My shoulders were slightly burning where my Grandda had whipped me, and they were beginning to itch where the welts were beginning to heal. No medication had been applied to them and they still felt a little raw. Fortunately, I had always healed well from falls and whippings that my Da had inflicted on me. If anyone had seen my back they would have seen the cross-hatching of old scars. In fact, they are there, very faintly, to this very day, fifty or so years later.
Smelling breakfast on the table, I reached over and gently shook Lester awake. He stretched and smiled, looking up at me, with a "Good morning, Zebbie! That was a good sleep."
Then, remembering where we were, he hurriedly got up and got dressed, the smile disappearing from his face. Our Grandma had certainly done a job on him. We hurried and used the bathroom, then washing our hands, we hastened into the kitchen.
I once again commented on how good the meal smelled, and said good morning to everyone. We all were seated and bowed our heads while Grandda recited the ritualistic words he said before each meal. Then breakfast proceeded without very much conversation. I ate without inhibition; I knew the day probably held a lot of work for us and realizing the capricious nature of my Grandma, I knew I might miss a meal or two due to my unforeseen possible 'bad behavior'.
Then I saw Grandma clutching at her stomach, and turning white. I jumped up and ran to her.
"What's wrong, Grandma? Are you hurting? Can I get something for you? Grandda, do we need to call a doctor?"
"Go sit down, boy! I'm all right, just a touch of indigestion. I get them once in a while. It'll pass soon."
She shrugged my hand from her shoulder, and sat up, still looking like she might pass out, but the color was slowly beginning to return to her ashen face. She looked at Grandda, and he got up and came around to her, helping her up.
"I'm going to take her to the bedroom, so's she can rest awhile. You kids clean up the kitchen and put everything where it goes. She'll be right as rain after while; she always is."
So, it seems she had these attacks of indigestion every once in awhile. I wondered how often they occurred, and how long she would be unable to do her housework. Would we be expected to do everything, like washing the clothes, while she was ill? I wondered what was really wrong with her.
I helped clear the table, and then Rosie put me to drying dishes. I began complaining, "This is women's work. I'm not supposed to do this kind of stuff!" Then I remembered that Ma would want me to help my sister; after all, this was not what she wanted to be doing right now, either.
Grandda returned to the kitchen and sat down to have another cup of coffee. I went over and sat down beside him; looking up into his weathered face, I asked softly, "Grandda, what is really wrong with Grandma? Do you know?"
"Nah, she don't tell me anything. Just says it'll pass, and that I should mind my own business." He looked at me, as if weighing how much to say, then continued. "I'm kinda worried about her, cause she is havin' 'em more often now. I ain't got no idee what it could be, except it's inside her somewhere. They ain't nothin' I can do about it, cause she won't go to the doctor with it. She'd have my head if I called him out here. I reckon we'll jist have to wait and see. She'll be up later today. In the meantime, you and I have got work outside to do."
Apparently, my Grandda didn't have anybody that he could talk to, so he just naturally turned to me, another male in the household, because I had shown interest in what he had to say. Maybe, we could eventually be friends and I could get the help I needed for me and my siblings to get back home. I could hope, anyway. I was truly interesting in him and wanted to be his friend. I wanted the chance to show him what a true Christian was. I wanted to lead him to Jesus. I burned inside with the desire to do so.
I grabbed my coat from the hook near the door. Turning to Rosie, I said, "Sorry, Rosie, but Grandda needs me outside. You might check on Grandma after while."
"Ha! I'm not checking on the old battle-axe! You can't tell me what to do, anyway! She can lay in there and die, for all I care!" She hurled the words back at me in an angry whisper. Les and Marie looked at her in astonishment, then looked at one another, seemingly fearful for her safety. They put their fingers over their lips, as if to warn Rosie that Grandma could hear everything. Nobody was safe from Grandma's wrath when it was stirred up.
I went outside to the sound of dishes clashing in the dishpan, as Rosie washed them. I hoped she didn't break any.
(To be continued)