It hasn’t been a year since you moved on, but the annual celebration of you and who you were has come and gone. I thought about you the entire week of your birthday.
I was too busy to blog you a birthday card. Growing up as I did poor – and as you did dirt poor – I focused my will and skill on making a living, scratching, as your papa did out of the ground oil. It was out of the Internet for me, the lugubrious challenge of drawing attention amidst spams, shams and scams.
I missed your birthday, the same way I missed weddings and funerals, because I didn’t believe they were important enough to offset the cost of travel. After all, you were born in a tent with a dirt floor. Why should I hope for linoleum or cheap carpet, and the ability to cover an extra $350 for a plane ticket? My business didn’t cover expenses during the week of your birthday.
Always short of money yourself, you taught me at 10 and my brother at 11 to say, “No, she’s not here right now; No, I don’t know when she’ll be back.” I didn’t realize until this very moment the truth of the latter part of that statement. We never knew when you would be back, even if you were there.
We managed on our own during your drug overdose, or suicide attempt, when we were 3 and 4. Yes, you were tired, raising kids on your own and working dime-a-dance for the soldiers just to buy us milk and a little oatmeal.
When you didn’t wake up for 2-3 days, and a stranger pounded at our door…a stranger we knew we were not supposed to talk to…my life disappeared. The next thing I knew I was four and living in East Texas with Mrs. Tackett and my brother. Probably a social services placement, which I didn’t realize until a psychologist mentioned it a couple years ago.
You had a way of landing on your feet. I don’t know how you did it. Sheer willpower I think, because I have a strong will, too, and I don’t know how else you could have done it. Maybe with your brilliant intellect and expert verbal virtuosity (though you confessed in your seventies you never learned how the game of life was to be played).
I do tasks instead of caring for people just like you did. And I push through and do whatever needs to get done, just like you did, whether or not it destroys part of my body, or whether or not there’s a man around to help. If one needs a man, you showed me over and over, just flirt with one to get that cabinet moved or that room added on.
You were a woman of steel and velvet. You died like you lived: scared, but strong. Pushing ahead to do what you believed had to be done. You checked out when you thought it was time. April Fools Day, 2009.
I am stronger because of you.
In memory of Virginia Dawn Akerman Ennis, November 3, 1926-April 1, 2009.