Two Roads, Finale

Eddie seemed to rally for several years after his accident, but well into his forties, his excruciating headaches returned and he had some behavior changes, becoming increasingly violent.  Neeley and the children avoided him as much as possible in an effort not to agitate him.  He began sleeping a great deal of the time.  Neeley knew something was terribly wrong, but Eddie would not seek medical care.  She and the boys were able to get the crop in when he could no longer got out of bed.  Not long after his  forty-seventh birthday, he suffered a major seizure from which he never recovered.  Since he was unable to object, Neeley sent word for the doctor to visit.  He examined Eddie in great depth and diagnosed a brain tumor, based on his history and physical exam.  There was nothing to be done except keep him comfortable.  He lingered a couple of weeks in a semi-comatose condition till a final seizure finished him off.

Though Neeley grieved for the man she had married and loved for many years, her gravest concerns were how she would manage to raise the children on her own.  All she had in the world was one-hundred twenty-eight dollars from the sale of their crop, the canned and dried produce from their garden, the hams and bacons in the smokehouse, and two milk cows. She sold one cow for one-hundred dollars, figuring she could milk one of Albert’s goats when the cow went dry. The two oldest girls had married and had homes of their own.  Her sixteen and fifteen year-old sons both went in the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933 as a part of Roosevelt’s New Deal. They were each paid thirty-dollars a month, twenty-five of which had to be paid directly to their mother.

Naturally, Neeley was unable to rent the farm after Eddie’s death.  She moved thirteen year-old Will and the two little girls back to the house on her brother Albert’s place.  With what the CCC sent her, she managed pretty well till they left that program.   Fortunately, In 1935, she was able to get thirty-seven dollars a month from Aid to Families with Dependent Children. On the farm, she was able to feed the kids from her own garden.  Mama’s  husband died not too long after Eddie, so Neeley made a place for her.  It seems ironic that Neeley took care of Mama much longer than Mama cared for her, but it filled a place in her sore heart.  Young Will soon dropped out of school and worked as a day laborer or seasonal worker, bringing home whatever he could.  He was a big fellow and got a job as a night watchman on a drilling rig at fifteen by lying about his age.  In 1941, he joined the Navy at the age of seventeen after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

He had an allotment sent home for his mother, making her easier than it had been been with a rent-free place to live and a bit of steady cash.  As the kids married and settled, she lived first with one, then the other, sometimes opting to rent from a widowed friend in town who made half her house available when Neeley tired of drama and grandkids.  They shared the bath, porches, and sometimes meals.  They watched their soaps with great intensity, especially railing against conniving men exploiting innocent young women.  Perry Mason and Gunsmoke were in a league of their own.  For some reason, she enjoyed moving and was able to save a little money by staying with her kids a while.  She’d always yearned for the ease of town life, so these were golden times.  She started drawing her old-age pension as soon as she was eligible.

Neeley lived a good forty years after Eddie’s death. To her great surprise, when she was in her fifties, her long-lost father showed up at her house wanting to see her just once before he died.   She never saw hm again, but did kindle a relationship with the unknown brother who brought him.  That relationship grew close and lasted the rest of her life. A few men came courting, but she quickly put them on the road, having no wish to be dominated by a man again.  Her children were supportive and protective of her, cognizant of the sacrifices she’d made for them.  Having her mother spend her last days with her did a lot to ease her soul.  Toward the end of her life, Neeley remarked, “I went through some rough times, but I got my younguns, an’ it all worked to a happy life.  God’s been good to me.”