Until today, Grandma Miller has never mentioned Grandma Taylor in casual conversation with me. She has kept quiet, about the other side of the family, pretending not to know very much about Esther “Meme” Taylor. Mom and Dad were divorced 30 years ago. Perhaps grandma Miller remains bitter at my father, for how he treated Mom. The drinking. The other women. The abuse. Some things are best left unspoken, and that is how Grandma Miller handled the family matter of my parents unfortunate separation. She hardly even talks about my Dad. It surprised me when she shared rumors of my other grandmother with me.
It should not surprise me that Maw Maw Miller has waited all these years to spread gossip about the Taylor’s of Stone Creek Ridge; the family from which another half of me originates, the ones that were left behind soon after Mom got full custody of my two brothers and me and whisked us away from that possessed mountain and the wealthy farming family that came with it.
Meme Taylor is dead now. Has been for almost twenty years. Perhaps as both grandma Miller and me enter our golden years, now is the time to share what we know about the past. The truth. Information that leads to great novels.
It makes our old age worth laughing about together, in the least. Grandma and me are both alone now. Shawn and Pap Pap died just days apart. I remember confusion during my time of mourning. Who was I crying for? My lover or my grandfather? I missed them both terribly and they both went out horrendously. I said prayers over the death beds of both of these men during my time of psychosis. Is it any wonder I lost my mind. So much pain. So much sadness. All I knew was prayer. At least I didn’t speak in tongues when I prayed over Pap Pap, like I had over Shawn when his body convulsed in the emergency room.
Grandma Miller pulled me through that dark time. The depression. The haunting feeling of endlessness to the bitterness that dwelled within the very core of my sole. The aching for it to be over. The question as to why am I still alive if it must hurt so much. Pain. Sadness. Pure despair. Grandma got her wish after I said that prayer. I asked her in the hospital room if she wanted to say a prayer for Pap Pap. Doctors gave him just days to live– perhaps hours.
“What would you like to pray for?” I asked.
“I want God to let me have him for our fiftieth wedding anniversary next month. Then he can take him. I want that– just a little more time with him.
That’s what we prayed for and it was answered. Pap Pap took a surprising turn for the better. They released him. Sent him home for the anniversary which I missed because I was locked away in a psychiatric ward in Elizabeth, NJ. Just thinking I was a prophet and a man of God. That’s all.
“I’ve been through that too, Charlie. It’s the change of life. I had to see a doctor too. I needed those pills. But you are going to make it and it gets better.”
“How long will it be before I feel alive again?”
“A long, long time. But hang in there— It’s the change of life you are going through.
She is so simple in her explanations. So many big words are deleted and replaced with the simple truth terminology. No medical terminologies like ‘schizophrenia’ are used when she explains the ‘gift of the touched’ from the Amish in our Miller/ Kauffman genes. Thank God she was there to talk to me about it. Nobody else was. The truth was almost forbidden– what a shame to have a mental illness, despite its biological nature. Grandma pulled me through it. She knew that the prayer pulled something from out of me. It set something off in me, a Kundalini awakening, perhaps.
Grandma Miller shares everything with me now. She’s not afraid of nothing it seems, ever since we said that prayer while holding hands. More like a best friend than a grandmother, she hides nothing from me.
Dad will never confess everything to me about his mom. He loves Grandma Taylor too much. Her bright red hair was not devilish at all. Her freckled-face was like that of an angel. She is the lady that raised me on the Taylor farm. I didn’t see grandma Miller as often. Meme Taylor lived right next door in a pink mobile home under the refreshing canopy of her apple orchard. Had my first hit of hard cider before I could spell Charles. She gave me coffee too– always the grown up stuff.
I could only imagine what my grandmother was really like in her youth and was eager to hear what my other grandmother had to say about her. Dad is so over protective of his mom. I never remember seeing Meme Taylor with another man. She always spoke highly of my dead grandfather, George– never a mean thing to say about him. If she had boyfriends, I certainly do not remember them. She seemed to love George the most. Dad never told me much about the other men she married, including a Staub, whose name she took over that of Taylor after George had died.
I still miss Meme terribly. In all honesty, I almost do not want to hear ‘bad’ things about her, especially from my other grandmother. Meme’s not here to defend herself or to tell her side of the story. Maw Maw should have kept quiet, but like any prophetess attempting to pass the gift of life that comes after “going through the change of life”, she spit the truth at me today as if I were a priest in a confession booth. She bawled out the truth about Meme today. Whether I was ready to hear it or not– here it came, the vicious gossip about my beloved, departed red headed grandmother…
Pap Pap Miller was always at the American Legion in Petersburg. He liked his beer, according to Maw Maw, who absolutely hates such dance places where people drink. Maw Maw never drinks. She hates it, even though Pap Pap liked his beer. Maw Maw claims to have never ingested any alcoholic beverage in her life, despite the track record of her husband.
Me Me Taylor went square dancing (and drinking) at the same American Legion in Petersburg where Pap Pap Miller went most evenings. Maw Maw was there making sure Pap Pap was just drinking and not chasing the girls. That’s where she saw my other grandmother. In a wig. Lots of make-up. She knew how to make herself look ‘real young’, according to Maw Maw.
“Men much younger, much younger, Charlie. She was pretty old, you know. She met that guy Jim– I don’t know if you ever knew him. I can’t remember his last name now. He may have been dead before you were born. Anyway. Me Me took him home with her. He didn’t know she was wearing a wig. Everybody at the bar was talking about it.”
“She should have done it before taking off her wig,” I laughed.
Grandma Miller either didn’t get it or she didn’t laugh because she didn’t think it was funny.
“Always the rich men. There were two brothers. One of them died when he was with her. Fell right over in a chair, I hear. Then she ran off with his brother and went with him for a while. I’ve always liked Esther, though. She was a hard worker up on that farm. In a way, I admire her.”
“Well, I guess that’s where I get it from,” I said, in defense of my dead grandmother.
“Must be,” Mal Mal insisted. “Love ya. Gotta go!”