Your son confides in you and your advice causes heartache.
|A nasty burn churned in Clancy Buck's belly. He sure didn’t want to tell Moma about Daddy. He was afraid this could break her but putting it off wouldn't change anything and there were things only she could tend to. For one thing, she would want to care for Daddy's body. That would be their last intimate moments. His eyes teared up thinking about his Moma's tenderness and courage. How much more sorrow could she handle?
Walking back to the house from the barn, Clancy had time to stew over how to approach his mother. He was angry, sad and frustrated so he found himself kicking up rocks like he had as a boy. He wanted to beat someone up right now. Maybe that would help.
It had only been two months since Roland Junior's, known as R.J., sudden death. Ever since they had lost his brother, Moma had a grief even God couldn't comfort. Clancy knew, from the time he was knee high to a grasshopper, you didn't question our Heavenly Father. But this just didn't seem fair. Moma and Daddy couldn't even seem to comfort each other. Of course, Daddy had been in a cloud of sorrow all his own.
Now, his Daddy was gone too. How did the Almighty expect them to accept that tragedy? Two good men gone in a matter of a couple of months, just wasn't right! Clancy shook his head in disbelief. In his gut he knew there was something strange about R.J.'s death.
What the hell? It made no sense. R.J. had been driving that tractor since he was a kid. He knew the land like his own body, whether sun bright or black night. He knew all the places where danger lurked. An accident? R.J. been seeing that Linde girl. Wasn't he thinkin' right cause of that?
Clancy opened the door that already had a black wreath on it. The inside was dim with just a light by Daddy's recliner. The pine table with his pipe and cherry tobacco were waiting for him. A crocheted afghan, with bright rainbow colors, lay folded across the chair's back. Clancy could smell cornbread cooking. Moma would mash it up with buttermilk for herself and Daddy mixed it with pole beans. Not now.
Bess sat slumped on the thread bare plaid sofa with her spit cup on the worn oak floor. Her face was a map of wrinkles for the roads she had traveled. It seemed that most were sorrow filled where she'd hung on by the grace of God. Her mouth was now sunken because she couldn’t afford dentures. Only sixty-six years old, she often said, "I feel about a hundred".
Bess knew her children and could feel the heaviness in the air around Clancy. She looked up at her precious boy. Her eyes pleaded with him.
"Don't you be tellin me nuthin more to tear at my heart, son."
Clancy walked over to sit next to her. He gently pushed the gray curls from her cheeks.
"Daddy's gone to be with R.J.?"
"Yes, Moma, Daddy must have had a heart attack," his voice cracked. "He was alone. I tried to help... he was already stiff as a board. Don't think he suffered none."
She opened her mouth and what emerged sounded like an animal caught in a trap.
Clancy covered his ears.
Then she screamed, "Lord! How could you be so mean? Why take my good man? Ain't I already paid?"
She knew she was actin' like a rattlesnake that had its food stolen. She never gets the darkness with God. But this was more than anyone should have to stand.
Clancy figured Daddy had been shoveling hay when he probably felt the chest pains. It looked like he threw up. He might have tried to speak but no one was around. When Clancy came by, he was already stiff and blue. Clancy knew he was past doing any resuscitation. He had most likely been dead a couple of hours.
Bess reached over and clutched Clancy's hands.
On the mantle, there was a photo of their wedding day. Roland had made the pine picture frame. Bess was only sixteen, wide innocent eyes and a head full of dark curly hair. Her smile seemed to fill the photo.
Back then she had dreams. She saw her and Roland in a nice home, new with that pine smell, her furniture was some of her Moma's and some Roland made. She already had a hope chest with dishes, homemade sheets with needle pointed birds, even Grandma's wedding ring quilt.
She knew her life would be better than her mother’s because Roland Buck talked about “big things". She believed him, thinking "big things" meant he had a big idea about buying land of their own. She never cornered him about the meaning because God meant for a woman to serve her husband not question him.
They'd be walking down the dirt lane behind the church. Roland was quiet and serious looking.
"What ya thinkin bout, Roland?"
"Just bout gettin the hell otta this town, Bessie. It's smotherin me."
"But ya don't know nothin but farmin. What else is there?"
"I can learn mining. It pays a whole bunch more money."
He was blowing smoke rings.
Bess had been asking God to give Roland another answer cause mining was dangerous. Each of them had buried members of their families in the mines. Usually the bodies were left there. Sometimes they waited for days for answers when they had a mining accident. The towns' people and even other counties showed up to help. The men with equipment and the women with food; the preachers and people were all prayin'.
Roland and Bess had only known hard work in their short lives. They knew farming and to have children to help them farm. The land didn't belong to their families. They were both sharecroppers for properties of the rich Lynde family. The two of them had played together as children, gone to church and the small red schoolhouse together. Those were good days, having fun learning and then eating lunch and playing outside. Both had had to stop their schooling when their folks needed help.
It was time to care for her beloved. Bess went to the barn with a pan of soapy water and a washcloth. She would wash and dress Roland in his best clothes.
As she cared for his body, she talked to her husband.
"Did I do the right thing, love? R.J. came to me...said he'd got Sally Lynde in the family way. I screamed. Couldn't he keep his wick dry a little longer or take an already plucked girl? I told him I could cause it to go away, but they wanted a baby. Silly dreamin."
Roland looked so handsome laying there, just like on their wedding day. She saw past the gray hair, lined face and slack jaw. She saw the strong muscle bound man she married. The one with arms that looked like they could wrestle a bear when he was chopping wood. He held her so close at night and she knew nothing could happen to her. The dark hair on his chest tickled her and when he climbed on her, he was so gentle.
For the first month he would ask about it.
"Am I hurtin ya, dahlin? I can slow down."
"It's fine, feels snug, like God made us to fit together."
Now, it seemed he was listening and he couldn't complain about tears falling on his chest. She went on to unburden her heart. The night was closin in and the casket would need to be closed.
Bessie's Granny had always said, “Getting old ain’t for men. Only women can handle it!”
Bessie was keeping a secret that would shock the family.
Her youngest son was only sixteen and his life had been snatched from him when the tractor turned over. Bessie knew the reason and it was best kept to herself. It would serve no purpose now except heartache for the ones living.
R. J. always came to his mother for her advice and now she felt like she had killed her son for saying what she thought to him.
“God almighty, please forgive me. I was just trying to get him out of this mess he made. He has always been a good boy. Helping others and spreading your Word, I seen him witness. Remember when judgment comes, he just took communion. "
She asked God to accept him in Heaven although he had done wrong.
After Roland and Bess married, the Roland Buck family continued to sharecrop the land belonging to the Lynde family for years. There had never been any trouble except fist fights when the men had indulged in too much moonshine.
The Buck family lived in the house rent free and ate from their own garden. They were given so much a month for clothing and extras. During the holidays, they had a turkey and a Christmas bonus, enough for something new for each of the seven children. After all these years it was still “Sir and Madame Lynde”. Some traditions never changed even though they were all white folks. There was that class difference.
Roland had worked hard for over fifty years on this land. R. J. had been a surprise baby when Bessie gave birth at fifty. After three boys and three girls, they decided to name this boy Junior. They had buried one girl, Angela, from the fever at age three. She had been so busy with the other children and work that she swallowed that horrific grief.
She continued to talk to Roland, pouring her heart out to this man she had loved. She should have told him this while he was living.
"So I told our son, the Lyndes will run us off the land with nothin. You will go to jail. You won't marry her or be round that baby. They will punish her by their meanness. I told him to ask her to run away with him. Roland, you know they would do that to our boy, right? I said to him to get an answer from her and I'd find some money and help him."
"R.J. nodded his head. I hugged him..said we loved him."
"Oh, Roland, he loved her like we did. I saw them tears of pain he'd have to live with. Then they marry her off to that Robert Sexton the very next day..... a man old enough to be her Daddy. This broke our boy's heart. This ole man will raise our grandchild."
"Now you know why R. J. drove the tractor over those rocks, no lights until it flipped over. It breaks my heart. All cause he felt like he had no reason to live without her."
Bessie kissed her husband. "You and R.J. can talk about this. That comforts my soul, darlin."
Bess sure was glad angels walked on the side of innocent ones. That would protect her grandchild.
She came back to the house. She needed to make a list of people to tell and things to do. The other kids and neighbors would be at their door soon with food in hand and trying to comfort.
She beckoned Clancy to come over to her.
"Do somethin for me, son. I'm goin wrap somethin up tight. Make sure Sally Lynde gets this package, ok?"
Bess said what she had been thinkin, "'Remember those cuff links R.J. gave your Daddy with initials on them. She'll know I know about their secret love and R.J.'s baby. Maybe she'll call on me... bring my grandbaby."
Now Clancy knew. Such a waste of two young lives came from unnecessary anger over the difference in people. A road ahead where all is new; each step is further away from pain and despair. He remembered his Daddy talking about having a dream.
Roland used to talk when the two went fishing, "You gotta have a dream, son. Then you follow it".
Clancy noticed that for the last ten years he never heard Daddy talk about a dream again. By then Daddy seemed happy but dog tired. He came in from the fields stooped over and rubbing his neck.
Clancy would have to find his own dream and path for happiness. He would pack a bag and when time was right, he would leave this place of sorrow and no hope. Perhaps he could bring his Moma a better future.
By Kathie Stehr