Bill Cosby once said, “My children love my mother and I tell my children, “That is NOT the same woman I grew up with, that is an old woman trying to get into heaven now.”
I remember my great grandmother as a soft spoken lady who always ate the strawberry portion of the Neapolitan ice cream that was kept in the freezer for when the kids in family came to visit. I also knew that my mom had described her grandmother as being formidable with a no nonsense tone that was similar to Maleficent the villain in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. It wasn’t until after she passed that I realized that the person I remembered and the intimidating relative my mother had told me about were actually the same person. At some point before I was born she had two heart attacks which mellowed her a lit. Who knew?
That is a picture of my paternal grandparents headstone, I never got to meet either one of them. My dad is the youngest of three boys (I believe there had been a baby girl before my oldest uncle but she was stillborn). I suppose you could say that my father was an ‘oops’. My grandmother Eileen was diabetic and after her second boy, my uncle David, was born she was strongly advised against getting pregnant again due to the impact it could have on her health. I’ve heard rumors that what led to my father’s inception was a birthday present of sorts to my grandfather. When she turned up pregnant again my grandmother’s response was to walk up to my grandfather call him a bastard and slap him across the face so I’m not sure how true the birthday present rumor is. On a side note my grandmother’s reaction has become something of a tradition at least for my folks, I know for sure that was how mom told that she was pregnant with me and I think that maybe how he found out about my younger sisters impending entrance to this world as well.
The doctors were right, the last pregnancy did not do her health any favors, she died with my dad was 10 years old. I am sorry that my sister and I and my cousin never got to know her but at the same time if she had followed medical advice neither me or my sister would be here. From her life I have learned that love is sacrifice and that sacrifice isn’t always bad.
I can’t help thinking that the children in the photograph have been newly orphaned and the adult a distant relative with very little idea of how to take care of children who has suddenly found himself their guardian. I can’t be sure what year the photo was taken in having the general look of the building and the style of their clothing to go by,obviously the man has a housekeeper or at the very least a motherly neighbor to make sure the children are clean and well dressed. Perhaps it is Easter Sunday but if it is the photo has got to be one of the most somber Easter pictures I have ever seen.
I almost wondered of the man in the picture was my grandfather standing with my father but my dad grew up with older brothers, the only girl born to my Kestner grandparents was stillborn, I’m not even sure she had a name, the last version of our family tree I saw she was called only Baby Girl Kestner. I didn’t realize that I might have had an Aunt if fate hadn’t seen fit to intervene until a few years ago. Since finding that out however I have mourned her absence from my life. Maybe it was for the best though, I think my grandfather would have been at loss over how to raise a girl in a houseful of boys without my grandmother who died when my dad was ten years old. I have some my uncles stories about my grandma Eileen and a few from my dad, but would have nice to have a girl who remembered her at least a little bit.
My great grandpa Prophet died when I was 13 so my grandmother (his eldest child) and my great aunt (his youngest child) drove with all of us kids to Arkansas for the funeral. When we got there about seven hours later I was the only one of the kids awake and the first thing I remember after getting into the house was one of my adult cousins asking me if the kids were actually going to be at the funeral, to which my answer was of course yes. I should mention that the great-grandmother I knew growing up was actually my great grandfather’s second wife, she had on adult daughter from a previous marriage when she met my grandfather. Apparently Gail was terribly jealous of his blood related kin. I was told this on the drive there but was not prepared for the extent of the truth. For one Gail proceeded to chastise my grandmother for bringing us to the funeral even though the youngest of us was eight so it wasn’t like we would unknowingly disrupt the proceedings. Gail spent the few days before the funeral tidying up invisible dirt in any room any of us were in as though we were dirty and soiling her mother’s house. This stuff began to get on everyone’s nerves. As if that were not enough she added insult to injury on the day of the funeral when we were getting dressed for the services she took one look at my aunt’s beautiful turquoise dress that she had brought to wear and made a snide remark about its appropriateness presumably because of the color. My aunt doesn’t wear dresses and her father’s only request of her was that she wear a dress to his funeral, He was never a fan of the color black at funerals so the color choice was completely up to her. Gail’s comment had my aunt about spit nails and unfortunately for Gail my cousin Bobby walked in the room just in time to hear it. That was the beginning of the end. That evening, after the funeral after most of the house was asleep I woke up to see a person who might have been my cousin outside of the bedroom which I and the rest of the girls (my sister and my cousin Autumn) unfortunately shared with Gail. Also outside were shadowy figures which might’ve been my mother’s brothers and my great uncle Charlie. I was closest to the window but because of my disability wasn’t able to open it and so my cousin Autumn might have done it instead of me. The person who looked vaguely like my cousin appeared to climb in the window and opened Gail’s suitcase which held all of her wigs and was unwisely in plain sight. What happened after that? Well, let’s just say that sometimes a suitcase might inexplicably become a man-made lake overnight. There was much shrieking the next morning and watching grandma and aunt Mary try for disproving faces was very funny. I am somewhat ashamed to admit that as far as the “official record” goes the blame lies with my great-grandmothers very house broke miniature poodle, to whom I for one apologized profusely to until we left for home.
this story while true has been edited in deference to a readers time. If I were to catalog all of the horrible treatment it would certainly qualify as the longest post I’ve ever written and quite probably the longest post anybody has read.
The woman in this photograph is my great-grandmother Betty Prophet. I suppose I should be completely accurate and say she is my step great-grandmother because she was my great-grandfather’s second wife but that is something I forget most of the time because his first wife died when my mother was still little, therefore she is the only great-grandmother I ever knew. I did not know until last week that my grandmother’s first husband and my grandfather were ever on speaking terms, but apparently at some point they were,in one of their conversations they were discussing World War II, which they had both served in a slightly different points. Grandma’s first husband had been a pilot and was telling my grandfather how he had been shot down and had to repair the plane by himself with only the verbal help of a man in the United States who worked in the factory where the planes were manufactured and sent back to for repair when they got damaged Before Sam could explain what had gone wrong with the plane, and what the mechanic had told him in order to fix it so he could get home my grandfather finished the story. Lo and behold, before my grandfather’s draft number came up he had worked in the factory that produced the plane Sam flew and was the very same mechanic who walked in the third of the repairs of his plane and made it possible for him to return safely run behind enemy lines and eventually return home. No one was more shocked them those two men The world works in mysterious ways and in this story lies one of its proofs