Traverse City Record-Eagle

October 8, 2012

Terry Wooten: Anniversary of mom's death approaching

By Terry Wooten

---- — My mother passed away a year ago this Oct. 10. I don't claim to be a mystic, but I do have a big imagination. When a person I know dies, I often feel like I can sense their personality around for a while. It wasn't like that with mom. Alzheimer's disease had ravaged her mind so much, she was gone. I couldn't feel anything.

It took a few months for our spirits to repair themselves. Now her memory is with me again every day in all phases of life. I'd like to dedicate this column on art and testing to her.

Minds are unfathomable organs. The way we think, feel, remember and change is as various as our faces. Art and consciousness grew up together. Without art life is a small box to fill in.

On the cover of my book, "The Abstracts of Romance and the Thrill of Being" published in 1997, we used a photo of my mother from 1945. She's seventeen and posing on the bridge over the Middle Branch River in our hometown of Marion.

I gave mom a copy of the book. I don't think she read it for a few weeks. She was too busy carrying it around showing the cover to friends. Mom didn't understand a lot of my early poems, but she was proud of them.

Near the end as Alzheimer's was taking its toll, my wife and I would drive down to Mount Pleasant and spend an afternoon with her just driving around or shopping. One time she stopped some people in a Merchandise Mart and introduced me to them as her son the poet. We talked for a while and then parted.

"How do you know those people?" I asked her.

"I don't," she answered.

Two years later she forgot who I was. It's a good thing there isn't a standardized test score at the end of life.

Leona Waffle Clark

Young Artist

I loved algebra,

but couldn't do a thing in geometry,

except draw the lines beautifully.

We had a test

and I turned my paper in.

It came back.

The teacher wrote on it

messing up my lines.

"This looks wonderful.

What is the answer?"

I didn't know.

I loved the part in English Grammar

where you broke a sentence down

into a diagram

of different parts.

I loved those lines and shapes.

I could whiz right through that.

I liked Literature of all kinds,

but had a problem

retaining what I read.

Noreen Joffiffe

Test Smart

When I was in sixth grade

schools started IQ testing.

They moved me up to seventh.

I could figure out

information for a test.

That was one of my skills.

School was easy for me.

Other kids couldn't believe

I could finish a test so quickly.

I couldn't necessarily retain facts,

but I could remember it for a test.

I was salutatorian of the class

and graduated at sixteen.

That was too young.

Stanley Holzhauer Regret

Painting, poetry and music"¦I wish I could've studied more

so I could appreciate them better.

An art museum will have a show.

I see

people just enthralled

sitting in front of a painting

up on the wall.

I wonder what's wrong with me.

I can walk by,

look at it

and keep going.

It means nothing to me.

There's something impressive

that escapes me.

Is it the way the light is handled,

or the person is displayed,

whatever that may be?

I think I could've enjoyed art

if I'd learned how.

Poetry is another art I don't understand.

I'll read a poem

and it doesn't make any sense.

Yet, some of the great literature

of the world

is written in poetry.

I missed a good vocabulary education

in early childhood.

We studied a bunch of grammar for tests,

that was it.

We didn't do creative writing.

I don't understand classical music,

but I can enjoy a good cowboy song,

and understand every word.

I still like the big band sound.

No other music compares.

Give me a symphony orchestra,

and I hear a bunch of instruments.

I don't know how to take it in.

What do people hear?

Tell me.

I want to know.

Poet Bard Terry Wooten has been performing and conducting writing workshops in schools for 28 years. He is the creator of Stone Circle. Learn more about him at