her name was Eunice Dunn

I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was younger
I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was stronger

Lyrics by
Ron Lane / Ronald David Wood
Sung by Rod Stewart


(Eunice and mom / June 16th, 1953)

Throughout my entire life, I only knew her by her first name…Eunice.

Eunice passed from this life shortly after I arrived into this world–
into this family…

I was born in 1959 and eventually adopted in early 1960— Eunice,
on the other hand, had already long since “retired” from the years she spent
with my grandmother, mother, and aunt.

I imagine that our family’s circle was somewhat complete when Eunice finally
met me when mom and dad had brought me home from the adoption agency in 1960.
They were so proud to show off their new baby to this very special part of my
mom’s story.

I had always heard about Eunice but really knew very little about her.
As long as they had lived, both my mom and aunt spoke of Eunice with
only adoration and abiding love.

For you see, Eunice was more the mother to these two girls rather than their
own mother.

Eunice was a black woman, only a year older than my grandmother.
A black woman who raised two white little girls.

I found her listed on the Atlanta 1940 census records.
She was listed as a part of the household of my grandfather…listed as a servant.
And it was in that census record that I first learned of Eunice’s last name…Dunn.
And that she was but a year older than my grandmother…
My grandmother was 36, Eunice was 37.

This, however, is not a tale about the well-to-do verses something akin to “The Help.”

This is a story about a young working widow and the other woman who helped her
raise her daughters.

Two women working to make ends meet during a precarious time in our Nation’s history.

The part of the story that I always knew was that my grandmother was widowed in 1940,
at the ripe young age of 36.
She had two young daughters–one who was 6 and the youngest who was 1.
My grandmother’s husband, my grandfather, died of alcohol-induced TB while
spending his final days in a TB sanatorium–dying at the age of 40.

My grandfather had squandered their entire life’s savings during the great depression.
My grandmother, as long as I had known her, had a deep wariness of men and
never trusted a man who drank…despite her affinity for Vodka later in life.
Over the years, she liked my dad yet despised my uncle, my aunt’s husband.
Probably with good reason but that’s a story for another day.

Growing up, I can never ever recall my grandmother ever speaking of her husband…
my grandfather.
A man who died nearly 20 years before I was born.

This man–his name, his memory was deemed persona non gratis within this small family.
No pictures.
No stories.
No recognition.

But Eunice…Eunice, she was special.

My grandmother, at 36 years old, while during a depression and world war,
had two little girls who she needed to provide for.

Eunice at 37 also had a family she needed to provide for.

My grandmother went to work and even took in borders during the War.

Yet despite these precarious times, I always knew that my mom,
aunt and grandmother had Eunice.

Eunice was a black woman who worked as a housekeeper for my grandmother.
Later, in order to make ends meet, my grandmother actually took in her older unmarried sister.
The two opened a beauty salon for the upper crust women of Atlanta.

While they spent their days cutting, perming, and dying the hair of Atlanta’s upper crust,
Eunice tended to my mother and aunt.
She cooked, cleaned, and fed the family.
She bought groceries, got my mom and aunt ready for school each morning
and met them each afternoon following school.
She always had supper ready and waiting for my grandmother and her sister after they’d
take the bus home late each evening.

Eunice would arrive each Monday morning and would stay until Saturday morning.
She had her own room and basically kept the house running.
She would go home to her own family on Saturday afternoon, only to return to my grandmother
every Monday morning.
This routine ran for 20 plus years.

Years later my aunt and I would both lament about the sacrifices Eunice had made
for both her own family and my grandmother’s family.
It was a difficult time as the world suffered through both the Great Depression and a world war.
This was a generation that was more familiar with the idea of sacrifice over protests
and demonstrations.

I remember my aunt telling me about how, as a little girl, she would have to ride
in the back of the bus with Eunice.
This being life in the South during segregation.

However to my mother, aunt, and grandmother…there were never any color barriers…
no segregation…all they knew was what made a family, family…
and Eunice was very much a part of that family.

The only pictures I’ve ever seen of Eunice were found in a musty old envelope of photos
that had been stored away in our attic…in a box of things that had been dads following
mother’s death in 1986.

I’ve looked and looked over the internet for any little nugget I could find regarding
Eunice—but the only thing I found was the 1940 census record which listed her
as a part of the Watson’s family.

I wanted to write something that would provide Eunice with the place of honor
that she so rightly deserved and held in the hearts of both my mom and aunt…
but with so little to go on, that has proved difficult.
With the loss of my grandmother in 1989, mother in 1986, and Martha in 2017—
those who knew best are now long gone.

I wanted people to know that despite what our current culture screams about racism,
there has been love that remained colorblind long before the radicalism
of movements such as the Black Panthers or today’s Black Lives Matter.

So I want to say thank you to a woman who I never really knew but who had met me
a very long time ago.

I want to thank her for making both my mom and aunt into the women they become,
in turn, making me the woman who I have become.

Love and family are strong bonds.
Bonds that have each helped to make me the person I am today.

Thank you, Eunice.


(Mother and Eunice, 1953)


(Mother on her big day / 1953)


(Mother with her mother, Mimi / 1953)


(mother with her father in law, my beloved Pop / 1953)


(Mother and dad off to a honeymoon / 1953)

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household,
he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

1 Timothy 5:8

black lives vs all lives…when will we understand….it’s all lives

“Wealth and dominion fade into the mass
Of the great sea of human right and wrong,
When once from our possession they must pass;
But love, though misdirected, is among
The things which are immortal, and surpass
All that frail stuff which will be – or which was.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley


(Fox News)

This is a lamentation of sorts.
As in I’m feeling much like Jeremiah.

I’d like to address a couple of groups within this current culture wars of ours…
as in Mr. and Ms. Black Lives Matter…along with some mayors and even governors–
should the shoe fit.

To BLM: I caught your latest slick new commercial, airing on one of the sports channels,
the other evening.
The end of the commercial is what I suppose is to be your proverbial bottom line—

It went something like this…
‘All lives will matter only when black lives matter…’

And that is exactly the sort of thinking that is at the heart of all our problems.

But because I am white, having said such, you would first attempt to call me
the latest rage name of Karen.

Trust me, I am no Karen.

I do not consider myself privileged nor better than anyone else…
something about men and women being created in the image of God…
but I digress.

After calling me names, you would attempt to intimidate me, perhaps even harass me.
You would next force me to kneel, apologize, beg for forgiveness…
all before I could be granted absolution.

Thus, I will not expound further on your commercial or your notion that only
one color of life matters.
It simply won’t do any good for me to do so because you will
not listen…you will simply go back to calling me a disparaging name before wishing me ill.

So some troubling news surfaced from out of this past weekend…
maybe you’ve heard or seen a few snippets…

Over the 4th of July weekend, at least 7 innocent children were killed.
Killed not by the pandemic but rather they were murdered.
They were 7 black children killed by other black people who just so happened
to have guns.

Did you hear the cries of the parents and grandparents?
Did you see their anguish on the television?
Did you hear their desire for the police to be more active in their neighborhoods?

And so I speak to our big city Mayors and Governors…

The most recent black on black shootings have escalated on a greater proportional
scale than that of the recent events of black men and women being killed
by police officers.

And yet it is the police officers who you wish to see defunded and disbanded
while you allow ‘zones’ of your cities to be hijacked by violent agitators.

You mandate that law-abiding citizens must social distance and wear masks but you
tell the throngs of agitators that it’s okay to march and express their civil disdain.

Mayor Deblasio blames the Pandemic on the tremendous escalation of violent crimes
and murders in New York City.

Seattle’s Mayor Durken likened the CHOP/CHAZ zone in her city to something like
Seattle’s own version of a “Summer of love”—
But then an innocent 16-year-old black boy was shot and killed…
and suddenly the “summer of love” is no more.

Atlanta’s Mayor Bottoms had her chief of police resign after the Mayor went over
the chief’s head and fired several officers involved in the shooting of a black man
at a Wendy’s in downtown Atlanta.
The Wendy’s was subsequently burnt to the ground by an angry mob and the Mayor
actually allowed the violent agitators to “occupy” the area around the Wendy’s
as they claimed it now as a memorial and quasi shrine to the man who was
killed by police.

But that all quickly came to a screeching halt when an innocent 8-year-old little girl was
shot and killed by one of the “zone’s” occupiers.

So what of these mobs of yours?
What of the violence from these mobs?
Do you still consider these mobs “peaceful protestors” or perhaps more along the lines
of thugs and hoodlums bent on nothing but trouble?

What of the urban black community and their guns?
What of the blatant disregard for human life?

Black lives do not seem to matter to other black lives and yet it is
the white community that is vilified as the offenders of what matters and doesn’t matter.

So I ask you BLM, Mayors, and Governors—how many more children must die
before you focus on what is your real trouble–our real trouble–that being,
responsibility.

When will we all understand that these lives of the youngest amongst us are
the lives that offer us the most hope?

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household,
he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

1 Timothy 5:8

indebted

“I don’t know who my grandfather was;
I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.”

Abraham Lincoln

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

Marcel Proust


(the cousins circa 1966 )

Family.
A difficult and delightful hodge podge and conundrum all rolled into one.
For good or bad…we all have family….

Do you see the wee awkward one there, the little one in green sitting in the
middle on the couch in this grainy old family photograph?

That would be me.

Little did I realize then that the two cousins, brother and sister, sitting to my immediate right and left would eventually come to be two of the most important people
in my life.

The age difference is 5 and 8 years respectively.
Enough of a deep and wide chasm to keep the young cousin at, what was hoped to
be, a safe distance.
Being just that, I was the little cousin who was to be endured during holidays,
for what was hoped to be only for a day at best.

The only catch was the fact that the two girls were also just that—
the only two girls in a sea of boys with a doting grandmother who had raised
two boys yet always yearned for a girl.
Of which forced these two mismatched girls to spend more time together than either
one particularly cared.

So should it come as any surprise that the older of the two girls tried twice to do
away with the younger one?

How was the fact missed that when these two cousins were once visiting their
grandparent’s farm, deciding to go out for a ride on the horses,
the older one opted not to secure the younger one’s saddle, leaving her dangling precariously between a deep raven or a bed of overgrown brambles…
with the only choice of survival being the brambles….

Or what of the time the older one was told to prepare the younger one something
for supper…and so, what was dubbed a cannibal burger, was quickly served…
simply being a raw hamburger patty that perhaps was hoped served as a last meal….

The teenage boy you ask??
Well he simply had no time for any such foolishness, opting instead to spend
time his own way…away.

And little did any of us know that on that picture day so long ago that
two in the photo would leave us far too soon.

I lived in the family of the younger of the two brothers.

A quiet lazy man who called Atlanta home.
Ours was a small family of four.
The other and older brother lived with his young brood up north in a rural
city in the same state.

The distance often limited the times spent together as “family.”

The oldest cousin in the photo was soon to move states, off to college,
where he would eventually go on to medical school,
marrying and forging his life there, away,
as it is to this very day… so his presence now is of little consequence.

Add also to the photo the fact that two in the picture had been adopted…

And so it was with my having been one of the two adoptees.

Such was that I always had felt a deep void in my heart.
I always felt a disconnect from my cousins…
as if I really wasn’t related and therefore I was always an outsider,
not really related.

We all shared the same last name,
but at some point prior, I actually had had a different last name.
Different family traits, different everything.

Of course today my grown mind knows better and that such a thought never crossed
the minds of my cousins. Simply put, I was just the little cousin…
Yet in my mind I always felt separate from what made the family just that,
a blood bonded family.

As time passed all the cousins went their own separate directions…to school,
careers, marrying and forging lives of their own.
All except for the two youngest boys.

The youngest cousin there on the floor was only 3 years older than me.
We were very close growing up, as our ages dictated that we were the two
relegated to spend the most time together.

We were the best of friends, growing very close over the years as we each dealt
with our own varying family dysfunctions, that was until he was tragically killed
in a car wreck at the age of 23 while at age 20, I was left to pick up our pieces.

My little brother, the youngest of all the cousins would eventually commit suicide
as he could never reconcile himself to having been “given up” and then in
turn adopted…despite the fact that he was always loved and cherished within
this family.

There would always be the occasional wedding or funeral that would bring everyone
back together….
but time, age and distance had placed a divide in the family,
creating a group of strangers rather than bonded relatives.

My family of 4 eventually became a family of 3, then it was down to 2 and
this past March, it became only a family of 1.

Their family of 6 eventually became 5, resting now at an original 4.

But as theirs was the greater in number, it only made sense that their family’s
numbers would grow exponentially…
blossoming to the current total of 31 while mine is up to 4 with a
5th on the way.

But oddly and blessedly enough, time would be kind as it always has a way
of coming around full circle.
It has allowed for the bridging of the chasm of both age and distance…
in turn rendering all of the divides no longer relevant….delightfully
null and void.

Each cousin has lived through, as well as survived, their own life’s tumults…
And the realization and acknowledgement of such has provided a bonding effect.

Those two cousins who sat on either side of me all those many years ago,
along now with their spouses, swooped in to take my small brood of
a family under their care when it was most needed.
And when things became really difficult, they merely intensified their care.
And that care continues as I continue putting the pieces of loss back together again.

No longer was I just the little annoying cousin but I had become more
like the younger sister…
a sister who they each knew would need their love and support.

Family, as we most all know, is a complicated affair.
Never perfect, never what we hold in our minds.
However we are blessed when we realize that our adversities can actually provide
a unifying factor.

Despite having known these people my entire life, I don’t think
we actually got to truly know one another until we became adults.
And since neither of them read this blog I don’t think they’d mind
me telling you how very lucky I consider myself having been “stuck” in the
middle on that couch so very long ago…

Family, for good or bad, we usually all have one….
and how so appreciative I am that this adopted child was blessed by one
with such a tenacious zeal.


(both of my cousins with their mother, my aunt, my now 92 year old aunt,
almost 3.5 years ago in Savannah at my son’s wedding / Julie Cook / 2014)

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their
own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

1 Timothy 5:8