saying grace over our meals. Laughing when I accidentally drank from his glass of buttermilk (I sat beside him) and sputtered at the awful taste. And many more…

My memories of him during my teenage years was more of a strong background presence that anchored our family. Like most children of that age, I had pulled away from my parents.

After I married and became a parent, I came to appreciate my daddy, to realize how blessed I had been, and still was, to have both him and Mama, two normal people who loved each other, and their children. And who had done their best to give us a good life, a happy life.

My daddy took my husband, who had lost his father at an early age, under his wing, and loved him as if he were his own son. My husband adored Daddy, and took him hunting and fishing, looking after him as Daddy grew older and not as strong and sure footed.

As Daddy got along in years, I remember his stories most of all. My siblings and I, along with our spouses and children, always gathered at my parents house every Sunday afternoon. Sitting at the kitchen table, Daddy spun tales of his childhood, times in California, his and Mama’s courtship, and everything else under the sun. And he was good at it, had us all laughing and asking questions.

There’s so much more to him than I can even begin to relate here. He was more than just a good father; not perfect, but he was a good man, a kind man. He is the standard against which I judge all men. And not many have measured up.

If there is an afterlife, I’m sure my daddy is there, he and Mama raising crops and kids. And I’d like to think he knows how much I love him, how much all his children love him, and knows what an inspiration he was to all who knew him—and Lord knows, there were many. He touched a lot of lives.

As he touched mine.

So on this day, and every Father’s Day since he has been gone, I look up and say, “Happy Father’s Day, Daddy…your baby sure does love you.”

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

Forest For The Trees

Brizzle saw them first and alerted the rest of us. I had heard about the two-limbed creatures, but had never seen one. Soon I would. I wondered if I would survive it.

Twink brushed against me. “Will they kill us, Faust?”

The agitation of the cluster vibrated through me like the passing of the furry, horned ones. Everyone was scared. Everyone wondered if the stories we had been told when we were saps were true and not just made-up. You behave now, or the two-limbs will get you, the old ones had threatened.

“The two-limbs will not harm you,” I said to Twink.

A flurry of movement accompanied a ragged cackle. “Do not lie to the sap.” Old Clartha shook a withered, brown limb at me. “They will kill every last one of us, given time.”

Twink shook. The other little saps nearby trembled as well.

“Do not pay any attention to her,” I said. “The sky-fire has affected her mind.”

Old Clartha’s good side swayed toward me. “I might be old and half-dead, but I have not forgotten what was told to me by my mother-tree, and her mother-tree before her, and farther back still.”

Twink said, “What did she tell you?” Her question was echoed over and over by all the younger ones in the cluster. Saps were so curious; they always wanted to know the whys and wherefores of everything. Continue reading “Forest For The Trees”

Parable of Motherhood

When my mother died in 2003, my sister’s friend sent her this. I think it’s the most touching piece of writing I have ever read about mothers.
For all of you out there whose mother has passed on, this is for you…

Parable of Motherhood
By
Temple Bailey

The young mother set her foot on the path of life. “Is the way long?” she asked. And her guide said, “Yes, and the way is hard. And you will be old before you reach the end of it. But the end will be better than the beginning.” But the young mother was happy and she would not believe that anything could be better than those years. So she played with her children and gathered flowers for them along the way and bathed them in the clear streams; and the sun shone on them and life was good, and the young mother cried, “Nothing will ever be lovelier than this.”

Then night came, and storm, and the path was dark and the children shook with fear and cold, and the mother drew them close and covered them with her mantle and the children said, “Oh Mother, we are not afraid, for you are near, and no harm can come,” and the mother said, “This is better than the brightness of day, for I have taught my children courage.”

And the morning came, and there was a hill ahead and the children climbed and grew weary, and the mother was weary, but at all times she said to the children, “A little patience and we are there.” So the children climbed and when they reached the top, they said, “We could not have done it without you, Mother.” And the mother, when she lay down that night, looked up at the stars and said, “This is a better day than the last, for my children have learned fortitude in the face of hardness. Yesterday I gave them courage, today I have given then strength.”

And with the next day came strange clouds which darkened the earth, clouds of war and hate and evil–and the children groped and stumbled, and the mother said, “Look up. Lift your eyes to the light.” And the children looked and saw above the clouds an Everlasting Glory, and it guided them and brought them beyond the darkness. And that night the mother said, “This is the best day of all for I have shown my children God.”

And the days went on, and the weeks and the months and the years, and the mother grew old, and she was little and bent. And her children were tall and strong and walked with courage. And when the way was rough they lifted her, for she was as light as a feather; and at last they came to a hill, and beyond the hill they could see a shining road and golden gates flung wide. And the mother said, “I have reached the end of my journey. And now I know that the end is better than the beginning, for my children can walk alone and their children after them.” And the children said, “You will always walk with us, Mother, even when you have gone through the gates.”

And they stood and watched her as she went on alone, and the gates closed after her. And they said, “We cannot see her, but she is with us still. A mother like ours is more than a memory. She is a Living Presence.”

Roads

a child knows nothing
about the consequences
of the many roads
she will walk in life
until the end
when the last road is chosen
and for better or worse
she arrives at her destination

no more roads left to walk
she then ponders
those fearlessly taken
the ones passed by, unexplored
the hurtful ones
paved with nails and glass
and she realizes that long ago
she lost her way

too late now
she knows, too many times
she picked the wrong roads
always in a hurry
she veered left on a whim
right on a wish
and she has only herself to blame
for this damned dead end

©2019 KT Workman

The Old Woman

The old woman rises at dawn
Cooks breakfast for the old man
As she stirs the bubbling gravy
Turns the sizzling bacon
Her eyes stray to the open window
Where the new-plowed earth waits

Dishes stacked in the sink
She joins the old man
Beneath the cerulean sky
Laying out the rows
Mounding the hills
Dropping in the seeds

As the days grow longer and warmer
The old woman weeds and waters
Tending the green growing plants
With love and care
As if they were her children
Who all have grown and gone

The old woman picks the lettuce first
Along with green onions
She drizzles them with bacon drippings
And while they eat in front of the TV
She and the old man
Talk of long-ago gardens

A passel of barefoot kids
Running up and down the rows
More hindrance than help
So sent off to play
While the young old woman and old man
Do the work

In the height of summer
The old woman picks juicy tomatoes
And the last of the cucumbers
She and the old man
Eat them with a little salt
While watching Wheel of Fortune

The old woman rises at dawn
Cooks breakfast for the old man
As she stirs the plopping oatmeal
Butters the toast
Her eyes stare through the frosty glass
At the barren, snow-covered garden

Arthritis torments the old woman’s joints
Her heart flutters in an unsteady rhythm
Keeping time with a lonely mind
That is muddled with yesterdays
She wonders if she will see another spring
Or if she even wants to

©️2019 KT Workman

Mama’s Garden

I have a lot of good memories of my mama, some of them, surprisingly, from the time she was dying.

A little back history for clarification—

By the time she was in her late 80s, Mama’s heart was failing from simply being “worn out,” as her doctor put it. Knowing her time was limited, she asked not to be taken to the hospital under any circumstances, to be allowed to die at home. My siblings and I honored her wishes. We arranged our schedules so two of us could be there around the clock to care for her, supplemented with visits from hospice. During this four-month period, a lot of Mama-memories were added to my considerable store, some heart wrenching, some bittersweet, and all priceless.

One day in early fall, I was with Mama when she wanted to see her garden. I’m sure she missed it. She had always enjoyed “digging in the dirt,” whether it was working in her flower beds or tending the large vegetable patch behind the house. Over the years, when I dropped by to visit, if the weather was passable, many times that’s where I’d find her. I think for her the inside of the house was of secondary importance—except for cooking, but that’s another story.

That day, my sister, brother and his wife were there as well, and the four of us got Mama into a wheelchair and rolled her outside into the warm, sunny day.

We started across the bumpy yard, brother pushing the chair, and were doing fine until he hit a chughole in the thick Bermuda grass. The wheelchair stopped abruptly and Mama almost shot out of it. Of all things, she burst out laughing, and with a smidgen of relief that she had stayed put in the chair, the four of us laughed along with her.

Then we were off again, a bit more slowly this time.

When we reached the edge of the garden, brother parked the chair and set the brake. Mama looked out over plants that were still mostly green and growing, saying nothing. I couldn’t help but wonder what was going through her mind, how she felt about not being able to do what she had always done, how she couldn’t just get out of that chair, walk out in the rows and start weeding.

I don’t remember if sister, brother, sister-in-law, or I talked to fill the silence; all I remember is feeling sad as I stood there staring at Mama’s garden. And I remember wishing, as I had many times after Mama’s health started deteriorating, that I could give her some of my healthy years. But life doesn’t work that way, and she wouldn’t have taken them if such a thing had been possible. Mamas aren’t like that.

After a time, Mama closed her eyes and turned her pale face to the sun. And smiled.

That beautiful smile took away a little of my sadness, and lives on in my memory, warming my heart until the day I can see it again.

©️2019 KT Workman