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Friday, July 22, 2011

Conversations With the Dead: 1/16/80 Houston, Texas


Dear Teresa,

How's your head? I felt so bad about bumping your head! I know it hurt. I'm so damn clumsy anymore.

It was good to see you honey, but I wish we could have had a chance to talk more. I always feel so uncomfortable when someone is always around that I can't really relax and be myself. Does it do you like that? Even if it's Charlotte and Mike. I guess it's because I feel that Charlotte is really resentful at me, and I can't relax much, too. I understand how she feels, but it still bothers me. But no matter who it is, I'd feel better if we could be alone more. But we will, this summer. I plan to come up there again before then, in the car. We'll get a motel room, and be able to get out and do some things. I want to discuss some things that we talked about while I was there. I'm very upset about what I heard. I really don't like it at all. But you and I need to talk about it alone, okay?

My plane ride back wasn't bad at all. I sat where I couldn't see out the window this time! Ha.

I'll be off Thursday and Friday, and I'm going out to Sally and Dan's. I have to get my Army ID renewed (so I can go to the base, etc.) and she's going to take me to get it finished. It's out by her house. And as soon as I get it I can go to get that physical I was supposed to get months ago. (They said I had a spot on my thyroid gland and on my lung). I can get it done free if I have my card. Slowly but surely I'm getting everything taken care of. I'm kind of proud of myself. And it's getting better all the time.

Well honey, I guess this is all for now. Wanted you to know I was home safe and sound. I love you very much, and please hang in there. And please when things bug you, tell me. It helps to get it off your chest. I'm forty years old and I'm just now finding out how helpful it is to talk about things that bother you. Write me soon.

Love you!

I guess it feels like the world conspiring against us right now - eyes everywhere, going through my mail to read your letters. I don't know why. It's almost over, though. Charlene will receive some devastating news, just the platform I need to get away.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Conversation With the Dead: 1/7/80 Houston, Texas

Dear Teresa,

You are an absolute nut! I just love your drawings! I showed them to everyone and it just cracked them up.

I did write Nanny and Windy after Xmas and thanked her. I don't know if she'll write back or not, but it's okay if she doesn't.

Glad you had such a good Xmas. I'm happy for you. And real glad you got to go to Charlotte's. I sure wish I could see all of you. I'm working on something now, and if it works out I may get up there next Sunday. So tell Pat and Charlene, and keep Sunday free. I'm pretty sure I can arrange it, but I won't know for sure until tomorrow when Pat gets back from her days off. I'll just have that one day, but it sure beats nothing! I'll call you and let you know for sure next Saturday. If you're not there, I'll tell Charlene. Okay? I'll have to come back Sunday night but we'll have most of the day. I bought me a car the other day (a '72 Chevy) but I'm not going to try and drive it up there this time. And I'll have it paid off in March so by April, I ought to be able to drive up there for a few days. (I won't have enough money to come until April). I just don't want to chance driving up there, until I drive it a little more. And it's such a long drive. If I get to come, I'll take a plane. It just takes thirty minutes to get there, and I can get Blanche to pick me up. I've never ridden a plane before! I hope I don't die of fright! So keep Sunday open, and I'll call Saturday morning and let you know for sure.

Charlie doesn't have heart worms anymore. We finally got rid of them. I sure miss the little stinker. I've been here two and a half months now. I sure do like it though. But by next summer I may move back to Fort Worth, so I can be close to you all. We'll see. At any rate, we'll have our month together this summer. So don't worry about that.

What did you mean about Jennifer giving your daddy a hard time? Does he get to see her often?

Guess what happened two days after I got the car? I had a wreck! This damn Mexican ran out in front of me trying to cross a four lane street in one whack, and I threw on my breaks and swerved to the right, but there wasn't any way I could keep from hitting him. Anyway, it didn't even hurt my car, except for a little scratch on the left front fender, but it just tore his car all to hell! Busted his radiator and everything. He had to be towed off. That cop said he thought "somebody up there likes you". Isn't that something? But now I'll have to get liability insurance, which I wasn't going to bother with, but that's okay. I'm just grateful my car wasn't torn up.

Well honey, I guess this is all for now. I sure hope I can work something out with Pat. But I'm pretty sure I can. So hopefully I'll see you next Sunday. I love you gobs and gobs and GOBS!


Jennifer, my half sister from Dad's marriage to Patty. I haven't seen her in twenty-two years now.

I don't know what sort of "hard time" I was referring to, but I know she stopped wanting to see Dad and it broke his heart. He just doesn't know how to reach out, connect. It's awkward and I'm sure Jennifer felt it, even though she's only five. Children have keen antennae.

There is a torn-off scrap of paper in this letter. Charlene had been reading your letters without my knowledge. Somehow I found out and left her a little note, "Stop reading my letters, you bitch!"

See you soon, Mom.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Conversations With the Dead: 12/31/79 Houston, Texas

Dear Teresa,

Got your letter this morning and I hope you had a good Xmas and that you got everything you wanted. And I'm glad you're going to go over to Charlotte's. It's good for you all to be able to be together. You need that, and she does too. She was like a second mother to you, when you were a baby. And with David gone, you all need to be together, to keep a sense of family. Seems like we're spread out all over the place. and even if Charlotte is grown and married, she needs family too. I think that's why she goes to Nanny's a lot. and you don't take a guild trip from anyone. You're always thinking of other people, and it's about time you thought of Teresa. And I mean that. Don't you ever feel guilty about a damn thing!

I sure wish I could get David's address. Tell your daddy to be sure and let me have it, when he gets it. I sure would like to hear from him. It's been so long.

Your poor daddy! Seems like he just can't win, doesn't it. I'm just glad he wasn't hurt. That's something anyway.

You'll never guess who I got a letter from. Betty! I nearly fainted. She never writes letters. But I had written her, and I really didn't expect an answer, just wanted her to know I was doing okay. She was real glad that I'm here, and said she and Dorothy may come down to see me. I hope they can. And I hope to get my car real soon and I plan to come up there and see you as soon as I can. She said for you and me to be sure and come see her when I come up. So we will. and by this summer I'll have something figured out where we can spend our month together. So don't worry about it. But we'll get together before then, ad least over a weekend. And I can hardly wait! I miss you so. God will work it out for us. Just hang in there, okay?

Well honey, I guess this is all for now. Pat's been off sick for several days and I've been awful busy, but I still love working here. It's good for me. Pray that God will show me when the right time to leave comes. Tell Charlotte Hi, and write soon. I love you, very much.



I can't remember what I got for Christmas, unless it was the Christmas I got the stereo for which I paid half. Uncle Pat thought it would be a good lesson in working for the things I want. Can't argue, I guess.

I don't remember what I was guilt-tripping about but your words are applicable even now. I will go spend some time with Charlotte and she will call you to discuss my future. My life is about to change dramatically for the better.

I don't know where David is but we'll both see him soon.

I don't remember what happened to Dad. Maybe he wrecked his Mustang.

I'll pray, until many years later. I don't understand what prayer is except listening to your deepest self. For all the praying you did, you never learned to listen.

Conversations With the Dead: 12/27/79 Houston, Texas

Dear Teresa,

Hope you had a wonderful Xmas. I sure did. We had a big Xmas dinner, and its so family-like here at the house. I wish I could have been there too, but since I couldn't this helped a lot to be here. But hopefully, I'll get my car the 1st and will be able to come up soon. I sure miss you. But I love working here. It's hectic, but I love working with the girls. And I even got an Xmas card and some money from Nanny. That was a surprise. I had sent her a card, but I really didn't expect to hear from her. And be sure and let me know what all you got for Xmas.

Phil's in the hospital. He was drinking and he drove off into a ditch full of water and almost drowned. He was in intensive care for a couple of days. Bless his heart. I hope he learns something from this. He damn near died. Pray for him. He's such a good person. I don't know if his truck is ruined or not. I got a girlfriend in AA to go get Charlie and take care of him until Phil gets out of the hospital.

Just keep on working on your algebra. You'll make it. And I hope you work at learning about homemaking. I didn't and I wish I had. I know you'll do good.

How's your daddy doing? Does he like his new car? I hope you understand honey, that you really are better off where you are. Your daddy does love you very much, but he has a lot of problems and he realized that you'd be better off at Charlene's. So don't ever be hurt at him. He did the best thing.

Well honey, I guess this is all for now. Write me, and let me know about your Xmas. I love you gobs.



It's sad about Phil, and that you had to spend Christmas in a halfway house. But at least you tasted "family", even if you couldn't be with your own. You're in a good place. I guess we're both in halfway houses.

You're right about dad doing what was best for me. It's just difficult to grasp when you're 14. Parents are supposed to have their shit together, at least one of them. He loves his Mustang, though, and plays Crystal Gayle, Neil Diamond, and Glen Campbell cassette tapes when he drives. He will soon marry "Hog Woman", but I will never once visit their house until 1989.

I'll pass algebra. You were right, I made it. Homemaking? Not so much, not back then at least. I couldn't even sew on a button! I'll figure it out though. We survive everything but death.

Conversations With the Dead: 12/19/79 Houston, Texas

Dear Teresa,

My writing will probably look funny because I just did my nails and they're still wet.

I went out to Sally and Dan's on my days off last week (you remember them don't you?) and I'll go out there again this week. She's helping me make some Xmas stockings for all the girls here. I just couldn't afford to buy them all something but they'll like these. They each have their name on them, etc. I sure hope you got your Xmas card in time to spend your money on something you wanted. I wish I could have sent more and that I could have sent Charlotte some, but I just didn't have it. I'm having to really cut it close, if I get to get that car, because I just have my check to live on, so..... Maybe I'll have a little money to spend by the time I get to come up there. And I hope that's not too far off!

Things are working out real good for me. I went over to the apartment yesterday and got a few linens and dishes and my books and whatnots, for when I get an apartment. There was plenty for Phil and I both. I'll have to buy more, but it'll be a start anyway. He's going to move back to Fort Worth he says, so I wanted to get it before he left. I didn't get all of it, but I just wanted enough to be able to start. He's very unhappy with me because I won't come back. He's drinking again and he still doesn't understand that that's one of the reasons. Mainly because he doesn't want to. Maybe he can take that chance, but I can't. I've had enough. But he has to put the blame on someone, so it might as well be me. He'll get over it. I sure miss Charlie tho. But I'll get me a dog, when I get settled. We have too many animals around here now. Toni (the boss) has a little toy poodle, and we have a big Persian named BK in the house, and a solid black one that stays outside named Serenity. So I'll have to wait.

Well honey, I guess this is all for now. Write soon, and be sweet. I love you, and thanks for the picture.



You'll get Charlie back.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Conversations With the Dead: 11/30/79 Houston, Texas

Dear Teresa,

Got your letter yesterday. And as far as algebra is concerned, I'd be lost! But after all, "C" is average, so that's not so bad. Math was always my worst subject anyway.

Well, I got me a job, and it's right next door, so I don't have to ride the bus and all that jazz. I work for a Camper manufacturing company and all I do is answer the phone, and a little typing, taking orders and a little filing. I just work from 10 t0 4, so that's neat. With my check, and just paying $100 a month for room and board (I was paying $200 but as assistant manager they knock $100 off) I can live on that, because they furnish a lot of stuff like deodorant, etc. And I really need to work with sick alcoholics. This is helping me more than anything. But I'm like you. I sure hate not being able to be with you this Christmas. But we WILL make it up this summer. And by then I know I'll be 100% better. But I do want to see you so bad. But I should be able to get a car soon now that I'm working so I can at least make it some weekend. It's silly to try it without a car to get around in while I'm there. I think my boss over at the house knows someone who will sell me one and let me pay it out. So just hang in there, and PRAY!

We had a big Thanksgiving. We had open house, and we cooked for three days to get ready for it (and you know how I hate to cook!). I'm already dreading Christmas.

Yes, Al-a-Teen is really good for kids of alcoholics. It's really hard on them. I can say that, because I was raised in an alcoholic home, and I know how it was for me. You knew I guess that Granddaddy Scott was one, bless his heart. I actually hated him for 27 years, because I didn't understand. He was really a good man, he was just sick, but I didn't understand until I went through it myself.

The American Medical Association says it is a disease, and it is. We are sick mentally, physically and spiritually. It's an allergy of the body, coupled with a compulsion of the mind. We can't be cured, but we can get the disease arrested, just like TB or diabetes. We have a daily reprieve, depending on our spiritual condition. That's why we try to live only a day at a time. After all, that's all we have anyway. We can't do anything about the past, and when tomorrow gets here, it'll be today. We can plan, but leave the results up to God.

The first three steps in our AA program are: 1. Admitted we were powerless over alcohol and our lives had become unmanageable, 2. Came to believe that Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity, 3. Turned our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understand Him. And then there are nine more steps, and we try to use them in all our affairs. It's a way of life, and the principles are exactly the ones I lived by, those four years I was sober. Some of our pet sayings are: "Let go and let God", "Easy does it", and "One day at a time". But people make it in this program, that never would make it in church.

Well I guess I had better close and get to work. Let me hear from you, and be sweet. I love you, and I'm VERY proud of you.


P.S. If you ever need to get hold of me by phone, call me at area code (713) 741-3355 (the house), person to person. At work it's (713) 741-2936.


If I didn't know better, I'd think you're reading over my shoulder.

I vaguely remember you hating your father for his alcoholism. So you understand how I feel. I don't want to go through it myself to know how YOU feel. I'll just try to empathize from here.

You typed this letter. All but the postscript and your "Mother" is typed. It's strange not to see your "T's" with their diagonal crosses, your big loops and circles for dots above the "I's".

I'm glad you are in AA. I want to understand. And I'm tempted to call those phone numbers, thirty-two years into the future, just to see if you will answer. Person to person. That's what these letters are. I visit these instead of the grave. You are here, a sprinkling of your thoughts to paper. They really do transcend time.

I just swept up some broken glass. My four year-old autistic son broke a candle. I thought of you as I swept, wondering what you would think of my life. I love him so much, even if I don't understand so much of his behavior. Like with you, I just dismiss the lack of understanding, step over it like a body in the way. Love transcends all of it, the distance, the gravity, time and death. Maybe you should have renamed God, called him Love instead. Love has a lot more power.

Julian just called me into his room to look out the window. His speech is so awful but I understood "sky" and "dreams come true". He's remembering the song from Pinnochio, the "If you wish upon a star..." The sun is out but he is thinking of evening stars and wooden puppets who dream of becoming human. I wonder why.

Conversations With the Dead: 11/19/79 Houston, Texas

Dear Teresa,

Sorry I've waited to write, but we have really been busy around here the last few days. Several sick people came in, etc. But I was so glad to get your letter, and the picture is beautiful! I wish for my birthday I could get one enlarged. (To fit that 5 x 7 frame I have your other ones in). It's really a good picture of you. Everyone here made over it. (We have nine women here now, including Pat, the manager).

Thank goodness you have a teacher you like for algebra! (ha).

Well, they've made me assistant manager here, which means I help Pat out running things, and I'm in charge on her two days off. This helps me, to be able to help other people, and even when I go to work I can still do it. But I haven't really made up my mind if I'll go to work, or go to school. It's possible that I could go to school through the VA, and they pay you to go. But we'll see. I'm just leaving it to God, to point me in the right direction. I don't want anything except what HE wants anymore. It's really helped me to be here. The director of the house (Toni) is a real good Christian woman. She was a drug addict and alcoholic for seventeen years and she really knows what she's doing. She's been straight now for six years.

I'll always care for Phil, but we can't stay together. I want to be his friend, and always will if he's willing. But my sobriety has to come first. That's the only way I can make it. I'm not good for anyone, until I get myself straight, and the only way I can do that is to put God, and the AA program first. I hope you understand. God knows how much I love you, and Charlotte and David, and I pray for all of you every day. I know I'm not much help to you, but I do know HE will take care of you, and guide you. And I'm so grateful for that. I miss seeing you all so much, but I just have to wait, and see how things work out. And it will, I have no doubts, because I know I'm where I'm supposed to be, doing what HE wants. It may take a little time, but I didn't get this way overnight, and I won't get things right overnight.

Well, sweetie, I have to go now. We are going to have a meeting. Be sweet and please write me. Tell Charlotte to send me some pictures or else! I love you, very much.

(Mudder!) Rogene (<-- The girls were distracting me!)

You leave so much in God's hands. Could this have been the problem? Looking outside yourself? You once joked that, "The Devil made me do it." So the Devil was your left half and God was your right. Where were you? Again, it just makes me so angry that you invested all your faith in a fairy tale, spent your life letting a cartoon character drive. I wish I could have been there as an adult to warn you, but then I wonder if you would have listened, and if without your fairy tale you would have been worse off, more alone. I can't know.

Conversations With the Dead: Circa 1974, Greenville Texas

Dear Teresa,

Glad to get your letter, and glad Mac is fine.

The kittens have disappeared. There are some new kids in the neighborhood and we just hope they got them. They must have, for both of them to disappear, at the same time.

Not much news I guess. Like I told you when you were here, I was hoping David could stay with me when he leaves the hospital, and your daddy called me the other day and asked if I could take David. So as soon as I can get a place of my own he can come. I just wish he didn't have to stay there, to wait. But it can't be helped.

I got a letter from Charlotte the other day, and she said she had been pregnant, but she lost it. I sent her a birthday card and some money yesterday. Maybe they'll come back for a visit before long.

As soon as I get some of the pictures Nanny took while you were here, I'll send you some.

Well honey, I guess that's all for now. Be sweet and remember I love you. I sure do miss you.


This letter has no date on it, no envelope but it must have been written in August for you to be sending Charlotte a birthday card. She must be in Hawaii or wherever Necho was stationed to be far enough away to "come back for a visit". That would make it around 1974. I had spent several weeks in Greenville, Texas with you and Nanny while you recuperated there from Sonny. So you're writing from Greenville and more than likely, David is having to wait with us - me, Michelle, Dad and Patty, the evil redheaded stepmonster. David has body lice and will give it to me and Michelle. He will threaten Patty with numchucks. She will tell Dad he can't stay with us. I won't see him again until 1981.

The theme of this letter is lost kittens and children. Your son is mentally ill and in limbo, your youngest daughter has just left you again. Your eldest is too far away and even when near is so hard to reach. Charlotte is such a stone. How difficult for a mother to feel so helpless with three spiritual umbilical cords tangled in thick briars and across too many miles.

You will send me a photo of me and Nanny riding her lawnmower. We are both wearing halter tops, our shoulders are bare. We are smiling like idiots, her smile perhaps obligatory and for the camera, me because of the perfect summer, the smell of cut grass, you nearby and tomatoes ripe for picking. There is nowhere else I want to be.

I've been thinking that I'm too hard on you all these years later. But anger is a stage of grief and I didn't feel angry at all for the longest time. I missed you like a lover. I remember knowing I'd be seeing you when I was nine or ten, dressing in the bathroom, packing a suitcase. I looked in the mirror, my stomach a tumble of butterflies. I couldn't stand still, contain my joy. A deep sense of longing was established as the primary component of love. This would cause many problems later in life, a series of untouchable men who could not love.

There is a birthday card in the saved letters with a cartoon of a fat orange kitten surrounded by orange daisies, green eucalyptus and pink butterflies. In it you wrote:

I don't know when I'll be able to come up, but I do know I get a couple of days off for Christmas and am coming up then. As soon as I find out the exact days, I'll let you know. I'll stay with Doris and Granddaddy (or maybe Betty or Dorothy) and if it's okay with your daddy, maybe you can spend the night and we'll have our own little Christmas, okay? I'm sorry I couldn't get you a better present but by Christmas I'll have more money. I love you tho, very much. I'll call you.

Love, Mother

You wrote me a poem:

She was so tiny and so warm,
This jewel that to me was born,
Truly a gift from God above,
I thanked Him, my heart full of love.

Many hours of joy she gave,
A brightness in darkness she made,
And she's still a star in my eyes,
Brighter than all others in the sky.

I'm thankful for those few years,
When I could rock her or dry her tears,
And pray that God will help her know,
To me she's more priceless than silver or gold.

For Teresa
From Mother

I don't know if we ever had our own little Christmas, unless it was the one we spent with your Aunt Blanche and Uncle Joe. Betty and Dorothy are lifelong friends. Betty will one day sing at your funeral and her husband, James, will officiate. James will do the same at David's funeral. You and your son are buried together in Rosehill Cemetery. I have not visited since 1992 when David was buried because neither of you are really there. There is only marble, dirt and fake flowers. Nothing more. Nanny was nearby but her husband Windy had her body moved. I don't know why this is so sad to me if the graves mean nothing. Maybe because you were so separate from your mother in the last years. It seems you should be buried together now. You only survived her by a year.

Granddaddy is your father who will die of cancer in 1976. Doris is your stepmother whom everyone will blame for enabling Granddaddy to drink. I remember visiting him in the hospital before he went home to die, Doris walking him to the bathroom to urinate despite his having a catheter. His constant urgency might have been a missed infection, and Doris could not convince him that the toilet was not needed. He was out of it, a ghost of himself, a shuffling figure with a large swathe of gauze taped to his neck where the throat cancer and surgery had left a gaping hole. I never saw him alive again except for a brief moment at his home, in a hospital bed at the back of the house, hidden. Doris nursed him in the last days. What a horrible room to die in, so small and dead already.

I will always remember 1976 as the bicentennial, my last year of elementary school, the year Grandaddy - Seabourne Andrew - and Elvis Aaron Presley died. A few months later my guinea pig, Mac, would die in a hard freeze and I would decide that things left or died in my world during even-numbered years. I haven't trusted them since.