Alma: Just Mama’s Half Sister

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“She’s just my half sister,” Mama had declared with a particularly strong emphasis on the word “just” as if somehow by virtue of the word “just” she could perhaps distance herself from that genetic fact. Just recently, cousins have crawled out of the woodwork after I finally decided to get an Ancestry DNA test. I have received messages from first, second, third and fourth cousins from around the world who bear last names of those long-lost uncles and aunts with whom I lost touch after my parents divorced and moved far away from each other. In a shoe box on the top shelf of Mama’s bedroom closet I discovered old black and white photos of family I have just the vaguest childhood memories of. Mama was in hospice care for cancer at the time. It has taken me almost thirty years to come to terms with those faces frozen in time-those faces that through blood connect to me. Over the years, I have written a memoir but I am not sure if I really want to share it with the larger world. Family is complicated and even more complicated when it has been fractured and what remains has been scattered like dust over mountains and across oceans, both literally and metaphorically. 

What am I to say to those with whom I share a bloodline and little else?  What do I say to a cousin who shares with me painful memories that confirm the validity of my own nightmares despite the fifty years that have elapsed since we saw each other last?

Family? What does it mean truly? They say a picture speaks a thousand words. What do those words say exactly? Perhaps it should be better expressed as pictures can hide a thousand secrets. On my desk, I have scattered all the black and white photos from Mama’s shoe box; I have searched the faces of my ancestors, immersed myself in research so that I can make sense of the past-my past-their past. With the help of my newly found cousins perhaps I will find the courage to forge ahead with my memoir. Perhaps I will find the courage to tell my family’s story, fractures and all.

Since it is National Poetry Month, I would like to share this poem about my mother’s half-sister Alma, whom I met on a few occasions when I was a  small child. I recall the occasions had been most unpleasant due to the tension in the room between Mama and her half-sister Alma. I never understood the reasons for the tension. Perhaps I will one day be enlightened by a cousin. I do recall Mama going to Alma’s funeral, though. I never called her aunt interestingly enough. Mama never told me to, so I didn’t. I guess she was a half-aunt. I had been in college when she died and  I did not go to her funeral. She had been like a perfect stranger to me as had most of my family after my parent’s divorce.

Last Day

Sweet Thursday and here I go again.

Weeping willows and dogwoods in the sand, dried crumpled leaves laying on the dirty ground, sun burning through the black, rain filled clouds, trying to break out.

Red juicy cherries clustered on green vines, snow-white lilies fluttering in the evening breeze, the yellow petals of the black-eyed Susan drooping towards the wet grass.

Day has ended,

my little red tricycle has rusted brown in the endless Georgia rain,

Mama’s half-sister Alma has passed away.

And all I recall of her is this black and white photograph,

her eyes looking away from the world,

and faded words.

And the rain.

Copyright, 2019 Jenny Andrews

 

 

 

Options

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Time flies, it has been said more than once.

It is already April, the fourth month of the year; time moves on and at a rapid, relentless pace. This year, I have really began to slow down and re-evaluate those things which matter to me most. I have asked myself if I am making the most of this precious life I have been blessed with. I have considered how life is about choices, about those things we choose to do and those things we choose not to do. Some would categorize it as freewill. A few years back I wrote a poem entitled “Options.” I would like to share it with you, as well as another poem entitled “Just Being”I have written about simply finding peace in the moment.

 

Options

Cold rain in early May.

God has left it up to me to decide which way to go.

Live or die?

Laugh or cry?

Cold rain in a present year I decide.

Sunlight breaks through the clouds,

the warmth refuses to hide.

I lift my hands toward God who loves me; I accept the laughter and the pain.

 

Copyright, 2019 Jenny W. Andrews

 

Just Being

Little lavender flowers wet with early morning dew drop their petals into the green grass; dragonfly flutters by.

God glances between ancient oak branches; birds rustle in their nests.

Breezes swirl around brown and gold leaves.

God lifts His fingers to touch the sky; clouds drift by.

I turn my face skyward for the benediction.

God blesses me with the gift of just being.

Copyright, 2019 Jenny W. Andrews

Thank you for reading my poetry. My poetry book “Life at the End of the Rainbow” is available on Kindle/Amazon. I look forward to hearing your comments on my poetry.

 

 

 

Sheba

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This is Sheba.

It has been over a decade since she was in my life. Just the other evening I was reading Charles Heath’s blog about his cat Chester. I was reminded of Sheba and her quirky behavior. She liked to sit in her favorite spot in the middle of the yard and lounge in the sunlight. She liked to stalk in the patch of woods behind my house. Once, she hurried to me out of the woods with a tiny black snake clenched between her sharp little teeth; she dropped it at my feet and gazed up at me with her perfectly pale green eyes as if waiting for me to thank her. The poor little snake needless to say had given up the ghost. I reached down and patted Sheba on the head; she purred and jumped back into the grass leaving me with what remained of her expedition into the woods. I remember pondering what to do with the corpse of the little snake. I gathered up brown paper to wrap it in and with respect for its life I buried it deep within my flower garden and planted flowers over it. Sheba in not too far of a distance lounged with sunlight glinting off her slick black fur.

I miss her presence in my life. Pets are so much more than just pets. They are family; their spirits linger with us long after they leave this earthly existence. I truly believe that the next plane of existence is blessed with the spirits of animals, as well as the spirits of  people we have loved.

Chester is a really cool cat. Check out Charles’s blog for updates. I enjoy reading about Chester because he reminds me of my Sheba from so long ago with his quirky personality. Sheba was quirky; she was bold and stubborn, yet she was so full of love.

I truly miss her, but her spirit is always with me.

Copyright, 2019 Jenny Andrews

The Importance of Big Sisters

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That’s my big sister Darlene, or should I say older sister. She is the brunette and I am the little blonde staring intently at my hand. I was about four years old and I was absolutely enamored with that little wristwatch my daddy gave me. I can still see its shiny golden band and its pretty glass face with the golden Roman numerals. Of course, it wasn’t real gold in the monetary sense, but to me it was pure gold of the highest value because my daddy had given it to me.

My big sister Darlene and I as all sisters since the dawn of time have had our disagreements, but she has and will always be my greatest advocate. I am hers, as well. She just celebrated a birthday-the age I have sworn to secrecy.

This is a poem that captures how I feel about my big sister, Darlene. Happy Birthday, big sister!

Sister, Can You Tell Me

I saw you standing there, could it have been just yesterday?

My big sister, waiting for me outside my first grade classroom.

You, an all-knowing second-grader dressed in a red plaid skirt, your silky black hair spilling down your back.

Wasn’t that just yesterday?

You saw me standing there, a young bride of twenty-two,

pink roses and ivory lace, naively believing in forever.

My big sister, you stood beside me at the altar, you squeezed my hand in yours,

and you let me go.

Wasn’t that just yesterday?

I saw you standing there, crying at Mama’s graveside.

My big sister, I reached over the years and clutched your delicate ivory hands as one who is drowning would do.

Wasn’t that just yesterday?

Sister, can you tell me when the hands of time spun around the clock, at what hour the winds changed?

Sister, can you tell me at what minute tiny lines crept under our eyes?

Can you tell me at what second our hair started to turn gray?

We were young just yesterday.

 

2019 Copyright Jenny W. Andrews

Thinking about Jesus

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As many of you know, my brother Harold was diagnosed with stage three lung cancer last fall. He completed chemotherapy and radiation and is doing well, so far. For this blessing, I am so very thankful. Each day is truly a blessing.

I wrote this poem a few years back when I was experiencing a low point. Life is about highs and lows; nothing stays the same, neither the darkness nor the light. Life is about changes. Jesus, however, never changes. Here is my poem:

Thinking About Jesus

Jesus,

God of the lost,

God of the outcast,

arms outstretched in an embrace for the least of us.

Jesus,

promising to wash us clean from the filth of this life.

Jesus,

promising to keep us company in the darkest hour after the sun goes down on our dreams.

Jesus,

with his bloodied side washes away every tear we have ever cried.

Jesus,

God that remembers what it is like to be abandoned at the eleventh hour.

Jesus,

who remembers the least of us.

Jesus,

God who embraces and loves the lost, the hurting, the desperate.

Jesus,

who grants hope and peace and second chances.

Jesus,

who embraces the world and shares our sorrows and never abandons us in our darkest hour.

Copyright 2019 Jenny W. Andrews

 

Gratitude

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Gratitude.

Thankfulness.

I have been thinking about what it means to be grateful, to be thankful. In our fast paced world, we at times fail to just stop and appreciate the gift that is this life. It is not necessary to state the obvious-that the number of our days on this earth is unpredictable-unknowable. Luke Perry’s death at 52 years old, Fatima Ali’s death at just 29 years old, Elly Mayday’s death at just 30 years old, and now Alex Trebek’s stage four pancreatic cancer diagnosis are just a few public examples of how death and the specter of it is no respecter of age. Fatima Ali was just 29 years old and Alex Trebek is 78 years old. Prayerfully, Mr. Trebek will beat his diagnosis. Thing is that we are not guaranteed tomorrow.

Rather than becoming depressed at the inevitable ending of this life for all of us, we should approach each sunrise with thankfulness.

Chief Tucumseh said:

“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.”

I often think of my sister Sara who died at just 49 years old of lymphoma. I have outlived her by eight years, so far. Not a day goes by that her spirit doesn’t linger somewhere on the outside of my thoughts. Her presence is always felt. It is the same with my mother. I know her spirit is near me, always. I am eternally thankful, grateful for having had a sister like Sara and for having had a wonderful mother like Gracie Lee. While they no longer walk this earth, their spirits still exist on a plane of existence that is a mystery. This life is truly a mystery. None of us know what is on the other side of this existence. What we do know is that one day we will know.

For now, I wake and open my curtains so that the sunlight can spill into my bedroom window. I listen to songs of birds swooping down into the branches of the oak trees in my back yard. Each morning as I eat breakfast before going to work, I make a point to offer my prayers to God of this universe. I thank Him for my eyesight, for my hearing, for my very breath. I thank Him for my food, for my drink, for my very existence. I thank Him for creating me. I pray for strength to get through the day; I pray that He reminds me to number my days-that each day is a sacred blessing. Tomorrow is not promised to anyone. Of course, we have our troubles and anxieties, but they are fleeting.

Charles Spurgeon said:

“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, but only empties today of its strength.”

I choose to live my life from a place of gratitude.

This life is a sacred blessing. It is a mystery. This life is beautiful if only we choose to spend time acknowledging it. God’s spirit is all around us-in the sunrise, in the silence, in the noise. Be thankful, be grateful. In the morning, stand at your window and watch the sunlight stream in and offer thanks for this sacred blessing.

 

Charlie: Winter Wedding Remembering

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Winter Wedding

Winter wedding, me at 22, slipping on a mask, swallowing back my words, reciting vows at the altar in a white clapboard Baptist Church.

Mama in her lavender dress pinned with a pink corsage, her caramel colored skin radiant, her silvery-black hair glossy, sits in the first pew, stares after me, moves her lips to speak, but halts as if the words would sting me.

Mama dwells in my memory in the land of the haunted. I attempt to hold Mama in that memory, in that winter wedding space, and scream for her to speak, to stop me.

In the reception hall, Sister Sara smooths her hands along the edges of the white linen table cloth.

In my white wedding gown, I stand in the middle of the floor, take Charlie’s hand and together we approach the table.

All my doubts fade away; I am lost in the endlessness of dreams, of promises of forever love.  The plastic bride and groom tumble from the top of the wedding cake, land at our feet.

Decades later, Charlie comes back to me in a dream.

He and I in a late summer moonlit night long ago sink our bare feet into the shifting sand. He gathers me into his arms, ocean waves surround us, starlight sparkles and scatters like the light of broken diamonds falling from the sky.

We meld as if nothing in the known universe could ever separate us.

But it did.

And I wake up from the dream.

Jenny W. Andrews, copyright 2019