I woke up this morning at 2:15. On my mind was a certainty of of how God knits families together for his good purpose. Paul's Nana will soon take her last breath and go home. She is 98.
Now, at 4:27 a.m., I sit in the dark in front of a fire with thoughts and memories. So I write...
Mary, my mother, is beautiful and strong and talented. She is writing down her story. She sends me pages that make me weep. My tears are of joy and of sadness. She is telling truths that have not been spoken to me before. She is doing it with love. She is doing it for me. I love her for it.
When I was a little girl, my mother was like a movie star. Everyone looked at her. No no one could tell she was broken but, "Fragile...Handle with care" was stamped across her spirit. Dad knew it. A part of me did too.
My Mom may have been broken, but God certainly equipped her for the babies that were to come. We were her center. We played, listened to records, read stories, and Mother sewed. She made clothes for herself like the ones Jackie Kennedy wore, and she made Easter dresses and school clothes for my sisters and me. Ron was her first child. Her only son. I was born 11 months later. Lori followed two years later, and two years after that came our baby, Kaylynn.
I dance and sing because my mother showed me the joy that comes from those things. I love stories because my Mother didn't just read them, she made them come alive. I love the way I love because my mother taught me how.
Elmer, my father, made me feel safe. I learned to trust because he was trust worthy. He left the house in a suit every morning and came home every night at 5:30 as Mom put dinner on the table. He was gentle. He was funny. He fixed skates, light switches, dryers, bikes and cars. He rescued kittens from inside walls, killed opossums, and saved feather-dyed baby chicks when they caught on fire. He showed me how to catch fireflies and he took scary out of thunderstorms.
Then, we played. I played harder with my Dad than I have ever played with anyone else, and I can still feel the velvety grass he sculpted under my feet if I close my eyes. And boy...could he laugh! It was infectious. I know all little girls think their Daddy is the most handsome man on earth, but mine...Oh...mine was! His smile lights up a room.
Wonzell was born and bread a Texas beauty, but her father left their family to be with someone else and her heart was broken. At sixteen she had a secret wedding to Paul's father, how very romantic, and Paul's brother, Charles B., was growing in her belly when she received her high school diploma. At seventeen, Wonzell became a wife and a mother. The next year Paul was born. Four years later, she had David. Eight years after that, she had a baby girl. They named her Charla, and their family was complete.
I will never know what it feels like to be as ill as Wonzell was that day, but the decision she made on that fateful morning changed the lives of her children forever. I grieve for all that was lost inside her room in the dark and I must trust God for the things I will never understand. I think about this woman often. She gave life to a son who I have shared a life with. I wonder, "Would she love me?" I never got to look into her eyes. I never got to ask her what Paul was like at three. She never got to hold our children. Paul's children. She never smelled them. She never got to know their hearts.
I would have loved Paul's father. I know this. And Charles Brockton Payne would have loved me. Sometimes you just know that certain things are true. I see light in the eyes of the handsome man who fathered my husband when I look at photographs of him. I can't explain it, but I know it is there. I long to sit beside him and hold his hand. I want to feel him hug me. I picture him weepy in love, just like Paul, with anything concerning our children. He got so much taken from him that morning. So very much. I wonder if he saw any of it coming?
I have spent more of my life with Paul than without him. Thirty-seven of fifty-five years. He is the most beautiful picture of a life redeemed I will ever see. And that is my gift. I don't know how you get past losing both parents the way he did. Actually, yes...I do. Paul was fifteen years old when his Nana came from Cleburne, Texas to Oklahoma City to care for the home and the children left behind. Paul had good friends, his two brothers, a baby sister, and a grandmother who gave up her life for them. Life went on. Before Paul turned seventeen, he met a free-spirited, guitar playing, Maxi-dress wearing girl at a party. Her hair was long and straggly. Bleached white as snow. He thought she was beautiful. She was me.
We dated. We fell in love. We made plans for a life. Six weeks before our wedding, Charles B., Paul's older brother, committed suicide. Paul's life stopped again. He was 20. This time, we planned a funeral together. After that, we got married. Two broken-hearted teenagers began a grown up life with a 15-year old. David, Paul's younger brother, moved in with us because he had no where else to go and we became a family. Nana, the mother of Wonzell, now full of grief and 63, took eleven-year-old Charla back to her home in Cleburne to give her the only life she knew how to give. A few months later, I found David locked inside his bedroom and Paul had no more brothers.
There is nothing especially unique about these peoples lives. They could be your family, but they are mine. All of them, however, had an end to their life before it ever begun because God knew every detail and breath of each of their days.
The Pam and Paul story continues to thrive with struggles and laughter and love. We began our family five years later with a beautiful precocious daughter who we named ReAnnon. She was in charge almost immediately.
Our handsome son, Michael, too smart, too cute, and so very charming was born to negotiate and stole my heart four years after. He still charms like no one else I know and always makes me laugh out loud.
Chandler, our stunning, free-spirited, photogenic and fiery red-head, surprised us three years later and breathed new life back into her Father. Our baby is so like me that at times, it takes my breath away.
ReAnnon's story continues now with the help, (thank you Lord) of her husband Garrett and three precious boys. Jude is 4. Reed is a 2. And Gideon is 3 months. I have never been so much in love.
Gideon cooed at giggled at me this week...
Jude and Reed happily took a spot beside me in the Higerd family Hillbilly band...
Michael is coming home for the holidays...his first trip home in almost two years. He's bringing Kim...
Chandler has moved back to the area from San Diego so I get to see her all the time now and she cuts all our hair....
My husband, more handsome than ever, recently found a shoe box of love letters written between his Mom and Dad. Charles was in New York City studying to be a stock broker and Wonzell was back in Cleburne with Nana. Charles B. was four, Paul was three, and David was in her belly. That is his gift.
Nana's body is old and tired . She is ready to go see Jesus and Paul is getting ready to speak about the life of a woman who gave hers to four grandchildren...
Stated simply...life happens.