Sunday, December 7, 2008

Another Love Story


He Taught Me How to Be a Man

I come from a long line of manly men
you know the type
men who go hunting and fishing
call all the shots in the home
drink heavily and get into fights
who don’t do women’s work
or heaven forbid, show affection.

Richard married my mom’s
youngest sister, Billie, in the 60’s.
Billie had two children,
Larry and Cheryl, then they had
one of their own, Joni.
It was easy to forget that he was
not the biological father of the two
he was devoted to his children equally.

My family said wasn’t it nice
wasn’t it grand that Richard took on
her two children. He didn’t think it
was grand, he didn’t think he was nice
he thought he was blessed.

Richard took care of his family
and cared about the world
he went to work each day
fought in Viet Nam while in
the USAF. He took his commitments
to family and his fellow man seriously.
He was my first introduction
to a man who didn’t act like a man

When I went to live with Billie and Richard
I saw him wash dishes, tell his wife he
loves her and even kisses her in front of the children.
He got up with his sick children,
bandaged knees, pitched the softball,
often he was the one they called for,
taught them to respect others, and
listened to them when they needed to talk.

I was terrified when I went to live with them
I knew Billie worked and would leave me alone
with Richard and the kids until he went to work
on the evening shift. I was scared.
That first evening I hid in a dirty clothes basket
inside the hall closet, piled the clothes on top of me.
I was used to fighting for my life in a man’s world.

I heard Richard yelling for me, his voice filled with worry
I didn’t let out a peep, just huddled and shook
finally the closet door flew open and I could hear my heart
feel it in my chest thumping against my ribs.
He threw off the dirty clothes and stared at me for a moment
then he piled them back on top of me
as he said “Thank God you are OK”, shut the door,
and walked away.

I stayed in that dark closet feeling shock
tried to figure out my next move when
Richard called me and the others to dinner.
I climbed out of my safe haven and joined
this family who sat at the table
talking about their day and never skipped a beat
as Richard pointed to my chair, my place
my food in my house, from that moment on
it was my family too.

Richard talked to me of boundaries
and how they would never be crossed
Billie bought me clothes and signed me up at school
Billie taught me how to take pride in myself
how to walk with confidence even if I didn’t feel it
and Richard, well, Richard taught me
how to be a man.

Judy Roney

In loving memory of Richard Lane

12 comments:

Peggy said...

Wow, what an impact this poem has. Your work never stops amazing me. Write on!

Bill said...

This is one of my favorite stories of your youth. I admired Richard and I thought he was a good guy. Some of the situations you endured in your youth are heart breaking. That is why I like this one so much because it shows that there are a lot of good guys out there and you were fortunate to run into one at a critical time in your life. There are about 10 stories that you have told me that reside permanently in my mind that are so beautiful. This is one of them.

Mary said...

What a wonderful poem, Judy.I loved learning so much about Richard. He really was a fine example of a man~

Darrell said...

Judy: Your poem did such a good job of creating a picture of Uncle Richard, the only thing you could have done to bring him more to life would have been to mention his crisp white T-Shirts, and his buzz-cut. Kevin and I have a fond memory of riding in the back of Uncle Richard's black Ford Pickup Truck, from Cookeville all the way to Mt. Juliet. Seems crazy now, but back then, it was high adventure. Great times, great memories! And when we got there, we got to help him slop their pigs. For a couple of pre-teen boys, life doesn't get much better than that! And then of course, we got to go in and listen to Aunt Billie's stories, and hear her wonderful laugh. Thanks for bringing up some great memories that I haven't thought about in a while. Oh yeah, I also had a crush on Joni back then. Nobody told me you weren't supposed to have a crush on your cousin! Then again, it WAS Tennessee...

Judy said...

Darrell, I like your idea of adding more description of Uncle Richard's looks. Those shirts and especially the buzz cut was definitely central to who he was. Thanks for adding the stories that you have of him. I just loved Aunt Billie's laugh, too. She always made me laugh. She could put a funny spin on anything. Joni was a beautiful little girl. She was so much fun. I remember while I was there Billie would go to put Joni in her crib and Joni (who could barely talk) would say "Never let your kid go to bed with a cold." She cracked me up. She would mimic the tv commercials all the time. I thought Cheryl was beautiful, too, and Larry was the brain. :) Its a wonder I remained so skinny when I stayed with them. Another memory is the food I had there. Sometimes for a night time snack, Billie would go into the kitchen and fry a huge pan of potatoes for us. LOL
Good memories.
I took Mom out to see Billie just before she died and we had so much fun it was like old times. Billie had me rolling in the floor laughing. I know we embarrassed Mom to death at a restaurant. Billie thanked me before I left. Said she hadn't laughed like that in so many years and that was a nice thing for me to remember for her last words to me. The dialysis made her depressed so I guess our visit was a good thing for her. Dang, Darrell. We sure have lost a lot of our family, huh?
I do bet that it was something for you and Kevin to slop pigs, you being from the north AND the big city in comparison. LOL

Judy said...

Thanks for replying to my poem, Bill. I love what you said and it means a lot to me. So, does this mean you are reading my poetry??? Guess I should have started this blog a long time ago. :) Love you!

Darrell said...

Judy: I won't go on and on, but I happened to check out your blog after I got home and watched Letterman. Then I wrote what I wrote, then you wrote what you wrote, so now I'm writing this, then going to bed. Yes, we have lost a lot of our family, but isn't it great that they all live on so vividly in our memories. I love what you're doing here, with your blog, your poetry. I wish I had time to keep up something like this, but I have to carefully choose how I spend my time. Four kids, four different sets of interests, it sometimes gets challenging trying to figure out what to do when. As Grandpa Jackson would say, sometimes I feel "bottomsides uppered." Is that spelled correctly? Who knows? Did they have any spelling rules, or did anything go? We really do have a rich history, and it does me so much good to see that someone else feels the same way. I was not as close to the aunts and uncles as I'm sure you were. We only came into town once a year, so we never really got to develop our relationships as much. I'll bet I spoke maybe 10 words to Uncle Hollis--TOTAL. Strange, but true. But I guess that is also why each memory is so vivid and precious.

On an ironic note, I just came across an envelope with Mom's writing on it, and it says "Billie--on loan of course". It is a packet of pictures of Aunt Billie lying in her casket. She died on my son's birthday in 2007. I never returned the pictures to Mom. And now that I look at them, she and Mom looked so similar in death. Mom had so many great stories of her and Billie growing up together.

One last thing, when I say something like I did about Richard's t-shirts and his haircut, I trust that you know I am in NO WAY critiquing your work! I love your writing. I guess it's just my way of adding to it since I can't take the time to do it myself. I check out your blog every day, because I love it. Keep up the great work. It really does serve a good purpose. Love you, Judy--Darrell--Good Night!

Victoria said...

What a powerful story of love and boundaries (the violations that made your Uncle Richard's appropriate behaviors seem etraordinary) I wish the bad things hadn't happened and am so glad you had the love and support of your Uncle Richard and Aunt Billie. THe physical details your cousin supplies do make your uncle even more real for me. Thank you fo sharing so uch of your story here.

Judy said...

Thanks to everyone for their comments. It does my heart good to see them and read them.
Darrell - I love your comments, critique or not (I love critiques by the way, they help me get better). Post them at your own risk though because you may see them in a future poem. When I rewrite Richard's poem, I will definitely add his description. You also bring up things to jog my memory or bring up things I didn't know about and I love your collaboration. There is no one else around here (blogville) that knew these people like you do.
You are such a good writer and you will eventually find lots of time to write. I didn't start until about 9 years ago, when Brian died. If you are like me, it will all just have to come out somewhere. LOL What you are doing now with four kids with varied interests is the most precious and important job in the world. I love the way that you and Mary are raising them and so involved in their lives. You are great parents and you will also be a great writer one day. :)
I know your Mom and Billie, being the youngest kids, were very close and did a lot together. Its so sad how things are turning out and the youngest have died first.
Love you!

Darrell said...

THE PICTURE IS PERFECT! PERFECT! I CAN SAY NOTHING ELSE BUT---PERFECT!!!For anyone who doesn't know what I'm talking about, read my post on this poem from about 3 weeks ago. Judy, NOW the poem is perfect. Love, Darrell

Joni said...

Judy, you could not have given me a better Christmas present. I was missing Momma and Daddy so much this Christmas and when this link was forwarded to me I was blown away. I have shared it with EVERYONE!

I had no idea that you were so talented. Now I am a fan. Thank You for sharing your talents and memories in such a profound way.

Daddy would be very touched to know that he made a difference in your life. You were always very special to them both.

Darrell, Daddy always laughed when he told stories about the time you and Kevin came to visit and slopped those hogs.

Those summers when we managed to visit with each other left some great memories.

I have the old chase lounger in my front yard, the one from Grandma's house, and when I sit on it, I remember those times.

Thank You.

Judy said...

Joni! What a joy it is to see your comments on my blog. I got all teary eyed just seeing your name. :) I come back to my character sketches, not to rewrite them yet but just to visit and there are my friends and my family, you and Darrell and even Bill! Wow, such a good feeling.
I am already determined to have one book just strictly character studies like this one. Darrell said something about one of my writings about how it brought them back to life for a moment. That's the way it feels to me, too, so I definitely want to pursue the book of people I know or knew. Or maybe I'll call it, "another love story" because I have so many of those. :)
So glad to see you here. I hope everyone who reads will comment. I feel like we are having a family reunion! LOL
You were the cutest and funniest kid on earth. You got that from your Mom, no one could make me laugh like she did.
Love you!
Judy