Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Merle Haggard died today, and I have been listening to his lowdown country music all day, and I just thought of the time my grandfather and I went looking for one of his old foster daughters in old town.

He called me, which was unusual.

I used to call my grandmother everyday, just to say "hi", and when she died I started calling him, because frankly I couldn't imagine what he would do without her, but after a while I called less. 

We'd had a disagreement in the mid 90's and neither one of us was one to back down. 


It was slightly improved when my baby was born. 

He came to the hospital, when he heard I was very ill, and held newly born Maxwell. 

It's hard to convey to people with normal families, how deep and hard things are when they are deep and hard, but I knew that he must really need my help, if he called me up like that.

The last of my grandparent's foster children had aged out of the system in the early 90's, but they never became self sufficient. 

There was no place for them to go, so they stayed.

One became a crack addict and a prostitute and came and went.

During one of her times out in the world, she got mixed up with what my grandfather called
"a real bad feller"
and called to say she was being held against her will.

Which prompted my eighty year old grandfather to call me up and ask me to go looking for Charlotte.

Off we went into Portland's seedy Old Town, him in his gray Stetson, me in my wooden clogs.

We went into all of the seedy hotels, the day centers, the homeless feeding programs.

We talked to the cracked out folks milling around the Charlotte's last residence.

We found exactly nothing.

He never said thank you, or my goodness you are such a kind and selfless person, for walking the piss stinking streets looking for a girl who has robbed the house more times than anyone in the family can count.

He didn't say anything other than to affirm that he could not fathom my desire to live in the city, and that my coffee was too dang strong.  

It went without saying, of course, that it was my duty as a decent human being and someone raised in a Christian home, to help the less fortunate. 

I should just be grateful that my mind was sound and my body worked well. 

At one point I told him I felt like Doc in Breakfast at Tiffany's, but the joke was not welcome. 

He was worried sick, and so was I in some ways. 

She eventually came back, and left many more times. 

She stole and stole and stole.

At his funeral, she wept, and hugged me. 

My grandfather would have said

She ain't bad, she just ain't right in the head. 


  1. That's some serious work, Heidi. I have had some hard times in my life, for sure, but luckily, much of it was between the ages 1-7, so I don't remember it. And I probably went into the wilderness to get away from the addiction in my family, too. I didn't know what else to do.

    There is a lot of incredible, deep strength in you, a depth of character and heart and love and endurance and power that just flows from you. I envy your circle and your students who get to feel that flow. I am happy you are my friend, and that you have the willingness to share from your soul.

  2. beautiful writing, heartbreaking and glimmering hope as well. Especially, the part about other people understadin how deep and hard things can be.
    In the hospital, a occupatonal therapist was describing what it is like to meet all of one's basic needs and make healthy choices in order to reduce mental illness symptoms...she said, "it's like a country song in reverse". I loved that and I love you <3