Friday, August 8, 2008

My Grandfathers House Part 2

I guess until I can figure out what is going on here I will wait until the end to post pictures of the following stories.
I really don't realize just how graph I get into describing the things I see as I write. So what takes some a few lines to tell you something takes me many inputs. So please bare with me as I tell you this story.
I hope you enjoy it.

So let me tell you of the layout of this wonderful home. There is this city block that sits between 6th street and now what they call 7th street. The side my grandfather house sat on was 6th street and his yard went from that side of the street all the way down half of the city block to the other side street next to the woods.
On the back side of the block there was three houses. My uncle Perry’s in town house which I don’t remember to much about him other than he was in the war and he ended up with MS and was in a wheelchair. And finally he passed away. Then there was the house I grew up in. A small two bedroom one bath small living room and a kitchen built where the garage use to be.
Then next to our house was my aunt Kate’s house. Then at the end was my aunt Maybelline’s house. Now that you have the layout of the block and you now know it was all family.

On the 6th street side the front of the block where the house sat was covered by large oak trees that went maybe half way of the block. There was a cement walk way that came from the road side up to the house. The front of the house had a very large screened in porch.
On the porch sat two wooden rocking chairs and a few metal chairs painted green with cushions on the sets. The windows that faced the porch where ones that pushed up with screens on the outside.
As you walked threw the wooden door and entered the living room to the right was my grandfather and grandmother’s bedroom. A very large rod iron bed sat in the doorway with a thick hand quilted quilt which made the bed and another one folded at the end of the bed. The pillows were made of feathers. To the right side of the room was a vanity table made of wood with a large oval mirror.
On the vanity was my grandmother brass container that she kept her hair from her brush and her bar of soap which was lye. And yes she made their bath soap in a big cast iron pot. Two bottles of perfume a box of powder her paddle brush and her comb. A tin box which she put her hair pins in. On the left side of the room was two large dresser drawers with hand made doilies and small trinkets that sat on top. There were two windows on the side and one at the front facing the street.

The living room was long but not that large. It had a kerosene burning heater at the one side and the smoke stack going out the side of the house. The heater was large and the tank that held the fluid was on the side of the house with copper lines that ran into the house to the heater. On the wall side was a big old comfortable green corduroy chair and couch. Various pictures hung on the wall with were all black and white.
Across from the front door was an entrance into the dinning room as you walked in to the right side was a bedroom which contained a bed and a dresser ect.
To the left was a large dinner table which wasn’t used unless there was something big going on. Just pass the table to the left was another bed room with a large bed and dresser and ect in there.
And against the wall facing the table was a large chins cabinet where the good china was kept and other important breakable things.
Further down the hall to the right was a small hallway which went into the restroom. Small but efficient.

To the left was a large kitchen with cabinets of canned jelly’s and pickled beets, jars of tomatoes and other homemade canned veggies and jams. Large cans of flour, sugar baking powder the basic stuff for cooking lard. A table with four wooden chairs a cast iron stove that burned wood a small gas stove a sink and a small fridge. Two windows to the left side of the house.
At the back of the house was the screen door and a wooden door. As you step out the back to the left as you take the three steps down was a large wooden rain barrel that sat at the corner of the house where the rain would run off into the barrel.
To the right was that stupid playhouse and the barns and chicken coops and the stable where the horses were. Also to the right side of the house about 500 ft or so was two large honey bee hives.

Now when my grandfather would take the honey I would watch him. He would smoke them then remove one slide at a time and cut the wax square of honey and replace the slide. My grandmother use to cut the honey comb and put it into a jar along with filling it with honey. It was very sweet honey. I recall at times when he would cut a large piece of the wax and hand it to me and I would chew on it for what seemed like forever and you could taste the sweet honey.
Once the taste was gone I would put the wax in my pocket until I got home and put the was in a jar for safe keeping.

To the left side about 100ft from the rain barrel was the old iron hand pump. It took forever to get the water going and I mean a lot of pumping the handle up and down before the ice cold water would run out from the spout. Then there was a old iron swing that maybe three people could sit on.
Now in the back part of my grandfathers yard he had trees. Grapefruit, orange, tangerine, huckleberry trees covered the back. Large fir trees mixed with oaks and a few of those flower trees that had the flower that would remind you of a powder puff they were red. So now you know the lay out of my grandfathers house I can go back to the story at hand…….

I can remember it as if it was yesterday. The day I saw my grandfather cry. Never before did I ever see this strong man shed a tear before. He either smiled or once in a while I would see him confused or angry. It was a cloudy day at the start the smell of rain was for sure. Everything seemed to move in slow motion. Coffee was brewing on the stove and everyone was sitting around the table in the kitchen quite and with sadness on their faces.

My grandfather was up early and out side feeding up the animals and just walking around. I could only think now as I recall this time what he was thinking. And even now it is only an assumption.
Maybe he was thinking of his long life with her. Maybe he was thinking of the time they first met and fell in love. All of their ups and downs their happiness and sadness. Maybe he was thinking of their old home on the river where he drove the river boat down threw the turns all day and how it made him feel when he docked it and got off to walk back to the house.
Walking in to see her in the kitchen cooking over an old cast iron wood burning stove. Standing their with her hair up and her apron on. Maybe he was thinking of the times she gave birth to each and every child she gave birth to. The joys they must have shared during those times. And the two times they must have held each other and cried when two of their children passed away at birth. Who knows what he was thinking at this time I was only a child and at the time all I could see was my grandfather sad and lost.

I wanted to do nothing but run up to him and put my arms around him and tell him I loved him and I would do what I could to make him smile again. But all I did was stand their and watch him and listen to him cry silently. To approach him now would do nothing but make things worse or at least that would be what I thought at the time.
So I just sat their quietly and watched. After a while he walked slowly back towards the house. He had his old worn hankie in his hand and when he brought it up to wipe the tears from his eyes I noticed how his hands had aged even older than they were days ago. His face had new age lines that seemed deeper than before. His bright eyes were dark and empty and very cold.
He seemed so tired and worn out almost like he himself had given up life. That’s when I knew the light that once burned there had burned out. When grandma passed his life was over now he was just a body going threw the motions.

As he walked up to the back screen door I walked up and took him by the hand. Not saying a word I just took his hand and followed him into the kitchen. My aunts just sat around the table drinking their coffee.
I remember one of them turning and asking him if he wanted some breakfast or coffee. He just shook his head and took his gray felt hat off of his head and walked slowly to the living room holding the hat cradled inside his arms.
I went into the kitchen and the quite that was present was cold. Then in their low voices they whispered about the viewing this afternoon who would carry him up their and who would stay with him until this was all over. Every ones life wouldn’t get back to normal for a while.

Everyone slowly started coming to the house and it started filling up with adults people that I hadn’t seen in a while.
My uncle Marvin and his 7th wife (their was a joke always about him being the male version of Liz Taylor) he was a navy man and he came up from Miami where he was stationed at.
Aunt Jane with her husband and all of her five children from Fort Pierce.
Aunt Kate and her husband and her five kids (which her baby was Tammy and she lived with there with my grand parents).
Maybelline and her husband (even as a child he gave me the creeps one day I may go into detail about this man) and her two boys they came from Lakeland.
Now since Perry passed his wife wouldn’t come until the day of the funeral with her five kids. They lived out west of town down at the end of Mitchell road in what we called the real woods. Only because it was so far out of town and there were no lights it was just simple country. (That’s yet another wonderful exciting story I may share in time).
Now Priscilla and her husband would not appear (they both were killed many years before in Fort Pierce in what was always said to be a murder suicide if it was or if something else happen no one would ever know the truth then and still to this day. And any of her eleven children would not show either.
My mother would be there because we lived on the backside of the block and counting me five girls. That makes my count earlier way off count with the grand kids. (Wow 31 grand children).

The house was full of relatives now and my grandfather sat on the edge of the bed which was my grandmother’s side his hand gently caressing the quilt on the bed that my grandmother had made. Lost deep in his thoughts with no emotions to show what he was thinking at the time. Everyone was running around getting together things needed so everyone could head off to the funeral home.
I stood in the doorway and watched him with sad eyes and heart. I remember him looking up at me and saying “Child what’s wrong?” All I could do was put my head down and walk over to him and hug him tight.
Recalling my childhood memory now when I hugged him his body seemed so frail and thin under the cloths he wore. His monstrous arms so old but gentle wrapped around me and I pressed my head against his frail chest his heart seemed to be slow and tired. He hugged me for a brief minute or two and then looked at me and told me to go see if everyone was ready.
That was the last time I would talk to him really until sometime after the funeral was done and over.

Everyone started leaving to go over to the funeral home all the families got in their cars. My grandfather rode with my uncle Marvin. I assume that all the parents instructed all of us kids that this was not a place to play games we were to be on our best behavior.
I remember getting out of the car and taking my sister Bonnie’s hand and walked up the path to the place that you went to when you died.
The chapel was small and as you walked in so many people stood around and it was the smell that caught me right off from the start. Stale and old it made my stomach feel sick. We walked down the small isle to take our sit only after we went to the very front to see what was in the long gray box in the front with so many flowers around it.
The sweet smell was getting stronger and it was almost sicken to me I looked around to see if any one else may be smelling the same thing but it was only me. I walked very slow holding Bonnie’s hand I just knew I didn’t want to go look inside that box.
With the whispers of everyone saying “she looks so peaceful” I knew who was in that box and I really didn’t want to look in it. She would be there and she would be mad and I would be the one that got the yelling or the look and I really didn’t want to have to look at her. But as sister’s goes all she did was yank my hand and tell me it’s alright just walk up to her you don’t have to look just close your eyes it will be fast. So I closed my eyes and let her more or less lead me up to the gray box. We stopped it seemed like forever standing there.
I kept repeating in my head “let’s go now just turn and walk that’s all you have to do. I don’t want to open my eyes if I don’t see her I will be alright”. Well for what seemed like hours I couldn’t squeeze my eyes any tighter and then I felt a hand on my shoulder and my mother was standing there you could hear her light soft crying.
I couldn’t keep my eyes closed any more when see said doesn’t she look so wonderful. My eyes flew open and I felt the tightness in my chest as I looked at this old lady that laid in the gray box. She looked like my grandmother but their was something that just wasn’t right about her.
I expected for her to sit up and point her finger at me and tell me that I had been the worse grandchild she had. All of the voice from the times when her and m aunts in the kitchen started going threw my head. She’s nothing but a little bastard child, she’ll never amount to anything, all she ever does is run off to the woods and hides one day one of those hobo’s is going to grab her and she’ll be gone. Well Sylvia really didn’t need to have an more kids after Bonnie. Look at what she has now a drunk for a 2nd husband and on and on they went in my head.
I could see her smile on her face getting wider as if she was enjoying all of those times I listened to them all when I wasn’t suppose to be listening.

I took my hand and reached over to force her to let go of my hand and we turned to walk away. There he sat in the front row facing the sicken flowers and the gray box which held his love of his life.
My aunt Jane sat at his right side next to him then there was aunt Kate next to her at the end of the bench to the right.
On the left side of him was my cousin Tammy pulled up so close to him like she was holding on for dear life.
Then sat my aunt Maybelline then my mother sat down next to them and my uncle Marvin sat at the end of the bench.
All the children that were still alive sat in the very front row looking at their mother laying there along with the most special grandchild.
The next row was my uncle Bill he is married to my aunt Kate and their five and then my uncle Marvin’s wife Viola (what a name and I know this isn’t right and I may go to hell for thinking it then and saying it now…. But… she was so fat and she smelled really bad always letting gas out and being proud of it by saying “excuse me” and smiling) and then my uncle Franklin he’s married to my aunt Maybelline and their two boys.
Aunt Jane’s husband Buddy sat on the next bench with their kids and then their was Susie and Bonnie with me. Behind us was Marlene who was married to my uncle Perry who died sometime back and her children. Now my aunt Priscilla and uncle Ray were dead many years also only a few handful of their children arrived and sat behind us.

As the people walked in and up the isle to gaze at her for moments before they looked at the followers as if they were looking to make sure their flowers were their and to see where they were placed. (A question that I never really understood the big deal. Is there any certain protocol of where and who’s flowers are to be put where and who decides who’s flowers are more important than someone else is????)
I know it sounds like a stupid question and you figure by now I would know the answer to that stupid question at the age of 46 but I really don’t come to think of it. It’s amazing what comes to you when you start recalling old memories and feelings…….

Alright never mind lets get back to where I was. Oh the people checking out the flowers and the names on the cards…..LOL…… As they would finish they would walk over and hug and whisper something to my grandfather and then move either to the left or the right to shake everyone else hand and move along never really looking beyond that second bench as if anything behind their didn’t count.

Finally I manage to get free from my sister and escape the sicken death and flower smell. Out the front door which standing there was this man that look as if he was a body guard or something. He smelled also of flowers and death and some stinky cologne.
He held the door as I went threw and his only remark was “don’t get into anything”. Now let’s see your not just telling a 8 or 9 yr old kid but a tomboy not to get into any thing??? Yeah right!
I really didn’t want to go near the joint I just wanted to get as far as I could away from the smell and wait for my favorite cousins to come out. And it wasn’t long after I was out free then came Rocky, Bobby, Perry Jr, Vernon (I know what your thinking already about the name. But his father named him that after my grandfather. “Vernon Sylvester Arnold” ) We called him a funnier name though. “Booboo” told you …LOL….
Okay stop laughing ok. His father’s full name was Perry Sylvester Arnold rest in peace uncle…….
Ok by the time my favorite cousins had broke out we were all planning on going back to the house and getting out of the church cloths they had made us wear. So my cousins got their change of cloths out of the cars they had came in. Everyone would end back up at my grandfathers house anyway.
And the block we lived on was only maybe seven blocks at the most. Small town everyone knows everyone and truthfully we were all related to just about everyone in town any ways. And you have to remember at this time it was what 1970 - 1971 crime wasn’t really heard of that much back then. People slept with their windows open for the cool night air.
No one ever locked their doors. Hell we would sleep out on my grandfather front porch sometimes. The so called good old days……

Well we just took off walking towards the house it would be a while before everyone started to head back. All of those people standing around talking of what use to be and this and that. All those old people hugging everyone.
I just couldn’t bare the thought of being hugged by any of them old bodies and being pinched on the cheek or even worse than that all together. Them talking about me and my ligament life. Who cared really didn’t they have something else to talk about other than my mother having me and all that crap.

So the escape was in the works. We would get to my grandfather house every one would change I would go threw the back cross the alleyway into the back door of my house and change cloths and out before my step father would know I had been there. Escape such a sweet word to such a small child.
I never really felt like I really belonged to any place or any one. I was the middle child of five girls. And to top that I didn’t know anything about my father. Nothing!!!

By the time I got in and changed into my hand me down jeans that was a little over my ankles and a shirt my tennis shoes I was out the back door meeting the rest of the group in the backyard.
The we were down and out the back gate in the alleyway and we all were off towards the woods to play in the area we all hung out when we finally got together at my block. Out of the small group I was the youngest but I was always up to hang out with them as much as I could when ever I could.

We reached the wooded area and in the trees. We all sit down and everyone started talking about everything going on. We just hung out there not doing much just kind of in our own little world.
Besides the sun was setting and it would be starting to get dark soon and everyone would be at my grandfathers house eating and sitting around talking of their lives to each other as if they were talking to a stranger about something that was amazing.
The kids would be out side in their little groups of who was who in the hen picking order. The special kids and the older kids that kind of thing. By the time we got back food was out and everyone had a plate eating and talking. I just stood there watching and taking things in.
The adults were in the kitchen and in the dinning room some were in the living room. The older kids were on the porch talking among their selves. I just sat on the ground under the oak tree watching and listening to all their boastful talking.
It was as if I wasn’t apart of this large family at all. No one noticed I was there.
Night time came and everyone started leaving that had houses in our town. The ones that lived out of town would split up there kids to stay with this one or that one and the direct family the daughters and son of my grandfather would choose their room at my grandfathers house that would accommodate and start settling in for the night. The next day was going to be the big day.
Putting my grandmother to rest in the so called families cemetery out at Fort Bassanger. Me I just walked threw the back yard to the house.
Once I got home it was only my mother and my sister Bonnie there. I just went to my room that I shared with at the time Bonnie.
Roseanne very young was Jack’s favorite (my stepfather) and she always slept with her father and because Linda was a baby and she slept with my mother.

That morning came early and I was up and out the back door before anyone in the house was even awake yet. Out through the back gate and across the alleyway into my grandfathers back yard I went.
He was in the barn getting the feed for the horses ready. I came up behind him and asked him if I could help him he just smiled at me and handed me one of the buckets of feed.
I walked beside him watching his feet move not wanting to look up at his sad eyes. Then we fed the horses and went back to the barn.
Getting the feed for the chickens I asked him if I could help collect the eggs. All he said was “do you think you can get them without breaking any of the eggs?” I was happy for at least that moment because I knew I could do that if nothing else.
So with the reply of yes he handed me the wire pail and as he fed the chickens I went in the coop to collect all the eggs.
Once all the animals were fed we started back to the house together. Going threw the back door you could get the smell of breakfast cooking. There they were all the aunts in there cooking.
Pancakes, fried potatoes, biscuits, gravy, bacon and sausage. One of my aunts took the basket of eggs and rinsed them before she started cracking them to make scramble eggs for everyone. All my grandfather did was get a cup of coffee and he headed out to the front porch to sit in his chair.
Once everyone had gathered and ate then it was time to start getting ready for the final thing.
“The funeral.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Took me a couple days to read because I've been so busy...but it was nice. I like the detail but it made it that much more drawn out. i just want to give you some constructive criticism ... You tended to repeat much of what was already written in the passage before. It was good but I felt like I already read parts before ... ya know ... Other than that it was a great picture you painted with words.