Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Granny and I were walking through the high grass of a cow pasture full of hidden lichen covered grave markers. Many predated the civil war and were on their sides or cracked in half. Some were so encrusted with black green that they could hardly be read. The going was slow and the cow pies were numerous. This west Texas cemetery has a name but no sign and if Granny hadn’t told me to turn down this dirt farm road, I’d have never seen it. There was an old hitching post next to the metal gate and several live oak trees to shade the few cows lucky enough to fit in their shadow. The morning was nearing 95 degrees.

I listened to her tell me about the people who were buried here. She’d stop and pull a handful of grass away to read the stone and then tell me who they were kin to or if we were related. One name led to a story about a woman with eleven children who had hung up the wash on the line, then walked down to the creek and drowned herself. There were little marble lambs for baby graves and one marble cube said simply “Baby”. I had brought a camera and some large sheets of paper and black crayons to make rubbings. There were many blank white crosses. We were quiet for stretches, with me documenting and Granny staring off at the low hills. She was ninety and very healthy, but almost everyone she had every known was gone.

She waved her hand at a stone and made a spitting sound, saying the name with disgust. “You know about him?” She looked at me. I had heard the name and knew we were related somehow, cousins? It was getting hotter and cicadas were buzzing in the tree. “He was KKK." Granny blotted the sweat above her lip with a tissue, put it back in the pocket of her tunic and turned headed back to the car. “well …. we knew. But…….” She didn’t finish. I picked up my papers and followed her, my legs shaking.

I didn’t know how hard to press her on this. She had wanted me to know, and I didn’t think she had ever talked about it. When Granny and I returned to my aunt’s house, I told my three cousins what she had said. After their initial shock, we gently encouraged her to unburdened herself of this evil knowledge.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Bad Hand

My oldest had the week off. None of his high school vacations mesh with his sibling’s elementary school, and most of his friends are out of town. Before he went up to the snow with his dad and brother all he wanted was to sit with me and watch all of season 3 of Lost. I am suddenly his only pal. This is a huge shift, and I’ll take it, though I did have scads of other things I wanted to do. I had started painting his brother’s room and needed to finish so he could move back in. There were books stacked on the dining room table I wanted to sort through and take to the used bookstore. I needed to buy mulch.

Now my boys are up in the snow and the youngest is welded to my side. She had an episode of acid reflux. The burning feeling sent her into a panic and I pick her up early from school. The tears and fear have increased the raw feeling in her throat so now we are doing deep breathing and she is in bed with me drawing and writing in her journal. She makes a list: relax, breathe, drink water, eat saltines … Her drawing shows a knife going into her stomach and fire in her throat. She can’t swallow pills and it sends her into another panic when I try to put one in her applesauce and it doesn’t work. It was the beginning of our girls only weekend and she was not up for much more than snuggling in my bed.

The phone rings and it’s my middle son. I’m happy to hear from him, but I’m not so delusional to think that with endless pizza and violent movies he should think to call me just to chat. “Hi Mom, I broke my arm.” He’s thirteen and vague on the details: ducked a snowball while snowboarding, x-ray, splint, Tylenol, out for the lacrosse season. “Guess I’ll get my French homework done. Here’s dad.” Dad is even more vague. “He’s fine. Don’t worry.” I know I won’t get details until I can physically corner one of them.

I’m fanned out like a bad gin rummy hand.