Somethings stay in our memories as a permanent reminder that events can unfold and create new situations. Such was the case the week-end of August 24th and 25th, 1968.
The 24th was a Saturday – and as all August days tend to be – sticky hot and humid. My parents and I drove to the Galveston area to visit my Uncle JD, my dad’s older brother. Uncle JD was in the hospital in Galveston – after he had experienced another break down. He was a sweetheart whose positive attitude warmed the heart of everyone he met.
We had planned to spend the night at Uncle JD’s home in Hitchcock – which was a family ritual anytime we were in the area. My dad and Uncle JD were very close and that bond would fill many a void in their lives. When we arrived at my uncle’s home – a quiet stillness greeted us. Dad knew the location of house key- information provided by my uncle. The three of us went inside and sat down at the kitchen table. The house was spotless which always amazed me as I came from a home of border line hoarders.
Mom poured cold water for us to drink. I remember looking outside at the back yard and noted there were no shadows which meant it was noon time. We were still sipping our drinks when the sound of a car screeching and a door slammed disrupted our few moments of peace. The back door flew open and in burst Aunt Katherine. Her face was flushed in red and she angrily screamed at us demanded, ” who did we think we were – coming into her home?”
My dad explained Jay as he called his brother had given permission for us to do so. My aunt remarked, “JD was not there and we could not stay there. She was going back to Galveston to be with him and we needed to go.” Her behavior was so obnoxious it shocked us but we soon left. Mom offered to wash up but my aunt said she would do that.
As we drove to Galveston and the hospital dad asked us not to mention what had happened as it would upset Jay. We were too stunned to say much. When we arrived at the hospital Uncle JD welcomed us, hardy hugs and hand shakes all around. My uncle mentioned there was a cafeteria on site which had pretty good food. We opted to enjoy lunch with him and shared booths and tables as my cousin Mary Catherine – Uncle JD’s daughter was visiting. My surly Aunt Katherine was also present. I shared a booth with her. Following small talk she looked at my breast and said, “her grand daughter’s breast are bigger than yours.” Her crude comments were shocking and I can recall I responded as best I could as a 16 year old.
Later my Uncle JD asked where we were going to stay the night and I responded I did not know? He asked why didn’t I know? I again said I did not know? He looked over his shoulder, knew something was up and nodded. Later cousin Mary Catherine invited my parents and I to spend the night with her at her Galveston home. She knew daddy and Uncle JD wanted to spend time together and she respected that.
That afternoon we drove to her two story home near the beach and benefited from her hospitality and kindness. I stayed in the room with her two children – Marty and Sherry – small children then. They were both thrilled and excited I was there and I can remember Marty asking me to carry him and hold him. He was so cute.
Late that night – the 24th August 1968 after everyone had retired for the evening my Aunt Katherine arrived. She entered her grandchildren’s room and hugged them but her joy soon left her face once she saw me. Her bitter comments as to why I was there were rebuffed by her daughter who told her mom that was enough. My aunt piped down but I could hear her mumble under her breath, “those Beans.”
The next day we visited my Uncle again – apparently without incident. By the middle of that Sunday afternoon August 25th, 1968 we headed back to Kountze. Dad decided we needed to check on Mama – my grandmother who was in a nursing home in Nederland, TX. “It won’t be too much out of our way,” he remarked.
By dusk we arrived at the home – located on Twin City Highway. It was after visiting hours however we knew many of the nurses by name as my grandmother had been a resident for four years. When the head nurse saw us she asked my dad if she could see him in her office? My mom and I stood outside – in the dark hallway. It was a moment I will not forget as dad emerged from the nurse’s office and informed us that Grandma had died that day. Died – what a word. It meant our weekly visits on Sunday afternoon after church would never happen again. It meant the Grandma I remembered would not be a part of my life any more. Dad was dry eyed but I wept.
When we arrived in Kountze my brother was on site – cleaning his bedroom. Guests would be coming he replied. We asked why he wasn’t at work? Virgie Lack had called him and asked where we were? Pace Funeral home had tried to contact us. We were out of pocket – driving back to Kountze. Remember – this was before cell phones, text messages, modern technology we take for granted.
For the first time in my life my Grandma Bean was not on this earth as I went to sleep and faced August 26, 1968. Families arrived, food and fellowship and a funeral which saw more tears. The days were hot, sticky and sad. My Uncle JD did not attend as he was still in the hospital.
I had already told my parents of my Aunt’s continued ill behavior and remarked I did not wish to be around her again. They remarked she was not the person they knew and she must be upset about JD? At the time my personal experience with life was minimal. I now view her behavior as that of an angry, uneducated, emotionally immature woman who saw me as an easy target. These events – now 47 years in the past are as much a part of my DNA as colors which bleed into each other in the wash. Once done – there is no return. The whites and the reds are not a good combination.
The year 1968 was a very unhappy year for me. Dad lost his re-election bid for another term as Hardin Co. tax assessor. I tried out for cheerleader again and lost. The Fabs personal lives were a mess. My grandmother died. Within a few days of Grandma’s funeral school began. I felt traumatized by life and longed for a world where peace and love which so many preached truly existed.
My uncle JD did visit one more time. He and my dad went to the cemetery and shared a moment of grief at their parents’ graves. Within a month Uncle JD would pass away from a massive heart attack. I only saw Aunt Katherine one more time after his funeral – when she visited my grandparents’ now vacant home. My aunt died in 1977. My parents and brother attended her service. I did not. As far as I was concerned she had died years before. So many have. I am the only one who was present that week-end who can recall these events. My parents are gone as is my brother. Mary Catherine died last year and her son Marty in 2011.
When I think of these events and realize the importance they played in my life I have to wonder what would the world have been like if circumstances were different? Would my life have been unrecognizable? Would the year 1968 bring some memories of happiness instead of sadness? Viewing the past through the present is a waste of time – as the past is what it is. It is a reflection, an image, which fades and recedes. If we can learn valuable lessons without too many battle scars all the better? We benefit as a person, as a whole person if we can achieve that.