Grandpa and Grandma

Attalla, Alabama.

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When you come from a small town, ya gotta watch out, especially when it comes to finding a beau. You never know what you might get. 

Case in point.

I was born in Alabama, but grew up in California. I first moved back to Alabama as an adult in 2005.  Oh, I’d visited on occasion and dad would introduce me to folks here and there but mostly I didn’t remember most of them. When I visited he’d take me and my girls around and introduce me to folks and say “that’s your cousin” and I’d never see them again. I didn’t know most of them, but one time I was sitting in a store waiting on my dad and some lady comes up to me and says “You’re a Brothers, aren’t you?”, I looked around and dad was nowhere in sight, so that wasn’t her clue. I said, “Yes”. She introduced herself as another cousin, who’s name I recognized but had never met. The thing is everyone counts as a “kissin’ cousin” in the south because somewhere down the line, we ARE related. True fact.

When Grandma married grandpa it was frowned upon by her family who were, not so much upper class, as they were from a better batch and considered “refined”. Grandma is the one with hat. My sister Diana reminds me a lot of her sister, Nell.

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She had just the one sister. Nell.  To this day, the Freeman’s will not acknowledge the Brothers side of the family.  Aunt Nell would go on to live considerably longer.

Grandpa, on the other hand was born on the wrong side of the tracks, rough around the edges and a bit crass. He came from a family of like 12 kids, but I believe only 8 survived to adulthood. gp3

He was from the south side of the social spectrum, and like daddy, he could be meaner’n a snake and ya never knew when they’d strike. He was also a womanizing cad.

I’d sure like to know who the woman was next to him. Hmm

Daddy told my sister and I about the time grandma learned about one of his liaisons. It just so happens it was with a lady down the road. Far be it for grandma to take that from anybody (except grandpa). So, she grabbed one of the boy’s baseball bat and hightailed herself down the road and threatened that gal within an inch of her life! I’m sure grandpa just laughed. Heck! We told Daddy, she shoulda taken that bat to grandpa!

Grandma was a stay at home mom. She tended the chickens, milked the cow, churned their own butter and was pretty much in charge of the food. When I was a kid, I remember her cultivating about 1/2 acre of produce that would later be “put up” or canned.    Grandpa would till the soil and she did the rest. Daddy said, they were poor,  but the depression never affected them because of it.

When I was little, she’d send us kids’ out to pick okra, green beans, tomato and corn.  She always made us wear these huge bonnets to keep us from getting too tan.  Ladies weren’t supposed to get a lot of color in those days. There was nothing like grandma’s cooking either. My could she make the best biscuits, slathered in home churned butter and honey or sorghum and her fried okra and sweet corn with a side of fresh, sliced tomatoes with a dollop of mayo were to die for. Chicken was reserved for Sunday dinners. 

When my sister and I moved back there to care for mom and dad, we learned that the house on the right was one grandma bought with her own money.  Grandpa hadn’t bought it, but she had, if you can believe that.  That would have been in the early 50’s. I remember Diana saying “Go grandma!”  Grandma was also one of the first  young women who made the paper when they got a drivers license!  Pretty amazing lady, I’d say.

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Both of them were born in the late 1800’s. 1892 & 95, I believe.  They had four sons, the first one died at the age of two or three.  Prior to them getting married, grandpa, in his twenties served in the Army in France during WWI.  One time while in the attic, we kids found a box of letters from his “fan” club of girls he’d met there. Who knows, we may have “cousins” in France as well.

Grandpa’s native American heritage really shows in the above picture.

I remember once, daddy told me that when grandpa was “Sheriff”, daddy got in trouble with him, so grandpa put him in jail. Jail was very similar to the one Andy Taylor ran, only probably a bit smaller. It was a small town and that jail still exists, though it sits empty now. I mentioned this to daddy before he passed and he tells me he doesn’t remember ever telling us that story.  Did Grandpa take us by there one day and tell us that maybe? Daddy is the kid that looks like he’s full of the dickens, so it’s wouldn’t have been impossible he was in trouble all the time.  I told him, I could imagine him giving his momma a considerable amount of grief.  He didn’t deny it. So, even though the story’s veracity came into question, we still tell it.  The little cutie in the middle there would grow up to be like grandpa, liking the ladies.

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From what I’d heard, Grandpa was known to have jumped around from job to job and was constantly chasing the pie in the sky dreams while doing his womanizing.  One day, when daddy was doing a T.V. repair house call, some guy tells daddy, he was his illegitimate brother.  Daddy did not know him, but at the same time he was not terribly surprised. 

One of grandpa’s later job’s was running oil with my uncle to homes in big tanker trucks.gpoil

Before that he ran coal.  He even had a jack of all trade business card that though inappropriate and offensive to us today, was a sign of the time then.

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Ironically, grandpa, from what daddy said, was fair minded to all his workers black or white and as far as we kids ever saw, this was true.  Grandpa was a hard worker and expected the same of anyone who worked under him, including his kids.

I believe he ran the Woodyard the longest and there’s a good chance the coal business was run simultaneously.  I say this because the sawmill is where daddy, lost part of his foot at the age of 16, it’s also the backdrop of the picture with the three towheads and he was still running it when I was born, some 10 years later. 

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Grandma dodging the camera.

Because the train ran right up to the Woodyard and because that was where I was born and lived the first couple of years of my life, I would always find comfort in the sound of trains going by.

Even though grandpa tended to play around, he wasn’t totally without honor.  When grandma got sick with cancer, the cost of her care was more than he could handle.  He talked to the then sheriff and asked his permission to run a still for the time being and requested said sheriff to look the other way while he raised what he could for her expenses.  The sheriff agreed.  So, grandpa set up a still, tucked away in the woods on the farm a few miles away.  He did this with a partner friend.  Said Sheriff would later come around and ask him if he’d raised what he needed.  Grandpa replied honestly that he had, so the sheriff told him to tear it down then.  Grandpa agreed, but his partner didn’t want to.  Grandpa walked away from it, but his partner would later get arrested.  That’s how things were in those days.

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After grandma died, he married her friend Minnie and when Minnie died, he married, Ada.  Minnie was sweet and everyone liked her.  Ada on the other hand would be the death of grandpa.

I didn’t know grandpa when he was young, so what I remember of him was kind and funny.  I remember him popping his false teeth for us.  He told me once to keep my arm back in the truck, because a passing car could pull it right off.  He proceeded to tell me of how he was driving by and having some fellas arm on the hood of his truck, so I pulled my arm in immediately.  I don’t think I believed him, but I wasn’t gonna take any chances.  I remember he liked to whittle.  He was skinny and looked like a witch in his later years. 

My two girls did get to have some good times with their great grandpa and that’s pretty cool, though they never knew grandma.  She died when I was 13.  

We kids are what remain.

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My Aunt Mildred, Uncle Kenneth, mom and grandma (she probably hated this pic) in back.

My siblings Diana, me, David and Sandra.

 

Am I Losing My Best Friend?

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This  photo and a plaque I sent her a few years back, is what we were about.  The pic is real, when she and I were at daddy’s, “working the farm”.  The words on the plaque defined us and were a reminder, that no matter what, she was stuck with me. I think this wall display shows me she was okay with that.  It was apropos too, because in times past, it wasn’t unusual for me to embarrass the heck out of my little sister in one way or another, after all, I’m generally inclined to let it all hang out, so she never knew what to expect.  In my defense, on one occasion, I did so naively,  like when I called her a dildo in public not knowing what the word meant.  I can still see the look on her face, distancing herself from me, hiding behind a clothes rack, and trying to pretend not to know me,  hence the laugh.  She loved me anyway.

Seeing her in the state she was in,  wasn’t what I expected when I flew to Florida to visit her. Actually, I don’t know what I expected, but it didn’t take long for me to realize how badly she’d declined.  A part of me may have suspected some semblance of mom, but not really.

Aside from being greeted by a creepy critter…

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and the overwhelming smell of a litterbox  in dire need of cleaning when I walked in,  her apartment was nice.  She even had a corner that celebrates a part of our ancestry.

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These apartments are designed for businesses.  The two floors allow a tenant to live upstairs while conducting business below. She used the bottom as her massage room and office. There was everything from accountants, hair weavers, acupuncturists to well, you name it.

When I was told she had a brain tumor, I cried.  I wasn’t ready to lose my sister.  Like a parent, I’m thinking that birth order would dictate departure date and “certainly not any of my kids should go before me” or in this case not a younger sibling.

Well, she’s not going anywhere, at least not physically, but it is a tumor on the pituitary gland and it is having it’s affects. Not cancerous. She kept thinking it was Wednesday or Friday, but could never get the days right.  She repeated the same questions over and over again and it was exhausting.  She did, however, know who I was.  She thought we lived together, so when I said I’d be going home, or mentioned that my hubby, R was in California, she asked “Why, what’s he doing there?” On occasion, she seemed perfectly normal and then seconds later, she would ask an “out of the blue” question as though whatever went on previously had never occurred.

We talked about the tumor and surgery, which got postponed once again. She would promptly forget, but then hours later recall some semblance of our conversation. I talked about it further with her son who had observed the same thing.

Apparently, the kind of tumor she has, is not cancerous, so no one seems to be in a big hurry to operate, which is infuriating.  The doctors at Shand’s keep putting it off as if it is nothing. I guess in their world it isn’t an emergency but in Di’s, it is. She has no sense of time and her ability to function is getting progressively worse.  The neurosurgeon’s at this university hospital are supposedly to be the best. However, it’s the ENT,  that seem’s to be holding up the “show”.

My brother, “M” shows up a few days later and is devastated by the change in her.

Before he arrived, one of her son’s and I took her to the eye doctor, because as I mentioned earlier, what clued us there was something wrong, is that she is losing her sight and it came on suddenly.di22

The eye doctor is great.  We were there a very long time, but he was thorough.  The good thing, and this is important to the surgery, is that the tumor is not impinging upon the optic nerve, not that it isn’t affecting the loss of sight.  However, it lets the surgeons know where to go to remove it or better yet, where they don’t need to go.  The ophthalmologist believes some of her sight will return and what doesn’t, he believes, he can remedy, at least in part.  So, the good news is she won’t be completely blind.

A question her son had for me was, could Nonie (our mom) have had the same thing?! As I observe my sister’s symptoms, I begin to wonder too. This tumor causes depression, affects hormones and can display itself in many ways. The first diagnosis told us it was genetic.  Then one of the links her son sent  with information on Craniopharyngioma, does not indicate that. I’m not sure I have the right one because this link does not mention it as hereditary. The original doctor had said it was, which is why we wondered about mom.

The procedure is called an endoscopic pituitary surgery, transphenoidal …  anyway, I’ve included the technical but interesting information.  Again, this is info sent by the sons.  Since some of this information differs from what I was originally told, I guess we will wait and see.  Supposedly, she should be fine once the procedure is done.

Right now, she is tired and sleeps a great deal.  She has all the symptoms of dementia and the Alzheimer’s mother was diagnosed with, with the exception of the tiredness.  Mother was constantly mobile, but again, according to the initial information sent, each person develops unique symptoms.

My sister is craving mostly Coke  and hamburgers, but this can include any carbonated drink . . . when she’s not sleeping.  She was never a big meat eater, so this is unique to her.   She gets tired easily and gets cranky when she’s at that point.

Di did not remember any of her doctor visits, so present time events are easily forgotten, but then surprisingly surfaces later as an event that took place long ago.

One of the first things I did when I arrived was liven up the place with Halloween decorations, which she got excited about.  When we lived together, we would always dress up for the kids, like I still do, so you can imagine her disappointment when I said I wouldn’t be there, but. . . that was quickly forgotten moments later.  The upstairs windows were decorated with fall leaves only.di23

ROAD TRIP

“M”, having arrived a few days later, and I decide to take her to visit family in Alabama, especially our other sister “S”,  who does not have the resources to travel.  Both sisters liked that.  I think “S” was on the verge of auctioning off her firstborn to get the funds to come down. She was understandably concerned, so you can imagine her delight when she learned we were coming to her.  That, was an adventure in of itself.  When we arrived, the GPS screen showed us this and announces, “you are there”, and that was pretty much what we saw initially,  we laughed.  Actually, there was a two story barn to our left and further up, also on the left was a nice modular.di18

Di walked some of the property (but not all 18 acres) with us as my brother marveled at how nice it was, but after about an hour or two she asked to lie down. She slept the remainder of the visit. Fortunately, she was awake long enough for us to get a nice photo of us girls and “S”s two twin grandkids.

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On our way to see “S”,  we stopped off  in Atlanta to visit my daughter, the actor.  Di, surprisingly was awake for a good part of that leg of the trip, but dosed a little before we arrived.

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From big city to the country.

After leaving “S” we stayed the night in our home town of Attalla and had a nice dinner. Mine was the catfish, Di had the “hamburger” and steak was “M’s.  Of course, another must have while in the south and what you don’t see with our meals is the plate of fried pickles on the right, which as you can see were gone by the time our food arrived.

 

 

Since our trip was going to be very short,  I posted to our family and church friends that we were passing through and those that got the message in time came out to meet us at a Noccolula Falls Park.  We knew Di could never handle stopping off at more than one place, so we had them come to us. I picked the Falls because I knew, that was a landmark that despite our being away so long, would not move.  More friends arrived but unfortunately we got to talking and socializing so much, I forgot to keep taking pictures. We got countless texts later from those who had not seen my post in time.  Again after about two hours, she had to retire to the truck, but all in all, she did fairly well. We stopped at a “Jack’s” for a hamburger and she then slept all the way home. di14di13

The trip had tired her and the next day she shooed us off. We had suggested heading to St. Augustine, but she said she was too tired.  “M” and I,  went ahead and went, had lunch and walked on the beach for awhile then headed back home.

 

 

 

 

We had wanted to visit the Alligator Farm but didn’t want to stay away too long.  We were gone a little over 3 hours which is her normal nap time length. When we arrived, she was still asleep, but awoke a little later, saying she was looking forward to going to the beach tomorrow. OMG!   “M” and I looked at each other and chuckled.  Instead, we told her that would be a great idea and asked her if she’d ever been to the Alligator Farm… so we went.

 

 

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We would have lunch with her at Sweetberries back in Gainesville and then a dinner with her son and his family on our last day.

 

 

We convinced “M” to take one of her cats, which she’d not had for long, especially since her son is making room to move her into his home with his family.  They have never had pets due to allergies and they are making the concession for Thomas.

Thomas is going nowhere but with her, since she’d found him starving 10 years agodi21

as a kitten hiding under our house. He had helped her get through helping me care for mother, so there’s a lot of history with those two.  In the meantime, Priscilla has settled nicely with “M” in San Antonio.di25

Pre-op is due on the 20th of November, so hopefully soon, we will get our sister back.

I took my flight back home on Alaska, and happened to end up in premium class, which was phenomenal. 

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