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… rantings of a depressive procrastinator. Did I mention, I write? …

WAG #22: Everyday Heroes

Friday 14 May 2010 - Filed under Fiction + WAG

Letter_U 

ncomfortable in this church for any reason, Cara Jean sat  next to me, patted my shoulder; the woefully tired organ wheezed its forlorn music.

Last time I’d seen her was — how many years?  Not long enough for the cousin who–like me– hadn’t much in common with our family; no one escaped the vitriole of family ‘talk’, but Cara was especially “well chewed up and spit out” by them–male and female, alike–these solid, god-fearing folks assembled here. They held to a practice of civility for weddings and funerals, however. Something about the house of the Lo-werd. People milled in the aisles, somber-faced, shaking hands, embracing. In the gray casket up front lay the one person in this many branched family whom everyone loved: Aunt Annie.

Cara Jean had run off and become a wanton woman, prob’ly a harlot — like Jezebel, never wuz no good lay the claim against her. The last time her dad sent her mom to the hospital with broken bones, a black eye and lacerations, Cara Jean caught a Greyhound, went west and came back only for funerals.  She enrolled in night school, worked days in an office, until she graduated. Now practicing real-estate law in L.A., still single, possibly a harlot–I’d have to wait and ask her later at the luncheon. The civility rule would expire after the burial.

Like my cousin I was a girl who wanted to understand things–all things–we questioned flat statements as to right and wrong, shoulds and ought to. “Because I said so,” would shut me up, but I didn’t count it an answer. They took it personally when I’d abandoned Lulu Belle & Scotty in favor of Vivaldi. Mightily and often dangled out over Hell like a weenie, I took my chances of eternal damnation to go to the show–which is what we called what passed for a movie theater.  I picked up bottles off the highway right-of-way, cashed them in at Alice’s and went to the show as often as I could. Looking back, that’s where we both saw what we wanted in life: Out.

Aunt Annie had nothing to distinguish her, or so she thought, although she did graduate high school–the first in her family; she married a couple of years later, bought a house down the hill from her parents and waited. Meantime, she had her own house–a point of great happiness–two-storied, painted white,  polished to a high shine. Annie cooked and baked, sewed, crocheted, and went to church–her father’s shining star, if he’d admit it, because she loved the Lo-werd, kept house and never sassed her husband. The perfect woman.

Truly, she was.  Fifteen years of marriage produced no children–which she took on as “her fault”–adoption agencies said they were too old to adopt. I saw her soon after she’d given up hope, though, and she looked happy–chipper even. She’d heard from a friend of a friend about someone with a baby to give up; the adoption would be private; the “girl in trouble”, as she called her, asked only that the child nor anyone else should ever know the names of his parents.  Annie vowed. 

It was the late ’70s, abortion was legal because of Roe vs Wade, and Annie marvelled that as shameful as it was having a child outside of Holy wedlock,  this girl wanted life for her child. When he was older, Annie would teach him to pray for his mother every single night before bed.  Now, at her funeral–seated next to his  numb looking, rheumy-eyed father–her son’s face showed all the ravages of having been intensely loved by the woman we would now bury.

Soon enough, the service began and concluded. Lined up in a slow-moving line, we followed the hearse up a red dirt road to the cemetery, milled among the headstones, then returned to the church.

Their custom is for the Women of the Church to lay out a luncheon following a burial–more jello salads than one can count, casseroles, pot roast, and naturally, fried chicken. Cara Jean squeezed my hand, landed a quick peck on my cheek, and explained she had to go. I held onto her.

“Tell me, Cara,” guessing that I might not see her again. Her parents were both gone; this one aunt remained the only family she had loved.  “Besides that it was Annie, why did you come out in this blistering heat, fer godssake?”

“To say goodbye.  And I may be back,” glancing around, “I still have family here.” 

Creative Commons License  All work on KateMcIntire.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License

2010-05-14  »  Kate

Talkback x 12

  1. India Drummond
    15 May 2010 @ 2:32 am

    What a great piece! It’s very easy to get caught up in the moments you’ve created here.

    Wonderfully told.

  2. Tweets that mention WAG #22: Three Women- Kate McIntire -- Topsy.com
    15 May 2010 @ 6:23 pm

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kate McIntire. Kate McIntire said: Girl Fren's webpage, WAG #22: Three Women – http://tinyurl.com/27opdoh [...]

  3. Walt
    17 May 2010 @ 5:56 am

    This is a pretty intense piece with wisps of side stories coming and going as members of the family were brought up.

    I enjoyed reading it, thanks for sharing.

  4. J. M. Strother
    17 May 2010 @ 7:35 am

    Very nice piece of writing, Kate. The descriptions are quite vivid, and the story I think most people can relate to. There is a lot of drama in most extended families.
    ~jon

  5. Sue O'Shields
    17 May 2010 @ 11:30 am

    We all have little acts of heroism that we admire in others.

    Nice piece, Kate.

  6. Kate
    17 May 2010 @ 1:35 pm

    @Walt – Thanks for your kind words. It felt intense, but when I’d begun it it wouldn’t let me go.

    @JM Strother – high praise. Thank you. Yep, that family reminds me of a cross between the Joads and Clampetts. I’d stop writing about them, but they insist.

    @Sue – That’s often the way it is, isn’t it. My heroes used to be 8X10 glossies, Technicolor & larger-than-life; now I’m deeply impressed by life’s small marvels.

  7. Melanie Trevleyan
    17 May 2010 @ 3:06 pm

    Really good writing and a great insight on the characters through the thoughts and actions of others. A great example of showing not telling.

  8. Kate
    17 May 2010 @ 6:04 pm

    @Melanie – Nice of you to notice that; I appreciate your comments.

    @Walt White – I enjoyed your WAG; wanted to leave a comment, but… is it just me?

  9. Walt
    18 May 2010 @ 5:19 am

    Kate,
    The theme I use places comments on a seperate section from the story. If you scroll to the top of my article, you’ll see two buttons. “Article” and “X Comments”. Click the comments button and the comments will be visible, as well as the form to submit one.

  10. Jayne Gorman
    18 May 2010 @ 7:07 am

    Wow this is riveting stuff, really enojyed reading it. Thank you!

  11. Kate
    18 May 2010 @ 8:41 am

    @ Walt – I’m a terrible guesser and worse guide, plus a slow learner. Thanks for your patience.

    @Jayne Gorman – Hi & welcome. Thanks for the feedback. I look forward to reading your post when I’m through w/Semester Grades. Today! TaDa.

  12. Caroline
    19 May 2010 @ 5:00 pm

    I really enjoyed this. Not sure which lady I admire more, Cara Jean or Aunt Annie!

    ………………@Caroline, I can’t quantify it, either: it took long-term character for Aunt Annie to find her way through life and not be like those she was among; on the other hand, Cara Jean just got up and walked away, built a life, ignored the vitriole. These two characters made me tired, figuring out what they wanted to say. Thanks.

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