Blog Series

Blog 4: Mommy Dearest

     I spent the next few days at Grandma Hazel’s swimming in emotions. My heart was breaking for Tony. I tried to keep talking to him, to keep his mind off his paternity issues, but nothing I said helped. I was seeing a side of him that I had never seen before. Especially when it came to Aunt Claudia. He’d always been such a momma’s boy. Would fight if anyone even thought of saying ‘yo momma.’ Now he’s the one scheming to bring her down. It didn’t make sense.
     “Doll, you in there?” Grandma Hazel called from the other side of the bathroom     door. Of course, I was the one in the bathroom. No one else was occupying this huge house besides the two of us.
     “Yes ma’am. You need me?” I kept my eyes closed praying the answer was no. I’d just ran a hot tub of water and planned to sit in it until it turned ice cold. My body was tired but sleep refused to visit me in this house. I don’t know if it’s the Pepto Bismol colored walls or the pink canopy bed, but something wouldn’t allow me to rest.
     “I need you to take me for a run when you get dressed,” Grandma Hazel instructed.
     I dismissed the thoughts of a relaxing bath. I washed up, got dressed, and prayed this outing wouldn’t take long, but knowing Grandma Hazel it was going to take most of the day.
     “Where are we going?” I stood next to Grandma Hazel while she locked the front door.
     “We’re going to the hospital.” She closed the screen door and passed by me.
     “To the hospital? Who’s in the hospital?” I assisted her down the steps and to the car.
     “Betty Jean. You remember Betty Jean Watkins?” Grandma settled in the passenger seat.
     “Of course.”
     “If you didn’t remember her, I knew you’d remember her grandson, Robert.” Grandma Hazel hit my leg and smiled.
     Heat flushed to my face. Robert Watkins was my first. Not my first love, but my first lover if that’s possible. Could you have a lover without the love? Well, he was my first sexual experience. He was my partner in crime in the woods. The woods across the street from Grandma Hazel’s house. The woods that could tell all my secrets if it could talk. Thank God, the woods can’t talk.
     “I knew that name would jog your memory. You used to be so crazy about that lil red freckled faced boy. He’s the only reason you were always so ready for church on Sunday mornings.” Grandma Hazel laughed. “He’s a big-time doctor in California now. You should call him. He’s not married.”
     I wasn’t crazy about Robert. I was crazy about the attention he gave me.
     “What’s wrong with Ms. Betty?”
     I blew the horn and waved at Mr. Jim who was sitting out in his front yard with his newspaper. Mr. Jim lived next door but not right next door. There was a field of empty land between the two houses. It used to be Mr. Jim’s farm many years ago. I remembered the hours we’d spend picking peas, beans, and corn. I hated that garden with a passion, but I loved the meals.
     “What’s wrong with her? She’s old child. Everything’s wrong with her.” Grandma Hazel laughed.
     I was about to point out that Ms. Betty and Grandma Hazel were the same age, but I figured I’d keep that comment to myself.
     I put Grandma Hazel’s handicapped sign on my rearview mirror and parked right in front of the hospital. I listened as Grandma Hazel chatted about nothing in particular. When we approached the hospital doors something hit me out of nowhere. I was fine until those glass doors slid opened and then I froze. I literally froze. My feet wouldn’t take another step.
     “What’s the matter?” Grandma Hazel looked up at me.
     “I…I…” I couldn’t speak. I hadn’t stepped foot in that hospital since the night my daddy was killed. Everything came rushing back to me. I felt sick. I tried not to give in to it, but I couldn’t stop the images from coming. It was like a movie playing on repeat. I could hear the doctors shouting orders to nurses and other doctors. I saw my daddy laying on the gurney being rushed through the hallway leaving a trail of blood behind. What smelled of disinfectant no longer reminded me of cleanliness. Now it reminded me of death.
     I mindlessly followed Grandma Hazel to the elevators. The very elevator that escorted my dad’s nearly lifeless body up to surgery. A surgery that never happened because by the time they reached the operating room he was gone. I refused to take another step. The elevator doors opened and closed and I just stood there staring, reliving that painful day. Grandma Hazel must’ve understood because she pushed the button and we waited until elevator doors opened once again.
     Grandma Hazel followed the nurse’s directions and led us straight to  Ms. Betty’s room. She was lying in bed with her eyes closed. Just like Grandma Hazel, age had taken over Ms. Betty’s body. Every wrinkle, every age spot, and every grey strand of hair showed a woman who’d walked this earth long enough to earn every geriatric badge that she had.
     “Hey Betty.” Grandma Hazel stood at her bed and touched her hand.
     I leaned against the wall and out of their way.
     Ms. Betty slowly opened her eyes. “Hazel,” Ms. Betty’s voice was soft and raspy, but very welcoming of Grandma. “How you doing Hazel?”
     “A lot better than you,” Grandma Hazel teased.
     Ms. Betty smacked her lips. “Ain’t nothing wrong with me. I told those people I just need a little Castor Oil and I’ll be fine.”
     My face tightened and my jaws tingled at the mention of that nasty stuff Grandma Hazel used to shove down my throat whenever I wasn’t feeling well.
     “You better listen to these doctors, Betty or else I’m coming to stay and you know you don’t want that,” Grandma Hazel warned.
     “Oh hush, Hazel. I ain’t doing nothing to these people.”
     “Well good.” Grandma Hazel fussed with Ms. Betty’s covers. Those two fought like sisters and they loved each other just as hard.
     The room was quiet for a second.
     “Hazel, who’s that you got with you?” Ms. Betty lifted her hand in my direction.
     Grandma Hazel smiled. “That’s my grandbaby. You remember Nadia, don’t you? Rachel’s girl.”
     “Yeah.” Ms. Betty gave a slight nod. “Come on over here chile let me look at you. I don’t think I’ve seen you in quite some time.”
     As Grandma Hazel sat next to Ms. Betty’s bed, I couldn’t help but notice Ms. Betty assessing me from head to midsection, that’s all she could see lying down.
     “You just as pretty as your Mama.”
     I forced a smile. Being compared to Rachel gave me nothing to smile about. My relationship with my mother ended the day she testified at John’s trial. I know the Bible says to forgive, but damn the dirt was still fresh on my dad’s grave, and she had already forgiven his murderer. At that point, I knew she and I no longer had anything to talk about. I moved out of her house and in with Grandma Hazel until I graduated and moved to Baton Rouge for college. The day after I graduated from Southern University with my degree in criminal justice, I moved to Atlanta with my college roommate. Building a life in Atlanta was necessary for my sanity, but some things stay with you no matter how far and fast you try to escape them. Rachel’s betrayal was that thing for me.
     “How is Rachel? I haven’t seen her a long time.” Ms. Betty pressed the button on her bed and raised herself up. She looked at me for an answer that I couldn’t provide.
     “She’s doing well. She lives in Texas now,” Grandma Hazel answered.
     “Texas? Is that where she run off to? I didn’t think she’d stay around here, not after…”
     “Betty, don’t you want something to drink?” Grandma Hazel asked quickly.
     Grandma Hazel’s interruption piqued my curiosity.
     “Not after what?” I asked Ms. Betty.
     “Huh?” Ms. Betty narrowed her eyes on me.
     “You were saying you knew Rachel wouldn’t stay after.” I reminded her.
     Grandma Hazel stood. “Betty you look tired. We’re gonna get out of here so you can get your rest and build your strength up.”
     My patience was growing thin with Grandma Hazel. Ms. Betty knew something that  Grandma Hazel didn’t want me to hear. She’d never tried to hide things from me before. Even as a little girl I knew way too much grown up gossip. From the preacher sleeping with most of the women in the congregation to the chief of police who was more crooked than the felons he’d arrested.
     Grandma Hazel and her Wednesday night home Bible Study always turned into a gossiping session and I was always close by to take it all in. I never told anyone though. I knew the consequences of talking outside Grandma Hazel’s house. I learned that lesson the hard way when I told Sister Mary what Grandma Hazel said about her nasty potato salad after church one Sunday. That was the first and only time Grandma Hazel ever tore my legs up with a switch from her fig tree. I was six or seven then. How was I supposed to know that was a secret? I thought Sister Mary knew her potato salad was nasty.
     “I’m so happy you came to see me Hazel. Tell everyone at the church I’ll be back soon.” She smiled as she lowered her headrest.
     “I’ll tell them.” Grandma Hazel held Ms. Betty’s hand and gave it a couple pats before we left.
     “What’s going on?” I asked Grandma Hazel as soon as we were in the elevator. “Ms. Betty was about to say something about Rachel, and you stopped her. Why?”
     Grandma Hazel took a deep breath. “I stopped her because I wanted to tell you myself.”
     “Tell me what?”
     The elevator door opened at the wrong time. We stepped off, but I refused to make another move until she told me what was going on.
     “Tell me what?” I asked again.
     Grandma Hazel was slow to speak.
     “Doll, your mother got married.”
     I tried to pretend that news didn’t bother me. After all, she could do whatever she wanted to do.
     “When?” Curiosity wouldn’t allow me to pretend I didn’t care.
     “Just a few months ago.”
     “Oh.” I looked down at my feet. “That’s nice.”
     “She wanted to talk to you about it herself, but you wouldn’t answer any of her calls.”
     I lifted my head and stared into my grandmother’s tired eyes. “I don’t know how to forgive her for betraying my father.”
     “Your mother didn’t kill your father. You’re gonna have to find a way to let go of that, but I don’t know how you’re going to handle what else I have to tell you.”
     Grandma Hazel took me by the hand and led me to the waiting room across the hall. I knew the moment she made me sit down that what she was about to say was going to rip me apart. I prayed I was wrong…. Unfortunately, I wasn’t.

3 thoughts on “Blog 4: Mommy Dearest”

  1. You are killing me with the suspense but I’m loving every single moment of it. Count down to next Tuesday has already begun for me!!! You are awesome! Thanks for sharing your gift.


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