Two Roads Part 2

On the last day of her old life, Ma sent nine-year-old Neeley to the store with some butter and eggs to trade for baking soda and needles. As she left the store with her penny candy and Ma’s things, she saw smoke hanging over the trees.  To her horror, when she topped the ridge, flames were leaping in the field between their house and Uncle Jep’s.  She fairly flew the last few hundred yards, calling for Ma at the top of her lungs.  Tearing into the front room, she found Ma slumped in the rocker, her arm hanging limp at her side with spittle running out the corner of her mouth.  She shook Ma, then pulled her arm with no response.  Desperate to rouse Ma for escape, she dashed her with a dipper full of water.   Ma didn’t wake up!

Threatened by the approaching fire, she realized she had to get Uncle Jep.  Racing barefoot toward his house, she skirted the actively burning areas, arriving to find him and Aunt Lottie gone.  Desperately, she headed toward the nearest neighbor’s place, only to meet neighbors rushing to help put out the fire.  Crying, she told them of Ma’s troubles.  Most went on to fight the fire, but Mr. Jones and Mr. Bilieu went to check on Ma.  Mr. Bilieu took Neeley to his house for his wife to tend her burned feet.  They got Dr Crisp out to see Ma.  He came later to check on Neeley bringing sad news.  Ma was dead.

Uncle Jep came for her. She had to deal with the agony of her burned feet along with the greater pain of losing Ma and her home.  Uncle Jep loved and welcomed her, but Aunt Lottie had the burden of her care.  The overworked mother of four was quick with the switch and criticism.  It was not an easy transition for the grieving girl going from darling grandchild to “another mouth to feed.”  The farm wife already had more work and worry than she could handle before Neeley was foisted on her.  It was not a good situation for any of them.


Miss Laura Mae’s House Part 6

“Kathleen, I hate to bother you, but Oly is comin’in on the bus Friday. Would you mind takin’ me to pick her up?” I listened in as Miss Laura buttered my biscuit.

“Sure, I’ll be glad to. Is that the one whose husband just died?” Mother asked.

“Yes, he’d been sick in bed a long time,” replied Miss Laura. “I was poorly when he died and couldn’t make it for the funeral, so Oly told me to just wait an’she’d come stay awhile after she got him buried. We never got to visit much. She was just a baby when she married an’ and I only got to see her once in a great while.”


I was fascinated with the idea of a baby marrying and couldn’t wait to see her. Maybe we could play together. As I stood on the step with my biscuit, I was lost in thought. imagining a pig-tailed girl my age steeping off a school bus, the only bus I knew a thing about.

Mother pulled in at Mitchell’s Cafe out on the highway on Friday. We sweltered in the July heat as Billy and I tusseled in the back seat. Mother and Miss Laura Mae fanned themselves as heat monkeys danced on the pavement. Dust fogged in the open car windows as a long gray vehickle with a picture of a skinny dog pulled up.

“Here she comes!” Miss Laura Mae clutched her big black purse and heaved herself out of the car as the bus door opened.

I sat up and watched for a little girl in a wedding dress to emerge, but no one got off but an old lady in a flowered dress. Miss Laura Mae hurried over, catching her in a huge hug smashing their identical pushes between them. Her curly white hair was caught up in a hair net and she wore the same black lace-up old lady oxfords as Miss Laura Mae. The bus driver pulled her bag from a bin on the side of the bus. Mother helped her load it in the trunk.

“Kathleen, this is my sister, Oly.” Sadly, I abandoned my hope of a playmate.

“Nice to meet you, Miss Oly. How are you doing?”

“Oh, I couldn’t be better,” said Miss Oly. “I ain’t baked a biscuit since June 6th, the day my Ol’ man died!”

Miss Laura Mae and Miss Oly laughed out loud as Mother replied, “Oh, that’s nice,” as she cranked the car.

My Condolences

imageOne of the hardest parts of  being a nurse is comforting and supporting the bereaved family at the time of death.  Normally, family members are heartbroken, grieving at the death.  On a few occasions, I witnessed something different.  Mr. Jones, an elderly patient owned a successful insurance agency. Every morning, he donned freshly laundered silk pajamas.  When discharged,  He wore a fine finest suit, shirt, shoes, and hat and took great pride in being noticed.  He bragged of buying a new Cadillac every year, dining at the most prestigious restaurants, and enjoying a membership at The Country Club.

His son, Junior Jones was in his late fifties and had always worked for Daddy.  It appeared Mr. Jones was none to generous nor kind to Junior.  Junior dressed in cheap clothes and drove an ancient compact car.  It must have been miserable since he was so tall he had to fold up like a jackknife to fit in it.  When Junior came to the hospital to consult with Daddy about the business, Daddy was condescending, snide, and critical, never showing Junior the least respect.

One the morning Daddy died, we’d called to notify Junior his father’s death appeared imminent.  Junior came streaking into his father’s room just moments before Mr. Jones’ death.  I offered my condolences.  Junior ignored me, opened the drawer of the bedside table, dug out the keys to his father’s Cadillac, his father’s checkbook and left the room without speaking.  A nursing assistant who was a friend of the family walked him out to the parking garage.  He handed her the keys to his small car and drove off in his father’s big, black Cadillac.  That was different!  I guess he’d had enough.

Brother Gobel and Lost Love

roseJust days after Daddy’s death, Brother Gobel, a Pentecostal preacher, paid a condolence call to Mother.  A Bantam Rooster of a man, he was bow-legged, bald and not much taller than she,  a stark contrast to the tall, handsome husband she was still mourning.  He drank coffee, prayed with her, as ministers on visits normally do, and took his leave.  Thinking no more of it, Mother was shocked to get a letter from him a few days later.  Even more startling, was the fact that it included an epic poem of love telling of his devotion and hopes for their future together,  followed up with a marriage proposal, and some appropriate Biblical quotations about the role of wives, remarking that he’d always admired what a dutiful wife she had been, waiting on Daddy hand and foot.  Wisely, she pitched the letter in the trash.  Unwisely, she told me about it.  One of my great regrets in life is that she never shared that poem with me.  It would have my life, and yours, so much richer.

Heartbreaking Story of the Red-Headed Baby

babyprint1xAccording to gossip, Redheaded Connie and Callie were reputed to have been left on their Pentecostal aunt’s doorstep at birth. This fascinating tidbit guaranteed my interest.  I imagined them lying in a basket, long waist-length braids dangling from a basket, dusting the ground. They were high-school girls when I was in first grade, so I never gave them much thought beyond that. Continue reading

Boo Hoo to You, Too


I wrote this in response to Trish’s post yesterday on Ten Years a Single on Mom about crying about a broken washing machine.  I’ve done worse.

Here’s the whole sorry story.  Daddy had died after sudden illness days before.  I was a mess, but making a great effort to keep my emotions in check, knowing my mother was in Continue reading