Sneaking through the living room,
   seeking the kitchen on slippered five-year-old feet,
   I could hear the whispers of Manma and my Mother.
They often talked about family history when together,
   heads bent close, conspiratorial,
Speaking so softly, I could barely hear the words
   around the corner.

Proud Tennesseans for generations,
sometimes the closet door was opened,
the skeleton allowed to speak.
Making no noise (not easy for a child!)….I listen,
    Manma whispered—Shamrock….angry….red
What?!! Just a child, yet smart enough to know,
    there is no such thing as a red Shamrock!

Through the years, the whispers continued,
   each overheard whisper adding a piece to the puzzle
   assembling in my head.
Manma whispered—Pharmacist….daughter….married
I collected whispers like apples in a basket,
   jumbled, disjointed words that I knew
   could be rearranged into a story….somehow.
Mother whispered—hair….grandfather….Scottish

As we are prone to do, I grew up and grew older,
   while the whispering continued.
Manma and Mother had whispered for twenty years,
   but the words were never spoken out loud.
Manma whispered—son-in-law….drank….gun

Manma passed away, leaving behind another grown
   generation of proud Tennesseans,
   putting yet more distance between the whispered events
   and the present.
I decided it was my responsibility to fill the void
   left with Manma’s passage.
So I finally asked Mother, “What did the whispers mean?”
Mother whispered—Shadrach….great-grandfather….self defense
Mother whispered—dead

Peering around the corner to make sure no little ears
   were eavesdropping,
I whispered—Tell me more….