Miss Rena In Memoriam

Photo by Liv Bruce on Unsplash

If you’ve spent any time around me, you ‘know’ my Miss Rena. I probably talk about her at least once a day, on average. She definitely crosses my mind at least once every day. Born Ena Mae Attride on this day in 1927, she was my grandmother by virtue of being the woman who raised my mother. She was a small, feisty, half-Cuban former floor show dancer who would not hesitate to tell you about yourself, especially if you dared cross her or trouble her own. Think Madea, minus the gun and getaway car. In her younger days, she probably would have fought you, too. She often shared the story of how she was expelled from secondary school (I think it was Convent of Mercy) because she hit one of the Sisters after being caned.

Her family didn’t know what to do with her, and thinking about her life from the stories I can remember and what other people have shared about her, especially my mother, I don’t think she knew what to do with herself, either. Life certainly didn’t turn out the way she would have wanted and she didn’t always handle things or treat people the right way, but despite her demons, she was nothing but love to me. My defender in everything from squabbles with Mommy to showing up to school to threaten bullies. The person whose love of books (and celebrity gossip) I inherited. The person who always made me feel safe.

Miss Rena, as everyone called her, departed this plain in September 1996. I don’t even remember the specific date. I just remember it was the Saturday after I started high school. It’s still the most devastating loss of my life. That was some 24 years ago and I’ve lived without her more than twice as long as I did with her, but there are still days when the loss is a physical ache.

I have quite a few regrets in this life and one of the main ones is that I didn’t take the time to visit her during that first week of high school. We had a bunch of stringent rules at my lovely colonial girls school, one of which was that we shouldn’t be seen on the road in uniform after 6PM. The bus system being what it was in the country, hardly any of them wanting to carry “schoolers,” I didn’t want to take the chance and stop for a visit and get in trouble, especially in my first week. I was doing chores that fateful Saturday to get ready to go and spend the weekend with her when I saw my grandfather’s sister and niece hurrying towards our house. The second I heard them calling our for my mother, I knew. I just knew she was gone, and every sensation left my body in that moment.

This poem is about her, about losing her, about the pain of regret, about missing her and the relationship we had. I don’t remember when I wrote it, but it was the first piece of writing I ever shared publicly as it was published by a now defunct online literary journal in 2013. I’m resurrecting it today, on what would have been her 93rd birthday, to share her with you, too.

I Want to Go Back

I want to go back
to the time when you were here,
when life made sense and I was embraced by, enveloped in
the thick blue blanket
that was your love.

I want to go back
to the feeling of not knowing
and not caring because you
were my rock, my stay;
to once again hear
those three little words –
“Yu a grow.”

I want to go back in time
and ask you to stay
because you never explained
what that meant
and now I am grown
but still don’t understand.

I want to go back
to your arms
on those inky, moonless nights
that you’d illuminate with your lamp
and anoint me with your words
and stories of “ol time.”

I want to go back
with you so I could know you
as you were then,
young and full of life;
see you dance in your “floor shows”
and maybe understand
the woman you would become.

I want to go back
but I can’t.
You left me so suddenly,
so cruelly and painfully.
My life went down the drain.
I want to get it back.
I wish I could go back

to that first week of high school.

Just one visit was all it’d take
to save myself from this endless heartache.
Show you my new feathers,
get your blessing to fly.
Above all, I’d just wanted to see your face,
let you know I love you,
maybe say

– For Ena Mae Attride

2 thoughts on “Miss Rena In Memoriam”

  1. Why am I teary? This is wonderful and so very well-expressed. What a beautiful love story. I can feel the love and the loss in every word. I am deeply and truly sorry for your loss. I’m sure she would be so proud of the woman you have become.


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