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‘It’s hard, big, real and dirty’

A reader in a small Southern town writes:

On the subject of returning home:  I remembered something my dad told me once — they lived close to us and would come over for dinner, etc, a good bit.  We had been discussing my brother in NY and how they saw him maybe once or twice a year (always at my parents’ instigation).  My dad said: even with everything that you have/will have to deal with, you have the better part. I kind of laughed; he looked at me very seriously and said again: you really have.  And he was right.  My brother has memories of all the hurts he experienced as a child — I have the memories of knowing my parents as people/as an adult.  Of my dad showing up with his weedeater and trimming our yard — of me wishing he would stay in his own yard.  And of being with them both when they died — of holding their hands and reading Psalms and calling the coroner.  It’s hard, big, real and dirty.

My mother, driving us to the airport this morning: “A little black girl who had been one of Ruthie’s students said to me at the wake: ‘Miss Leming is dead. Who is going to love me now?’ I’ll never forget that.”

Ruthie’s friend:

Did she ever tell you about the presence in her room? No? It happened one night not long after she got sick. She told me she couldn’t sleep. She was having trouble, and she was scared to death. She was lying in her bed looking out the window, praying, praying, praying. She was asking God to help her not to be scared. She told me that she became aware that there was a presence standing in the doorway of their bedroom, behind her. She could see something out of the corner of her eye, but she wouldn’t turn over and look at it. After it left, she was never afraid again.

(Ruthie’s husband: “That’s true. She told me it felt like a physical weight was lifted off of her that night.”)


A St. Francisville friend:

On the day of Ruthie’s funeral, [N.] walked into the post office. He ran into a black lady he knows. I don’t know her name. She said to him, “Sure are a lot of cars in town today.” N. told her that Ruthie Leming’s funeral was today. She said, ‘Oh, that lady died? I saw her in here just last week. I said to her, ‘Baby, you don’t look like you feel too good.’ She said, ‘No ma’am, I don’t. But I’m gonna be good real soon.’

It’s hard, real, big, and dirty. And it’s a thing of beauty.

(Photo: a digital snapshot of a snapshot of my late sister Ruthie skinning a buck in bare feet:)


6 Comments (Open | Close)

6 Comments To "‘It’s hard, big, real and dirty’"

#1 Comment By Roland de Chanson On September 24, 2011 @ 9:12 pm

I have no objection to being proche à la nature even, come to think of it, à pieds nus but I also have no objection to drawing the line at the flaying of the object of one’s dinner. I suppose I am either too squeamish or to far removed from the fundamenta of human ontology. Yet I admire that gal’s gumption As for the shoeless exercise, why ruin a pair of Nike’s? 🙂

She was a treasure and y’all will miss her dearly. Because of your poignant posts, all of us will as well.

#2 Comment By Grumpy Old Man On September 24, 2011 @ 9:23 pm

You need to put together a book about your sister, including her illness and death.

These posts are moving, indeed.

#3 Comment By Dan Berger On September 25, 2011 @ 11:04 am

I second Grumpy Old Man. I would buy it.

Your writings about Ruthie often move me to tears.

#4 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On September 25, 2011 @ 8:59 pm

I think I would buy it too.

A close friend of mine remembers her grandmother talk about catching a chicken for dinner. “It’s all in the wrist” she said. The younger family she was talking to were all raised in the city. Don’t remember anything about a deer. I have to admit, I prefer ramp suppers to bear suppers.

The casual, completely unselfconscious way people in these accounts talk to each other, without any adjustment for epidermal melanin concentration, shows how well some areas of the south have recovered from the imposed notions of racial identity. People up north haven’t gotten over it so well, perhaps because the “black” people have a strange SOUTHERN culture. The remaining step is when nobody would even bother to mention what color the speaker is, but for now, its good to know, just to know it didn’t make any difference.

#5 Comment By richard grossman On September 26, 2011 @ 2:39 pm

The posts are indeed moving and have a great potential to help other people who are grieving (Which inevitably ends of being all of us at some point). A book on the value of community in death could help many people.

I hope that the process of calling up and writing down the memories can help diminish your pain until you are reunited.

May our Lord comfort your family

#6 Comment By Joanna On September 30, 2011 @ 11:23 pm

Make sure the kindle version comes out the same day as the hardcover. I’d be cross if it didn’t