Rose watched the man as he walked. His gait more of a shuffle than distinct steps, sliding his feet as if something bad would happen if they lost contact with the ground. His legs appeared shaky. She was sure he feared falling. His pants rode too low, not on purpose, but because his belt needed tightening. At least he had zipped his zipper. He grabbed the rail as he reached the ramp going into the doctors’ office. Rose had the urge to pull his pants up by the belt in the back and walk behind him to steady his step. She was sure that would be embarrassing.
Inside the office she still watched him. He was short winded and looked tired. He used every bit of his energy to make it from the car to here. He looked as if he could fall asleep sitting up. When the nurse called his name he rocked back and forth to gain momentum to rise. Staggering slightly he followed the nurse. She stopped at the scales and he hesitated before stepping up. Barely balancing, as if the scales were a beam instead of wide enough for two feet, Rose reached toward him to help and he frowned. They were in public for God sake. She tried to remember, to think of his dignity, to leave him some pride. She followed on as they took blood and placed him in a room.
Rose was watching him, as if for the first time, with new eyes. Lucy had prompted this. She had told her six-year-old granddaughter that she would give her a dollar to dust the living room and dining room. Lucy asked one of her never-ending whys; Rose had explained that everyone had to work for money. To which Lucy replied by informing her that Granddaddy did not.
Rose watched him now with new eyes. Would this be the man Lucy remembered? When did he get so old? When did she become married to an old man? Would all of the grandchildren remember him this way? Surely their mothers would tell them of a different man.
Walking down the ramp he once again held onto the rail. As he reached the bottom he looked around and seeing no one he took the arm that she offered. This was all new to her. Not helping him, she had helped in someway all the years they were married, but seeing him as helpless. It made her sad.
Their oldest grandson, John, would remember him as special. He loved the boy so. Took him with him everywhere, even in diapers. He was as proud of John as if he was his own. They had raised two daughters but John was different. He would remember the man that taught him to hunt, that men respected, that could weld, farm, and work on cars. He would remember and always miss him. Rose and their daughters would share that grief.
How would Libby and Sam and Lucy remember him? Libby was thirteen going on thirty. Tall, long legs, just starting to notice boys and she thought she was her grandmother’s favorite. When she looked at him what did she see? She probably did not see the strong young man that had caught Rose’s eye. What would she remember?
Sam loved him and wanted so much to be included in everything. Sam was nine, liked to fish and thought he wanted to hunt. He followed his brother John and begged his granddaddy to go. Granddaddy took him when he felt able. The boy had more energy than he could handle now.
Lucy was six, in constant motion, a made up song for each new subject and hardly slept. But Granddaddy slept. Some days he slept fifteen hours. The swish of his bi-pap machine and the chug-chug of the oxygen machine that accompanied it now, heard into the living room. Lucy complained that she had to keep the volume down on the TV. No better than he could hear it was just an act of courtesy.
Rose thought back to when she wasn’t much older than Libby. She was fifteen the first time she saw him. It wasn’t love at first sight but something was there. When the air is thick and you know a storm is coming, your skin prickles and you turn toward the wind. Your hair blows back, you feel goose bumps and you wait for it. You wait for that touch. Rose remembered that touch, remembered wanting it, remembered living for it. When his lips brushed hers, she felt rising warmth and it was hard to breathe. In his arms she was safe. His hands would slowly slide down her body; it was like standing too close to a fire. The heat spread through her. She waited and watched for the next time his car turned in the driveway. Weekends had too much week between them but pasted in a split second. The first time his hand touched her bare leg and move toward her thigh, there was no turning back. Time changed and life moved on, marriage and babies, daughters and grandchildren.
Rose hoped they all felt the love they shared. She hoped they would remember it long after.
She helped him take off his shoes, removing his socks and noticed the dents they left. His breathing was labored by the time he got into bed. He grabbed her arm and gently pulled her toward him. Rose leaned over him and their lips brushed. She felt the heat rising and it was hard to breathe. Continue reading

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Daddy’s Letter

“I remember Daddy… Catching fish, then cooking them over an open fire on the riverbank. Trips to Indian Island, tales of Black Beard the pirate and buried treasures, history of a time gone by. Showing us a work ethic, a love for the water, the land and family. Showing us how to enjoy life, live by your own terms when possible, working toward personal goals and always looking ahead. Looking ahead to that next good time or accomplishment or hustle. Stressing that education is important, we can always learn from history, worldwide, national or our own. Memories that include stacks of sugar and knowing what it was for, digging a cave in the side of a hill, noting that even if you don’t finish you can have a good time. Camping and campfires, a motorcycle at 12, letting me drive an old Willis Jeep and picking me up in the middle of the night once. Telling me “if you wait until you can afford children you’ll never have them” when Frankie and I told you I was pregnant with Rhonda.. You and Mama always made Christmas special, working to make sure we had enough…everything we needed and most of what we wanted…even when times were lean. Making us appreciate helping, when we nailed sub flooring and painted molding in the house at Blounts Creek. Showing us that there is more than one way to do life, listening to us even if you said, “I listened now do it like I told you to do it!”  You taught me how to clean used bricks in case I needed it for a second occupation sometime. Teaching that a job well done is its own reward and having a little cash “stuck back” is a good thing. I have memories of boats in the night, walking up out of a swamp, catching a ride to Bonnerton, tall plants, “processing” in the attic and showing me that a little honey water is always a good thing. Holding me when the “goat” jumped in the window. Giving me a baby sister and wonderful grandparents that you shared graciously. You picked for Toni and I the best mother! The way you offered to take me to church as a child, “I won’t go with you but I’ll take you anywhere you want to go”. Exposing us to other cultures, the little Jewish man in New York, the Italian Catholics in Swedesboro, the Irish bar in Far Rockaway and many others. Never saying, “you can’t do that” because we were girls. Showing us that you respected women, your parents and anyone older than you regardless of race, religion or politics. You told me one time, “you’re just as good as anyone else and never let anybody tell you different” when I needed to hear that. Helping me follow my dreams. We steamed crabs at Bearus Creek; paddle boated at Jarvis Landing and burned fields at Springs Creek (a job with too many foremen). Cutting firewood and waking up to you singing “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” and helping me appreciate porch swing conversations. You held my hand in Raleigh when Frankie had his first heart attack and I wish you were holding it now. For all these memories and life lessons and so many more I want to say thank you Daddy and I’ll love you always.”

The paper is thin at the folds now with frayed edges, as I have held it often. Clinging to each memory, each line, as if it were gold and precious and irreplaceable like him. I see his eyes every time I look in the mirror, blue pools of liquid. I wondered if I have that look of trouble, like thinking of what mischief to do next? My hair has gotten darker over the years, more like Mamas, lost the sandy blondness of his. I fold the letter neatly and place it in my dresser.

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Grandma’s Ring

The old woman brushed her hair from her eyes but the wind just blew it back. She looked as if she could be carried away by it. Short and slender with dark eyes and silver hair her beauty just beyond the surface was covered by her age. The ferry captain watched her closely. Most of the passengers were in their cars, too windy and cold to be out.
Another woman followed her, frustrated obviously, though he could not hear their conversation. The younger of the two was pointing to the car; the old woman just shook her head. The flag was straight out and waves lapping over the sides, the deck was wet and hazardous, what was she thinking? He felt a bump, no telling what had been stirred up in this water. The storm was moving away from them now, well off the coast, the sky was clear with stars. The wind only remained.
He was checking his instruments, all electronic ‘gadgets’ he preferred a compass. He had only looked away a few seconds but when he looked back her whole body was teetering on the side rail. He stepped out of the wheelhouse to shout, “Man overboard! Man overboard!” He wasn’t sure that fit the situation but it put his crew in motion. The younger woman had grabbed her feet and seemed to be pulling against the wind to no avail.
Andrew reached her first with Tucker just behind him. The strong lifelong boatmen grabbed both women, pulled hard and they all landed on the deck with a thud. Women on top of the men, arms and legs in all directions, he hoped nothing was broken. It made the Captain think of the ‘Keystone cops’ of silent film days. The state would be lucky if the old woman didn’t sue he thought.
He watched the old woman struggling on the top of the pile finally making it to her feet. A third woman that had rushed to help seemed to be between the age of the other two maybe sixty something with a small girl of three or four in tow. He watched in amazement as the old woman headed back to the rail and started to step up. The sixty something woman pulled her back, almost snatching her off her feet again. Both women were shouting and he struggled to hear above the roar of the wind. The old woman was crying now, the group joined as one. They came together from four to ninety something to shield and consol one another.
Later when Andrew made it to the wheelhouse the Captain ask, “What was going on down there?”
“The old lady said she seen a face in the water. Someone she knew and when she reached for him a ring slipped off her hand. I think she would have dived in after it! The woman with her was her granddaughter, she save her from herself.” explained Andrew. “It’s hell to get old. Must be a little senile. Thank God no one went overboard. Good job, even if ya’ll did look like the ‘Keystone cops’!” the Captain smiled.
Amelia was feeling all of her ninety-two years that night. It had been a pleasant enough day. They had rode down to Lowland to look at what was left of her Grandmothers old home place. They ate at Lyle and Shirley’s restaurant. The oysters were cooked just right although she had little taste left. She had shared what memories she could muster with Julie and Mia. She knew that Martha had heard all her stories before and sometimes looked bored.
Julie was her oldest granddaughter and always loved her stories. Mia was Julie’s granddaughter and was never still. Small children seem to get on her nerves now. It was hard to believe that Julie was in her fifties. Where had the years gone? They had to catch the Cedar Island ferry to get back to Ocracoke.
The wind called her name that night; she had always loved a storm. Papa raised her on the water. She liked the wind and saltwater in her face. She just wanted to feel it one more time. Amelia was not a child. Julie would not tell her what to do! “It is cold Grandmamma and you’re getting wet! Please get back in the car.” Julie pleaded. Amelia just shook her head. She wanted to feel alive to remember it all.
She looked down at her own hands barely recognizing them with the age spots and wrinkles. Her skin use to be so lovely, pale and firm, always wore a hat and long sleeved shirt in the garden to protect it. Mama taught her that. Thomas had loved her skin. He often caressed her face and brushed his hand down her arm. She was barely seventeen when they ran off and got married. He called her his ‘baby doll’. He was ten years her senior. Papa was so mad! They had slipped over the border into South Carolina where a sixteen year old could sign for their self to marry. He had left her for six months to work at a lumber camp in the mountains. Mama didn’t think he would come back but she knew he would. He came home to work his Daddy’s farm and start a life with her! He had the ring in his pocket.
The first time she saw the ring it took her breath away. It was beautiful with its red stone and diamonds beside it. It was set in white gold with the large stone on a mound in the middle with three diamonds on each side. The stone was an eight-sided ruby and it sparkled even in the dark. The band was wide with the look of vines twining around a column. Inside the band were two words “No End”. He explained by saying “There is no end to that ring band and no end to my love for you.” She loved him so, even now, with her memories fading. He had left her, making her a widow in her fifties.
She stared out over the water looking hard into the darkness. Looking for something she could only feel inside. Something to fill the emptiness, they were all gone now. Thomas, Mama, Papa, her brothers and sisters, friends from school, then she heard him call her name. Faint at first then louder, she looked down, there he was. “It’s time Amelia” came from beyond the grave and she reached for him. She could see his face, plain as day. She touched it and caressed it. She could feel him take her hand and she stepped toward him. A quote she loved as a young woman came to mind, “A woman knows the face of the man she loves like a sailor knows the sea.”
Something was holding her back, pulling her away but he had her hand! There were shouts and running and that pulling and when he could hold on no longer the ring slipped from her finger.

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In the simplest sense a mother is a female who has a baby. At this age in life through observation I have learned that it is much more. I see friends of mine who are grandparents raising their second generation. I see thin, dirty, snot nose kids running behind a clean, spotless woman with designer labels from her sunglasses to her shoes. I watch dumbfounded as a child ask for something to eat in the supermarket checkout line and the woman with him ignores the request but buys a beer and a blunt. Oprah Winfrey was quoted as saying, “Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.” She sure got that right!

I recognize the qualities of a good mother not only because I have one but by looking at the wonderful women around me. A woman that nurtures life is a mother with or without children. Nurturing begins in the heart and doesn’t require that you conceive. A good mother cares for people, her own and others. A good mother has a busy lap and hands. Children sleep there, are comforted, tears wiped and sent gently to reface the world. Those hands are always working on something, that next project, be it supper, the hem of a garment, or making that needed dollar for survival.  She has never ending arms. They hold her children when they are little and when they are grown. Babies rest there, book bags are carried, tons of groceries, sports stuff, camping equipment, whatever is needed. A good mother is a cheerleader. It brings a smile to think of Mama with a short skirt and pom-poms. I mean she cheers you on in all you do, a school play, a new job, towards your dreams. Even when those dreams are not the ones she would choose for you. She attends ballgames, graduations, nightmare recovery and bouts of the flu. She is there in every sense of the word. There in body or her words in your mind, a phone call or prayer away. A constant when others fail you.

I am not sure that words can ever be adequate to describe what has been given me. My grandmothers, my husbands grandmother, my mother-in-law are examples of good mothers, caring, hardworking, always sharing themselves. I hope that I have passed on just a speck of what my Mama gave me to my daughters and grandchildren. She has given me an unfailing love, home is where she is, hands gentle but always capable, arms that have held me laughing and crying. She has given her time, hell, her life…to her family. She has cheered me on and propped me up, gave me hope when mine was gone. Grieved with me and rejoiced with me. Thank you is surely inadequate. She is my biggest fan, best friend and was my first glimpse of God. I love you Mama.

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A ship I am

A ship I am

On a storm tossed sea

Drowning now

Who will come after me?

A ship I am

I rise and fall

The sky is dark

I can’t see at all

A ship I am

Broken and old

Battered by life

I once was bold

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She was born and for the most part raised in the south. This means different things to different people. The Daddy thing is a southern thing. Daddy is pronounced Daa (rhymes with baa like the sheep sound) with a dash letting you know to drag it out and then Dee (emphasis on the long e sound). She didn’t have a father, a dad, a dah and definitely not a dada or a poppie. She had a Daddy! A girl friend in High School had ask her once, “Aren’t you too old to call your father, Daddy?” Obviously she was some uneducated Yankee transplant she thought then and now. Rural, southern girls had Daddies, from birth to death and beyond. At least if yours was worth a damn, he was Daddy! A name expressing respect, inspiring loyalty, always hardworking, with ethics, manners and most important means love!

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I’m Standing

Roosevelt once said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” This is so true in our society right now. It is as if the good, honest, hard working people are being held hostage. We are held hostage by crime in the streets and fear holds us back. At some point we have to ask ourselves is this the way we what to live? Is this the way we want our children and grandchildren to live? When is enough going to be enough? Is it going to be when death knocks on our door? I for one do not want to get that phone call in the middle of the night— “You need to go to the hospital, there has been a fight or shooting, can you identify the body?” Sometimes things happen, a situation goes beyond control, and then the guilty party should stand up and take responsibility. If not the guilty then a witness should stand and be counted! Accountability is the mark of a civilized society!

This brings to mind another quote, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”—Edward Burke. We have had enough of doing nothing in this neighborhood! Too many unsolved crimes, too much violence, just too much!! It is time for good men to stand up and be counted. It is time to reclaim our streets and not have to fear for our loved ones or ourselves. I have used the expression before Start Where You Stand! Now it’s time! Stand and let us Start!!!

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Don’t Settle

Love can be simple, easy

It can be steady, dependable

Love can be boring, familiar

It can be a hand squeeze or head nod

Love can launch ships and move mountains

It can keep you up at night

Love can make you have no fear

It can teach you the meaning of fear

Love can consume you

It can fade into the back ground

Love will show you the one person you can’t live without

At least once, it should take your breath away….

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The dog named Bullet

They named the dog Bullet. He came to them in a strange way; he was at the park one day when her husband, Frankie and his friends from work ate lunch. After several days of sharing their lunch with the dog, Frankie loaded him in the truck and brought him home. A week or so later a man stopped to ask if they had seen the dog. It had jumped, playing, knocking down his little boy, who hit his head and required stitches, he explained. He had dumped the dog out near here when he was mad, now his family missed the dog. The guys took his phone number, saying they would call if they seen the dog but thought someone had taken him home. She and Frankie talked it over, deciding if you could leave a dog to starve, you didn’t need him to begin with. A bullet was a much kinder alternative and the dog had dodged one!
Bullet was a large silver blonde German Shepard. Frankie knew that she had always been partial to German Shepard dogs. They were her favorite followed by Labs. Bullet loved her; he liked all women and children. He liked to play, chase a stick or ball but he disliked men. He tolerated Frankie because he lived there but he hated Daddy. She had to hold him so Daddy could get out of his truck to go in

the house and Bullet would bark the whole time. She had to hold Bullet by the collar when any man drove in the yard or he acted like he would eat them alive, tires and truck first.
The phone rang late that night and it was Mama. “There have been shots fired in the county.” “Have you heard from him?” she asked, careful not to mention his name. “Fired by the sheriffs department?” she asked a second question not waiting for the first answer. “Don’t know and not a word,” Mama answered. “Did the boat exploded?” she asked. “Don’t think so,” Mama said. “Call me when you know more,” she said. Relief, nausea, concern, rage, she felt them all.
They didn’t have guns why would they shoot at them, she thought. The boat was rigged to blow a minute or two after flipping a switch. If they didn’t have time to blow the boat the law must have been right on top of them. This is not good. He will probably be calling from jail. Thinking back to that night still made her heart race, after all these years. She heard later that Doc Richards had removed and stitched up more than one bullet wound that night.
The next morning early Frankie and she had gone to Mamas’ but still no news. She had to work in tobacco for Frankie’s Mama, with a knot in her stomach and her mind elsewhere. Frankie could have gone as a lookout, looking back, it seems they needed better ones than they had. They were young and scared, even if it was easy money, so he said no.
Where was he, her mind screamed as she tied tobacco on a stick? Lunchtime finally came and Frankie picked her up. They went home to call. There he sat; dirty, tired, smelling like swamp water, in her living room, sitting in the blue recliner. “Are you alright?” she asked. And the story unfolded.
Federal drug people had followed the boat in from the Atlantic Ocean, right up to the Back River Seafood dock! Lookouts down the road were no help. Trucks lined up to haul once the boat was off loaded, drivers standing around waiting to help. Daddy, Doug and Schick, the moneyman, were laughing and talking as the boat was tied off to the dock. The Misty Blue had arrived with its Florida crew straight from South America, riding low in the water, fully loaded with pot! The bottom of the boat was rigged with dynamite with a delay switch to destroy the evidence if needed.
Floodlights came on. “Don’t move, put your hands up!” came over the bullhorn and everyone started running! A shot was fired, then another and more after that. Daddy and a handful of others made their way by ducking behind trucks and crawled to a speedboat in the waters edge. Shots whistled by their heads. “Stop in the name of the law!” rang out from the bullhorn. “Gun her!” and the boat took off with another in chase. Barely able to see a hand in front of their faces, by the light of the moon, they navigated the shallows and swamp of Carolinas Intercoastal Waterway! Running the boat aground the men jumped out and ran into the marsh grass for cover. The Fed boat finally left after some time and the men gathered. Schick split what money he had among them. Wishing each other good luck they made their way into the dark Carolina swamp. Daddy had spent the remainder of the night in a tree and swore he could hear snakes slithering nearby.
Daylight finally arrived and Daddy walked for miles through rushes and shallows. Moving west away from the sunrise knowing this would lead to higher ground, he eventually came to a small creek. After swimming across he ended up on a grassy, seldom traveled dirt road. Following the road out to gravel and a bridge, he could see a black woman fishing. Her eyes got big as saucers as he approached, what a sight he was!! Shirtless, barefoot, six foot tall, hair wild and matted, swamp sludge you could roll up with your hands from head to toe! “Ma’m that your car?” he asked. She barely nodded her head, eyeing him cautiously. “Do you know where Bonnerton is?” he asked. He was answered once again with only a head nod. Pulling a hundred dollar bill out of his pocket, he said “This hundred is yours if you’ll take me there.” Not a word did she speak as she roll her line around the fishing pole and tucked the hook in the end of the pole.
The ride to Bonnerton was too short to rest any. He said “Drop me off here.”. She could see there were no houses but the woman pulled over. “Good luck!” she finally spoke as he walked off. Tired and dirty, not sure if the federal agents were waiting at home, this seemed like the best place to be.
Fixing him a glass of tea, she stopped, “How did you get past Bullet?”. “Me and that dog came to a new understanding. I broke a large stick before I got here and he came to the road to meet me! He was growling, bearing his teeth, lookin’ at me all serious. I told him, Dog I know someone treated you bad but I’ve got to lay down. I’m tired, hungry, and dirty and I’ve had no rest. I’ll take this stick and beat the hell out of you if I have to but I’m going in this house. I think you can understand, I’ve dodged a few bullets myself! He backed out of the way and let me pass.” Now if that don’t beat all!

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My Grandmamma

Hold on to……this finger new one as I welcome you….to this bottle baby girl while I feed you…my hand little one as I steady your steps.. to my arm as I walk you  to school…to my coat tail as I buy you this that sheet while we make this the boat motor so I can teach you to fish… to his arm as I watch you walk down the aisle…to your girls and take them to church… to your daddy’s hand as my baby boy dies…to my hand and share my grief…to my arm tight to steady my steps.. to your memories as mine fade.. to my kiss this may be the last time… to my hand as life slips away.. to my love when I’m here and when I’m gone

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