By Annette Pate
Instructions from my grandmother:
"Don’t ever call a colored woman a lady."
"Don't ever say 'yes mam' to a colored woman."
Verona was our maid when I was growing up.
Verona who died poor like she had always been,
who ironed all day for three dollars,
who collected our used soap chips to bathe her
who always rode in the back seat,
who was married to Walter the alcoholic,
who had an epileptic daughter,
who suffered indignities from my grandmother,
who had baby after baby,
who occasionally got tickled and let me see
who said very little,
who never asked for anything,
but accepted our old clothes.
I thought about her the year before she died.
I sent her a Christmas card with a hundred dollars
enclosed, small repayment for the indignities
of a lifetime. I received a thank you note,
she could not believe I remembered her
after all these years,
but I thought,
how could I forget her?
Annette Pate is a counselor, painter and poet who lives in Alpharetta, Georgia.