Death Valley Sunset from Pixabay

This dispatch comes from my mother’s hospice room.

Aren’t there five items on the veggie plate?

Hoyt Axton left us a song that said he’d never been to heaven. Perhaps he has now, and that would be our loss. Most of us have never been to heaven, but some of us have been to Oklahoma. They tell me I was born there, but that’s hearsay, as far as I’m concerned. That puts me in a tough position because I’m told a memoir has to be told from memory. I’ll do the best I can.

My earliest memory not aided by a folk song was a sojourn to the oil patch in Pampa, Texas, where my mother made a futile effort to mother me. I was about three years old. I remember snow drifts taller than me, traffic signals of such bright reds and greens I could not look away from them. I remember visiting a doctor, being beaten with a belt and, when I cried, being told that if I did not shut up she would “give me something to cry about.”

I know that my mother’s attempt to play mother did not work out. Aside from the beating and the illness, I don’t remember the details. She left me with her parents back in Bristow, Oklahoma, where I became a major disruption of their golden years.

Dying is something you do by yourself. That is so even if there is someone literally holding your hand.

I’m sorry if this will convince you I’m a bad person, but I can’t do this. The pain is too much. I’ll be back in the morning.

Enrolled Cherokee, 9th grade dropout, retired judge, associate professor emeritus, and (so far) cancer survivor. Memoir: Lighting the Fire (Miniver Press 2020)

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