THE WOMAN AND THE CHILD by Sheryl Kay Oder
ONE – Who I Am: Two Introductory Poems
Who Do You Think You are, Sheryl Kay Oder? 1
The Woman and the Child 2
TWO – Daily Life
The House was Big 3
Teens Hanging Out 4
Unimproved Road 5
Nuts to Soup 6
THREE – People
Mother and Me 7
Daddy and Me 8
Michael David 9
FOUR – Reflections
One Man vs. Thousands 13
When I Reflect 14
When I Met Jesus 15
WHO I AM: Two Introductory Poems
Who Do You Think You Are, Sheryl Kay Oder?
Serious, at least
Half the time.
Energetic and driven,
Rarely. If you
Yawn, she will do
Klutzy at times.
Yields to wordplay.
Rhythm or rhyme.
The Woman and the Child
Some days the woman
and the child walk hand in hand.
Other days they wrestle for supremacy,
each victorious only when pinning
her opponent to the floor.
The child loves silly verse and
taking abstract shots of the Cloud Gate.
Don’t give her any chores.
The adult prepares dinner and pays bills.
She loves her Lord Jesus.
So does the child.
The House Was Big
The house was big
and I was little.
It had an enormous front door
and was three stories high.
On the third floor
I either never met
or cannot remember.
Each Saturday I helped
my mother dust both
“wigwork”* and railings
of the winding stairs.
Hidden in a corner
of that old house was
a tiny room that held
my dolls and other toys.
*Wigwork is what I called the woodwork.
Teens Hanging Out
The pool was four houses away.
We must have stayed there all day.
We’d spread our legs out so wide.
Under each other we’d glide.
Why we did this I cannot say.
The custard stand was close by.
The hoagies were delicious—my, my.
The line there was long.
Teenagers did throng
considering what they would buy.
Park dances were on Saturday night.
Feet and fantasies both took flight.
See that cute, dreamy boy;
he’s looking at me—oh joy!
He’s coming—my heart is so light.
Adventures require less than ideal conditions.
The most direct route to Canyonlands
National Park was an unimproved road.
Rugged red mountains surrounded us.
The road’s rocks were smaller but just
as red. Where was John Wayne?
The borrowed Oldsmobile bounced
as Elizabeth restrained its errant wheels,
willing them to obey. What had she done?
A four-by-four emerged from the park.
Its driver warned of a difficult ride ahead,
but was returning easier? Elizabeth thought not.
We passed no one as the car crept along
the park road with no protective railing
between us and the canyon below.
When we stopped for some gas we
saw a sign that said: “God forgives;
mountains don’t.” We agreed.
Nuts to Soup
My snack when I am hungry
is some kind of nut:
pecans, walnuts, pistachios,
or almonds, too.
On Saturdays and Sundays
I also put nuts in my
whole wheat pancakes
with dried fruit bits.
Pierogies and sour cream
remind me of my Polish-
Ukrainian grandma who sent
us home with leftover feasts.
comfort food is the macaroni
and cheese entrée prepared
in the kitchens of Safeway.
It has been too long
since Dean has kneaded
dough for his homemade
bread for us to devour.
I think of Mother’s vegetable
beef soup as I use the barley-
box recipe for my own. I love
eating more than cooking.
Mother and Me
When I was young and dependent
she was Mommy, but when I
was sixteen that name embarrassed
me, so she became Mother,
one to be respected. Mom was
not an option I considered.
She was to be obeyed,
but often when she said no
to a request for a friend to
stay the night, my pleadings
changed her mind
reluctant though she was.
She thought my main job was school
and did not teach many housekeeping
skills, considering my lack of interest.
I was mainly required to set
and clear the table and to help
with Saturday morning cleaning.
I felt cared for as she worked
around the house. I knew I was
loved without a word. It puzzled
me when a friend once told her son
she loved him. She was his mother.
Loving is what mothers do.
I was never a rebellious teen,
but as a young adult I considered her
too possessive and smothering.
I refused to call her when arriving
at my apartment after dinner together, but
now my kids call me after they fly home.
She moved in when Michael was a baby
thirty-three years ago. For years she was
a live-in companion, coming home
on weekends. She could nag and interfere
as we tried to raise the kids, but she also taught
them to give as well as to receive.
Now at ninety-one she can still drive.
It is her main way of helping. At times she needs
our guidance when her sense of direction
is lacking. Her back hurts too much to stand
at the sink. She depends upon me for many things,
but she is still my mother.
Daddy and Me
He saw me when I was a tiny baby.
World War Two was winding down.
He fled to his parents’ home and for
ten days took shelter in his bedroom.
As a child I wrote to Daddy Mike,
but he did not write back. When I was
ten my daddy hunger was so great
Mother decided I must meet him.
Somehow my parents decided to
remarry, and I attended the wedding.
We moved to a simple ranch house
fairly close to his work and his parents.
We often took trips to visit my mother’s
dad and stepmother. Since I was an only child
we often included a friend for company.
Those trips were great fun.
It was good to have my daddy as a teen.
I felt his love then. He once bought
an old used-car office and fixed it up
as a hideaway for my friends and me.
For Christmas one year he gave me a coupon
for a one-time dish washing. I redeemed it
after a big gathering when he told me to
“go pearl diving.” He laughed and did those dishes.
After my high-school graduation, those days
were over. Mother and I went to my uncle’s to “visit.”
Daddy sold our house and packed our belongings
in barrels and shipped them to us.
I saw Daddy only once after that.
I was so excited I was shaking.
He died of heart failure at age forty-six.
My good memories have outstripped the bad.
Squirreled away in the documents file
are the statistics of your life. You were
born and died on the same day.
Even though my bold footprints were small
—2 7/8” by 1½”, yours were barely visible
and smaller still—2” by ¾”.
Once I stepped over where they buried you
but there is no headstone. The cemetery
told us where they laid your remains.
Mother never saw you; they said it would
be better that way. Those who did told her
the two of us looked alike at birth.
It took my own son to create a hole in both
our hearts. As I see my children’s connection
with each other I now know what I have missed.
I remember little before the cancer. At first
she lay on the couch after work. Later I learned
the doctor was amazed she even got to work much less
could accomplish anything once she arrived there.
She then took to bed as my mother
watched over her. She feared surgery
and would not take any medicine.
Granddaddy cooked and did what else he could.
Toward the end they sent me to live
with Uncle Oscar and Aunt Laurie.
When Laurie left to help, Oscar cooked
us hot dogs and baked beans in the can.
I was surprised to see Mother’s tears
as she told me Grandmommy had died.
After all, wasn’t she happy her mom
was now living with Jesus in Heaven?
There are two old pictures of us.
One shows us sitting on the glider.
The other one points to our feet
and our dogs sniffing each other.
He visited his grandmother
next door. I must have adored
him, for I told everyone we
would marry. Then he ran.
I married Dean.
It says Postcard and is decorated
with sketches of flowers. On it you
had written a rarely received
note of encouragement.
My only memento of your life
sits on my desk and tells of
your appreciation of my
coming to church on the bus.
You told me my children
spoke with courtesy and
kindness to each other—
a conversation which blessed you.
You blessed me by just being you.
Faithfulness was your routine as you
also took the bus to church, loved
your husband, and raised your children.
At your funeral the pastor
praised you as one who always
welcomed new people in spite
of the pain from your cancer.
Your husband and children
called you blessed as do
many who have known you.
Enjoy the presence of your Savior.
One Man vs. Thousands
One man was killed
and a whole country
stopped what it was doing,
cried, and viewed a funeral.
Thousands were killed;
all saw the planes on TV.
I refused to cry, but sang
God Bless America instead.
Between those two events
others were assassinated,
there were riots, and movies
depicted unbelievable horrors.
Kennedy’s death felt so real—
my painful reaction, visceral.
Planes smashing the twin towers
looked like movie violence to me.
Was my not giving in to despair
that day a growing insensitivity
to violence or simply wanting
to thumb my nose at the terrorists?
When I Reflect
O, Lord, when I reflect on my failings:
my clueless moments as a mother
leading me to neglect responsibilities,
my tendency to be childish in wanting
play before work,
the year I promised my students if they
failed I would warn them, but I did not,
my rare but sometimes erupting anger over
a long-ago incident of public disrespect—
O, Lord, teach me to remember:
You, the sinless One took those sins
on your own body on the Cross.
You wasted not one moment of Your
suffering for the whole world.
You require only faith in You, repentance,
confession and turning from those sins.
I can achieve nothing by taking on
the pain and torture of regret.
If we confess our sins You are faithful
and just to both forgive and cleanse.
O, Lord, please forgive and cleanse.
The Day I Met Jesus
As the cup and the matzo were passed
I expected to receive some
but Granddaddy said no.
We would talk when we got home.
I felt sorry for myself, not because
I understood its meaning,
but simply that my eight-year-old
self hated to miss anything.
Later he explained that Jesus
had died to forgive me of my sins.
I needed to know Him as my Savior
if I wanted to join Him in Heaven one day.
Communion became a sermon to me.
Granddaddy said the broken unleavened
bread represented His broken body
and the grape juice, His blood.
That day I placed my faith in Jesus.
Who would not love and obey the One
Who loved me enough to be the sinless
sacrifice for my sins?
Nothing that has ever happened
to me is as significant as what
took place the day I truly met Jesus.
Later I could take communion.