Tag: daddy

Twenty Years Is Both a Long Time and No Time At All

“In the language of the deaf, the sign for ‘remember’ begins with the sign for ‘know’: the fingertips of the right hand touch the forehead. But merely to know is not enough, so the sign for ‘remain’ follows: the thumbs of each hand touch and, in this joined position, move steadily forward into the future. Thus a knowing that remains, never lost, forever: memory.”
~~~ Myron Uhlberg in Hands of My Father: A Hearing Boy, His Deaf Parents, and the Language of Love

Twenty years.

My daddy died died twenty years ago today, and I still ache with griefcrave one more hug, long to hear him call me Doll just one more time. Every December 2 I become a cauldron of grief – sorrow, anger, pensiveness, no sense of direction.  I usually spend the day doing soft, soulful things like writing, remembering, walking, but with the recent fullness of my life, I had no time to pre-plan. My waking thought was to read something written by someone else remembering and grieving for their daddy, and while that felt like a winner of an idea, what, exactly, I would read remained a question mark. Then, as Magic would have it, I went to the bookshelves in my studio this morning in search of another book for another reason, when the book aforementioned book  leapt off the shelf and into my hands.

Remembering.
It’s what I do.
It’s who I am.
Stories of remembering are my oxygen.

In August 2000, two weeks after delivering the book I wrote about my father-in-law to each of his children and grandchildren, Bones woke me up whispering, “Write a book about your daddy, and do it now.”

“Are you kidding me?” I countered. “I am exhausted, depleted, worn slap out.” (I kept the father-in-law book a secret even from Andy, which meant much writing at night) The Voice of my Bones was not amused or swayed, and I’ve learned (the hard way) not to argue with Bones, so the following week I began gathering stories, photos, newspaper articles, interviews, whatever I could get my ears and hands on, about my daddy. I wrote. I scanned. I wrote some more, and the Monday before Thanksgiving, off it went  to the printer and binder. Everybody in the family would receive a leather-bound copy of this 400+ page book of memories about Daddy.

Four days later – the day after Thanksgiving – Daddy fell, hitting his head. Hard.

The Monday after Thanksgiving, I called Karen, the book binder. “I hear voices, you see, and well, Daddy fell last Friday and the voices I call My Bones tell me I need to get those books back asap. Can you help?” Without a single audible sign of exasperation, Karen said, “I can have one book to you on Saturday and the rest next Monday.”

First-Book-Arrives-Saturday started with all Daddy’s bells and whistles going off, his machine creating a cacophony of alert. I called family members. “If you want to see Daddy alive, you need to get here before noon,” I told them. They came trickling in. Friends followed. Finally, husband Andy and son Kipp walked in, brown package in hand.

In a rather bold move for a Southern girl raised to respect hospitality above (almost) all else, I asked the friends to  leave, gathered family around Daddy’s bed, and opened the package. I began reading at 1:05 p.m. A nurse stayed well past her shift’s end, keeping the machines shushed by holding her finger on the quiet button.

We took turns reading, arriving at “The End” at 4:50 p.m.

Daddy took his last breath at 4:55.

Though he never said a word, I know Daddy could hear his life review because from my position to the left of his pillow, I watched tears make their way down his face throughout the afternoon.

Take from this post whatever you will, just please promise me this:
~ If, God forbid, anybody you love should ever be in a coma or otherwise unable to communicate, take it upon yourself to make sure that only positive loving kindness is spoken within those four walls because I know – know to my very core – that they hear everything, and we all know that words are powerful.
~ You’ll take the time to capture your family’s stories. Start today. Record, write, ask, clip, copy, scan – gather and preserve those stories by whatever means available. You can shape them into narrative later, step one is to capture, and let’s face it: we never know. Preserving these stories will change your life (among other things, you will learn a lot about yourself) and future generations will call you good things and be forever grateful. Count on it.

Hostage, The Adventure Begins

Vintage boy’s shorts and shirt, vintage embroidered doilie, two red embroidered circles, all appliqués to the top of a small vintage quilt

 

Till the day he died of natural causes, my daddy talked about the barrel of that shotgun placed against the back of his neck. It was a feeling he never forgot.

Daddy was five years old when bandits came to the house, intending to kidnap Granddaddy and rob the bank. It was a weekend of horror I can scarce imagine. After spending my entire life gathering the stories, photos, and information, I am at last sitting down to write the book about that event that happened in my family on May 5 and 6, 1933. It is a story  of many stories woven together, and I will tell them all in books and in quilts.

The red circles represent the double barrel shotgun he felt against the back of his neck when, on Saturday morning May 6, 1933, five year old Crawford Jr. (a.k.a. Daddy) forgot that the bad men were in the house and did what he did first thing every morning: ran for the outhouse.

When I decided to tell the story in quilts as well as words, I went straight to my closet and began culling through all the things I’ve rescued and adopted over the course of more years than I can count. Quilts someone made for their babies; baby clothing that caught my fancy; embroidered doilies or dresser protectors or coasters – not sure what you call them. In less than 2 hours, four quilts were pinned together, using only what I have on hand. That is one of my intentions for this year, you know, using only (okay, mostly) what I have on hand. It’s an idea I got from my talented friend Linda Syverson Guild, who doesn’t buy any fabric the first six months of every year, using instead what she already has. I smile as I weave these storied, already well-loved items into my family’s stories. I also smile feeling grateful  that I listened to my Bones and purchased these things, even with that dreaded voice of authority on The Committee of Jeanne booming in the background things like “You don’t need this” or “You have too much stuff already” or “What on earth do you plan to do with that?” (The others who sit on The Committee of Jeanne are saving up for a firing squad.) Score one – a great, big, fat one – for my Bones.

~~~~~~~

If you’re wondering about The 70273 Project, we’re still here. I’ve been regrouping and hatching plans that I’ll share with you here next week. Thanks for stopping by and trekking through these adventures – all of them – with me.

40: When I Miss Him Most

JeanneAndDaddy001

I am scared of thunderstorms.
Not just scared
terrified.

And when I became a mother,
I took a lot of deep breaths
and used every ounce of
self control I could muster
discipline I didn’t know I had
love I knew was big but not that big
to not let my children see my fear
so they wouldn’t inherit it.

It’s when I miss him most,
you know.
My daddy.
When thunder shakes the house
and lightning leaves us in the dark
and rain comes in a deluge that finds Noah
backing his ark out of the garage.

If he was home when a storm came up,
Daddy would just appear at my door
without saying a word about the storm.
He was just in the neighborhood, you know.

If he was away,
he’d call.
Just to talk.
“You okay, hon?” he’d ask
then settle into a conversation
about this and that.
He just happened to be thinking about me,
you know.

I’m lying.

It’s not when I miss him most.
It’s one of the times I miss him most.

JeanneDaddy50thAnn

~~~~~~~

100 stories in 100 days.
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An Improvisational Anniversary

Arrowleaf

I spy the leaf
as I walk to the truck
to begin our 12-hour ride.
Not the way I’d wanted to spend
the fourteenth anniversary of Daddy’s death,
but business meetings being what they are and all,
off we merrily go.

“Talk to me,” I pray silently to Daddy
as the sun stretches awake and water colors the sky.
“At least wave to me at 8 a.m. just to say ‘Hey’.”

At 8:00 a.m. on the dot,
(not knowing a thing about my secret ritual,
perhaps not even remembering the significance of today)
The Engineer pulls the truck into a Hardee’s,
the place where Daddy breakfasted with friends every morning.
“I’ll see y’all later,” the man in the John Deere hat says
as he exits the table.
“I’m gonna’ go do something bad enough to lift my spirits.”
I excel at eavesdropping.

As we ride down the country roads,
I remember . . .

Barn1

Barn2

the chicken houses and barns
my Daddy helped his daddy build . . .

Field3

how Granddaddy hired out his tractor
and his 12 year old son
to bale hay for neighbors . . .

Partiallyhidden2

Abandoned3

Abandoned2

the adorable little house
Daddy and his brother
built for their grandmother.
“We were just teenagers,” Daddy told me once.
“We didn’t know a single thing about building houses,
so we built Mimmie’s house right on top of the ground.
You never saw so many termites.”

Watersky

I look at the water

Clouds

the clouds

Moon

the early moon,
I watch the black bird in the morning
and the black bear in the evening
cross the road in front of us,
and I think this day is
the best conversation I’ve had with Daddy
in a long, long time.

diary of a birthday: waking thoughts

NewDaddyCrawford

how many times did my daddy tell me the story about how it was snowing in atlanta the day i was born. how he made the long distance phone call to his daddy in fayetteville, how it was hard to understand each other because of the static on the line. he told that story not with the defiance and antagonism and one-upmanship that dressed later stories starring daddy and his dad. the story of my birth was told with the same excitement i heard in my son’s voice when he delivered a fistful of dandelions picked ‘specially for me. daddy made it sound like he was delivering a gift to his daddy, a gift more precious than the new fedora or the 35 mm camera he gave granddaddy in christmases yet to come. and perhaps he did feel like he, the sole surviving son of five children, was delivering a gift to his parents. another important thing? he never even hinted that he or grandaddy was even a smidgeon less excited because i was a girl and not a boy. in face, my gender never came up . . . except in the spelling of my name.

i wish i could ask granddaddy about it, too, but he died on the day of the christmas party when i was in fifth grade, when stories were something endured after the initial telling.

MomWBabyJeanne1

when i look to mother for a genesis tale, i get a recapitulation of daddy’s story . . . probably because daddy was the source of her information, too, given the effects of general anesthesia and all. then last weekend, quite by accident, i discovered a little something new and sparkly. i was talking to mother about her work during world war 2. she worked at atlanta general depot, doing a host of various jobs as she progressed through the field and up the ladder, eventually landing a supervisory position over 3-4 other women. i came upon a form granting her request for maternity leave beginning on 25 september – months before my birthday. i thought i was onto something. did she have toxemia like i did with my firstborn, also a daughter? or were pregnant women required to take leave, in effect being banned until after? or, given her beauty and keen sense of style, was she reluctant (read: embarrassed) to show her ever-protruding body for months on end?

i was on a feminist-fed roll.

“mother, here’s your leave form,” i said. “why did you start your leave on september 25? you were granted six months’ leave, most of it spent before my birth.”

“oh,” she said as she speared another piece of fried egg, always proud of the lacy effect she was able to create in the cooking, always apologetic when the lace did not materialize as she’d hoped. “some officer whose name i can’t remember asked if i wanted to work for him. when i told him no, he said well, he’d just put in an order and there was nothing i could do about it. i really did not want to work for him, so i just took my maternity leave and there was nothing he could do.”

and with that little story kernel, i see my mother – a lifelong secretary – in a new light. i completely forget to be disappointed that i wasn’t the center of her answer, i don’t even consider till now, turning over the stone of feminism, the possible prejudice i showed attached to her being a secretary . . . there wasn’t room for any of that on account of the pride i felt at her spunk and resolve to be in charge of her own life by whatever means necessary.

and it was certainly more than thrilling to discover that even at this age, there’s something new to learn about her, about me, about us.

i miss him most on days that end in “y”

JeanneDaddy

thirteen years. it’s been thirteen years since daddy died – and while it seems like the events happened yesterday or maybe just this morning, in my heart it feels like he’s been away forever. i must’ve been a better person then because i told him it was okay to go, okay to die, and i knew it was the right thing to do. but now . . . there are days i merely second guess myself; other days i despise myself for that. why didn’t i tell him not yet, to stay with us, that i still needed him?

i still talk to him, you know, writing him letters – sometimes carrying on conversations right out loud. every year on my birthday, i pen him a letter saying simply “daddy, you were once the age i am now – what would you like me to know?” eventually i will be the age he was when he died. people in his family are bad to die young and in december (a trend i fully intend to break). this year, on my big birthday, he told me to live – to cut loose and flat-out live. “what have you got to lose?” he asked, “the things you want to do don’t hurt anybody, so go on, doll, do ’em.”

other times i ask for other kinds of help – like a week ago today when i implored him to hold off the predicted freezing rain, sleet, and snow at least long enough to give us time to make the 8-hour round trip to pick up my son, his fiancee, and mother and deliver us all safely back atop the mountain for a week of thanksgiving togetherness. he obliged. on saturday when the congestion started, complete with sore throat and chills, i asked him to please make it so i’d feel better the next morning when the travel started to return everybody to their respective homes. even though i thought that request quite impossible, i woke up yesterday morning feeling fine and have ever since – no more coughing, no more scratchy throat, just enough congestion to allow me to sing my favorite songs without having to jump octaves. he still takes good care of me, daddy does, though i try not to impose too often because each request seems like i’m calling him in from the playground early.

NewDaddyCrawford

it’s true: i can talk to him any time, but i want him here. i want him sitting at the table eating turkey. i want him touching his shoulders to his ears as he lets loose a belly laugh. i want him beaming with love and pride at kipp’s wedding next may. and don’t try telling me “he’s there” because i know he’s here in spirit, but i want to touch him. i want to feel his arms wrap me in a hug like nobody else on earth can do. i want to sit next to him and have him tell me his plans for the future and listen to mine, giving me his support for those he considers good ideas, candidly expressing his doubt or dislike for ideas he considers cockamamie. i want to talk to him, laugh with him, hear him tell me stories.

twice i’ve felt his rough, pudgy hands in dreams, and though it’s not nearly enough, i’m grateful for those two visits, hoping, hoping, hoping for more every night as i close my eyes.

CrawfordObitPix

he’s enjoying his life now, wherever he is – he’s told me as much in a variety of ways – and i know that i’m supposed to be happy about that . . . and i am . . . but oh good lord how i do miss him. right down to the cellular level there this deep, profound ache that varies in intensity, but never really totally disappears. i miss him part of every minute of every hour of every day, and i miss him most especially on the days that end with “y”.

[ ::: ]

Jeanne Hewell-Chambers is not ashamed to tell you that she will always be her daddy’s doting little girl, and that her daddy will always be her Hero. Always, I tell you.

Time and Timelessness, both

MovingStudio

Today my studio moved at about 70 mph. I’ve this new-found dedication to my creativity, you see, a new-found commitment to studio time.

JeanneDad 1

My daddy died twelve years ago today, but grief doesn’t wear a watch, you know. Oh how I wish I had that shirt and tie he wears in this picture (isn’t that a fabulous tie?), even a pair of pajamas or those khaki pants he wore when I was a wee little thing – something, anything he wore that I could stitch out my grief on, something I could wrap around me.

Grief Doesn’t Wear a Watch

JeanneDad 1

We walked into the hotel lobby last night to find it all decked out in its Christmas finery. As we walked past the brightly-lit tree on our way to the elevator, I felt something I’ve not felt in I don’t know how long – Christmas spirit. It’s been twelve years since my daddy died – his side of the family is bad to die during the holidays, and that’s why what little decorating I do now, I do it outside so I can see it, but only from afar.

This past year, I’ve allowed myself to grieve for Daddy and others, to grieve things that I cannot attach a noun to. Instead of trying to outrun the grief, instead of brushing it aside or turning away from it, I sat with it. I went to bed with it. To paraphrase Naomi Shihab Nye, I spoke to it till my voice caught the threads and I could see how big the cloth is. I’m not done yet, and I miss him now just as much today as I have every day of every year since.

HoldingBabyJeanne1

That’s me there in Daddy’s arms – I’m the one wriggling my way out of his lap.
Oh what I wouldn’t give for a do-over right about now.

I talk to him, you know. Write him letters, cry on his shoulder, try my best to remember the way it felt to have his arms wrapped around me. Sometimes he would hug me so hard, he’d bite his lower lip from the effort. With Daddy’s arms around me, I could be both vulnerable and invincible, knowing I was loved and protected and supported. I like to think he still does that – still loves me, protects me, supports me, though I try not to pester him with requests for assistance too much because it’s clear from the dreams I’ve had that he is quite content in his new life.

I know you pretty much read only train magazines, Daddy, but if you happen to look over my shoulder and catch my blog, know this: you still own real estate on my heart. And that hole in my heart? It’s packed with stories and smiles and love like you wouldn’t believe.

grief is messy

JeanneDaddy.jpg

ten years ago today, my daddy died. if you have a minute, read about it here. it’s a pretty amazing story, if i do say so myself. (hint: scroll down and start at the 10th paragraph. i spent the first 8 paragraphs linking the post to that day’s prompt (a year later, i don’t bother), and the 9th paragraph, well, we’ll call it a segue cause honestly, i have no idea how that made it to print.)

i shed tears as prayers of remembrance and gratitude
i chide myself for wallowing.

i crave darkness
i turn all the lights on.

i spew words and send emails to people who rock as my rocks
i scold myself for letting people see me like this.

i long to crawl back in bed and sleep the day away
i choose to honor daddy and my self by leaning into this tender bruise.

i am tempted to stay in my floppy flannel pajamas all day long
i hear the ole familiar “boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses”
and know that
only pretty girls can get away with such indulgences.

i forego today’s walk
and eat cookies
and do little
besides reading
the occasional blog.

i ask myself:
did i do all that i could do?
was it wrong to give him permission
to go?
should i have knocked on
door after door after door
until some physician eventually healed?

one thing i do not do
is make my daddy more in death
than he was in life.
he was not perfect.
i wouldn’t ache for him so
if he had been.

~~~
This post is (loosely) (or maybe creatively sounds better) written in response to today’s #reverb10 prompt:
Q: What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?
A: Lately everything contributes to my writing. And nothing – nothing at all – was gonna’ come between me and my writing on this day.