Observations from a Porch of an Aging Southern Farmer

“Aging is a process of understanding. It is the collective journey of all emotion fed by a thirst for knowledge, enlightenment and meaning.”

It was a hot Southern morning in the heart of August in the Carolinas.  Humidity was already taking a toll on old Mason.  Sweat dripping from his leathery forehead and the sun up in the sky high enough to cover half the front porch.  His wife, who affectionately has called “ma” for the last 67 years was bringing a steaming cup of coffee; black just like he always drank it.

Mason nodded and continued his stair at the trees covering the sun just enough to make these summer days bearable.

“I reckon the farm hands be coming by soon.  Strange seein’ them whites and coloreds walking the path together.  Sure seen some changes round these parts.”

Mason turned to ma, resting comfortably in her rocking chair continuing to deepen the groove in the wood base below.

“This some good coffee ma.”

He struggles with his sentences now.  Some shortness of breath forces a slowing in his speech.  The deep southern drawl very pronounced.  For this old farmer, now retired, the porch is passing the time reflecting on a hard life until his inevitable demise.  The years are documented by the wrinkles under his eyes.  The blue sparkle now faded.

The creaking noise is soothing.  It is one of the few sounds still audible to Mason.  Familiar and constant.

“The cotton crop ain’t what it used to be.  Nothing but Yankees, colored and fancy cars.  It’s hard to be proud ma.”

“You are an old bitter man Mason Chapman.  Old and bitter.” She exclaimed.

Once, an affluent cotton farmer, Mason is the only remaining child of Emma and William Chapman.  The youngest of seven children, his heart beats last.

“What will we leave behind ma when they find our crippled old bones?”

“What are you talkin’ about, we?”

With all the muscle strength in his face, a smile reared itself.

“I gave you a good home didn’t I ma?”

“You did.  From the time you carved our names in that oak tree 68 years ago, my heart belonged to you.  You give me a good home and a good bed to rest.”

“I’d like to see Will today.  Reckon we can see Will?”

“Yes, love, yes.”

Mason tried to life his body with his thin boney hands.

“Now you stop you hear.  You will break in two.”

Ma got up from her rocking chair and lifted her 110 pound Mason upright.  Arm in arm they walked slowly down the three steps and walked to the side of the house.  Surrounded by layers of autumn colored leaves and pine cones stood a small unassuming tombstone.

They stood two feet from the stone and stared down.

“Oh Will boy, we miss ya.  You dun us proud.  We really miss ya being around.  He was a good boy, ma.  A good boy.”

“He was.  Polite, hard workin’ and a true Southern gentleman.”

“He was, ma.  He was.  I may be ready to see him soon.”

“You hush up Mason.”

“I’m tired.  I see folks walk by, young and full of hope.  I had my hope.  Now I’m ready to rest.  Let’s go back to the porch.  It’s safe there.  I’ll tell ya about the great crop of ’52.”

“I’d like that.  I’d like to hear that story a lot.”

Together, hands intertwined like a million other times, Mason and Ma walked around the house and sat on the porch.

The chairs rocked, and Mason told story after story until the warmth of the sun lulled him to sleep.

Ma smiled.



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