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,
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.
I collected whispers like apples in a basket,
jumbled, disjointed words that I knew
could be rearranged into a story….somehow.
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 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
Peering around the corner to make sure no little ears
I whispered—Tell me more….