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Trust me, they said. I’d rather not, I replied.
I knew of the unknown, long before I learned
the alphabet. With a strong disdain and
suspicion of milk, and the rarity of cereal in
our house, there were no letters floating in a
bowl. My conversations with the Ancient
Ones, and the animals proved more interesting anyway, especially when I shared them with my Papaw over a saucer of hot coffee.
Yes, happily caffeinated as a child, and he listened, because he understood. My little cup held more sugar than coffee, nonetheless, I followed his lead, pouring a small amount in the thick white saucer to cool. We talked of many things, of hunting, the best way to prepare the squirrel; fried of course, with biscuits and gravy on the side. Sometimes he cried when he spoke of the whirlwind, lamenting when it would come, reminding me through the years to remember. He showed me a photograph once of Wovoka, and I remembered his name, unsurprised that no one else seemed to know.
One evening, we sat in the little breakfast room in his house, and I stared at the fading, peeling wallpaper; some flowery design my grandmother had chosen, hoping it would continue to curl and fall in long strands to the floor. I preferred the plain wood slats peeking through the papery remains. He fried a potato to go with the can of beans heating on the stove, and I waited impatiently for the hot water cornbread, fried to perfection in the leftover bacon grease.
He asked, “who do you trust?” My response was immediate and seemed to surprise him. “You.”
“And your parents?” Oh, ok, “I guess. It depends, sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.”
“And your friends and teachers?”
“I’m in high school now, Papaw. I have friends, but when we talk about trust, I think of what you told me when I was little. Who can I truly rely on, if I share something important to me, will they hold it in confidence, if I need help, can I call on them and will they come if I call? And the teachers, they hate the bumper stickers on my car, they send me to the office all the time because they say my clothes don’t meet the dress code. Too short, too tight, why is my hair so long, what is the meaning of my bumper stickers. Really?”
“Which ones are on there now,” he asked. “Same as always, God is Red, and Custer Had It Coming.”
“Good ones, now let’s eat.”
And we would continue to have these talks multiple times a week until he walked into the sunset. We talked about reliance, about how to trust. I remember he worried about me trusting people, and he was right to be worried. I wanted to believe, to trust in what others said, so much so, I struggled with the concept; especially after he was gone. Apparently, my ability to find and maintain a balance with reliance was like playing on a seesaw. You’re up, then down, and the other person jumps off, and you go flying. Hit the dirt, feel the pain. He was gone, I was lost, and there was no one else I believed in and trusted. Not like him. I was a walking contradiction. I didn’t let others down, I kept their secrets, stood by their side, faced down their bullies, and those who asked, knew I had their back. However, I either trusted too easily and too soon, or not at all. Hit the dirt, feel the pain.
My levels with trust remain in a space of constant contrast. It saddens me to realize I automatically look for a hidden agenda, something potentially lurking just out of sight; although it’s usually in plain sight, spewing vitriol like some overly orange beast fattened by greasy foods and pasty race panderers proclaiming privilege. Tainted blankets are replaced with cheap pillows, full of nothing, and the grid is perfect now. Supposedly. Trust me, they said. I will not, I replied.
Resilience dances well with reliance. I trust in Spirit, in the Ancestors, the Ancient Ones. I was taught to be independent, to trust in myself. That lesson continues because it is often fluid. I sit with decisions, listening, waiting to make the most appropriate choices. Most of the time, I’m still on the seesaw, leaning back, talking to the crows in the trees, hearing the squirrels barking happily, likely knowing I’m not there to fry them up for dinner. Sometimes, I hit the dirt and I feel the pain.
Self-reliance. Winter is coming and I am preparing, because I know I cannot trust that the grid will hold, that I will have water, or heat or food. I have my old saucer, and the same coffee pot Papaw made our coffee in, boiling it on the gas stove until he deemed it right. I have a few people I can rely on, ones who know some of my secrets, and a dog who listens and understands.
Trust me, he said. Always Papaw, always.