Today, January 4th, would be her 64th birthday. She died a day before her mother, 28 years later. Until Mark Zuckerberg became a mogul, her side of the family only existed in her stories. People suddenly come up, like questions you meant to ask or convenient things to get out of awkward dates. Sifting through her 20+ years of scribbled-on notebooks, printed out drafts, I feel blessed. She left me (an undeniable burden) her greatest gift. There are facts that I've forgotten that I search and search for, only for them to take their time to come out, like a bit of corn in between teeth. That's almost a simile for going through her huge stacks of work.
Here's something that probably isn't the most recent draft, but it's refreshing in my search for lost lineage.
She must have written this in 2010 or thereabouts.
Mamma played trumpet, Mamaw sewed
costumes for the Houston opera, Margaret
was a secretary at Esso, Wynter Grace wrapped
packages at Neiman-Marcus every Christmas
and Genelle was the favorite until she moved
all the way to the arctic circle to save heathens.
Uncle Howard was wealthy, had an ex-wife, a son
dead from polio, saved even though he was a Jew
and divorced but we didn't talk about that, not ever.
It was enough he loved Wynter, called her be'be'.
Sent her carnations big as pie plates every birthday,
took care of all of us, had a drawer full of surprises:
chattering teeth, a Ginny doll. He'd cuddle me up
at the lake house early mornings, loved me best
over all the other nieces and nephews, I was good,
knew how to be quiet and learn, try new things.
He hated my daddy, bought all my school clothes
kept everybody straight, smoked Cuban cigars.
Uncle Lew pinched my legs, said I was 'spoilt'
looked me in the eye and saw the devil, twice,
saw the devil, twice, died on Christmas Eve
a few years ago, now Aunt Genelle goes to Branson
for the nativity play with stars as old as she is,
doesn't so much as send a card or phone anybody.
Even after twenty-five years gone I talk to Mamma,
every day, she finally killed herself with cancer,
sat up straight in a chair her last day, they told me
she did, bargaining. I believe it because I would too,
looking out the window, waiting for Prince Charming
or Jesus to actually show up as the sun set.
Then there was Nanny (Ila Faye) with Ruby, Falvey,
Virgil and a lot of others in nameless pictures.
The night she died I stood out on the landing
at the Barn Dinner Theater and saw a shooting star.
I played Lady Brockhurst for three long months
only to find fifteen dollars a show wasn't enough.
When I left Texas, I left everything I ever knew
in the front hall laying on the faux-marble floor,
moved to Arizona to change the world, change.
It's too hard to rout out what might have been
under different circumstances, before it all went bad,
pieces ease together as if the edges were worn
smooth like Aunt Ola's butter churned to gold,
making mad money to put by for a hat, or red shoes.
For those who cannot attend but wish to honor her, you can send donations to the paypal on the sidebar, or send some love to a charity of your choosing. Also, although there is currently a limited amount, I am still selling the two older poetry offerings on the sidebar. You could also spend no money and just keep writing, because I'm pretty sure she would be happy in any case.