Search This Blog

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Letters From The Dead: 4/24/74 (Dedman, AR)

Dear Teresa,

How are you doing honey? It's been so long since I've gotten a letter from you. Why haven't you written? I hope you're not hurt or mad at me, because I couldn't come down there like I'd planned. I really couldn't help it honey, and no one was more disappointed than I was. It seems like the harder I try to get there, the harder it gets to make it. Seems like everything that could went wrong this time, so I'm not even going to promise anymore. I'll just wait until the very last minute, to tell you I'm comming [sic].

How is David doing these days? Is he still with Granny? He hasn't written me since before Christmas.

Sonny and I will probably move away from here before to [sic] long. It's fixing to start their tornado weather any day, and as many as we've already had, I don't think we want to stay. Last year in May one came and blew away half of Jonesboro. They're really bad here. But we haven't decided yet just where we do want to go. I imagine we'll go up to Indiana for a couple of weeks, but if they don't have alot [sic] of work up there, we may move back to Texas. I don't think we'd want to live in a big town tho [sic]. I'd rather live in a small town, and yet be close enough to Fort Worth, where we could see you all. Maybe you could even stay with us some, this summer. I really don't want to move to Indiana. It's just to [sic] far from you all, and I don't even get to see you now. I never would get to there. But we'll know what to do, I guess, before long.

Teresa, I love you so very much. Please don't be hurt at me for not getting to come down. I tried my best, believe me. Surely things will change before long so I can be where I can see you. I pray all the time that it will. I don't know why it's had to work out like this, but it's hurt me more than you'll ever know, because I haven't been able to see you. And please, try to get some pictures made for me. I don't have any of you or David. O.K.?

Well honey, I guess this is all. Please try to write me once in a while, so I'll know you're alright. I love you, and don't ever forget it.

Mother & Sonny

*My mother had just married Sonny Whitlatch, a man she met in Alcoholics Anonymous. They promptly moved to Dedman, Arkansas from Fort Worth, Texas. A year prior she'd left my father after 17 years of marriage (years of depression, drug and alcohol addiction, and suicide attempts). My father divorced her. At the writing of this letter she was 34 years old; I was 10.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Letters From The Dead

There's a brown legal envelope stored in a white cabinet in my office. Inside the envelope are letters postmarked from the '70s, almost a decade's worth. The letters are from my mother. She wrote them while on her "walk-about". She wrote me from various places she lived -- friend's houses, halfway houses, hospitals. Sometimes her handwriting was shaky. Sometimes she wrote as a mother. Sometimes she wrote as a child. She'd ask for my opinion, and I'd feel silly. I was ten. What can a ten year old tell a thirty-four year old? She'd tell me about new men in her life which was always a doomed thing for her -- relationships. She'd meet these guys at Alcoholics Anonymous and their demons plus her demons just made a hotter hell. It never worked out. She'd tell me about brawls she got into or that she'd seen God while she was in the hospital. She often complained about money, how she didn't have enough to see me or even call. Letters were all we had for nearly a decade.

We saw each other once in a while but not often, and there were times she'd say she was coming then something would come up and she wouldn't show. She once disappeared for three months -- no letters or phone calls. Then when she did come around, it happened fast, like a phone call from out of nowhere and, "Can I come pick you up in an hour?" My heart skipped around like I was meeting a lover or something. Complete longing.

I read her letters every few years. I draw a map of her life as I read, rebuild her memory, start the tape of us. It takes a while to hear the soft lilt of her words, to see her frosted mouth speaking. I study the paper she used, pretty stationary or cheap thin white pages. I put the pages to my nose to look for her scent. I follow the path of her ink, place my pale hand on hers as it writes. She crossed her "T's" with a diagonal line through the base. I've never known anyone else before or since my mother who does that. Her other letters were loopy and straight up vertical. They look like lost children to me. Like her.

I think I'll post a few of these letters here. No harm. Her voice is a ghost now. She's been gone twenty-six years. It's strange to hear her voice again, which makes me feel like a child again. It's emotionally dangerous because that longing returns and a heat behind my eyes. My heart races and I'm ten again, she's called to say she's on her way so I pack a bag and wait on the front porch. But she never shows up.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Dumb Thoughts

I have absolutely nothing to say but decided to show up at the page and see what comes out. Often ideas spring up from nothing but not always. And the best way to open the ground is to write about something that happened today. Okay, today I lost my vision for a moment.

I was sitting at my computer and suddenly the words weren't as clear and I mean suddenly. I immediately tried to think of causes and decided the problem could be my imagination or something in my eye so I blinked a few times and peered harder at my computer screen. I squinted then opened wide, several times like an idiot. Same smudgy vision. I didn't have time to clean my glasses right away because my 3 year-old was climbing up my leg, down my back. I considered momentarily that I'd had a small stroke or something vascular in my eye had popped and was leaking rivers in my eyeball -- I can be neurotic. But my son was all over me and I had to get on with the business of life so I dismissed these thoughts and turned off my monitor.

An hour or so later I returned to my computer and noticed my vision was still blurry. I took off my glasses to clean them, first the left lens and then the ri---. Oh....the right lens was missing.