"Marie, where was she sitting when you saw her that night?"
"She was in the living room, in that rocking chair in the corner, with only the light on the end table turned on. She looked like she was crying, though. Then she heard the board make a noise where I was walking through the hallway. See, I got up to use the bathroom so I wouldn't wet the bed again. She put down the glass she was holding, and told me to come over to her."
" 'What are you doing up?' she asked me. And I told her that I needed to pee. Then I asked her what she was drinking, and she said 'Medicine' and that it would be our little secret, but if I told, she would throw me in the cellar again. So, I thought maybe Grandda doesn't know it. But it sure did smell bad, so I thought it must be medicine. There was a big square bottle of it on the end table next to the lamp. It only had a little left in it."
When she said 'big square bottle', revelation came at once to my mind. It was an alcoholic drink called "Johnny Walker Scotch". I had seen it in the pub where I did the numbers running several months earlier. My grandma was sitting there at night drinking scotch! But why? And why was she crying? I couldn't believe she had a tear in her for anyone. More questions I needed answers for...
By now the food was getting warm on the stove and we set the table together, the four of us, while we waited to see what was going to take place when the doctor got here. Pretty soon, I went to the bedroom door and told Grandda the meal was ready to eat and asked did he want some.
"No, boy... I'll stay here with Martha till the doc comes. She's hurting something fierce."
"Oh, Shane, go eat somethin', I ain't gonna die right this minute. In fact, I might jist get up myself. It's pure foolishness to lay around in bed in the middle of the day. I'll just...ohhh...rest awhile longer. You go eat.. I'll be okay after while."
Grandda cast a worried look at her, then not wanting to aggravate her by hanging around her bed, he got up from the cane-bottomed chair beside her bed and came into the kitchen with me.
"What do you think is wrong with her, Grandda?" I asked.
"I don't know, boy! I don't know. Maybe Doc can tell us when he gets through looking at her. She's never took to her bed before, even when she had our kids. She was never in bed with them more than a day. She's a strong-willed woman. Now let's pray and eat."
Bowing his head and saying the perfunctory prayer, he said, "Amen", then began eating.
I continued to bow my head and asked God to help my Grandma feel better. Then I began to take out portions of food onto my plate. Grandda just lay down his fork and looked at me, in wonder. I said nothing in response to his amazement, but continued on.
If I couldn't convince him of his need for Jesus, I could at least set the example for him.
My siblings also looked at me like I had two heads; praying for the "dragon grandma" to feel better? What was wrong with me, they wondered.
After we finished our dinner (In the south, mid-day meals are called dinner), we cleared off the table and soon heard a knock on the door. It was the Doc, no doubt. Back then, you know, doctors made house calls, especially in little southern towns.
Grandda went to let him in and said, "Thanks for coming, Doc. She's in here in the bedroom."
They went in and shut the door. I decided we needed to look for that bottle, so we began a very quiet search of the living room, looking in every nook and cranny. It was hidden in the little end table near her rocking chair. It was a hexagonal shaped table with a door in one of the sides. I pulled it out and held it up to the light of the window. Yep! Just like I thought. Our dear Grandma was a drinker of Scotch alcohol. It had a glass sitting next to the bottle. Marie picked it up and smelled it, then nodded her head. That was the smell.
Pretty soon the door to the bedroom opened and they came out. Grandda had a strange look on his face. I couldn't quite decipher it. I heard him whisper, "Cirrhosis of the liver??? How?" Then he asked the Doc a question. "Is she gonna get better, Doc?"
The doctor just patted him on the back and said, "I'm sorry, Shane, it's too late. She might have a few weeks left. You just need to keep her as comfortable as you can. I'm leaving some pain medication for her. It's strange, the way she has this condition; it's usually related to people who drink alcohol to an excess, but I know you all are not drinkers." He lifted his eyebrows as he looked at Grandda.
Grandda shook his head, "No" and my siblings and I looked at one another. Either he didn't know or was pretending not to know. I couldn't be sure of which it was.
The Doctor handed him a prescription and a box of medicine and left.
"Grandda," I said, "We need to tell you something."
"Not now, boy, not now." He went back into the bedroom.
(To be continued)