The Roaring Springs Reunion

What wonderful memories were made this past weekend in Roaring Springs, Texas. Family reunions have their way of bringing sweet nostalgia to life. I see the movements of my mother’s sisters that copy her in so many ways. I see the faces of my brothers in my cousins. I see the eyes of myself in my uncle. The smiles of my Aunties that look like one another, as my sisters continue a mutation of them. The voices in my aunts singing that sounds like my mother if my eyes are closed, seeing her there. The care in the younger ladies to their children that I once saw in myself and cousins in times that seem so far away but were here just yesterday. Enough familiarity to bring back my mother, grandmother and grandfather, my aunts and uncle that have gone before us all live in what I saw this weekend. The spirits possessed in the past lives, lives on and that makes me happy. I remembered being a child, when life was simple, and love was genuine and felt. To my Aunt Sarah that is happy, beautiful, full of life, loving and willing to pray at the drop of a hat, I say thank you for teaching me to grieve loss and accept life. You are amazing to me and I appreciate you. To my Aunt Rosie, with the beautiful voice that I had never heard before this weekend. It must have been one to have been revered. Your soul is genuine, and I love you. To my Aunt Mary, full of life, musical and giving. Your laughter cannot be duplicated. You remind me of my mother most of all. To my aunt Barbara, the concrete that is left of my childhood memories with you and the cousins. The memories I have at your house cannot be compared, you make me happy. To my uncle Charles, whom I did not know, yet feel the belonging. I am sorry we never got the chance to be all we could have been for and to one another. To the many cousins I have been blessed with, the hugs that felt as they did when we were children. To my older cousins of whom I was to small to play with in my youth, I have finally arrived in your plane of maturity and enjoy each of you on so many levels. To the memories spoken, engraved in our minds, like the pictures placed all around that continue to speak to us through their stillness, just as the lost new cousins have. I just wanted to say thank you to the generation before me that are still with me. I want you to know what you mean to me and how much I appreciate your carrying forward the importance of love and family. Years of pain from losing members of our families has taken its toll on us through the years, yet we resiliently remember through the tears how they brought joy and served their purpose. My hope is through the next generation that we can continue to bring forth the goodness of love we were given.  Thank you, Grandpa Charles Otto Underwood and Lottie Rosetta McClain Underwood, for leaving the legacy of what was at the reunion. I know you are proud, and I know how incredibly lucky I am to have been born into a family that cares about each other, a family of nurturers, men and women. Thank you family, I love you all!

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Loss

As the days go slowly by, we find ourselves in situations that expend our energy beyond what we can give, yet we keep giving. We ask ourselves why and how much more is left, until someone we love hurts and needs us more than we need the energy it takes to sustain our own selfishness. You see, many days come and go without revelation, while others occur and bring with them joy insurmountable and others steal our joy and leave us wondering why these feelings are so extreme. In reference to loving our children, I am not only reminded lately of the beautiful little girl named Timye that my wife and I lost many years ago to the resounding loss of a great nephew allowed to live for 77 days. He lived to be beautiful, with fingers that stretched across his mothers’ fingers. He had eyes that were wide awake with anticipation of what this place was and how recognizable the faces he saw were. This is a story of my own witness that encompasses the loss of many. I include you in the continual heartache, whether your little one was just born or had lived to give you much joy. The loss is real and often inconsolable. I am a true believer in grief, but the kind that lasts as long as it has to. For me, I know my grief for our little Timye continues. I imagine her today as a gorgeous, 26-year-old successful young woman with raven black hair and blue eyes like her mom. She carries herself stately, with empathy that saves others from unnecessary diluted denial. She was here only a short while, but her impact left questions and applied a learned behavior in those of us that held her. That saw her beautiful face and put her night cap on. It was lovely, it was short, and the pain continues to find portals of entry that were thought to be healed and closed. For my niece, whom I love unconditionally and feel her abandoned support of self, even though there are those that love her and are there, we are meaningless when the loss is so great. They say time heals all wounds. This my friend is not true. What time does is allows us to finally accept the loss that has occurred. It has done nothing to lessen the magnitude of loss. Yes, usually life goes on as usual all around us. Sometimes we do not want to hear laughter, because we want others to share what we feel, to understand that it is real. Grief is real, long and takes the energy of endurance to a level of mega exhaustion. I say this in tribute to my great nephew Jase and my own little baby daughter Timye because they deserve recognition. They served a purpose and were great teachers of the soul. Don’t misunderstand me, many losses may not bring about the magnitude of eternal emptiness on this earth as others. It is what it is, and we can’t change that. What we can change is the way we look at loss, especially the loss of a child. Jase and Timye were supposed to be ours, they were supposed to grow and bring forth goodness abundantly. I know this because the seeds they planted in us have continued to grow and bring forth fruit of forgiveness, understanding and empathy towards those who do not understand, to those who think one can pull themselves up by their boot straps. My friend, sometimes that is impossible. I know this is sad, it is sad because it is sad. Forgive your children often, kiss them and hug them when they least expect it and support them in what seems so insignificant to us if it is bringing them joy. Often, we want to change places with innocence knowing this is impossible. Often we are sad and depressed with situations and life, but to carry life forward, their lives, we must find a way to bring them forward in us to let the best of ourselves be given to others.

The Reunion

Another year has come and gone all too quickly, culminating in a grand family reunion. I suppose becoming older has its newness of anticipation. Looking forward to the remnants of what used to be and what we continually miss, realizing if we are lucky that life does not have to change after loss. Being blessed with a large family of brothers and sisters had its harsh times. Times like growing up poor on that old country farm, with a long dirt road that led us back to one another in later years, finding comfort in stories, images and touches that are only known to one another and knowing feelings that are only felt and understood by those I see.  I am reminded today of moments that linger from my yesteryear’s. I see the familiar smiles among my siblings. I see new signs appearing of years gone by around their eyes, cheeks and the corners of their mouths, revealing characteristics of my mom and dad. With this, enabling them to be with us still. I hear the ever-familiar sounds of their voices that does not change. I see familiar reminders in the next generation who have acquired subtle, distinguishing changes from us, yet retain the closeness felt by a unified structure of supported systems that does not struggle for the altruistic culture we have been born in to. It is at this time that those hard times remembered make life so much easier today by gathering with those who know the presence of realness that kept us reality based as children. There has been a hardy weekend of togetherness, courted with those obnoxious sounds and jokes of brothers and sisters that I thought had been lost somewhere between then and now, easily found and remembered. On the last day of the reunion, we all gather for breakfast. I look around and see a royal legacy left behind by those before us. The day progresses, and it is time for our reunion auction, a much-looked forward time for all. All that is brought is sold. There is nothing taken back or left over. Everyone attending either makes or finds something worthy of putting into the auction for sale to help with expenses for next year. My prize to find this year will be a treasure for me for the rest of my life. My youngest sister has had the skeleton of my mother’s Singer sewing machine for years. Her husband took the old dirt road up to the farm house, yes, the one you see above and extracted several old ship-lap boards from between the rooms. My sister left the bones of the old sewing machine as it was, and my brother-n-law took the old, dry, boards and cut them into what would be a table top. The varnish used brought the boards back to life and as I see this table sitting in the corner of my living room I can hear it’s whispers of those days that were not lost, just hidden, echoing childhood once again and giving up its history, knowing each of us has touched the past. To some this old table will mean nothing, but for me, it encapsulates a time that was distant, removed from me only because time allows forgetting. As I glide my hand across the glossy surface, visions appear of many of those who entered my life when they entered our home. Memories of fleeting faces that have turned from decades ago to eras of my own life.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

Fingerprints

My oldest sister lives in my mother’s cozy, little home. Since mom’s been gone the house continues to absorb memory after memory, constantly purging them forth year after year as we ready another year for our family reunion without her.  My dad and my mother produced nine children, three girls and six boys. There are eight of us still living. Each of us begin a project for the reunion and auction it off to the highest bidder. The money made from the auction goes towards the next year’s reunion. As we rummage through the past, finding things that are freshly remembered, I become embraced and entranced in the small things and think of what and where they have been. I touch the few items left behind and know I must be smudging the fingerprints they left behind. I am reminded of moms secluded giggles she would make when the slightest risqué remark was made. I see the reflection of myself in the twilight in her evergreen eyes as I gaze into her photographs. I see my dad watching television with his sunglasses on. Sunglasses my wife bought him thirty plus years ago.  I found them today, unexpectedly in mom’s pantry in the kitchen, aged with time and glazed over with a film of years. I touch them, held them in my hands for a while and began the journey backwards. Sometimes it seems like it was quite a distance, but really it isn’t far away. As I continue to immerse myself in moments of years gone by, I find my daddy’s signature on documents, payments, bills and correspondences he made with people, realizing at that moment, that he too was human with responsibilities and duties. I study the signature for just a few minutes, visualizing his heavy, thick hand writing a beautiful cursive signature, almost too feminine looking to have been a man’s, but there it was, a moment in his time, part of his existence, leaving his parting gifts to be found, like this old leather, weather beaten, scratched up cigarette case with his name scratched into it and a flap that slips into a loop covering the cigarette package. In its oldness and accrued weatherization, I find a moment of childhood rest left in its secrets. Awakened from my simple lapse of time, I hear my sister say, “do you remember this”? She holds up a multicolored, striped towel that had been folded over with eight pockets sewn into it. My mother used to hang it next her bathroom. It held her talcum powder, perfumes and slippers, you know the ones that use to fold into themselves? It had a memory for every pocket. Soon my sister said, “I am going to put this in the auction”. It will be called the memory pockets. “There will be something in each pocket to bid on, something of mother’s, but no one will know what is in the pocket until it has been bid on”. “This will be great” she said. I see my sister now, beautifully aging like my mother, resembling her through the tears. I can feel her loss and see her kiss the empty pocketed towel that will soon be filled as a Christmas stocking, full of my mother’s goodness. Many things anew were discovered this morning, oh not in that what we found hadn’t been seen or touched before, but that everything we looked at served a purpose and that every purpose attached itself to a string in our hearts.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

The New Used Black Vinyl Couch

The heat is bearing down upon my skin, hot, turning my skin pink. I feel beads of sweat stream from my forehead, easily wiped away with the sleeve of my tee shirt. A mild breeze has stirred, cooling the heat from the intense sunshine. The smell of the grass I am cutting takes me back fifty years ago, to a place that is so familiar. Watching the cuttings billow out of the side of the lawn mower with occasional puffs of dirt reminds me of the money I saved one summer to buy my mother a living room suite. For weeks my brothers and I walked the dirt roads around town like nomads looking for yards to mow or flower beds to clean. On occasion a lady might need us to move heavy furniture, so she could clean and vacuum behind them. Often, we would find pop bottles that could be sold at the grocery store. Back then, the bottles were returnable for four cents a bottle. We would find the clear to slightly green colored Coca Cola bottles, the clear Pepsi bottle with its red, blue and white logo on it and the green Sprite bottles with Sprite written in white. At the end of the day, much like today I continue to feel the heat from the sun radiate around my neck and my face, down my arms with a stinging memory of sunburns. By the end of summer, I had enough money to buy a used living room suite for my mom. There wasn’t a lot of furniture to remove from the living room to have it ready for Norris’s furniture store to deliver it and bring it in. I can see the vacant room, wooden floors worn from traffic from thousands of steps made by us all. I can see it as if it were yesterday, a black vinyl couch, loveseat, chair and ottoman. Yes, it was used but all the arms were intact and there were no holes in it. It was nice, and it felt good to make my mother happy. Her smile was worth all the sunburns I ever had. I remember being embarrassed of the gentleman’s entry in to our home, for surely theirs was made fine. In my fortune of memories made in the past, I no longer feel embarrassed about what we did or didn’t have. The vivid smile and the fine lines around my mother’s eyes are ingrained in a happy place forever within me.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

Moments in Time

If you’ve wondered where I’ve been, I’ve been trolling through the card catalog of my mind. A place where rampant thoughts stream across a galaxy of intertwined memories that sometimes have to be hunted for. A place where familiar trails lead to memories not forgotten. Trails of moment’s in time that were not lost but are now worn deep from the walk back and forth to be found. These moments have just been waiting to be remembered, bursting forth as if to say, “tell this today”, making one smile for the gift of memories picked up from the lost and found.  I have several childhood marbles, different colors, all bearing the finger prints of the boys that lost them to me. I see my grandmother’s eyes magnified and distorted as she looks at me through thin rimmed glasses from another era, knowing now, with those glasses she saw me and looked at many things and people through those “windows to the soul” as people call their eyes. I have the knife my dad gave me in sooner years than today that has hardly been opened since his passing. Remembering him telling me that all boys needed a pocket knife for whittling and skinning fish. Remembering those hot summer days, much like today when my dad would take out the clippers and cut all of us boys hair. He never delivered the cut we might have wanted, but then again, he only knew one style for boys in the summer and that was to buzz them off. If I stop and close my eyes, it all becomes real again. I can feel the coolness of the glass marbles between my thumb and forefinger as I attempt to knock my friends marble out of the circle drawn in the dirt with a stick. I can feel the warmth from my grandmother’s body as she sits next to me, holding me with her frail hands, feeling them unnoticeable tremble as they held mine. I can feel my father’s thick fingers and heavy hand with a comb as he burrs the tow-headed hair from my head, hearing the clicking sound of scissors and the clippers all in my mind as I sit in a metal chair in the shade of our yard, with brothers waiting to be next. In the background I can hear the squawks of the chickens and the life of creatures all around that made life real and meaningful. Memories tucked away, bringing joy as I see the faces of near shock on my brother’s bald heads. It is a smile indeed now, more of a chuckle I suppose, seeing the awkward actions we all made in madness from not being in control. What a magnificent tool we carry around. It is with us always. It is now a tattered and worn old suitcase, becoming heavier with every passing year as thoughts and time are pressed and placed inside.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

Reunions of the Past

Looking through the scattered pictures of time, I see faces with smiles that were made years ago, stuck in time that possess eternal happiness. Their silent breaths of air that sustains their posture forever. Remembering the very smiles that are made and the reasons they made them returns when I see the past. The reunions of the passed ones leave residual memories in the faces and smiles of their legacies left behind. Sometimes I see the past ones in the faces of my siblings and even further the memory of the few left from the generation before us in my aunts. Many years have passed, and many lives have come and gone. A time gone by, never to be seen of or heard again, without memories, much like the rivers moving along, never to see the same water twice. I say this to tell myself to stop and remember the smiles of family and friends, to make memories that last a lifetime as the smiles turn upward and lines begin to appear, familiar yet that age cannot change who they belong to. Wind changes the lay of the land as time does the faces of the youth of time gone by, this is us as we are supposed to be. I remember so many things from the past that the story is continuous. I see as a young boy tagging along behind his sisters down the old dirt road to the home of an elderly mother and her daughter, living alone, making it as we all did. Sitting outside with the two old spinsters, I watch my sister Brenda taking the pins out of the hair from the daughter of the old woman, a woman who is aged herself. Brenda takes the long, graying hair down, brushes it out almost waist length as Linda does the same to the older, frailer gray-haired mother. Braiding and brushing until the hair is high upon the top of their heads, out of the way from the hot southern wind that seems to never stop. As they sit, the younger old lady goes inside and comes back out with several glasses of Tang, a powdered orange drink over two or three pieces of ice, sharing what little of the best they had to offer, with appreciation and a need to participate in the visitation. I’m not sure what all they talked about, but I know those two old ladies never forgot my sisters. I know this because long after the older lady had passed, the daughter lived on, lived on long enough to know my sister Brenda had died, remembering Brenda’s smile, her gentleness with herself and her mother. We received a letter from her and of course by now she no longer lived in the country. She had been taken away, perhaps to an old folk’s home. She spoke of the kindness, gratitude and friendship she and her mother had with two young girls that they sat patiently to see now and again walking up the old dirt road to give a little time to them. To perhaps let the old ladies, relieve a little youth and appreciate the time to make friends of another generation.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)