Religion has been packed about me since before I could remember. My Grandfather on my Mothers side was a Quaker minister. He was one of the most positive influences on my life from the very beginning. Now it should be said that this is not a hate or anger story towards my Father or anybody else in my family. The reason is that God in his infinite mercy has taken away any and all resentment and anger I ever had. In fact, he took it away on September 12, 1977, when he killed me. But, that part of the story will have to wait until another time. This story concerns just the facts . . . just the facts, and how incredible life can be.
Grandpa, Larkin Hadley, lived in the room next to my sister and I. My Grandmother was there also but not for as long as Grandpa was. My Grandmother, on my Mothers side, I vaguely remember. She was quiet for the most part until the night when she tried to kill my Grandfather. You see they slept in the same bed, Quakers are allowed, when this incident happened one night. Grandpa was awaked by the feeling of someone trying to choke him to death. He called out for help and my parents came a running. Grandma thought that there was a strange man in her bed trying to take advantage of her. It was soon after that they were looking for a rest home for Grandma. She became real vocal from that night on. Yelling out in the night and acting really goofy. To my Sister and I, we thought nothing of it. Grandma was acting more like my Dad.
For some reason, they didn’t want her to go to the bathroom so they got her this potty chair that they sat beside her bed. It was a few days after that I got my first introduction to the female breast. They were getting Grandma off the pot and for some reason I came into the room to show Grandma a picture I had drawn. Well, she didn’t have a shirt on at the time and there they were. I had no idea human flesh could be stretched so far. I’m guessing I’m only 8 at the time and my little body had nothing like that. I may have seen Mom naked but her bust line didn’t impress me. Grandma on the other hand. . . They were actually touching her knees. Her knees. Like two socks with a can of peaches in each foot. I believe I looked at Grandma differently from then on.
Grandma was what was known then in the latter half of the 20th century as, “in decline”. She didn’t say much to any of us. The days would go by and she would usually sit in her chair, in the living room, reading her Bible. One day Grandma became very angry. She was yelling at all of us in the house. Grandpa tried to calm her down but nothing worked. For some reason, they kept turning the heat up in the house thinking it would calm her down. It didn’t seem to work. Grandma was still yelling and now she was sweating too. At one point she told me to go get a crayon. It was time for her to change her Will. I went and got her a green crayon from my stash and handed it to her. She snatched it out of my hands like a dog grabbing a stolen steak. Then she gave me the evil eye and started writing her will on the front of the T.V. guide. I had heard of Wills before from watching Perry Mason and Dragnet.
Mom said that Grandma didn’t have to do what she was doing. Grandma became mad and broke the crayon. The two pieces rolled under her chair. I went to retrieve them when there was a knock at the door. Mom opened the door and let in two guys wearing white. They had a little bed with them that was on wheels. Grandma started to wet her fingers with her tongue and told them to come and get her. So, the two men did. They picked her right up like she didn’t weigh like anything and sat her on that rolling bed. They put those new safety belts around her and wheeled her out of the house. Ralph Nader would have been proud.
Outside was one of those long red ambulances with the big red light on top. Funny my Sister and I didn’t hear it when it pulled up into our driveway. Well, they put Grandma inside and off they went.
From then on, to see Grandma, we had to go to a place called a nursing home. It was someplace pretty far away. It would take us an hour to go one way. The place was filled with old people. Most of them were sitting around doing nothing. The place had a bad smell about it. At the time I had no idea what that smell was from. It was rather dark inside and rather quiet. Except for the sound of T.V.’s on the wrong channel. Just static and snow you could hear buzzing and popping from each room.
Grandma was always in bed just finishing up having lunch. They seemed to give them spinach all the time. Grandma’s lips were stained with all the stewed greens.
My Sister and I would bring a page from our coloring books, that we had neatly colored, for her to hang on the walls. The rest home nurses didn’t like to have more than one picture at a time hanging up. So, I think they rotated our artwork. But, in retrospect, I don’t think so. This routine of going there just about every day didn’t last too long. Soon the news came that Grandma had died.
Now Grandma was the first person in our family that I remember who had died. I was sad. I know that I probably cried. But there are not many memories of her. She was pretty much like my own Mother. Quiet. Unassuming. Like the grave.
The funeral was a strange event. People came and went and talked to Grandpa. Some would cry. Most people were saying that it was a good thing that she had died. It was best that she went the way she did having the Alzheimer’s as she did. There were flowers on these white stands on either side of her coffin. She was laying inside with her hands folded over a Bible. She didn’t look right to me though. She looked too stiff and her cheeks were all red. Grandma never had red cheeks. They were just peachy and wrinkled. Dried up like a golden raisin. No color. All the adults commented on how good she looked. I wondered what they were talking about.
Then she was buried. She was buried in Salem, Ohio where she and her husband had once been Quaker ministers at a church nearby. Grandpa picked out a headstone with Jesus on it. Jesus was carrying a lamb in his arms and there was a couple of sheep at his feet.
People’s relationship with their deity is a personal thing. Like with your doctor you sometimes tell friends and family but generally, you do not announce your medical condition on the public corner.
I wonder what Grandma thought of her God in those last days when the whole world closed down. It closed down to repeat the same day over and over again. It repeated so much till the day she couldn’t talk anymore and silence spoke for her.