Folks and Rents

When I was growing up, my Bapa and Grandma were a constant in my life. There was something magical that came whenever they visited. My parents were more kind and lenient. My brothers, like me, put on the best show we had in our pockets. Just hearing a rumor of them coming over got us pretty excited.

On Friday nights they had a standing “date” with my family. They’d show up early evening to drink coffee at the dining table with my Rents. They’d talk about adult stuff that didn’t much interest us kids. We were allowed to be outside playing while this ritual took place. In retrospect, I wish I’d taken more of an interest in those conversations because I feel I would have gotten to know them, the world, and my parents an incredible amount more than I did.

At the tail end of the coffee ritual came the fade in to our favorite part of the night. POPCORN! My mom would pop a massive bowl of the fluffy crunch while counting out the apples (one each), and chocolate squares. We’d all get into our spots in the living room to get ready to watch The Dukes of Hazzard. I was madly in love with Beau/Bo Duke. I thought Daisy was absolutely gorgeous, but took little interest in Luke. 

As a family we would watch the show and laugh together. On commercials (my brother as the remote to turn the television down), we’d squish in conversations about what was important at the time. It could be about the show, grades, behavior, how much we were loved by my mom’s Folks, or even what words were entering our vocabulary. At the sight of the General Lee, we were right back into the wild world of those “Duke boys.”

At then end of the show when Cooter pumps up the power of the ol’ #01 and Uncle Jesse had outwitted Boss Hog, we’d disperse to the bathrooms with us kids having to run upstairs so the adults wouldn’t have to. At my age now, I completely understand the wisdom of that, but as a kid, I resented having to do it.

And then, settled in with a refreshed bowl of popcorn, in our pajamas, we heard the verdict of whether or not we’d be able to watch…Dallas. Oh! How I hated J.R. Ewing and loved Bobby. I didn’t quite understand what Sue Ellen’s issues were at that time, but I knew to feel sorry for her. I thought Miss Ellie was elegant. The costumes, the dialogue, the adultness of the show made it more than worth a few good behavior days to follow the story line that I was just starting to get, but did not all the way.

I’d snuggle up to Bapa and watch with him. It was a feeling of complete and total safety. There was nothing in the world that could touch our family then. My Grandma was okay with the show, but commonly would lax her head back, mouth open, and snore lightly. It was practically tradition. 

When I think of my mom’s Folks, it gives me a feeling of family so deep into my bones a part of me lay with them in their graves. It is a feeling of promise that the world would be as strong as we were. Our duty to the world and to each other was and is to create love wherever we are because that is how the world SHOULD work. We know that it doesn’t, but with each little act of compassion or kindness, we are all living our Folks dreams for a better world.

As for my Rents, it took much longer for me to see them as givers of light. I was estranged for so many years but it wasn’t until I returned that the pangs of what I’d set down to walk away from really set barbs into my spirit. I realized that what I’d given up wasn’t just parents with incredibly high expectations, but that I’d relieved myself of that burden to do it my own way. I wasn’t born to follow their path. I was created to accept the guidance of the Folks and my Rents to become even better than they were, or at least comparable.

Since I have no biological offspring of my own, I often worry of how my legacy will pan out. I think of the many traditions I was taught at their knees and mourn the loss of it stopping with me. 

But, I have discovered in love and unity that my cousins, nieces and nephews, all carry me with them. For example, I got to take my great nephew across the Mighty Mack for his first time and buy the fudge of his choice in the Upper Penninsula of Michigan. He learned to sing 500 Miles by the Proclaimers at the top of his lungs, got spoiled with ice cream, and basically…well The Folks and the Rents carry on in me no matter where I go.

Facing faces of my family

I have stood within the fires of my community

Feeling their judgement with their vigilant scrutiny.

My skin has been scarred by the guilt of my actions

Withdrawing, re-birthing, questing my faction

I have stood dripping the blood of my kin

The impression of their prudence slicing at my sin

My spirit fiery with the perdition of my birth

Refusing their wisdom, not knowing its worth

I have slithered slyly a slippery slope

Seething such squalor swiftly to scope

My disdain for the mundane, my refusal of love

Was my born albatross that I couldn’t get rid of

But now I have faced the faces of my family

I’ve found them not to be of my enemy

I’ve been wrapped in the warmth of hearth-side chats

Covered in the laughter of loving habitats

Return to the tribe, return to the fold

Swallow your pride, be not undersold

Be everything you are without any fear

Because those that love you will hold you dear.

 

 

Keep the Heart Fire burning

The moldy crust of forgiveness lay on your counter forgotten.

When I first baked it, brought it to your table, broke bread with you

We ate with greedy abandon. The suggestion of freedom beamed

like a hearth fire we’d built together, but you abandoned our haven

Though guilt didn’t lay a head on my pillow, nor did shame,

I wonder if you ever wonder about whatever we became

I built my oven with encouragement towards success

You kept blowing out the embers, dumping water on the heat

Leaving my bread unleavened, flat, and eventually, I also left.

I eat my dinner, more than bread, at the table of successful abundance

I hope, someday, you will understand what I gave to you

in that warmly baked, love filled loaf of doughy comfort food.

Ronnie Bill

I was told that I’m not allowed to offer family advice.

Twenty years gone but I made it out alive.

Let me tell you why you’re wrong, because you are.

I KNOW

what it’s like to hold bitterness

what it feels like to reject those who love me

what holidays, loneliness, and anger tastes like

what Christmas morning looks like without oranges

what Thanksgiving is like without mincemeat pie

what birthdays feel like without shared history seeping

what anguish unsupported loss endures

I KNOW

what it took to wake me up (although I’m sure you think it was you)

what I had to realize before I could bolster my courage

what it is to ask forgiveness for being a fool

to walk into the unknown with hat in hand

to step cautiously to the edge of the cliff and

JUMP

I KNOW

how much damage I’ve done but not to the extent

what rebuilding a bridge with still smoldering lumber is like

that sometimes bitterness takes the form of pride

that abuses of history, privilege, and birthright exist

that time goes faster than a blink

that it’s far later than you’d think

I KNOW

right now, (not that you’ll read this) you’re lost

you blame me for not having money, not loving him, but

most of all for loving you and not choking on your pride.

You are so far in the darkness that the light feels like an insult

I love you despite yourself.

I’ll still be here when you’re ready.

I made my six year old vow to always be there for you,

I KNOW

you didn’t and couldn’t understand why I couldn’t and didn’t for him

you won’t believe me.

I’m okay with that.

you need to return home before you’re too afraid to come back

you’re a better man than you’ve become

I believe in you even if I don’t understand why you chose this way.

I KNOW. I see. I LOVE you anyway.

These Are My People: Linda Looney

Linda and Mare

A relationship between a mother and daughter

is far more complicated than it oughter

be, with wrecks and disasters no happily ever after

as one struggles to hold on, the other to be free.

But if you ask them, one on one how they feel,

you’ll hear nothing but the true theist spiel

of love and emotion, undying devotion

between mother and child, where nothing is mild

when familial blood runs rivers through reconciled

years washed pure in the hopeful heart referred

“Glad to be of help.” the moniker tenured

Do not be afraid

As you are an ocean of tears, so are you a world of forgiveness. A haven of justice filtered through human imperfections that allows opportunity for love with each challenge to your comfort.

You possess free will enough to elect whether you embrace change or if you allow fear to petrify your heart into jaded segments. How can you gaze upon a child’s pain with no desire to make the world innocent for them; for yourself?

It is inevitable that your faithful trust in your brethren will be accosted with confusion or anger towards your generosity. But, the price you pay now, will be small compared to the cost of refusal should you deny your righteous compass.

Turn to your true north, even being different than your friends, to find what makes your spirit, your very essence scream with the ecstasy of rapturous delight. Give permission to yourself to be extraordinarily outstanding in a world that only allows what is nurtured to bloom and grow.

If you find yourself in the forest of darkness with bruised, bloodied, or damaged limbs falling from your own family tree, notice where they’re planted. See how shallow or how deeply those roots linger in the earth by releasing your primal self to its care.

Drink from the knowledge of the river bend that granted your ancestors life to flood your own flesh. Sing in the voice of your grandmother, your grandfather, and those back to the beginning of time’s pacing.

Decree your path without word because what you say can be erased, what you do is how you progress through your life unhindered; calling like-minded to your shores. The shores of the ocean of tears that surrounds your world of forgiveness are yours for the sake of personal redemption.

The trumpeting herald

Trumpet Swan

Trumpet Swan

I drew my face of happiness upon my colored mask

I hobbled down two decades of steps that led into my past

I touched the ground at mother’s knee with my wings reborn

Straight from devil’s flaming pit stabbed forward by his horns

But I arrived with soul intact despite the battle fought

For I was embraced in cherished state, learning as I taught

With patient hands on comforting arms, I heralded the news

There are always both sides of the story that always comes in twos.

The fading mask falls to the floor in porcelain jags and breaks

To see my own reflected back challenging age old fates

Have I truly conquered the demons that once hunted me down?

Have I earned my place once again in this familiar alien town?

What will be the price I’ll pay for rebuilding from my past?

Will it be worth rejecting anything that ain’t kick-ass?

I know who I am now but I’m curious to see

if the world to where I physically birthed, is ready to meet the real me.