Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Society of Orphans

From the archives: June 23, 2001

When my mother died five years ago, my last surviving parent, a good friend wrote, welcome to the society of orphans. She had lost her last parent only a few years earlier. At first, I thought the idea odd--an orphan at my age??

Yet, as the years creep by, so many times the thought has crept through my mind, "I need to call and tell mother this"....and then, suddenly, I remember. I can't.

My family of aunts and uncles, gone now too, was large and close. Mother held the role of family matriarch to my cousins, and chief story teller to us all. Never could a holiday come without us gathered around the dining room table or sprawled on the den floor to call out, "tell us the one about cousin Sudie cheating on the Bible Quiz again", or "what about when Uncle Harry used to drive up to the whorehouses on Saturday nights with a fake siren on his car", or "tell us about greatgrandpa Dickson meeting greatgrandmother Harris because of a promise made to his dying buddy, after the Great Civil War was over".

Sad stories too. My grandmother dying of the flu that devastated our country in 1920, leaving behind mother, aged 13 and her younger brother, only five, the last ones of six sibs left in the household. When told his mother had gone to be with God, Uncle Herman replied, 'Doesn't God know a little boy needs his mother?" Her death was followed five years later by my grandfather's, driven off the road by a drunk driver.

My mother's stories brought flesh and blood to the family who had come before me, to the upper generation of cousins and grandparents I had never known.

It is from my mother that I inherited my love of a good story--read, told, or written. It is the feelings they generated in me that drives my poetry now.

If she were alive today, I would say to her, "Oh mother, now Becky is dying, too," and we would recite together the stories we remembered of Becky from infancy on, weaving her, by those tales, into the heart tapestry of our family already passed.

I have no sibs, no children, few remaining close cousins. Since I can't travel, I wonder if I will ever see any of my blood kin again.

I do know I will never again lie on that den floor, stuffed with fried okra, squash, and country-cured ham, surrounded by family, and hear the stories of cousin Sudie, Greatgrandpa Dickson, or Uncle Harry ring through the room, a room so filled with laughter and love.

I miss her still. I miss it all.

Hit right arrow to make the music play with this post. Hit the black dot to turn off the music. It will automatically stop after one play.
Music: Do You Feel the Love Tonight by Elton John.


Michael Parker said...

I'm sorry, Pris.

Endment said...

you have put together a beautiful tribute to your family. the music is a perfect match.
With Michael, I can only say "I'm sorry."

Lyle Daggett said...

So very beautiful and sad. Clearly you've become a carrier of the stories.

Ellen M Johns said...

This is so very sad Pris but reflective too and I sometimes think that memories are buried away and have only been experienced once....which can be a shame sometimes.

When we have a spring clean of our mind, we air those memories and can experience them again and realise that we have truly lived.

Pris said...

Thanks for the comments, all of you. Yes, I inherited the stories, as well as our only ancestral photos. Over a period of about 20 years, while my parents were still alive, I started an old family scrapbook that was made of of the photos and stories mother told me about the ones she'd known or stories she'd heard from HER older relatives about the earlier ones. I continued to add photos of aunts and uncle/their children, my cousins and stories about them, both from mother from their younger years and my own stories later. The album became two huge ones. About two years ago, I copied as much of it as I wanted to keep and passed it on to a second cousin I'd never met, but knew he and his son both were interested in family history. The stories are in my head, anyway, and I wanted more of the family to enjoy them.

polona said...

beautifully written, and i'm pleased to read the stories still live within the family.

Pat Paulk said...

This one evokes alot of emotion. I, too, came from a large family with tons of stories. Both my parents are gone now, lost my Dad last year. So many in the world do not have these kinds of memeories, and that's the sad thing. Very beautifully written Pris!!

Pris said...

palona, welcome to my blog! And Pat, I know. I think of people who never knew their parents or that their parents never communicated with them. I feel lucky. I've had a few people tell me that to keep such an album was like 'living in the past'. To me, that's ridiculous. To remember someone with love and funny/sad stories is to honour that person.

pepektheassassin said...

Oh, my. You have made my day. Thanks so much for this touching post. Love your music, too!

Pris said...

Thanks for commenting!