The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 12:59 pm Tuesday, October 24, 2023

A True Story

By Julie Terry Cartner

As dementia took a stronger hold, Martha’s lucid days were infrequent, yet occasionally she remembered herself, the bright-eyed, determined young lady looking at the brilliant array of options waving before her like the flags on the masthead of a ship. She knew she was an aberration to many and beyond confusing to her parents. She knew the expectations for her, or any woman over the age of sixteen, were to marry and have babies, and to run a household.

And she wanted that, but she also wanted more. She was smart; some believed, too smart for a girl. She wanted to be a teacher. She especially wanted to teach girls – to teach them that they could be more, that they didn’t need to bend to the low expectations for women in the 1930’s and beyond.

Already she’d done more than many, graduating as valedictorian, then going to college. How she’d loved college. The freedom, the atmosphere, the friendships. School was easy for her, and she’d eagerly absorbed the skills she’d needed to be an educator. For the first time in her life, the arduous work of farming had been supplanted by academia. Instead of hoeing beans, she studied philosophy, psychology, and methods of education.

She’d gone home every summer and worked on the farm, but that only made her more determined to succeed. And then, on Christmas break during her sophomore year, she’d met Lloyd, a slightly older man already running his own farm. They’d met at the town’s Christmas party. He was smart, articulate, and mature. Traditional conversation had quickly morphed to deeper topics: government, religion, and baseball. They’d danced the night away, and he’d asked her for a date. They’d gone sledding and ice skating, and when snow had accumulated, he took her out in his horse-drawn sleigh. The holiday flew by, and soon, she was kissing him goodbye at the train station.

Second semester was filled with classes, studying, and long soulful letters. For the first time, Martha questioned her choices. But summer was coming. She’d have three long months with him, and then just one more year of school. Then she could return home, get a teaching job, and marry this man who had become so important to her.

And so, the summer started. Lloyd, of course, didn’t have the free time that he’d had in the winter, but occasionally, he’d break away for an afternoon at the beach, and in the evenings, after the supper dishes had been washed, he’d call, continuing his courtship.

As September and the end of summer neared, Lloyd and Martha sat on her family’s porch swing, exchanging conversation and kisses. Suddenly, Lloyd slid off the seat, and, dropping to one knee, he proposed.

Martha’s joy, however, lasted only seconds. The proposal came with a caveat. “I’m not willing to wait for you, Martha,” he said. If you accept, you also agree to leave college. Instead of returning to school, you will stay home and marry me.” At Martha’s silence, he continued. “I expect you to be my wife before the last harvest is in.”

At Martha’s conflicted face, he stated, in non-negotiable terms, “College or me, Martha; that’s your choice.” Then he added, “You were born to be a wife and mother, Martha, not a teacher.

Martha and Lloyd were married in the Congregational Church three months later. Martha exchanged her dreams of being a teacher for the life of a farm wife. Cultural pressure deemed that women marry and raise families, and nobody wanted to be labeled an old maid.

She cooked and cleaned, canned and preserved, and raised five children, all with little help from her husband who farmed, then fished and hunted with his cronies when he had down time. He never hesitated to point out her failings, especially after he found himself a mistress a few towns away.

Slowly, she slid into dementia, deeper and deeper, until the scars of unfulfilled dreams, the slaps of verbal taunts and the bruises of emotional abuse could no longer harm her.

Domestic abuse takes many forms. We must work together to ensure that all people know their value and have the opportunity to meet their full potential.

Sand in the Hourglass

By Gaye Hoots

I started the drive back to Oriental with thoughts of a close friend with dementia who had just been hospitalized with pneumonia. One of the last things she said to me this week was, “It gets harder as we get older, but I don’t want to die yet.” Another friend from school days has overcome numerous health obstacles and fought valiantly but seems to be losing his battle. A family friend has been in a healthcare facility and is now in Hospice; another in his nineties undergoing surgery for broken legs.

My prayers were for each of them to be able to live if they still desired to live, and it was God’s will. I bought my Bojangles ham and tomato biscuit and parked in the bank’s parking lot facing the restaurant in front of it to enjoy my breakfast. I am not one to use a lot of symbolism in my writing, but in my present frame of mind, I caught movement in the air as six vultures lit on top of the restaurant and looked at me.

My brother is now in Hospice, and his daughter is starting a one-year breast cancer treatment that consists of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. My prayers are with them daily.

I did not want to start a four-hour drive with this vision of vultures in my mind, so I decided to focus on my recent happy memories. I spent time with my daughters and granddaughters this week. My great-granddaughter ate a meal with me and shared pictures of prom night and her senior picture. This girl is a blessing and makes all our family happy. She will attend the local community college and then pursue a four-year degree in education.

My great-niece is a freshman and posted a lovely prom picture. She has just been elected vice president of her class. All of Faye’s grandchildren are a blessing. My grandson Cassidy just celebrated his birthday, and my grandson Vann is graduating from the Navy’s EOD training, where he spent two grueling years in special training. We are all in good health.

Nick and Faye’s family are recovering from their loss and supporting each other. I spent time with several friends from elementary and high school. Several of these friends are widows, and learning to navigate a new life and all were grateful for their health, families, and friends. I am impressed that they were all focused on helping others. One friend showed me a beautiful gold ring, a gift from her deceased husband, which she had lost a few years ago. While helping decorate for our recent reunion, she found it in the bottom of a box of decorations. It was like being given the gift a second time.

Another positive was that I joined the Advance Methodist Church. This was a difficult decision as I had been a member of the Advance Baptist Church since I was nine years old and had many friends there. My parents are buried there. My decision was not based on doctrine; but on the fact that my daughter, my granddaughter, my sister, and my children’s father are buried at the Methodist Church, and the present young minister so lovingly supported our family when we lost Faye.

A close friend took me to dinner each night and joined the church the same day as me. He sent me home with a dozen pink roses and a jar of maraschino cherries, my favorites. With all these positive thoughts and Bojangles biscuit under my belt, I smiled and waved goodbye to the vultures.

Willpower

By Marie Craig

     Here I sit in my recliner on my day off just wasting time.  I know I need to get up and accomplish great things, but it’s so nice to just goof off.  It seems that many things “stand on one foot” waiting to be challenged to achieve more positive results.  This point of time, where a decision makes a great difference, happens to all of us.  In the New Testament, Paul writes that he doesn’t have complete control over himself in making wise choices and being valiant.  Complete mastery of self-control is one of life’s hardest goals.

     Years ago, I was driving to a distant location and wished to have some distraction from constantly realizing how far I had yet to drive.  My car radio found a talk by a minister who described this moment of making good choices to achieve your maximum potential.  He said that receiving the gospel and accepting it was like the man who went to bed one autumn evening.  During the night, the weather turned much colder, and he woke up freezing.  He knew that across the room was a nice fuzzy warm blanket.  If he got up and put it on his bed, he would soon be warm and go back to sleep.  But, as he lay there visualizing this, he talked himself out of getting up.  He’d have to step on the cold floor; he might stump his toe on the furniture; he might fall getting back into bed; he might step on the cat’s tail, etc.  So he lay there all night awake, thinking how nice it would be to have that warm blanket and resulting sleep.

     I appreciate that visual story and think it describes reticence in doing the things we need to accomplish.