shadows of the evening


“The sun was a gigantic circle of intense bright light as I walked on Old Plantersville Road tonight and the colors in the sky surrounding it took my breath away. They were all that – and then some. No camera this evening. Just me and the sunset. It’s as close as I ever come to a spiritual moment and not surprising that the words of a hymn I sang over and over during my Southern Baptist days played in my head while I walked:

‘Now the day is over, night is drawing nigh.

Shadows of the evening steal across the sky.

Jesus, give the weary calm and sweet repose,

With thy tenderest blessing may mine eyelids close.’

—–Sabine Baring-Gould, published 1865

A few raindrops fell on me as I turned toward home from the railroad track  which is my usual turnaround spot. I didn’t even care. The colors changed quickly in the sky as the sun went down behind the trees across the pasture. I slowed my pace to catch as many of them as I could, and the rain stopped for me so I wouldn’t have to hurry.

The day was over, and shadows of the evening stole across the sky right in front of me. Jesus, give the weary calm and sweet repose. My Random House Dictionary defines repose as, among other things, a dignified calmness…composure. Yes, give the weary a sweet repose. Let all who work hard and all who are tired of fighting the same battles or any whose pain leaves them exhausted – give them a sweet repose at the end of this day.

And may our eyelids close.”

——–The Short Side of Time

When I wrote these words in September, 2013, there was no way I could have known that in December, 2018 a special train would roll over those railroad tracks that were my turnaround point in my  Old Plantersville Road walks in Montgomery County, Texas. The special train was carrying the remains of President George H.W. Bush, the 41st. president of the United States, to his final resting place at the Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas.

I’ve watched most of the coverage of his death, two funerals, countless images of the Bush family and friends during the past six days. I was reminded of how true patriotism finds a way to express itself in the lives of selfless leaders who may be ambitious but never blind to the responsibilities of public service. In a day of tweeting presidents, I needed that reminder.

Now on this night the special train will come to a stop, and the body of our 41st. president will be laid to rest in a place 22 miles from where I was born in Navasota, Texas. His family and friends will say a final farewell for now. My prayer for them is that they will find a calm and sweet repose at the end of this day.

Stay tuned.

 

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my mother reads from Deep in the Heart


“I love this book,” my eighty-three-year-old mother says, startling me awake from my nap with her words. I had drifted off while sitting in the dark blue recliner in her room in the memory care unit of the assisted living facility she’d called home for the past two years. She was asleep when I sat down in the recliner.

I open my eyes to see her sitting across from me. She’s in the small wooden chair with the straight back. I can’t believe she’s holding the copy of my book, Deep in the Heart, which I gave her two years ago. I never saw the book since then on any of my visits, and I assumed she either threw it away or lost it. I was also stunned to see how worn it was. The only other book she had that I’d seen in the same condition was The Holy Bible.

“I know all of the people in this book,” she continues. “And so many of the stories, too.”

“Yes, you do,” I agree. “The book is about our family.”

And then with wonder, I hear another reader say my words. My mother reads to me as she rarely did when I was a child. She was always too busy with the tasks of studying when she went to college, preparing for classes when she taught school, cooking, cleaning, ironing, practicing her music for Sunday and choir practice – she couldn’t sit still unless my dad insisted she stop to catch her breath.

But, today, she reads to me. She laughs at the right moments and makes sure to read “with expression” as the teacher in her remembers. Occasionally, she turns a page and already knows what the next words are. I’m amazed and moved. I have to fight the tears that could spoil the moment for us. I think of the costs of dishonesty on my part, and denial on hers. The sense of loss is overwhelming.

The words connect us as she reads. For the first time in a very long while, we’re at ease with each other. Just the two of us in the little room with words that renew a connection severed by a distance not measured by miles. She chooses stories that are not about her and her daughter’s differences. That’s her prerogative, because she’s the reader.

She reads from a place deep within her that has refused to surrender these memories. When she tires, she closes the book and sits back in the chair.

“We’ll read some more another time,” she says.

I lean closer to her.

“Yes, we will. It makes me so happy to know you like the book. It took me two years to write these stories, and I’m glad you enjoy them so much.”

“Two years,” she repeats. “You have a wonderful vocabulary.”

Note this is an excerpt from a chapter called The Dementia Dialogues – Stage 1 from my book:

The mysterious mother – daughter relationship complicated by a thief we call dementia is one of the themes of one of my favorite books. The cover shows a ten-year-old me struggling with gloves I’m sure I didn’t want to wear standing between my hip crew-cut dad and my correctly posed mom, my favorite aunt Lucille standing next to her brother, and my aunt’s daughter Melissa looking somewhat perplexed in an adorable bonnet sure to be the hit of the Easter service at the Richards Baptist Church.

Stay tuned.

 

 

Posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

thanksgiving is relative


“The oak trees were alive with color in the midst of the evergreens. Bright red and yellow leaves catching the sunlight as Daddy and I walked through the brush. The smell of the pines was fresh and all around us. We didn’t speak, but this was when I felt most connected to my father. Nature was a bond that united us and the gift that he gave me. And not just in those East Texas woods. He envisioned the whole earth as my territory and set me on my path to discovery. In 1958, this was remarkable in a girl’s father…

To this day, Thanksgiving remains my favorite holiday. It seems less commercial than the others and struggles to hold its own before the onslaught of merchandising that we call Christmas. The dinners in the fancy restaurant and hotels and cafeterias never measure up to the feasts my grandmothers served their families.

Perhaps, though, it is the love and closeness of those family ties that leave the sights and sounds that last a lifetime.”


This excerpt from the chapter Thanksgiving in the Piney Wooads is from my first book Deep in the Heart: A Memoir of Love and Longing which is still available on Amazon. I was so thankful when the book received a 2008 GCLS Literary Award – and thrilled, too.

my family on my grandparents’ front steps circa 1956

(I am seated on the bottom row in my flannel shirt and corduroy pants,

unsmiling, at my mother’s request for some strange reason)

Today is a different Thanksgiving in a different home in a different state in a different century, but I still believe in the love and closeness of family ties that bring the sights and sounds that last a lifetime. I know they have in my lifetime.

Pretty and I wish all of you in cyberspace that love and closeness on this special day for thanksgiving.

Stay tuned.

 

Posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, photography, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is | Tagged , | 14 Comments

when I think of Oscar, I remember…


…a day in January, 2013 when I went with him, his mother Becky, his younger brothers Dwight and George on a personal field trip to the grounds surrounding the Montgomery County public library plus the Fernland Historical site near the library. Oscar, the oldest of the brothers I called the Fabulous Huss Brothers had turned 4 on  November 18, 2012. His brother Dwight would be 2 on the 22nd. of January.

Dwight the leader with his special backpack

am I having fun yet?

now where did they put that longhorn steer?

here it is

Dwight, I told you it’s not real

Hm…I don’t know about that

sigh

I’m not sure what this is

Ok. Been there. Done that.

now what?

let’s go, Bro

Rainbow Bridge garden a special place

hot dogs and horses

I’m thinking about what I saw today

Dwight, where are you going?

the kid’s a genius – he can find water anywhere

I love this bridge

Dwight, you’re harshing my mellow

Happy Birthday, Oscar! Enjoy special times with family and friends – I hope you have as much fun in your tenth year as I had with you during my years on Worsham Street…you’re the best!

Stay tuned.

 

 

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never forget


Veteran’s Day is our day set aside to honor the men and women who serve and have served in defense of our democracy at home and abroad. This past year I did an entire series on my family’s experiences during WWII. (See archives for “a man of letters.”)

The following are a few pictures from that series.

my navy uncle Charlie with my mother

my air corps Dad

.

my air corps uncle Ray

My uncles and my dad survived WWII but are no longer here to “never forget” each other and their comrades, so we must remember for them.

Stay tuned.

 

Posted in Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, photography, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

this girl had it going on…was she calling to Get Out the Vote?


was she making calls to Get Out the Vote?

Actually, not really – this girl (me) was probably calling her office from a pay phone outside the tennis courts at the Family Circle Tennis Tournament in Hilton Head, South Carolina in the late 1980s. She was carrying seat cushions for bleacher seats, wearing enormous glasses and a wonderful hat that she lost somewhere along the way during the next quarter century.

This girl would have voted in every election, though, and would want all  her friends across the country to do the same in the mid-term elections on Tuesday, November 6, 2018.

Be woke! Go Vote!

Stay tuned.

 

 

Posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, photography, politics, racism, Slice of Life, sports, The Way Life Is | Tagged , | 7 Comments

be woke! go vote!


 “Suffrage is not simply about the right to vote but also about what that represents: the basic and fundamental human right of being able to participate in the choices for your future and that of your community, the involvement and voice that allows you to be a part of the very world that you are a part of… it is not simply about the right to vote for women, but also about what that represents: the basic and fundamental human right of all people, including those members of society who have been marginalized whether for reasons of race, gender, ethnicity or orientation, to be able to participate in the choices for their future and their community.”

(reported by Sabrina Barr, MSN News)

Say, whose quote is this? Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony or Lucy Stone in the 1800s during the beginnings of the Suffragette Movement in the USA? Or was it Alice Paul with her group of women activists called the Silent Sentinels who were imprisoned in America in the early 1900s, went on hunger strikes in prison and were force fed to be kept alive for three years before the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution giving women the right to vote was finally passed in 1920? The above quote could have been attributed to any of these American women who devoted their lives to securing the right of women to vote in our country.

Instead, the quote belongs to another American woman, Meghan Markle, who is now the Duchess of Sussex and spoke these words yesterday to a crowd in New Zealand where she was near the end of a Royal Tour with Prince Harry. While celebrating that country’s 125th anniversary of women’s rights to vote, she praised New Zealanders for their political actions in 1893 and concluded her remarks with a quote from the country’s most famous suffragette, Kate Sheppard: “All that separates, whether of race, class, creed or sex, is inhuman and must be overcome.”

I am so proud that an American-born woman of color is in New Zealand talking about the basic right of all women to participate in shaping our democracies with the power of the vote. Every vote matters. You are only powerless when you fail to exercise your power.

Pretty is driving me this morning to my Lexington County voting place for early voting for the midterms which are scheduled for Tuesday, November 6, 2018. I am feeling very strong today. This election is very important in shaping the future of our communities, our states and our nation; and I, for one, want my voice to be heard.

I’m going to think about Meghan Markle’s final remark from Kate Sheppard: “All that separates, whether of race, class, creed or sex is inhuman, and must be overcome.”

Amen, sisters. Tell it.  We shall overcome. Be woke. Go Vote!

Stay tuned.

 

Posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, politics, racism, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

the water is your friend


As the panic overwhelmed me when I saw the water above my head, I could hear Pretty yelling Stand up! Stand up!

My legs refused to cooperate…I tried to stand, but my wet feet kept sliding on the vinyl lining of our swimming pool. I was holding on for dear life to one of the two buoyant noodles I used for my daily exercises, but for some reason that wasn’t helping. I would try to put one foot down, the foot would go out from under me and I would go under again. Panicky. Panicky…I was drowning….in four feet of water…I was drowning.

I can’t stand up – HELP!

Pretty jumped in with all her clothes on and pulled me out of the water.

I could barely breathe. The panic and fear wouldn’t let go of me even when I stood safely on the top step of the four steps leading into the pool. Pretty stayed in the water with all her clothes on and began to walk back and forth in the four feet depth of the shallow end of the pool she had just pulled me out of. She was clearly undone.

After a few minutes, she said, I probably should have let you get out by yourself so you would know you could make it alone.

I shook my head. If you hadn’t pulled me out when you did, I would have drowned, I replied. I stood shaking on the step for a long time before I slowly pulled myself out of the pool.

All summer long I got into the shallow end of our beautiful swimming pool to spend 30 minutes of exercise in the water because my orthopedic doctor remarked offhandedly during an appointment last spring that the water was my friend, and if there was any possibility of exercising in water, that would be a brilliant idea.

I had resisted the suggestion because of my lifelong fear of water – like as in major phobia fear of water. I loved to look at water but rarely got in it. However, this summer  I discovered the water allowed me to walk without pain and that made a “water believer” out of me. Every day I overcame my fears to get in the pool and do my exercises. Most of the time someone came to the house to swim so I had plenty of company during the warm summer days.

Gradually I even began to look forward to the 30 minutes of water activities. And also gradually after Labor Day, most of our friends quit coming to the pool; Pretty was busy with her antique empire, and I kept up my pool exercises by myself. Even Charly and Spike were bored with my walking back and forth routines, opting to stay indoors while I spent time with my new best friend, water.

October has been warmer than it’s supposed to be which gave me encouragement to continue my water exercises. Cooler nights chilled our unheated pool but sunshine could make the water bearable for me in the late afternoons. Pretty who loved the pool during the summer months occasionally got in with me but most of the time preferrred to chat  from the vantage point of a bench near the edge of the water whenever she came home during my pool time. Most of the time I was already out by the time she arrived.

But for some reason known only to the gods of shallow water, Pretty came home early last Friday afternoon as I was wrapping up my routine. We were chatting when I lost my balance in the pool and went under. She was in exactly the right spot at the right time  to save me from myself and from my friend, water, which at that moment had become my foe.

I vowed to never get back in the pool again; that promise didn’t last two days. The cold water may keep me out when the sun doesn’t warm it to suit me, but fear won’t. If Katherine Hepburn could swim in the Atlantic Ocean every day of her life until she died, surely I could spend 30 minutes in a swimming pool in my back yard.

As long as my personal Super Hero Pretty is within shouting distance.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is | Tagged , , | 25 Comments

HAPPY PRIDE! CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES!


Pretty and I were unable to participate in tonight’s 2018 Pride Parade here in Columbia, South Carolina but we were there in spirit…

PRIDE – 2015

On the bottom row of this collage the handsome young man speaking with a microphone at the Pride Festival was my friend of many, many years Eddie Greenleaf. Sadly, two weeks ago today Pretty and I attended his funeral. We will miss Eddie’s smile and hugs but are very thankful for the memories we share of his commitment to his husband Michael and their ongoing contributions to the LGBTQ community in South Carolina over the past 30 years. Rest in peace, Eddie, and may those of us you left behind never rest until true equality for all becomes the new normal.

Stay tuned.

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proud mary


While Pretty was away doing constructive activities with her father and number one son Drew at his house across town this morning, I watched CBS Sunday Morning. Oprah’s Gayle who is also a CBS correspondent interviewed Tina Turner at her home in Zurich, Switzerland. Tina was promoting her new autobiography, and Gayle was having fun talking to her.

When Gayle asked Ms. Turner what she had to say about her many fans who missed her performing after her final performances in 2007, Tina said her fans now had her many videos…which led me straight to my computer which is now smoking from my watching countless videos of Tina Turner singing Proud Mary – with and without Ike – for the next two hours.

No version is as fabulous, to me, as the duet with Beyoncé at the 2008 Grammy Awards.

Proud Mary

Tina Turner and Beyonce

My apologies to all of my feminist friends and to my wife Pretty who is not a huge fan of Beyoncé, but if I ever have a memorial service, please play this video on a decent screen.

P.S. Pictures taken from video on my computer and used with no one’s permission.

Stay tuned.

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