St. Joseph-County parishioner discovers new talent in her 80s

By Megan Erbacher

The Message assistant editor

About four years ago, in her early 80s, Mary Mayer discovered a new talent as she was writing to her prayer partner from St. Joseph School in Vanderburgh County.

Mary Mayer

Since it was discouraged to send gifts to prayer partners, Mayer decided to send something special in addition to her monthly letters: poems. So, with every letter she also writes and sends a poem; sometimes she also draws pictures to accompany it.

Now, Mayer has a collection of more than 90 poems. She was a bit surprised by her talent, she admitted. While she’s always enjoyed telling and writing stories, putting them into poetry was different for her.

“Although I thought I was doing it for (my prayer partner), it was really good for me,” Mayer said. “I enjoy putting my thoughts into poems.”

Mayer and her husband, Joseph, have been parishioners of St. Joseph Parish in Vanderburgh County for more than 60 years, and their five children attended St. Joe School.

Inspiration for Mayer’s poems comes in various ways, including from daily life and children, to animals and spiritual life.

“I’m 85-years-old, and I have lots of memories to draw on,” she said. “I’ve been a teacher, a student, a patient, a nurse; I’ve been so many different things. There’s just a wealth of things to draw on.”

Becky Smither describes her mom as a “soft-spoken, sweet-tempered woman, but when she reads a book, tells a joke or reads one of her poems, she dramatically takes on the role of the characters.” 

This spring, Mayer read some of her poems to the Holy Rosary Senior Group with her husband and their daughters in the audience.

“As (the Holy Rosary Senior Group) leaned forward in their seats, the audience felt like they were right there with the character,” Smith said.

“The ones I like best are the ones that allude to a mother’s love, or the bond between a man and woman married for a long time – or the faith of a person who believes in God,” Smither said. “She puts into words feelings that well-up inside me, where I get all choked up and feel like crying.”

With the help of her daughter, Mayer hopes to one day share her newfound talent in a book with proceeds to benefit St. Joe School. Smither types her mother’s handwritten poems for her and has them stored safely on a flash drive.

“My poetry tickles me,” Mayer said. “It gives me so much joy. I’d love to share it with other people.”

“I call her the Grandma Moses of Poetry and am proud to share her talent,” Smither said.


Golden Years

I don't know, where is this gold?

I don't find much fun in growing old.

Overnight new wrinkles appear,

My eyes grow dim and I can't hear.

These teeth aren't mine

That's in my mouth;

And everything else

is going south.

My hair on top is getting thin

But grows abundantly on my chin.

I forget a lot and I'm not alert.

My muscles ache and my knees hurt.

Where is the gold

They talk about.

Please tell me now.

Please help me out.

You are a bank of wisdom

And a reservoir of truth.

A reminder of the history

That may be forgotten by the youth.

Your prayers are so potent

Blended with your tears.

You are here to share your lessons

Experienced through the years.

You are here to show how God

Sustained you, in the evening of your life.

So the gold is not for you to have,

But for youth that's yet to deal

With strife.

You are the proof of prudent living.

You are the gold of longtime friends.

Your faithfulness is classic

Of love that never ends.

Your life is a gift, not only for you,

But for the young to look up to.


That dang ol dog

I got this dang ol dog when I was small

He was the dangest dog you ever saw

He wouldn’t sit, and he wouldn’t stay

And when I called him he’d run away

Dang ol dog

He wouldn’t mind a word I said

He chewed up my toys

And he claimed my bed

Dang ol dog

He’d wiggle all over when I’d come in

Be all over me and lick my chin

That dang ol dog

Well it came time for him to go

By then, I loved him so

That dang ol dog


Nature Speaks

A busy squirrel

has said to me

by the flurry of 

his activity.

It's that time again

when I must store

food and stuff

for the winter's tour.

The birds  also

speak to me

as they fly off

and leave their tree.

What's that old tree,

"Are you talking to me?

"I'm starting to see

a change in you.

Your leaves have changed

to a lovely red

dressed to dance

but fall to the ground instead.

The branches are now bare

As they reach toward the sky

They reveal a secret nest

to the public eye

Listening closely to what

nature has said,

I add more blankets

to all our beds.

I get out sweaters,

coats and hats.

I'll make a warm shelter

for our dogs and cats.

Winter is finally no longer 

cold and bleak,

I anxiously look forward

to hearing nature speak.