Lissy’s Heartbreak

Lissy, a tiny black-haired girl came to Vacation Bible School with her cousin Judy the summer I was ten. I immediately warmed to her, though she was so shy she’d only talk to her cousin. She and her mother had come to spend the summer with her Uncle Joe and his family. I didn’t see Lissy again until August when Mother spent a few days in the hospital delivering my youngest sister.

Lissy was Mother’s roommate. I was almost totally ignorant of anything to do with sex, having only accrued a bit of misinformation at that point, but I did catch on that there was a big secret about Lissy. I overheard Lissy’s mother talking to the doctor, “She wouldn’t start, and she wouldn’t start, but when she finally did, she wouldn’t stop.”

Lissy was crying and wouldn’t answer the doctor’s questions. I never saw her again.

Mother sent me out before I heard any more. I felt bad for Lissy, but was intrigued. Knowing I’d learn nothing more, I sequestered that information in my mind, hoping I’d understand later. Long after I was grown, I remembered to ask Mother about it. She remembered well. Little Lissy had suffered a miscarriage and was admitted with massive blood loss. She was only eleven.


How to Get Your Yard Work done in Three Simple Steps

My dad had a fool-proof plan to get his yard-work done easily and painlessly (for him).  Let the leaves and tree debris pile up pretty high in the fall and spring.  Mention casually a couple of times, “You kids are gonna’ have to clean up this yard in a few days.”  Let a couple of days pass so they hope you’ve forgotten or gone blind.  Come home from work on Friday afternoon in a jovial mood.  This works best if you are normally a real grouch.  It’s best if one of your brothers is visiting and your kids ask to spend the night with Cousin Becky, Susan, or Joey.   Implement step #1 

“No, Y’all  have to clean the yard tomorrow, but they can stay with you if they want to help.”  

He was serious about them staying, always hoping to get a little of work out of them.  Even though there were no Einstein’s in our family, no cousin was ever that dumb.

“No, I am not staying!  I don’t   wanna’ clean the yard!”  They were in the car before the screen door slammed. 


Step #2   The next morning he’d roll us out at six am, anticipating a good day.  We didn’t talk much at breakfast, especially avoiding the words yard, sweep, work, and leaves.  It’s amazing how often a word jumps out when you are studiously avoiding it.  “Billy didn’t LEAVE any jelly for me.” 

“Don’t worry.  You’ll get all the LEAVES you want today.”  He made crappy jokes, playing on our dread.

Finally, he’d push his chair back, “Time for the friendships to end and the work to begin.”

I would have enjoyed flailing the genius from whom he’d picked up that cruel witticism.  He routed us into the one-acre yard where the lecture began.  “Now, get the wheelbarrow, rake, and yard broom.  I want all these sticks picked up first.  Then one of you can rake, the other sweep and the other pick up the leaves and haul them back yonder to the burn pile.  Now, I mean for this yard to be clean when I get home.”   

With that, he was off to whatever he had planned that day.  The task looked endless, with drifted leaves from dozens of trees, shrubs, and fallen sticks.  I would have gladly traded places with Sisyphus and his rock.

We had to fight a while before we got started.  Phyllis was the oldest, so she commandeered the yard broom, the prize implement.  Billy and I got stuck with the rake and wheelbarrow for loading and hauling leaves.  Of course, we had to fight a while before we made a good start.  Mother usually brought the little girls out and redirected us before she got back to her work of the day.

Step #3   Cleaning that yard would have been a huge job for a yard-proud person.  Three fighting kids cleaning a yard didn’t go that well.  The first time or two, we were of the mistaken belief we could make a pathetic excuse and get by with a half-done job.  Daddy was of the opinion that no well-balanced kid could get through a day  without a good whooping, anyway, so he was happy to oblige.  He frequently quoted, “I might as well whip y’all first thing in the morning and get it over with.”  A few stripes paid off handsomely in the next day’s efforts, and he had the satisfaction of knowing he hadn’t “spared the rod and spoiled the child.”  We were motivated to do the job right.      

Yes, indeed, Daddy knew how to get his yardwork done in three easy steps.  Just so you know, I am not advocating this plan.  

Ask Auntie Linda, Straight Talkerfrom a Straight Shooter

Auntie Linda

Dear Auntie Linda, My mother is 54 years old and is sentenced to twenty-one years  in the Texas Prison  system.  She has served seven years and recently was denied parole.  She was unfortunate enough to be married to a man from a prominent East Texas family.  He had brutally beaten her and put her in the hospital several times.  She got an order of protection, but he continued to stalk and terrorize her.  She was in hiding and he promised to kill her if he found her.

He did find her.  He was pounding on her door vowing to kill her.  She had called 911 and was waiting for rescue when the door started to shatter.  Mom shot through the door, hit John in the chest, killing him before place arrived.  Because she had just purchased the gun after the order of protection and shot him through the door instead of waiting  for him to get in, it was first degree murder.  She had also told friends she was purchasing a gun to protect herself.

My mother has never seen her grandchildren since she doesn’t want them exposed to prison.  I can only see her once a month since it is a four hour drive one way.  I have to provide her with funds to purchase toiletries, hygiene items, and feminine products.  Mother is a model prisoner.  She never wanted to kill her husband.  She only shot him when he was coming in her door to kill her.  She was denied parole despite her good record and regrets for killing him because of John’s family’s influence.  The judicial and law enforcement failed my mother and our entire family.  Thank goodness, we have been able to interest The Innocence Project in her case.

Domesc Violence is a purge on our family and society.  I yearn for he day Mother can rejoin our family.  Sad Daughter

Dear Daughter, Ths is a sad but all-too common story.  I hope there is some help and justice for your mother.  We all must unite to pass stronger laws and support victims of violence to break this chain.  Auntie Linda




Ask Auntie Linda, Straight Talk from a Straight Shooter

Auntie LindaDear Auntie Linda, I retired a couple of years ago.  My elderly mother lives near me. she visits often is way too involved in my life. Every morning she calls to see what I am up.  If I have shopping to do, she often says she’d like to ride along it I don’t object.  If I don’t want to include her, I have to make an excuse.  She comes over several times a week and stays till I tell her I have to get busy.  If I spend time with other family members, she expects to be included.  She throws out broad hints to be included when I plan vacations, but I refuse to invite her if my husband is going, since he’d rather not travel with her.  She wants to stop every couple of hours for a bathroom break and gets another drink so we are always looking for a bathroom.  She wants to stop for a long lunch restaurant.  Needless to say, he doesn’t want to make “old lady” trips.  When I do travel with Mother, I usually bear the total expense since she foster the illusion that I am well-off.  I wish I had maintained more distance since I retired since I don’t want to live and breathe my mother.  She is intrusive and points out outrageously obvious things before I have time to attend to them.  “You forgot to open your mail.” “Your tea-kettle is whistling.”  “The buzzer on you stove just went off.” She is offended when I point out that ” I don’t open the bills since Joe pays them.  That’s his business. “, “I’m on the way to take the kettle(buzzer)off.”  Mother’s mind is not bad.  She’s just too much at home in my business.  She frequently tells me, “I never talked back to my mother, and I am glad now I didn’t” to try to make me feel guilty.  I have to point out my grandmother lived 800 miles away and didn’t get much chance to butt in.  How in the world do I make the message clear?  Harassed Daughter

Dear Harrassed,  Be frank.  When your mom calls, tell her you don’t know what your plans are.  If you don’t have time or interest in having a visit, tell her you don’t have time today, or tell her exactly how long you want company.  When she is intrusive, be frank. Make it clear you’ll invite her when the time is right.  She will be offended, but she probably won’t die from the shock.  If she wants to go to lunch, let her know if you don’t want to pay for hers.  It’s better to set limits than avoid her.  Auntie Linda

Dear Auntie Linda, I have six sisters and one brother.  Our father was a very difficult man.  When we gather at holiday dinners and discuss our lives, as adult children do, my brother insists we are exaggerating in our stories of our lives with Dad.  He tells a much different tale, glorifying my father and ignoring any flaws.  Indeed, my brother was my Dad’s Golden Boy, but Daddy didn’t spare him totally.  Several times my dad became enraged and beat him badly.  Why on earth would he defend him?  Mystified

Dear Mystified, Obviously, your brother created a better past for himself.  There is no point in arguing.   It won’t change anything.  You know the truth.  Auntie Linda

Ask Auntie Linda, Excellent Advice for the Heartsick.

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Dear Auntie Linda, A man connected to my husband’s family asked us to keep their two-year-old while his pregnant wife was in the hospital, delivering a premature baby. Reluctantly, we agreed, since he said he couldn’t find anyone else.  We were leery of getting involved since the couple was known to have a shady history, but felt we had no choice since the young man was desperate. The child was an angel and we actually enjoyed having him in our home.  Unfortunately, the wife delivered a still-born infant.  Upon discharge, they came by asking us if we’d like to have the little boy forever.  They just weren’t ready for kids.  We were unprepared and asked for a while to think about it.  After a couple of days, they came back over, asking again to take the boy in our home.  We would love to have the child, but are concerned that they will come back for him later when they’ve reconsidered, allowing us time to fall hopelessly in love with him.  We want the child but don’t want our hearts broken.  We aren’t wealthy people.  Legal fees would be a hardship, but would like to try to adopt.  What do we do?  It’s not likely things will go well for this little guy with parents who want to give him away.  Love the baby

Dear Love, I wouldn’t get involved in this situation without legal custody of the child.  You and the child are likely to be involved in a game of tug of war or possibly extortion.  I agree, the situation looks bleak for the child.  Ask the parents to allow you to adopt and surrender their parental rights before you go any further.  If you suspect abuse or neglect, notify Child Protection.  You can easily get in over your head and the child might be an emotional hostage.  Auntie Linda


Dear Auntie Linda, My father-in-law, Ben, is a jerk. He frequently hit my husband during his childhood.  He drinks heavily and smokes in the house.  My mother-in-law, Mavis, is a very nice lady and loves our children dearly.  She has asked that the children, aged three, six, and ten be allowed to stay overnight with her and Ben.  My children have spent the night with my parents at time or two, but we don’t have concerns about discipline, smoking or following the rules at their house.  We just can’t take a chance of having the kids around Ben and don’t want the kids in a smoking home.  How can we be fair to Mavis and protect the children?  Mama

Dear Mama, Your responsibility is to your children.  Tell Mavis that you aren’t comfortable having the kids stay overnight in a smoking home.  That alone is enough reason.  If Masie wants time with them, she can come see them at home or take them to the park.  You are the parent.  Stick with your guns.  Auntie Linda


Email your problems to ask Auntie Linda

Rest Your Weary Head: Uplifting Advice for the Heartbroken

victorian angel

Dear Auntie Linda,  I am a first-grade teacher in a small town.  One of the major problems my students face is hunger.  It is not just the children of homeless or jobless people who face hunger on a regular basis.  So many working parents simply do not make enough to provide sufficient food for their families.  If they qualify for free lunch program, at least they get that meal, but come to school hungry and go home in the afternoon to families who can’t consistently provide enough food, not to mention, nutritious food.  If families qualify for food assistance, they will very likely run out before the end of the month.  Churches and food pantries help, but they are facing funding issues as well.  I see hunger in children’s faces every day.  I keep a supply of low cost, nutritious snacks I can slip to a hungry child on the sly, but my budget is limited and I usually run out before my monthly payday.  Friday afternoons toward the end of the month fill me with dread.  It breaks my heart to see little ones going out who will miss their milk and school lunch over the weekend.  I encourage those of your readers who can afford it to contribute packets of nutritious snacks to your school.  It would help little guys so much if teachers could make an opportunity to pass them out to little ones who can’t learn because they are hungry.  Teaching the Hungry

Dear Teaching,  It is a wonderful idea to ask parents or those in the community who can to contribute.  It would be easy enough to have a snack drive or ask parents to add a packet of snacks to their school supply list, if they could afford to do so.  This would also be an excellent community service project.  Maybe the idea will catch on if you ask your school to promote it.  Auntie Linda

Dear Auntie Linda, My only sister has one child, a nine-year-old daughter, who is extremely spoiled.  My husband has always said he’d “love to straighten her out.”  Granted, Megan is a brat.  She whines, is selfish, and has a smart mouth.  Last week Annie called asking to speak to Bill.  She told him she and her husband have a chance to go to Paris and asked if Megan could stay with us for two weeks.  I am not surprised she asked him.  She knows he is domineering and knew it was her best shot, knowing I’d have to talk to him about it anyway.  He’d agreed and it was set up before he hung up.  Bill is not a patient man.  He angers quickly and acts before he thinks.  I know having Megan here will be a disaster.  Our kids tiptoe around him, but Megan will be wide open, since she’s never been disciplined.  She doesn’t even flush the toilet when she’s done.  Bill looks at this like a project.  He is going to straighten her out.  How in the world do I get out of this?  Annie’s Sister

Dear Sister.  Call Annie and tell her your home is not a fit place for Megan.  While you are at it, look hard at your situation.  It doesn’t sound like your home is a safe place for your children either.  Children have a right to grow up free of fear.  They deserve better.  Auntie Linda

Rest Your Weary Head: Uplifting Advice for the Heartbroken

Auntie LindaNovember 23, 2015

Dear Auntie Linda,  Robert and I divorced when our kids were two and three and he left me for a doctor in his medical practice.  We shared joint custody till two years ago, when I went out of town on vacation.  He moved across the country to his old home town where his father is a judge and his brother a family practice lawyer. Filing for custody there on grounds of abuse since the three-year-old sustained a broken arm while in my care.  Joey had fallen off the swing at daycare.  They called me and I took him to the ER. The move and custody action were a done deal by the time I found out. I ended up with only supervised visitation.  I’ve been able to meet them at the park twice and his grandmother invited me to visit them at her house the last two visits, since she genuinely loves the children and feels they need a relationship with me.  She holds the family purse strings and Robert dares not oppose her.

Since this happened, I worry about losing my relationship with the children, since I can’t afford the travel expense more than twice a year.  The expense is a challenge for me on a teacher’s salary.  Joey still remembers me, but Susie doesn’t remember living with me, since she was so little.  I am just the Mommy who visits at Grandma’s house and brings presents.  I applied for a teaching position there, thinking I could see the children more often, but Robert got word of it and blocked me through friends at the schoolboard.

I feel hopeless, but Robert’s grandmother does allow me to send the children gifts and cards to her home.  She allows me to visit with them by phone and video.  What can I do to unravel this mess when I am buffaloed by a powerful family?  Cut Out of Children’s Lives

Dear Cut Out,  In view of this situation, there may not be a lot you can do.  Thank goodness, Grandma wants to children to have a relationship with you.  Hang in there.  Keep visiting as often as possible.  Children want and need both parents.  One day, the situation will turn around, especially if the children ask after you.  Hopefully, their father will bow to their requests when they can express themselves.  Good luck.  Auntie Linda


Dear Auntie Linda, My son teenage son died three years ago.  In addition to the grieving, I have become isolated.  People seem to think death is contagious.  Many of my friends change the subject if I bring his name up in conversation.  It’s not like I dwell on my loss when I am in a group, but if friends are touching on a topic that relates to him, I would like to be able to mention him in passing, such as passing on a funny story.  Just because he died, doesn’t mean he never existed.  Please pass on to your readers that they shouldn’t avoid people who have suffered a loss.  You don’t have to duck around to keep from saying the wrong thing.  You don’t have to say anything.  A kind look or a warm hug means the world.  I know you are sorry for my loss. Just don’t cut me out because your are uncomfortable.  If you want to talk about their lost family, just ask if it makes them uncomfortable.  They might be grateful.  Let them drive the conversation and just listen.  Miss My Boy

Dear Miss, You have given some good advice that could help a lot of people.  I’ll bet your boy was something special.  Auntie Linda

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