Grandma’s Hell on Earth After Tea

I have two simultaneous visions of my Grandma Jolly.  The first is the stern, proud woman of “The Tea Ritual” that I previously spoke about.  She was the child of a French woman and an American Indian man.  After living with her Indian husband long enough to find out what a difficult life that was, great-grandma returned to her family only to be accepted back minus the pappoose.  Grandma Bonnie May was given to a family who lovingly took her in and moved to Texas.  When grandma was about 12, her biological mother claimed her back, tearing her from the only family she had ever known, returning with her back east to essentially be Cinderella to her “mom” and step sisters.  Her Indianess was something to be kept a family secret for quite sometime.

She eventually came to marry my grandpa Burt Jolly, a harsh pioneer Englishman who eventually settled one final time and that was here in Southern Illinois where he became the mayor of the tiny village of Desoto.   Grandpa died before I was born and grandma lived alone after that until the late 50’s when she suffered a stroke and came to live with us in Carbondale.  Just when I thought I would get my own bedroom and wouldn’t have to sleep on the daybed in the living room grandma was moved into my oldest sister’s bedroom.  “Sis” had gotten in trouble and got married and left home in a relieved rush.

After a while mom got tired of trying to prevent grandma from running away from home.  Grandma would take off walking for DeSoto and we’d have to take the fish truck and find her.  She almost slapped mom one time for trying to force her inside.  After lot’s of yelling back and forth between mom and dad they took her to the first of the nightmare nursing homes.  That produced the second, more chilling vision of her.

Grandma soon had another stroke and was left to lie in bed for the next 4 or 5 long exhausting years before she mercifully died.  The once proud and proper woman laid in her own urine and feces developing bed-sores that left me vomiting the first time I saw them.  She wasn’t comatose, but she no longer cared to speak much.  Every Sunday for years we had to go see her lying there listlessly on her back, those watery blue icy eyes looking right into and on through you.  I felt like I was  personally responsible for not rescuing her from that hell.  The memory of her in her starched and neatly pressed dress with the white lace collar and cuffs, serving me hot tea out of her fluted tea-pot was a painful blessing.

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