Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Our kids don’t know poverty

October 7, 2018

Our kids don’t know poverty.

Not like we did.

When we had our babies,

I stayed home with them.

Besides, by the time we had 3, or 4,

my working was not cost effective anymore.

When we had our babies,

government decided

to downsize middle managers,

so sometimes you were home with us,

and still, somehow, we survived.

When we had babies,

I used cloth diapers,

and hung them out on the line to dry.

One summer, the gas company shut us off,

we had no hot water for weeks.

Our kids don’t know poverty,

Not like we did.

They have nice houses,

new furniture,

They don’t have wealth,

but they don’t go without,

or have to use food stamps

at a local store.

They don’t know the shame

of standing in line

to get that free government cheese,

They don’t know having to take a bus

to go downtown to pay a bill,

and I wonder what they will ever do

if hard times come to call,

or if they will know how to find the joy,

while making it through it all.

cfblack   10-06-2018







to my mother

May 18, 2018

I try to imagine, being you,

born in the roaring twenties,

Taking out seams to make clothes fit

during the Great Depression.

Your parents quit school at age 12,

to earn money to help out at home,

They didn’t want you to suffer their fate,

so no matter what,

you felt blessed.

You met my father at age 16,

he was 4 years older than you,

and from that day on,

your life became

whatever it took to advance HIS career.

You never balanced a checkbook,

never worked outside the home,

Your friends were his academic colleagues,

never a friend of your own.

You never advanced past high school,

while he earned a PhD,

No one thought in the “baby boom”

a woman could advance herself.

My father’s career took off

and the poor boy became a Dean,

while you kept house, raised kids, and cleaned,

gave dinner parties on weekends.

But once he died so early,

at 50, was suddenly gone,

His friends dropped you like a hot potato,

and were not there for you.

Your life did not foster within you

a sense of your own strength,

Your life was focused on his success,

and now you were alone.

The next years were all a blur

as you turned to alcohol,

your kids all had to fend for themselves

to make it as they could.

To succeed in your recovery,

as any addict knows,

you have to center on yourself

because you have one goal.

At age 63 you did this,

and never once relapsed,

this, in itself, showed us all

how truly strong you were.

Mothering is never perfect,

neither mine, nor yours,

One thing that I always knew

was that I was deeply loved.

It helps me to imagine

all the things that you went through,

I hope you had enough time

to develop who you were,

Our lives were very different,

but what I learned from you

is a woman can do anything

she sets her own mind to.

I balance my own checkbook,

I work outside the home,

so another thing you taught me

is to have a backup plan.

Mother/Daughter connections

are always complicated,

I also know the Love we share

continues unabated.

cfblack    05-17-2018














for my mother-in-law

April 3, 2018

She was the oldest

She was the oldest,

mother to her siblings,

her mother 16 at her birth,


Two brothers, 4 sisters,

born after her,

She mothered them

as she grew,


when that handsome service man came along,

she picked up and left what she knew,


Being together as long as they were,

sharing a lifetime of years,

raising 6 children and seeing theirs too,

sharing much laughter, and tears,


But what is left when he is gone,

your house, and all that you saved?

when everything familiar to you,

has all been given away,


Unable to visit or travel

or go to a funeral,

Your brothers pass before you,

two sisters now are gone,


You hear him talking with you now,

His voice is calling you home,

You hear him saying your work here is done,

so “Come on Alice, let’s go!”

cfblack 04-03-2018

No one knows the memories

October 22, 2017

No one knows the memories

you carry in your heart,

over 60 years of them,

never apart,

your love starting fresh

on a country road

as a serviceman offered you a ride,

letters written during WWII

promises made and kept,

He came to see you before his mother

a new life begun together,

the birth of 6 children,

too many grandkids to count,

weddings and holiday gatherings,

Bodies turning old

but spirit the same,

you shared this journey together,

no one knows the memories,

but we see them in teardrops falling.

cfblack  10-22-2017

Death is not pretty

October 22, 2017

Death is not pretty,

It is not meant to be,

The body decomposes



The process begins

before we are gone,

We stop nourishing it

before we go home,


Loved ones surround us

at our bedside,

There is no hiding

what is happening inside,


Skin wrinkles and withers

face sunken and hollow,

We are giving up this life

and leaving tomorrow,


Death is not pretty

and so we see,

what is left is the shell

where our soul used to be,


As the process unfolds

we leave body behind,

The spirit is freed!

because our God is kind,


So don’t worry for me

as I leave you here,

for my spirit is soaring

to other spheres,


You will see me again

in a very short time,

We are always, forever,

united as one.

cfblack  10-22-2017 


After Tonight

October 21, 2017

After tonight,

you will visit him

in your dreams at night,

You will see his smile,

and think of him,

hear his voice and laughter,

Connected throughout the realms of God,

disconnected from time and space,

His presence will be with you there,

and also in your prayers.

We wish we could do it all again,

be a better daughter or son,

No matter how long our time has been,

the pain is still acute,

Years and years of parenting

now coming to a close,

memories flood back to us

like the sweet smell of a rose,

So rest, my dear, his time is come,

You need your sleep as well,

For you are destined to be with me

for a little while here on Earth,

A generation passes on

from this world to the next,

Rest, and hear his voice again,

for he is with you still.

cfblack  10-21-2017

Chet Black

October 21, 2017

I must write about you

for the next generation,

and the next, and the next,

for they will not have the good fortune

to have known you in this life.

I may write about how

you found your wife,

walking on a road near Mascoutah,

You talked, and I think offered her a ride,

you, a serviceman stationed there,

and you and her made plans

for a life full of love,

for a home full of kids,

and after you returned from overseas,

that is exactly what you did together.

Your mother was mad

you went to see your future wife

before you went to see her,

and so it goes.

I will write about your politics

and how it took me

at least 5 years

of sitting in your living room

to get used to the constant opinionated challenges

being thrown about

to realize

it didn’t matter if I disagreed with your view

as long as I spoke my mind.

All opinions respected

but you had to have a brain

and be willing to banter back and forth.

I could write

about how you cried

at the slightest things

in your later years,

emotional in your 90s,

well it’s about time, old man.

I will have to write

about how you voted

for the first Black President in America

because the party you were loyal to

disappointed and betrayed you,

that party didn’t give you

all your due

in your later years of life.

Oh my God, how we will miss you,

how we will hold you in our hearts!

You stubborn soul, still, you supported us

and loved to have family around,

We were always welcome

at your table

or to sit in your living room,

ALL the TIMES we played euchre

in the kitchen,

ALL the JOYS of this life

and its cares,

We cannot imagine life without you,

We cannot believe you won’t be there.

We are happy for you in your journey

to leave us and move on to there,

All roads lead us to one another,

All paths will bring us together.


EarlChet and AL 170903 walking



August 19, 2017

I was born about 1:10pm on a Wednesday. My mother always said, “I knew the minute you were born!” like that was unusual. I think because from her experience, women were doped up and pretty much unconscious, which is sad, to me. I was the 2nd child and my older brother 8 years older than me. Probably, I took a lot of our parents’ attention that he was used to absorbing. They tried for 2 years to get pregnant for me, & then got the other gender, so I figure I was the center of their world for awhile. Until my sister came along 2 1/2 years later. And then our younger brother 5 years after that! So I was 7 1/2 years from one brother, 8 years from the next. It was my sister & I in the middle.— My dad was a professor and he loved to take 3-4 weeks of his summer and roam around out West. We went to the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Yosemite and the Redwoods, Canada and Mexico. My birthday usually occurred on a trip. I can’t really remember hardly anything that I really wanted for my birthday, I think because it was celebrated away from home. I remember more, what I wanted for Christmas. Dolls……. Raggedy Ann, Barbie, “Miss Ideal”, Tiny Tears. Nancy Drew mysteries. A stingray bike. One thing I DO remember I really wanted was a transistor radio for my 16th birthday. My dad said they couldn’t find the one I wanted, they’d get it later. We had the birthday dinner, I went to bed, then I heard this loud rock & roll-type music playing…….. went downstairs, there was the RADIO, my radio. My dad liked to play games & tricks like that on us. He died 9 days later at the age of 50, on my mom’s birthday. I have lived 14 more years than he was able to. He never met a grandchild. I have 6. No one ever knows how long they have on this earth, to be with your loved ones. Life is a gift of God. I appreciate all the bounties I have been given to have lived this long. May I enjoy many more.

happy mother’s day

May 14, 2017

My mother was an amazing woman. Born to Dutch parents whose parents immigrated from Friesland, Netherlands, she married a Baptist rising academic from lower middle class parents whose ancestry was Scottish / Welsh & she & my father decided to raise their kids Presbyterian. She never went to college but supported my dad through his academic career as a Mechanical Engineer Professor at Purdue and later Dean of Engineering at Drexel Univ. She was a stay-at-home mom. They had a son named Daniel, then couldn’t get pregnant until I came along 8 yrs. later, then had my sister 2 1/2 yrs later & a 4th child, my younger brother, 6 years after that (surprise!). When my father died at a young age and the high class academic “friends” dropped her like a hot potato, she turned to alcohol for comfort. At age 63, the age I am right now, she quit cold turkey, went thru rehab and never drank again, then became a strong support of many others in their journey to sobriety. She overcame clinical depression a few years later, when the job she worked at for 20+ yrs. closed their doors without warning. She just went in one day & found it closed up. In her 80s she loved Purdue basketball, being home with her cat, Buffy, and studying the Bible with her women-friends. She suffered from a debilitating malfunctioning heart valve and quickly became tied to her oxygen machine, walking from living room to kitchen with great difficulty. She lived to age 84. Our relationship was difficult but also strong and I still wish I could pick up the phone & call her at times.

me and my mom

world citizens

May 12, 2017

We have raised our children to be world citizens. This was important to us and, I believe, one thing we succeeded at. What do I mean by “world citizen”?

To me, a world citizen is a person conscious of the world. Conscious of and knowledgeable of different cultures and beliefs. A person not afraid to investigate, consider other opinions, a person open to learning. A world citizen knows there is one race, the human race, but it manifests itself in a great variety. This is the MOST important lesson to teach your kids: The WORLD is our home, people the world over are inherently the same, want the same things, clean water, land and beauty of the earth, a safe place to live, peace with their neighbors, family, and community. They want to raise their children to be whoever they want to be, and have the opportunities all other children have, to read and write, learn in school, become contributing citizens of the world.

When I was growing up, my dad was a professor of mechanical engineering at a large university, Purdue. Graduate students from different countries came into our home and had dinner with us. I do not remember ever being invited to my major professor’s home for dinner. But my dad was exceptional. We had African students from various countries, those from India, and other places. Sometimes my sister & I were asked to dance for them or talk with them. We also had family music nights. I grew up on Satchmo and Dixieland jazz. My dad played guitar, banjo, flute, and bongo drums. My mom played piano and I was taught that as well.

My husband and I raised our kids on little money. The privileged childhood I enjoyed vanished when my father died at a young age, 3 months before his 51st year. We had 4 children in years of poverty, I would say. But this essay is not about that. All four of our children have traveled internationally overseas, something I never did, and they all did it on a hope & a prayer.

Jasmine, our oldest, went with her sister Leah to China. They joined a program called “the crazy English school”. They had to pay their plane fare but once getting to the school, their plane fare was paid back to them. For 2 weeks, they interacted with Chinese adults learning English, who wanted to sound “American”.

Prior to this, Leah spent a year in Liverpool, England after graduating half a year early from high school. She left before she turned 18. She spent a year doing service for a hostel/type place run as a Baha’i school in Liverpool. We had no money. We came up with the plane fare but England required she show hat she had $1000 and didn’t need to take a job from Britains once she got there. We didn’t have $1000. A co-worker of mine who was Indian said, “OH, I’ll loan you the thousand, once she gets there you give it back to me. Indians do this all the time.” And that’s what we did. She learned many things about English culture, including that they turned on the water heater in the morning for the purpose of a short shower. Then they turned it off. Pharmacies didn’t have the DRUGS we have, shelves and shelves of them, and even aspirin was behind the counter. They sell more herbal stuff. I think at one point I even mailed her some ibuprofen or aspirin.

Our 3rd child, Jamal, oldest son, was a soccer player. He had the opportunity to go to Argentina with a youth exhibition team from our hometown. The whole team had offers to stay with a host family for a year. Our son was the only one who did so. A few of the things he learned was seeing absolute poverty while riding the bus to go to some soccer games. He said we don’t have such poverty here, basically tent cities or shacks for long stretches of miles. Secondly, Argentina was going through a bit of political upheaval and he was downtown during a protest one time. Third, they ate a LOT of meat. His host family had some cattle I believe. Fourth, Argentina is much like a European country. The young adult scene was late night, tight pants, very European.

Our 4th child Levin, 2nd son, went to England with his sister Leah one summer. They roamed London, got to Scotland and saw Lochnaw castle in Stranraer, and got to Amsterdam. Saw LES MISERABLES in LONDON, a requirement from his sister which he was not excited about. How did they have money to go?? Financial Aid! She was living WITH US so had no living expenses, yet the school did not count OUR income because of her age. She got a lot of financial aid. Something in me says, “That’s wrong!” but we had no choice in the matter. She got the money regardless.

Lastly, this same daughter went on pilgrimage to the Baha’i Holy places in Israel, with her father as assistant and baby son 8 mos. old, in 2006. And JUST THIS YEAR, our oldest daughter did the same, taking her oldest son with her, the youngest son not able to go.

Today, all 4 of our kids are adults living in 4 different states, with us in a 5th. This makes for loneliness and missing them a lot. However, we raised them to be free to go and live where they wanted to. And they did. We talk on FaceBook, visit when we can. They are world citizens, all of them. And for this, we are proud.