The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild
My Most Inspiring Person
By Linda H. Barnette
As soon as I saw this topic, I knew that I would write about my dad, Gilmer James Hartley, better known as “Slick.” He was my childhood hero for many reasons, including our weekly trips up to Wilkins Drugstore to get a small cone of chocolate and a fountain coke. Although family lore indicated that he wanted a boy, his heart skipped a beat when I was born with curly red hair! Luckily, I was an only child, so I did not have to share my hero with a sibling.
Mother was a strict disciplinarian, and Daddy was often my rescuer. Even though he worked in the mill at Cooleemee when I was a child, I could convince him that I really needed a bike or some other toy. I especially recall that little red swing that he made for me and hung on a big tree limb in our yard. I would swing and sing the song I made up about my uncle Norman, who was in the Navy. “I love a sailor boy, and he loves me too.”
He taught me many lessons by the way he lived, as did my Mother. We never missed church at First Baptist on Sunday mornings and evenings or on Wednesday evening for prayer meetings. He was the church treasurer for many years. I played the piano and the organ when I was a teenager, and Mother was a Sunday school teacher for young children. Both church and school were important to us.
Because they did not get to go to college, their main goal seemed to be that I would go whether I wanted to or not, which I did. Thus, they expected me to make good grades, which I did. Math was my hardest subject, but Daddy was good at it and helped me with my homework, especially geometry.
Eventually, as things happen in life, I grew up, went to college, got married and became a teacher and a mother. Our visits with parents were not as often as they had been, so we decided in 1977 to move back home so we could raise our son in small town instead of a big city.
By that time, Daddy had retired from Ingersoll-Rand and was able to spend a lot of time with my little boy. Not long after we returned, however, he got sick and died in 1985.
At that time, Gordon Tomlinson, then the editor of the Enterprise, wrote an extremely long and involved obituary for my dad. Although I knew that he had served 7 terms on the town board and had been a charter member of the Mocksville Lion’s Club, I had no idea about the many good works that he had done until I read that obituary.
To sum him up: he was a person of faith, character, and family. I hope he knew how proud I was of him, and I think he would be proud of my public service as a member of the DC Public Library Board of Trustees and the DC Board of Education. He would also love the fact that I am interested in genealogy and have researched his family history.
Make It Simple, Please
By Kevin F. Wishon
My desire for minimalism didn’t start in youth. In fact, I’d never heard of the term until the late 90s. Apparently, minimalism started out as a visual arts style in the 1950s. Later, it became the name used to describe a behavior where one seeks freedom by having less and being organized. I laughed when I initially read the definition of a minimalist. While I desired the benefits of the concept, I knew I had a long way to go.
Most of my life, I’d been just as messy and disorganized as most individuals. At that time, I only maintained a clean, minimal space where it was necessary, such as workspaces and travel paths. While my home life wasn’t a junky mess, it definitely wasn’t organized. So, as I aged, learned, and read statistics, I began to ask myself, “Do I really need this? Is this item serving a purpose here, or should it be somewhere else?”
Years ago, when I moved into a new home, my belongings were delivered in half of a medium-sized moving truck. Today, it would take several trips to move. The accumulation and disorganization seemed to happen unnoticed over the years. “There’s an empty space in that corner. What can I put there?” Of course, some accumulated items were required to maintain the house, and these objects were a necessity.
Actually, my mess was books, magazines, novelties, and clothing. Over time, I began to notice the effect the clutter was having on me. I didn’t want to look at it or think about it. The sheer amount and state of it depressed me. Keeping these items in this form of disorganization wasn’t enriching my life at all. Instead, it was stressing me. I no longer enjoyed the items and wasted time trying to find things amid the disarray. The moods that surfaced came in the form of aggravation and resentment when something was missing or broken. At this point, I realized I needed to make changes.
Presently, I’m nowhere near achieving a minimalistic lifestyle. However, since I’ve cleared, cleaned, and organized things around the house, I enjoy what I own much more these days. Regardless, I’m no less sentimental than the average person, and I admit it’s hard to get rid of things. Additionally, I know that the minimalist lifestyle is not for everyone. Realistically, modern life requires a good deal of stuff. Some people are comforted by having many belongings and enjoy organizing it all. I understand and respect that choice. Yet, for me, I find minimalism truly gives me freedom. It’s freedom from stress. Now, while it’s on my mind, let me tackle that out of control sock drawer and refrigerator.
Loss of Family
By Stephanie Williams Dean
My family is large. I grew up with many aunts, uncles, and cousins, as my mother was one of 13 children. Their ages spanned so far that many of my cousins were 15 or more years older than I was. Every holiday was spent with family at our house or the homes of my mother’s sisters – they rotated hostess duty. Of course, when all the kids grew up and began to get married, their homes were hardly able to accommodate the crowd. But they managed – ours was a close-knit family, and we loved one another.
Now that I’m at the age my mom and her siblings were back then, all my aunts and uncles have passed away. I’m facing a new phase of life and death now – losing my cousins.
Just last week, my cousin, Gwendolyn Belle, passed away from cancer that originated in her breast. She went quickly. Gwen was the oldest daughter of my mother’s sister and my aunt, Harriet, who was the youngest of the 13 children.
I made the trip to Nashville for her memorial service. The service was beautiful and special. Not able to fight back tears, I listened to those who spoke about their memories – and I had my own. They lived on the other side of Nashville – we had to cross the Cumberland River to get to their house. Gwen’s father was an alcoholic, and they were poor in cash but rich in love. My mother often took money for Aunt Harriet and clothes for my cousins.
I spent the night with them often. Uncle Sherman had a large closet filled wall to wall with country albums. On weekends, he would play country music on his turntable in the den, and, as little girls, we would merrily dance to the music. Back then, the kind of family crisis they experienced was Sherman having his stereo repossessed (more than once). My mom and aunts would be on the phone with one another discussing the calamity. Later, real tragedy hit when Gwen’s mentally challenged brother, Timmy, dropped her newborn baby on her head – killing her by accident. And as my cousins matured, life seemed to get more difficult instead of easier.
As it turned out, Gwen had been told she had six months to live but told no one except her best friend. She didn’t share that news with her children or her sister, Cindy. Maybe Gwen didn’t want to burden anyone with the news her cancer had metastasized. But that decision left our family saddened and wishing we had known – maybe we could have eased her burden in some way.
So that brings to mind the question of who you tell when you’re facing a terminal illness. Does it relieve your family of a burden or rob them of the chance to say their goodbyes? Do you talk about it or not talk about it? Ultimately, one’s approaching death is most personal. But I did miss seeing her before she passed.
At the family’s request, at the end of Gwen’s memorial, the Gospel was shared, and an altar call was made. The call was a beautiful aspect of her service that one doesn’t usually witness at funerals – but it gave me some peace.
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