As a strain of music
takes us away so, too, does the memory of Aunt Agnes. The strength of
her Native American blood gave her a tall straight stature and posture.
There was a quiet magnetism about the young woman and this gave her
dignity. The smallest parts of life she met with determined, quick
decision making action. What could have been dull living she made
interesting with her ability to make stories from every day events. All
young people were equal in the attention she gave them. She bonded
completely with her own children. She knew each and every one of their
strengths and weaknesses by heart.
Who could keep from
laughing out loud as she told the story about their pet crow who stole
the last tire patch her husband was about to use. The man was preparing
the car to take the family on a necessary trip to the grocery store in
the little town some fourteen miles away. Through her words one could
see in the mind's eye the crow sitting at the gable of the house with a
tire patch in its beak. The little family all stood in exasperated
frustration waiting to see what the crow planned to do with the tiny
patch. A moment before what had been a small, unimportant object became
the focus of attention.
"Now how could that crow
have known this was the most necessary thing in our life at the time?"
Aunt Agnes laughed as she told the story.
As the years progressed
she was always beside our family by some happen-stance or was it? She
was busy with her own family but she was there close by for us, too.
The strong Native teachings were something not discussed but simply
lived out. No one told the children about ancient ways of the clans.
Different relationships made cousins your sisters or brothers. On the
other hand, Uncle's and Aunt's too, had children and then they were
also one's Uncle and Aunt, forever, as long as time could speak and
eternally. Like a chain unbroken this was the personality within Agnes,
one of the last full Poncas.
If there had been such a
thing as a Native American Southern Belle, it would have been this
gentle lady. Agnes loved being a woman. She reminded the observer, in
one way or another, of her femininity. Usually, it was through her
love of jewelry. .She didn't wear heavy clumsy pieces. Her jewelry was
delicate: small shining bead work earrings hanging long against her
stately neck. She was. a beautiful model for the jewelry. This must
have been why she easily developed her work into a craft and small
business. She simply carried the bead works with her in a small
handkerchief tucked into her purse. The creations were so small they
took up no unduly large amount of space. As she would visited, she
constantly worked the long thin needle through the tiny, glistening,
sharp edged, beads. As time went by and Agnes grew older, she kept to
her work in spite of failing eyesight.
As for me, I lived
through all the tumultuous storms of trying to cope with a disabled
child's world. We lived in cities and went to the best doctors, who we
hoped would have solutions for our daughter's cerebral palsy. At a
distance from our roots so much of the basic realities of life were
eroded away. Only later did my husband and I throw away what became
the obviously unsuccessful promises of health and healing . to return
to family and the small town of Ponca City, Oklahoma. In doing so, we
came to a more realistic and practical way of living.
Like an old beautiful
melody Agnes was with us again. She came to our house and sat for
hours with our girl who was in the wheelchair. They visited with each
other and their speech was soft and low. No one knew what they
discussed. However, theirs was a world lovely to see. This now elderly,
delicate woman was still beautiful with the richness of her coloring
and the strength of her ways. She seemed to enjoy being with the young
girl in a wheel chair while she herself was absorbed with her fragile
work. Occasionally, one or the other of them would laugh softly, as they
discussed something of interest. I remembered my own childhood and the
pleasant conversations we all had shared with this woman.
Aunt Agnes. left them as
quietly as she had always come. .My daughter didn't ask I, did not have
the heart to tell her about Aunt Agnes's death immediately. I knew,
somehow, I would have to find a way. The opportunity came in an
We were waiting at the
Indian cemetery for family to arrive to discuss the upkeep of the
graves. . .My daughter looked out the car window with interest. I
noticed but didn't question. The disabled girl was forced from her
condition to be able to observe with a completeness lost to most people.
Aware of her ability I did not interrupt or break her concentration.
Only when they were home
did the girl mention what she had seen at the cemetery.
"Mother, I saw Aunt Agnes
today," she smiled.
The comment raised the
subject and I knew the issue had to be met. O spoke gently to my
daughter. "No, Sweetheart. You did not see her."
"I did, Mother, I did."
The girl was definite in her answer.
"I'm sorry I haven't told
you. It was hard for me, because I didn't want you to grieve. Aunt Agnes
is no longer living. She has been gone for some time."
My daughter ignored my
words. . "I saw her at the cemetery today. I know Aunt Agnes, and I saw
There was no more
discussion. There was nothing more to be said. Was Aunt Agnes's gentle
spirit still there to take care of one more duty, or was it just some
mischievious spirit hoping to cause sorrow for the girl? If it was, its
appearance backfired. Instead there was the strength of her Native ways
coming one more time to tend to the girl. For me, at that time, there.
no answer as to why my daughter had, indeed, seen Aunt Agnes one more
time. She had, after all, not been willingly and deliberately abandoned
by Aunt Agnes. Otherwise, how could she know this?