Monday, July 5, 2010

Fodder for the Blog

Whenever something happens lately with my grandmother, I've begun shrugging and saying, "Oh well... fodder for the blog!"  So last week, a dear lady in our community passed away at the age of 102.  Charlsie Baldridge Little was an iconic figure in our community and a tremendous role model for women everywhere. 

Widowed on Pearl Harbor Day at the age of 33, Ms. Charlsie reared two young sons alone, supporting them as a school teacher who made $100 per month!  She managed to stretch that money enough to take summer vacations and introduce her sons to culture and art... such as opera performances they attended by riding a bus some 65 miles to Little Rock. 

Mrs. Little left her sons with their grandparents for a couple of summers while she attended graduate school at Peabody (part of Vanderbilt University) in Nashville, Tennessee.  For a woman to have a master's degree in the late forties/early fifties was rare, particularly in the South... but not if you were Ms. Charlsie!

After retiring in 1973, Mrs. Little formed a local county historical society. She traveled to Little Rock to the state history commission each week to gather data and research family trees.  She also authored a book for the 100th birthday celebration of our community's First Baptist Church - Upon This Rock. Her daughter-in-law, Barbara, (who was my piano teacher), declared Ms. Charlsie to be "a force to be reckoned with" - and she was that and more. 


My mother remembers being in second grade and thinking she would take her cousin's collie dog to school with her.  She envisioned Bing lying beside her school desk, much like Lassie did in the movies.  But when she got to the front door and started inside, her principal - Ms. Charlsie - told her sternly, "Get that dog out of the school house!"  And of course, she did.  She said as a child, she was afraid of Mrs. Charlsie... and one can understand this, because Mrs. Little was so pragmatic, all-business, frank, and yes, stern!  But she was also a model of decency, propriety, and order.

I explain all of this to say that I telephoned my grandmother to see if she wanted to go with me to Ms. Charlsie's funeral.  She did not... she was going to visitation the night before with my mom, and that would suffice.  She added... "I didn't know anything about this until today."  I told her I had assumed her "network" of friends would have let her know right away.  "Well, they didn't," she retorted.  I laughed and said, "They are falling down on the job."  She answered, "Yes, you are!"  I added that I was referring to her Sunday School members, with whom she speaks almost daily.  It was lost on her.


Friday went smoothly... for the most part.  We went to the beauty shop, and I bought groceries.  She had Lysol on the list, and I bought a can of spray... she needed liquid for disinfecting the toilet.  I suggested she get some the next time she and Ruby visited Fred's.

Speaking of Fred's... when Mom took Mam-ma and Ruby to the visitation for Ms. Charlsie, they were getting in their car afterward, and Mam-ma said, "Ruby, do you know where my purse is?"  Ruby asked, "Did you leave it in my car?"  Mam-ma replied, "No, it's at Fred's."  This was Thursday evening... Mam-ma and Ruby had shopped at Fred's on Monday or Tuesday.  Apparently Mam-ma left her purse there, and the store clerks tried to use a phone number inside to contact her, but it wasn't working.  We think maybe it was my sister's old land line number.  Anyway, one of the clerks said, "I know where she lives, and I go by there on my way home.  I'll stop and tell her the purse is here."  I guess they felt that was better than taking the purse, in case Mam-ma didn't answer her door. 

So the clerk stopped and told my grandmother that her purse was at Fred's.  My mom and her husband drove by the store on their way home from the visitation and retrieved the purse.  Mom looked inside, and everything appeared to be there - including $23 in cash.  Mom chastised Mam-ma about being careful... and not carrying a lot of cash in her purse!  Everyone remarked that only in a small town such as ours could something like this happen.  In a major city, nobody would drive to a little old lady's house to let her know her purse had been left.

Mam-ma chalked it up to forgetfulness, but this was the tip of the iceberg.  On Saturday, my sister phoned my grandmother and told her she was coming for a visit.  This was around noon.  Ruby phoned afterward and asked my grandmother to go with her to the nursing home to visit friends.  Mam-ma said she could not... Suzanne was coming for a visit.  My sister stopped at my mom's house for a visit first.  She had baby Timmy with her, and they stayed a half hour or better and arrived at my grandmother's around 2:00 p.m.  The house was locked up tight, and no one would answer the doors.

Naturally, this frightened my sister.  She phoned my mom, and Mom checked with Ruby to see if perhaps Mam-ma was with her.  No, Ruby was at home alone, but this worried her.  Of course, Mom assumed the worst. So she and her husband grabbed their house key and hurried to my grandmother's.  I'm not sure if Ruby came along or not.  Anyway, Mam-ma was not dead in the floor as anticipated... she was not there.  But chicken pieces were baking in the oven... almost burned to a crisp.  Mom said they were rendered inedible.

While Mom and the crew were searching the house for my grandmother, a truck pulled up.  In it were Mam-ma and her friends from church, the Barbers.  They had been to pick plums.  Mom fussed at Mam-ma for leaving the chicken in the oven... she forgot.  She phoned my sister later and apologized for forgetting she was coming.  I don't think it has fully registered with her the gravity of forgetting in such a short period of time all that had transpired... and leaving food baking, to boot.  All she could think about was getting plums to make jelly!

At first, Mom didn't think this really bothered Mam-ma at all.  But she has now phoned my sister at least three, maybe four times to apologize... and she has phoned my mom and her husband once.  She couldn't believe she forgot.  Neither could we.  So there is a pattern developing... and it's not good.  We are all forgetful, but when cooking is involved, the stakes are greatly elevated.  I am not sure how we will deal with this, but we are probably going to have to address it at some point... particularly before "peanut brittle making season" rolls around again.

I know God takes care of these situations in ways we cannot, and I am praying He does this for us.  Ms. Charlsie lived in the nursing home for eight years.  I am not sure Mam-ma could last there 8 weeks.  She would be so miserable.  I love my grandmother dearly and don't want to lose her... but if "the day" comes when she is inside her home when we unlock the door, that will be fine by me.

1 comment:

Mr. Singh said...

Nice post. keep up