A letter to Jessie (1915-1997) . . .

02 Aug

Dear Big Sister,

I hope you like this photo—I have several shots of you from over the years, and this is my favorite—just check out that glorious smile!

I believe this is where you were living just before you and Victor bought a farm near the air base and moved there. I remember it clearly, especially because when I was home on leave having completed Air Force basic training, I climbed a tree in the front yard to inspect a squirrel nest and had to holler for help from Victor, your husband and my brother-in-law—he brought a ladder and helped me down from my lofty perch!

This coming December will mark the thirteenth year since you left us. My family and I have passed the time peacefully—very little fuss or muss. We have health problems, of course, the young ‘uns as well as those of advanced ages. I know there are no health problems where you are, and no calendars or clocks—there would be no need for them.

I can capsule the major changes in my family rather quickly, changes that have come about since you left. Important changes for my girls include Kelley’s marriage in 1998 and the subsequent births of a boy and a girl. The boy is now eight and the girl is 6 years old. They live in a nice Dallas suburb and are doing well.

Debbie lives just one mile from us. She works at one of our local schools and loves her job. Landen, her son, was graduated from high school last year and is continuing his education at the University of Texas at San Antonio—UTSA. Lauren, his older sister, was graduated by UTSA this year. Her degree is in Early Childhood Development—she is great with children and seems happy with her work with a local Child Care center.

Cindy and Michael are a properly married couple as of last October, still living, loving and working in Northern Virginia. As you will probably remember, they had been a committed couple for many years, a total of twenty years prior to their marriage—they finally put it on paper! They seem very happy—no children, but they have two cats on which they shower all the love and rights and benefits that would be accorded children.

I won’t be able to bring you up to date on your family—you are probably more up to date than I am. I can’t tell you much about your sons, Wayne and Lynn, but I believe that Lynn still lives in South Korea and Wayne still lives in Maryland. I know very little about the boys and their families, but I imagine that you are watching over them—I want to believe you are, and because of that it takes very little imagination! I also know very little about your daughters or their families. I haven’t seen them since we were all together at your funeral. I talk to Toni infrequently on the phone, and exchange e-mails with Vickie even more infrequently.

Jessie, I’m writing this letter for the purpose of recording some of our mutual history in response to my daughters’ request to learn more about their aunts and uncles and cousins. As I continue with my writing I realize that it makes me feel I am in some way connected with you—if you would like to respond to this letter in some fashion, please do so—trust me, I’m up for it, and as the television commercial says, I’ll leave the light on for you!

This is the third letter I have written. The first was to Hattie, our sister that lived only one day—you probably won’t remember her. She was our mother’s second child, born in 1917, so you would have been only two years old at the time. Had she lived she perhaps could have shared some of your responsibilities as the eldest of six children. Looking back on those years, I know that it was tough for you, but you willingly shouldered those tasks and thereby took some of the weight off our mother’s shoulders. My letter to Hattie is posted on my Word Press blog and can be found here.

It’s odd, but I rarely heard any of my siblings talk about our father—a bit from Larry, a bit from Lorene and nothing from you. Most of what I know about Willis I learned from our mother, and I never heard anything positive. There must have been something other than the negative things, given the fact that our mother birthed seven children for him.

I wish you had told me about the incident in the garden between our dad and you, his teenage daughter. Mama said that he gave you an order and you did not comply quickly enough, so he beat you with one of the wooden stakes, or poles, used for growing beans to climb on—unmercifully, I believe, was the word mama used.

I also wrote a letter to Larry, our brother. You may have been looking over my shoulder when I wrote it, just as you may be looking over my shoulder as I write this letter to you. You can read the letter to Larry here. I was recently contacted by Larry’s daughter Deanna, and we are now friends on a web site called Facebook, a place on the internet where people can find new friends and chat with old friends—not necessarily old, of course! I have mixed emotions about the process, and am considering opting out of it.

I often wonder about Larry’s first wife, Toni, and their two sons, Troy and Marty. If she is still in this life, Toni would be about 86 years old now—you might want to check around to see if she is there with you—one never knows, right? I’m sure you remember that I lived with Larry and Toni for a couple of years or so in Suitland, Maryland. That was a hectic time in their marriage and I was caught in the middle of it. That was not unusual for me—things were hectic from the time Mama married Papa John until I enlisted in the military at the age of sixteen, a period of some seven years. The military provided the stability I needed. I finished growing up in the military, and as you know I stayed with it and retired after 22 years. I can proudly say that I assisted Uncle Sam in fighting two wars during that period, wars waged in Korea and in Vietnam. We lost both wars, but I will always be proud of my contributions to them.

Hey, big sis, this letter seems to have a mind of its own, and it’s getting far too long for a single posting. Let me close this one out and get back to you later with more details. There is so much to talk about—perhaps we should consider putting the letters in book form when I run out of words—if I ever run out of words, that is!

Lots of love,



Posted by on August 2, 2010 in Family, marriage, Travel, Writing


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

6 responses to “A letter to Jessie (1915-1997) . . .

  1. Ann Argo

    August 2, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    I have never seen this picture of my mother or any other even similar. Thanks for posting it.

    • thekingoftexas

      August 2, 2010 at 9:00 pm

      Hi, Anne—thanks for the visit and for the comment. That picture is one that I took and Cindy scanned it in for me. I’m pretty sure I have others, and if I can find them I may add a couple more to this posting, and maybe subsequent postings.

  2. cindydyer

    August 2, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Thank you for finally writing more about your sisters, King! Great letter and I can’t wait to learn more. Glad I had that slide scanned, too—great addition to the post. Re: Facebook—I hope you don’t “opt out of it.” Bear with it and remember, you don’t have to be on it all the time—now and then, pop in, write something pithy, then retreat! That’s how I do it. 🙂

    I also learned a few new things (never heard the beating story or about the marriage problems with Larry and Toni). Oh, and thanks for noting that we are “a properly married couple.” 😉

    Keep the letters coming—we want to know more about Jessie!

  3. thekingoftexas

    August 2, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    There’s lots more on the way—I still have Dot and Lorene and Mama and Papa John to write to and about—dang, I’ll never finish writing.

    As for marital problems—you ain’t heard nothing yet. There’s lots more to tell—it’s a tale that revolves around a drive-in theater rendezvous, a subsequent imbibing of sleeping pills, a pumping out of a stomach, etc., and a return to Mississippi with the car trunk filled with bootleg whisky.

    Does that pique your interest?

  4. Larry Sones

    August 2, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    Thanks for the letter to Aunt Jessie and the story about great-uncle Braxton. Telling stories about those who are no longer with us, at least physically, is a little like singing in a foreign language; most people don’t know if you got the words right, or not. Keep the keyboard hummin’.

    • thekingoftexas

      August 3, 2010 at 3:08 am

      Thanks for the visit and thanks for commenting. You’ve coined yet another nice and completely accurate analogy—first the “breadbasket vs the handbasket” and now the “singing in a foreign language.” As you might gather, I’m walking a tightrope with these postings. I am blessed, or perhaps cursed, with a fairly decent memory and in my story telling I must consider the feelings of those still with us as well as those that have left us—gone before, as some say (I dislike the term gone before—it causes a shiver up and down my spine). I may dance around some of the more contentious things, but some will remain untouched—and besides, dancing on a tightrope ain’t easy!

      While stumbling around on Facebook I found your website—beautifully done, and I’ll borrow Cindy’s one-word evaluation of almost everything she liked when she was a child, and even now to some extent:


      PeeEss: I recommend one of my earliest postings, the one entitled “Second marriages, stepfathers, travel and travail . . .” You’ll find this disclaimer there: I must say, as always in the interests of full disclosure, that viewers will need to accept the accuracy of my memories as I relate them—in some instances none remain to support or deny them, and none is left who can, with any certainty, diminish or embellish them.


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