Martha Loehrlein

When I married, I was in for a big surprise. I lost my identity.

All the mail we received was for Mr. and Mrs. Norbert–even my personal letters.  Also, in the phone book was only my husband’s name.

Soon after being married, I became a stay-at-home mom with nine children, so I was Mom or Norbert’s wife.

What happened to that independent woman who lost her mother at ten years old…Who was left with a dad who was rarely home?…Who had moved to Chicago to work at a Shriners Hospital straight out of high school? She was nowhere to be found after I married and had children.

At 40 years old I went to work part-time as a home health aide to help pay the bills. In spite of my husband telling me how bad it was working outside the home, I loved my job. I joined the choir at church, and people started calling me  by my first name.

When I was 55 years old, the Senior Games were starting up all over the country, and I found out I was good at sports, so I got in our local games
and won medals in track and field, bowling, shuffleboard, and I even qualified for National Senior Olympics. And went to them!

I have been in the Senior Games for 30 years locally  and have been in
longer than any other woman in Evansville. But the most important reward was getting my identity back.

I am Martha I am 86 years young.

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Christie Thompson

You ever just heard a poem that stuck in your bones?

This is Christie Thompson’s tribute to her father and her family. Thompson is a writer returning to her love of writing this year. She lives in Henderson, KY, and works at WNIN, the NPR station in Evansville, IN.

Chickens Wild

My father has been gone for almost a year

And I was on my way to visit his grave

Tucked sweetly within a family plot

Beside his momma and daddy

St. Peter’s Cemetery

Is in the tiny town of Waverly, Ky—

Very much a Catholic area

And very much a poor, Catholic area

Every time I drive to see Daddy

I listen to Hank

Those in my family, we just say Hank

Because there’s only One

But perhaps I should specify—

Hank Williams Senior circa 1952

He was my daddy’s favorite

I know every word

To every song

And if you’re not sure,  or don’t know who that is

It’s that twangy kinda country music

That makes dogs howl

The stuff I absolutely love

That will always feel like Daddy’s arms around me

Lonesome Blues

Transports me to another time…

You ever just heard a story that stuck in your bones?

And who was tellin’ it made you rejoice

But who it was about made you cry

Even if they were one in the same?

The story came deep from within my blood:

My father grew up on a farm—

No, it wasn’t really big enough to be a farm

But there were hogs, an ass and two old milk cows—

Bessie and Brownie

The house—

It was a tiny two-room shack

In desperate need of repair

Chipped white paint, missin’ slats of wood

An old outhouse for a bathroom…

Daddy remembered the outhouse

When he was around six

He hated walkin’ to it at night

‘Cause the old mean rooster would peck at his privates

My daddy’s mom and dad,

They were extremely poor

And this story must’ve stuck in my daddy’s mind too

‘Cause he cried when he told it

His house was the kind that had dirt for a yard

Wobbly, slanted floors

And chickens wild

My dad and his brothers were the kinda kids

That wore girl’s jeans ‘cause they were cheaper

Right around the time of James Dean and Brylcream

Can you imagine what that must’ve done?

And when their father would eat

He would let the lard from the pork, stew, or whatever

Run down his chin

Only to wipe it with his sleeve

I only knew my grandpa for a very short time

But to a four-year-old he looked ominous, grotesque and mean

He was known to have cut the family dog with a razor blade

Rub gunpowder into its wounds

Purposely drivin’ the dog mad

Swearing it would keep Coloreds away from the yard

And my grandmother—

I never got the chance to meet

But she married at thirteen!

What I wouldn’t give

To tell her

Her granddaughter and great-granddaughter

Have her blue eyes and red hair

But mostly, that her son

Changed the course of an entire family…

She died when Dad was fifteen or so

He found her dead

After the night his daddy had beat her

Just a little too much

Can you imagine what that must’ve done?

When a Hank Williams song can make his eyes water

And a little black and white girl playin’ together

Can make him smile

Or when he wants to hold on to his only daughter

He let me go—

Goin’ on pure faith that he had taught me right

Right enough

To lie down and die

Christielynthompson.clt@gmail.com

6-28-18

 

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