Friday, July 15, 2016

What You Wish For

Mugging with Mother a few months before the accident.
All I ever wished for was to be a writer. (And that elusive pony.) At 10, I wrote my first book: The World and I. Fully illustrated. And then there followed a looong, dry spell.

My dreams of a writing life didn't begin to materialize until Wichita State University established its MFA program, and I went back to school--a divorced mother of three with a weekly study-work schedule of 110 hours. My mentor and life-long friend, Distinguished Professor Bienvenido Nuqui Santos, told me I was writing to find my mother, who was killed in a car wreck when I was 26. 

My mother, Alma Maureen Lies, was a gorgeous, classy, and funny lady--the kind of woman who walks into a room and everyone there behaves a little better and has a bit more fun. It was awesome to watch. And Ben was right. I lost her way too soon, on the way to a race in Enid, Oklahoma. 

Ironically, while an undergraduate, I had written a short story about a young woman receiving a call from a hospital telling her to come, that her parents have been in a bad wreck, but they won't tell her how they are doing. She surmises that if both were either dead or alive they would tell her, but if only one was still alive they wouldn't say that over the phone. She is right, of course. The idea I was exploring was how a person in that position could wish for life without choosing one over the other.  My mother read the story, and laughingly said, "So that's how you're going to do me in."

Seven years later, the day after a festive family wedding, I got a call from a hospital saying my parents had been in a bad wreck, and that was all they could say at the moment, but to drive from Wichita, Kansas, to Enid, Oklahoma, very carefully. They didn't want anymore accidents happening. I ran out of gas at an intersection 15 miles from Enid that glittered with broken glass. 

After I hitchhiked to the hospital, I learned that that was where my stepfather's red cadillac convertible had been T-boned by a driver in a red pickup truck unused to the new stop sign that had gone up recently. My mother and best friends Bob and Betty White were killed along with the driver of the truck. My stepfather and the truck driver's grandson survived. 

I am always moved and nostalgic when I discover Mother in old movies of family weddings, scrapbooks, the features of my children. Not so much when I find her in my writing. But I keep looking for her there anyway.

Last Dance Ladies
For Alma and Isabelle

They kept time with fingers
soft as feather dusters
shared a sweet kinship beyond
the brothers they wed
like the soothing sound
of prayer beads against 
a wooden pew
yet one spun off the floor
to metallic clashing
and the chiming of glass
against asphalt
while the other kept circling
toward the dark at the door
her thinned cells fading
like a note held just a little longer

#writer #author #writerslife #writingofdeath #premonition #poetry

1 comment:

  1. Just realized that the FB link led here. Nice piece, and I see there are many more.



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