On: Listening to Words From My Ancestors

“She was so proud of you. That’s what she told me. ‘Sala wrote this play. I’m so proud of her.’  Yes she was. She was very proud.”

Hearing these words was startling. So much so that for the next several nights I woke with a zillion questions. Among them:

Would I have made different choices had I known how she felt? Would those words have encouraged me to work harder, be more focused? Would I have had more faith in myself and continued to write plays?

The first question could have been about how long it took for me to get these words. But it wasn’t. It’s been almost three decades since my Grandmother Hattie’s death. It’s been probably longer since I talked with my cousin in New York. But does it really matter when I received the words? My grandparents — all four of them — would say, “God is on time, all the time.”

Still, when my cousin shared my grandmother’s words about my creative work, I was surprised. My grandparents were solid, God-fearing, Southern folk. It never occurred to me to share my work in the theater with them. And when I heard that this was her response to the first piece I had written and staged, I rejoiced. So what if it was decades later.

“I didn’t always agree with what your father did as a boy and young man,” my Grandfather Julius said about daddy. “But when you see what a child has grown up to be, you feel proud.”

It feels like it’s always been this way in my family. Pride in another’s accomplishments exists but is not always expressed.


I wish I could have heard her words back then. But if I had, would my rocky imperfections have resulted in the dollop of wisdom I see in myself today? “God is on time, all the time,” say my ancestors.

I try to remember this when I have challenging days. Well, this and the fact that words have color, power, and vision.

“He was very proud of you,” a friend told me after my father’s funeral. “He just couldn’t tell you himself.”

More encouragement.

These folks’ words bring  light to me. Brilliantly healing and erasing an overshadowing need for approval and periods of self-doubt. I sit here snacking on tortilla chips and thinking about meals to come. It’s one of the things I do when the nerves in my hands are ultra sensitive. And I’m hearing my own voice inside saying, “better late than never.”

I am not rueful. I still have words to write.

When I started blogging I had a concept about words. With a reluctant nod to Merriam-Webster, I would choose a single word and match it with a color. It was a brilliant idea, but too much work. Anyone who has tried to express her truth in writing knows that the craft is anchored in the practical. I am faced with the reality of the limitations in matching a galaxy of words to a small palette of colors.

And again, there is the reality of CIDP. Anchored down by my commitment to stay as positive as possible, I stay away from words that dwell on negative emotions. Words have color, power, and vision.

Perhaps this has never felt more true than when I hear words that come from folks whose physical light has gone out.

God is on time, all the time.


6 responses to “On: Listening to Words From My Ancestors

  1. Dear Friend,

    “God is always on time”
    Love it! Just what I needed to hear. What a nice piece. Keep writing. Your words are powerful, graceful..but most importantly, they inspire us and they heal.

    Un abrazo,

  2. Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer)

    My father wasn’t silent. He was actively negative — the most negative person I ever met. When I brought home a report card with all A’s, but a “B” in home ec, he was annoyed because you could get a free Phillies ticket with all A’s. But, he’s also gone and he also had his good points, actually quite a few, and I’m waaay too old to be blaming him for anything about myself. It’s time to own my bad self image—myself.

    My husband probably doesn’t believe in a Supreme Being, but he lives what your grandma said, “God is on time, all the time” — that is, he’s all about making lemonade out of lemons. When something bad happens, he quite honestly believes he just has to find the good that is meant to come of it. Then there’s me, on tenterhooks, waiting for something bad to happen,expecting something bad to happen, blind to any silver linings.

    Oooh. Sala. I am sorry to be sounding like a Debbie Downer here. I know I have been truly blessed — so far. 😉 Write on!

    • Hi Suzanne,
      Truthfully speaking, I didn’t take your words as a “downer” at all! It seems like everyone’s experience is so powerfully perfect, and silence is not necessarily a bad thing. He was very much like your father when he came to report cards and school. (Maybe the reason he was so proud was because he didn’t think I’d ever do anything solid and I surprised him!) I think my own experiences with my family in general could be very complex depending on the moment. For instance, my father wasn’t silent when it came to community, political, or social issues. He could really go on when he wanted us to think or, as he would say, use our “noggins.” But when it came to his feelings, he Kept those things close to heart… At least he did when it came to me. I don’t really know what he said to my brothers and sisters. I make an assumption that his behavior was always the same, but hey, I can only write from my own experience with him. and that says something in itself — that I don’t know about his communication with my siblings. Hmmm. Anyway, thanks for continuing to read what must sometimes come across as sentimental memories. I love your comments.

      • Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer)

        Wow. Our fathers sound amazingly alike. My father was very involved in the civil rights movement and he would call out injustice wherever he saw it. But, on the night before my wedding when I was 21, he came up to my room to apologize for not being able to love me. Huh?

  3. Beautiful, Sala. Beautiful Sala! I like that about God being on time. Very poignant for me today. Thank you for sharing your light and wisdom with me. I send you blessings and love!

    • Thank you Sarah! The feeling is mutual. Isn’t it amazing how we can support each other through our words and touch each other’s hearts from halfway around the world? And as always, it seems like perfect timing for whatever I read. Keep writing!

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