Granny Tucker

My Granny Tucker was the kindest, gentlest soul I’ve ever known. And patient, lord above, did that woman have patience.

She came to live with my family when I was about three years old, following Grandpa’s death. I don’t remember Grandpa—probably just as well that I didn’t since according to my mama, he was a mean drunk—but I do remember Granny. I was still young, twelve or so, when she died, but many wonderful memories were crammed into those seven years, memories I’ll carry with me to my grave. And a few bad ones as well.

But I’ll get to the good ones first.

Granny read to me when I was a wee one. All my siblings were in school, and it fell to her to entertain me. But I don’t think she did it out of any sense of duty, but out of love. After I became a grandmother myself, I realized just how special grandchildren are. As a parent, one is often too busy to appreciate the company of a child, to experience the joy one feels in seeing their joy, to savor the love that fills one’s heart to bursting with love for that special little person.

But I digress.

In my mind, I see little me scrunched beside Granny in the old wooden rocking chair she favored. I hear her soft voice, feel the warmth of her thin, bony body against mine as she reads.

According to my siblings, Granny and I played teacher and student, with me insistent on being the teacher. I don’t remember this, but since my sister says I was a stubborn little thing, I’ll take it as fact. Being the spoiled baby of the family, I’m sure I was used to getting my way. I’ve mellowed since then. (“Yeah, right,” I can hear my siblings saying.)

When Granny’s sons (my uncles) visited, one of them—I think it was the uncle who always wanted money from her—invariably brought her a box of chocolate covered cherries. I don’t think Granny ate a single one; instead, she doled them out to her grandchildren. We seldom got candy, so the sweet, gooey chocolate mounds were pure delicacies to us. And to this day, my sister who is three years my senior, and I love chocolate-covered cherries with a passion.

The only mean thing I recall Granny doing was tattling on said sister and me. And looking back, I know it wasn’t really mean of her; it just seemed that way at the time.

One weekday morning, Sister and I decided we didn’t want to go to school so we pretended to be sick. Well, as soon as Mama headed out to the barn to milk the cow, Sister and I got out of bed, and if memory serves me correctly, went outside and played on the teeter-totter. Granny came out of the house and told us she was going to tell Mama as soon as she came back from milking. I suppose we got in trouble, and I suppose I was a little mad at Granny for a bit.

But I got over it. She was way too good to us kids for me to carry a grudge.

She got thinner over the years she lived with us, and frailer as well, but she told no one that she hurt or felt bad. The first clue we had that something was wrong was when I found her outside after she’d fallen. Mama took her to the doctor. I think exploratory surgery was done, and it was discovered she had colon cancer, was in fact so eat up with it that the doctors sewed her back up and sent her home to die.

And it wasn’t a pretty death; it was ugly and horrible, the way cancer most often is—at least that how it was in those times.

She had pain medication, but it could only do so much. I remember Granny telling Mama that rats were eating on her, and her taking my mama’s hand and placing it over her pubic hair to show her the rat.

Now, and even when I was just a kid, I wondered why such a good woman had to suffer so. And how could a loving God allow it?

I wasn’t in the room with her when she died, but for whatever reason, wasn’t in school that day. I remember seeing my mama crying and Daddy holding her. I remember my Grandma Workman, who was there helping out any way she could, coming into the front room to tell me what my Mama’s tears had already told me. I remember Grandma asking if I wanted to tell Granny Tucker goodbye. I remember going into the small bedroom where my Granny had breathed her last and staring at her beloved face.

But I didn’t cry. I knew that at long last, her suffering was over.

My Granny Tucker had loved to read, and that love was passed to Mama, then to me. I believe whatever small talent I have as a writer originated with those two wonderful women. That is why I use the Tucker name (It is the “T” in KT.) as part of my penname: to honor them with my words, the only way I know how.

An old Conway Twitty song titled “That’s My Job” just about sums it up. We go through our younger lives depending on our parents and grandparents to be there when we need them. But there comes a point when we step up to the plate, so to speak, and be the ones “doing the job.” The final stanza of Conway’s song brings this point home.

If you care to listen to it, I’ve added a YouTube link to it below. And if you don’t at least tear up listening to it, you’ve got a pretty hard heart.

©2021 KT Workman

That’s My Job

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

Seasons

When did I step into winter—
That I’d like to know.
The last I remember,
I was walking in the woods,
Autumn leaves, brown, red, and gold
Cushioning my way.
Azure skies above,
A brisk chill to the air,
Alive and invigorated.
Strolling fall’s path,
I recalled days gone by,
Fondly, a smile on my face.
Though I had suffered some loss
Of loved ones and missed opportunities,
The days yet stretched ahead,
Full of promise,
Things to do, races to run.

Like the nature of all springs,
Mine had been turbulent,
Full of self-inflicted storms
Interspersed with calm tides and winds.
But as spring had waned
And I became an adult—mostly—of mind,
Not just a hormone-driven body,
The storms grew farther and farther apart,
Until, somehow, without realization,
I strode tall and strong into summer.
Ah, how those days did shine
With family, friends, rewarding work.
Playtime at the beach every year,
Just the ladies and I splashing, laughing,
Drinking margaritas, singing, more laughing,
While lounging on the deck
Watching moonlight dance on the waves.

Autumn sneaked in there somewhere,
Easing through the door so gently
I barely noticed its entrance.
Thought my body wasn’t quite as strong,
It yet served me well.
And life went on—
Work and play uninterrupted.

When the leaves began to fall,
At last, I slowed down,
Smelled the proverbial flowers,
Worked less and played more.
I basked in my new-found freedom,
Did what I wanted when I wanted
With few exceptions.
I brushed off aches and pains,
Explained away the ladies’ and my abandonment
Of sand and sea and margaritas—
For we weren’t getting old.

Then, just like autumn,
Winter arrived unannounced,
Slipped through the back door
With barely a chill—
The old goat parked his frigid ass
In the center of my life
And refused to budge.
I called him names, cursed him, denied him,
But he did not go away,
Just became more entrenched,
Chilled my blood, brittled my bones,
Dried my skin, thinned my hair,
Invited gravity to sit at his side.
Winter waged his war
Without a shot being fired
And captured my youth.
Did he drink it?
Did he eat it?
Where the hell did it go?

Though I had fought him tooth and nail,
At long last, I humbly dropped all store-bought defenses
That no longer camouflaged what I had become.
Yes, I collapsed into winter’s embrace,
Those cold, bitter, lonely arms
And now—
Now—
That old goat sits at my side,
Sucking me dry.
I shrink and I stoop, forget things.
No smile now, I remember times past,
Of rivers that have run dry,
And seasons that have gone by.
Gone by—
Gone by—
In the blink of time’s eye.

©2021 KT Workman

(Note: Free verse is an open form or poetry. It doesn’t use consistent meter patterns, rhyme, or any musical pattern. It tends to follow the rhythm of natural speech.)

Image by Simon Berger from Pixabay

Senryu 1

The days march along,
Flying faster as they pass,
Till I breathe my last.

When my life’s time ends,
Will my soul find contentment,
Or haunt night’s sloe gloom?

Eternal unrest—
Is that what my death will bring?
Or an aught of peace?

©2021 KT Workman

Note: Japanese Senryu—3 lines, 17 syllables. 1st line, 5 syllables; 2nd line,7 syllables; 3rd line 5 syllables. Subject matter usually the human condition.

Image by jplenio from Pixabay

Should Of, Could Of

in a wan wistful voice
swaddled in tarnished regret
the roads not taken
calls out to her
across the years and miles
of seasons past
from a long-ago time
when she was free
young and innocent
not yet compromised
by original sin
man’s heavy hand
or her own conscience
beginning a life of promise
unencumbered
by the weight of wrong choices
and could have beens
and should have beens

she recalls the things
absently gathered
along life’s path
stashed in a Mason jar
shoved under the bed
she takes them out
and one by one
weighs and ponders
the old woman smiles
drops them back inside
the crystal-clear glass
and as she dies
shakes the jar
pours the should ofs
and could ofs
onto the brand new road
and with a saucy grin
takes her first step

©️2020 KT Workman

Image Via Pixabay

Spring

A few days ago, I saw the first sign that it won’t be long until spring in my neck of the woods. Near my patio, a tiny bed of tulips and daffodils are poking up through the cold, damp soil.

My mama always loved spring. She was an avid gardener of both vegetables and ornamental plants. In the growing season, if you went to visit in the daylight hours, most likely, you’d find her outside rather than in. As an adult, I don’t know how many times I dropped by, calling out for her as I let myself in the front door without knocking, only to be greeted with silence. I’d make my way to the kitchen, look out the window, and there she’d be, most of the time, in the garden, but sometimes in the yard tending her flowers.

In late winter, she’d pour over seed catalogs she received through the mail. I’m not sure if she ordered anything—I think not—but she loved to window shop. She purchased most of her seeds and plants at the local Farmer’s Co-op Feed Store in early spring, and as soon as the soil was warm enough, planted her onion sets, potato cuttings, leaf lettuce, radishes, turnips, and other hardy plants and seeds. Soon it was on to cucumbers, squash, bell peppers, tomatoes, corn, carrots, beans, peas, and last but not least: okra. (Please forgive me, veggies, if I left some of you out.)

I know our garden was important in feeding our large family, especially in the early years; but Mama continued raising a big garden long after all of us were grown and gone, long after there was a monetary reason to do so. As the years went by, Daddy helped her more and more. And my brother and sister-in-law, who lived nearby, took over the most backbreaking work, enabling her to continue doing what she loved.

Mama surrounded our old house with all manner of flowering plants and shrubs. She loved anything that grew—she had to. What other reason than love would she have for spending hours tending vegetables, then still carve out time to work her flowers? And all this while holding down a job in town for a lot of those years.

During the last few months of my mama’s life, her mind was slipping away. She died in mid-January when a lot of the days were cold, dreary, and sometimes rainy, as it is here today. Quite a few times, when she was cognizant of the weather outside, especially when it was raining, she’d remark that she wished it would stop so she could get out in the garden. It broke my heart because I knew she would never walk those rows again. I’d tell her it was winter, and the garden was resting, and she should too; that come spring, she’d be out there again.

In the years since she has been gone, when spring comes and everything is green and growing, I take it all in and think how Mama would love it. Sometimes, I cry. Sometimes, I smile. And sometimes, I do both.

©️2020 KT Workman

Image via Pixabay

Around the Bend

running down
that dusty road
impervious to rocks
her shoe-leather soles

chasing sister
chasing brother
watch the baby
said their mother

her short legs
falling behind
a dollar short
and always behind

alway a bother
always a chore
sometimes left alone
and often ignored

she didn’t talk much
cried not at all
and stone by stone
she built a wall

to protect a heart
too tender to show
keeping it hidden
from friend and foe

every passing year
saw more bricks
added to the wall
rick by rick

until one day
she opened the door
stepped outside
joints stiff and sore

and hobbled down
that dusty road
cut and bruised
her old thin soles

chasing what
she didn’t know
only knew
it was time to go

she was ready
to reach this end
maybe it’d be better
just around the bend

© 2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

Death Becomes Her

death becomes her…
smoothed the seams
that lined a tired face
erased the hurt
from eyes of green flint
hushed the blush
that colored angry cheeks
purged the pain
of a life, empty and spent

death becomes her…
hollow hope packed
its overstuffed bags
romantic ruminations
stepped out the door
borrowed tomorrows
went on vacation
and now sleeps serenely
beneath sandy shores

© 2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

Myra’s Funeral

So this is how it all ends, Myra Dunbar thought. My whole life laid bare for the entire world to see.

Well, not quite the entire world; just her family, friends, and a good portion of Welbly, Louisiana, the town she had lived in her entire life.

It was a good turnout, and it pleased her that so many cared enough to come see her off. But it was embarrassing too. After all, who in their right mind wouldn’t turn a bright red to hear their worst transgressions read aloud.

She was glad that John had already passed. He wasn’t sitting here now on the pew in front of her and the current speaker, their daughter Lily, while Lily recounted the time Myra had gotten high and let the five-year-old cook her own dinner, resulting in a nasty burn.

But Myra got through that and a few other mortifying tales without squirming too much in her seat. And Lily moved on to more mundane memories that characterized what an exemplary mother Myra had been.

She was doubly glad John was gone when the last speaker, Marshal Whitacre, the town recorder, took the podium. As was custom, he recited her list of sins first, starting with the time in third grade she had called Milly Simpson a soulless ginger, making the redhead cry, to her third affair that had ended shortly after John’s passing. Myra had learned at John’s funeral that he’d had four flings, sort of evened them out, she supposed, but was still glad he had gone on not knowing.

Then Marshal moved on to her list of deeds.

Head held high and shoulders squared, Myra’s lips curved in a small, modest smile as he recounted her acts of kindness, and exalted her public service, respect for authority, party loyalty, and small carbon footprint.

Ending with her work history, Marshall said, “As most of you know, Myra Dunbar devoted most of her adult life to the upkeep of our library, overseeing the uploading of countless books and their distribution over the internet. And just as importantly, she tracked down and deleted books banned by the Party, even going so far as to erase all mention of them on rogue servers. Furthermore, she was a front-runner in the Party’s initiative to ferret out and destroy false narratives, from history to science that pervades the internet, poisoning our children’s minds.”

Beaming, he turned to Myra. “And so on this day, March 25, 2031, we owe her our thanks for a life well lived, and a job well done.”

The mourners clapped. Myra demurely lowered her eyes, as was expected when one was praised.

When the applause died down, Marshall continued. “Today Myra Tyson Dunbar turns seventy-five, and as is custom, she passes from us. But she will live forever in our hearts.”

Applause again broke out.

Marshal took Myra’s hand. “Come,” he said.

She stood and looked up into the smiling, middle-aged face of her son-in-law.

“Are you ready?” he whispered, tucking her arm through his.

“Yes…yes, I am,” Myra said, though now that the time was here she wasn’t so sure. But she knew she had to put on a brave front, if not for her own pride, then for that of her family. It didn’t sit well on one’s permanent record if a family member behaved badly, even at their passing.

All stood as Myra walked with Marshal down the center aisle toward the back of the room where two soldiers waited on either side of the double doors.

Among the applause and smiling goodbyes, Myra heard a woman whisper, “Can you believe that young people used to have to fight the wars? Imagine squandering productive life that way. Barbaric…”

Then white-haired, stoop-shouldered, Myra Dunbar passed through the double doors and into the Army.

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

A Father

What makes up a good father?

I would imagine there are as many answers to that question as there are people. And I would imagine that most answers would be influenced by what one’s own father brought to the table, or what he lacked in parental skills.

My father was “Daddy” to us kids, and later on, “Pa” to his grandchildren and great grandchildren. His oldest grandchild, Johnny, christened him Pa—probably short for grandpa—and it stuck. It suited my dad; he was an informal man.

To me, he was a perfect father, or as close to perfect as one can be. He got to be the fun parent, and to my mom fell the roll of disciplinarian. Looking back, I can see how it worked out that way. When I was a child, Daddy was gone a good part of the year, working as a lumberjack in Northern California, while Mama kept the home fires burning. When Daddy came home for a while in winter, it was almost like a holiday.

My earliest memory of him is him holding me up in the air, and me looking down at the humongous grin on his face. My last was the final words he spoke, at the age of ninety-four, before he closed his eyes for the last time: “I think I’m gonna go find Ma’am now.” Ma’am (what he called Mama) had passed away a little over a year previously.

And in between, so many memories—

Daddy playing the harmonica, and singing “Bimbo”. Holding my hands while bouncing me on his foot. Rubbing my cheek with his whiskers while I shrieked in delight. Running and jumping onto his lap when I had gotten in trouble with Mama, and him telling her not to spank me, I’d be good. Watching boxing on TV, grunting and shifting in his chair as if he were in the ring. Walking out among his cows, patting their backs and calling them by name. Saying grace over our meals. Laughing when I accidentally drank from his glass of buttermilk (I sat beside him) and sputtered at the awful taste. And many more…

My memories of him during my teenage years was more of a strong background presence that anchored our family. Like most children of that age, I had pulled away from my parents.

After I married and became a parent, I came to appreciate my daddy, to realize how blessed I had been, and still was, to have both him and Mama, two normal people who loved each other, and their children. And who had done their best to give us a good life, a happy life.

My daddy took my husband, who had lost his father at an early age, under his wing, and loved him as if he were his own son. My husband adored Daddy, and took him hunting and fishing, looking after him as Daddy grew older and not as strong and sure footed.

As Daddy got along in years, I remember his stories most of all. My siblings and I, along with our spouses and children, always gathered at my parents house every Sunday afternoon. Sitting at the kitchen table, Daddy spun tales of his childhood, times in California, his and Mama’s courtship, and everything else under the sun. And he was good at it, had us all laughing and asking questions.

There’s so much more to him than I can even begin to relate here. He was more than just a good father; not perfect, but he was a good man, a kind man. He is the standard against which I judge all men. And not many have measured up.

If there is an afterlife, I’m sure my daddy is there, he and Mama raising crops and kids. And I’d like to think he knows how much I love him, how much all his children love him, and knows what an inspiration he was to all who knew him—and Lord knows, there were many. He touched a lot of lives.

As he touched mine.

So on this day, and every Father’s Day since he has been gone, I look up and say, “Happy Father’s Day, Daddy…your baby sure does love you.”

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

Forest For The Trees

Brizzle saw them first and alerted the rest of us. I had heard about the two-limbed creatures, but had never seen one. Soon I would. I wondered if I would survive it.

Twink brushed against me. “Will they kill us, Faust?”

The agitation of the cluster vibrated through me like the passing of the furry, horned ones. Everyone was scared. Everyone wondered if the stories we had been told when we were saps were true and not just made-up. You behave now, or the two-limbs will get you, the old ones had threatened.

“The two-limbs will not harm you,” I said to Twink.

A flurry of movement accompanied a ragged cackle. “Do not lie to the sap.” Old Clartha shook a withered, brown limb at me. “They will kill every last one of us, given time.”

Twink shook. The other little saps nearby trembled as well.

“Do not pay any attention to her,” I said. “The sky-fire has affected her mind.”

Old Clartha’s good side swayed toward me. “I might be old and half-dead, but I have not forgotten what was told to me by my mother-tree, and her mother-tree before her, and farther back still.”

Twink said, “What did she tell you?” Her question was echoed over and over by all the younger ones in the cluster. Saps were so curious; they always wanted to know the whys and wherefores of everything. Continue reading “Forest For The Trees”