Excerpts

Introduction

My mother, Berthella May (Whitmyer) Stevens, was a remarkable woman, filled with life and ahead of her time. While some women of her era were stifled, she found ways to express herself. (Read more…)

Spring

Chapter 1 – A Leap for Love

“I still remember him strolling through the lovely high meadow above the little lake with my sister’s really cute girlfriend,” Mom recalled. “His shirt was off. He was all brown, mannerly, and innocent-looking. By nightfall, in the woods at the wiener roast, I maneuvered to Mick’s side and asked him why he had ignored me all afternoon.” (Read more…)

Chapter 2 – Stolen Dreams

My father must have lost his breath like he’d been kicked in the gut. Maybe for once his tearless eyes streamed with warm salty water. Maybe he squeezed his weather-worn hands tightly together so he wouldn’t pass out. Maybe if he thought no one was looking, he would have stared skyward before collapsing to his knees onto the earth on which his life depended. (Read more…)

Chapter 6 – New Adventures

As a four-year-old…it was not uncommon for Mom and me to be up together at 1:00 a.m. while the world dreamed. I’d often cuddle at my mother’s bosom in the living room, swaying in the rocking chair as the wooden runners squeaked. A dim light from the kitchen struggled to bend its way into our sanctuary. It was a time of silence, whispers, and soft laughter…. One night, though, was like no other. (Read more…)

Summer

Chapter 8 – A Love Affair with Flowers

An explosion of passionate pink peonies wore the lipstick of God in my mother’s gardens near the front of our red brick country home, an island of color in a green sea of towering corn. A moat of marigolds, the color of rich egg yolk, encircled sentinel rocks flanking our driveway. Blasts of forsythia, yellow as the sun, rocketed from the ground beneath my bedroom window. (Read more…)

Chapter 13 – Baby

My buddy, Mark, and I, pulled by the gravity of exploration, ambled along the seam between the cultivated field and the wildness of the woods.

Feathery clouds filtered the afternoon sunlight as spring wrestled with summer and I gazed into the trees. Suddenly, it appeared in the dappled light. “Stop!” I yelled in a whisper. My steady stare and slight nod guided Mark toward my discovery. (Read more…)

Chapter 15 – Crisis and Credibility

During a commercial, I got up from my comfy chair to go to the bathroom and fell to the floor—surprised but unfazed. I must have tripped on something, I thought. I tried to stand but fell again. My right leg was loose and floppy like a rag doll. There was no strength, no rigidity, nothing.

“Mom!” I yelled from the concrete floor of the family room toward the kitchen upstairs where Mom was preparing supper. “Something’s wrong with my leg!”

There was no response. (Read more…)

Fall

Chapter 23 – Belt of Truth

“If you died today, Berthella,” asked Evart Gordon, the teacher in her adult Sunday school class at Oak Grove Church, “do you know where you’d spend tomorrow?”

“Of course I do,” replied Mom with her chin held high and a slight frown. If there was one thing Mom was confident about it was her knowledge of the Bible and God’s plan for humanity.

“Well, where would that be?” Evart pressed.

“If I died today,” replied Mom, “tomorrow I’d be… (Read more…)

Chapter 24 – Mirror of Prejudice

We don’t often get a chance to see our prejudices so clearly as I did that day. They often just peek out around the water cooler, in jokes with friends, or in the lack of eye contact at the supermarket. Seldom is the curtain of our soul pulled back so brusquely, exposing all our darkness to the light of day. But there I stood that day, culturally and racially naked. (Read more…)

Chapter 25 – Three Loves

“Crazy! Crazy? I’m the one who’s crazy?” she ranted as her arms swept through the air. “Who’s constantly burning up other people’s things? You’re the one who’s crazy. You’re making me crazy! I’ll show you crazy.” Her faced reddened as the tension tightened. “I’m so mad at you I could throw something!” she screamed, stopping Dad mid-step. (Read more…)

Chapter 28 – Matters of the Heart

Dad shifted his weight in the uncomfortable waiting room chair when he heard determined footsteps. He looked up and saw a man in scrubs with blue protective booties over his shoes. The man’s face looked serious and tense.

“Mr. Stevens?” the man asked as he approached my father.

“Yes.” Dad stood and shook the man’s hand.

“I’m Dr. Mark. We removed your wife’s gall bladder, but she won’t wake up.” (Read more…)

Winter

Chapter 32 – As Time Goes On

“Kerry, I know you mean well,” Tom began, “but the things you’re doing aren’t helping. Mom and Dad can’t live by themselves anymore.”

I swiveled nervously in my chair. “When I’m visiting, I’m the only one who’s actually living with them, Tom, and watching their behavior. I think if you just…”

Tom interrupted, “Look, the problems are bigger than any of us can manage. One more missed medication and Mom could be dead. I don’t think you want that. And the junk is just piling up inside the house because neither can keep it clean…. So Donna and I go over to try to clean up the place and Mom gets angry at us for throwing away all her papers. And then nobody wants to talk to each other.”

…“Oh, so this is about you?” I challenged. There was a pause in our conversation as I had second thoughts about what I’d said, and Tom contemplated his response. (Read more…)

Chapter 33 – Saying Goodbye

Donna shook his shoulders. “Dad, are you okay?” She got no response, and instinctively checked his pulse in his neck as she had for so many patients she nursed.

“What’s the matter with Mick?” Mom asked. “He didn’t fall asleep at the table, did he? He just woke up from a nap.”

Donna twisted her necklace as she spoke. “Mom, stay right there. Don’t move. I’ll be right back.”

She rushed to the next room out of earshot of Mom and dialed three digits on her phone.

“What’s your emergency?” asked the voice on the other end.