March, 2011



Written for and read at Shiloh United Methodist, oldest church in Forsyth County Georgia

Theme: What My Bible Means to Me

When I was six years old, my mother and father gave me a special Christmas gift. That Christmas morning when all the gifts were opened, my mother handed me the last gift under the tree.

“Diane, this is for you. It’s not from Santa. It’s from your father and me.”

My two sisters quickly took notice. Mama defended her statement, “Diane is six years old now; she can read as well as anybody. Patricia, you got your special gift two years ago – remember? And in two years, Barbara, you’ll get your special gift. This year is for Diane.”

All eyes were on me. I removed the red ribbon and white tissue paper. What was it? Of course, it had to be a book, but what kind of book? What made it so special? For the life of me, I could not remember what Patricia’s special gift was two years ago. I took a deep breath and carefully opened the box. Inside the box was a black leather bible. To tell the truth, I was a bit disappointed. I mustered up a weak smile and thanked my parents. I tried, but could not hide my disappointment.

My father sat on the living-room hardwood floor next to me, and took my bible into his own hands, “Let’s see that,” he said as he admired it, “that’s real leather, and look here, there’s your name in gold letters. This isn’t a toy you know, it’s the real thing. You’re a big girl now. You can read. Keep this by your bed and read it – even if it’s just one verse a day. You can learn all about Jesus in the New Testament, look here,” he said as he flipped through the pages. “You know Jesus was a carpenter, an honorable profession,” he said as he smiled.

“Diane, your father is a carpenter too,” added Mama.

“I know.”

Sisters at Easter

Daddy handed the bible back to me and gave me a hug as he winked at Mama. I took the opportunity to leave the room and stash that bible away in my bedroom. I wanted to get back to my new toys. It was a few years later before I read any verses at all from that bible. But, I did take it to church on Sundays, so I could get a gold star by my name.

About a year later, I became sick with scarlet fever and then rheumatic fever. I was examined by many doctors. One day I noticed Mama packing a suitcase with my pajamas, house shoes and robe. Biting back her tears, she reached for my bible and said, “Let’s don’t forget this; I want you to read it – that is if you feel like it. Anyway, always keep it near.” She went on talking as she packed, “I know it seems like a lot of words – it’s a big book for a seven year old girl, that’s okay; don’t worry about it. Just read the red words. They’re the most important ones.”

I knew something was really wrong when Daddy came home in the middle of the day. When Mama saw him she left the room. I heard her whisper, “You tell her.”

Daddy could hardly look at me, but forced a smile and cheerful voice, “We’re gonna take you to Atlanta to see another doctor. He wants to run some tests – so – you may need to stay in the hospital for a few days. You’ll be home before you know it.”

Daddy hugged me, picked me up, and put me in the car. I stayed at the hospital for two long weeks. I shared a big room with lots of sick children. It was called a children’s ward – sick children for as far as the eye could see. I wanted to go home. I wanted to play with my sisters, Patricia and Barbara. Mama came to see me every morning and left late in the afternoon.

One evening, a night shift nurse came over to check on me. She noticed my bible on the night-table and could not take her eyes off it. She left and came back frequently to admire it. “What a treasure!” she said.

“Do you want to read it?” I finally asked.Red Words of Jesus

“Oh, Diane, I see it has your name on it!”

“Of course it does. It’s mine. My parents gave it to me.”

“It sure does have your name on it! And just do look at the fine tissue paper pages! I know you are proud of this! How much of it have you read?”

“Not much,” I really did not want to admit even to a stranger, that I had not read one word of it. “Do you want to read it?”

“Oh no, I couldn’t, I mean – I really wish I could…”

“You can.”

“Really?”

“Sure you can read it all you want, just make sure you have it back before Mama gets here. She’ll be here early in the morning.”

“You don’t mind? Oh, Diane, one day I’ll have a fine bible like this one.”

“Why don’t you have one now? I thought all grown-ups had a bible.”

“Well, I’m still in nursing school and work the night shift so I can support my family…”

“Oh. Well, that’s okay; you can read my bible all night if you want. That is, when you’re not working.”

She ran her hand across my bible as though it was pure gold. She could not take her eyes off it. “I’ll have it back before the sun comes up. You can go to sleep and be assured I will return your bible, and maybe a special gift for letting me borrow it.”

“You don’t have to do that, just make sure it’s back before Mama gets here, or I’ll be in trouble.”

And she did borrow it often; and she always returned it. And each time I awoke to a piece of gum or a pink flower made of tissue paper and a pipe cleaner – on my bible. Every night she told me how lucky I was to own such a treasure. She cherished her reading time, and thanked me over and over.

Finally my stay at the hospital came to an end. I went home, but everything was different. I no longer shared a room with my sisters. I had my own room. I could not play, could not watch television, nor could I walk. I was on strict bed-rest. My parents assured me it was for a short while, but a short while turned into almost a year.

To entertain me, Mama read all kinds of books to me. She read so much, she frequently lost her voice. My father spoke to Miss Cookie Thomas while he was in downtown Tucker one day. When she asked about “Helen,” Daddy told her how Mama was losing her voice from reading to me. She called Mama on the phone and volunteered to do the reading.

Miss Cookie Thomas brought in a big bag full of children’s books. She opened it and said, “You pick it!” We had great fun together. She loved to read and I loved to listen. One day I was a bit blue, “What’s wrong? Not feeling well today?”

“I tired of being sick – I’m tired of being cooped up in this room. I want out of here.”

Miss Cookie Thomas thought for a moment and then said to me, “Did you ever hear about a man who healed sick people?”

Miss Cookie Thomas had my attention. “He could not tolerate sick children. It broke His heart to see a sick child. Everywhere He went, He touched people and in that instant, they were healed. There are lots of stories about Him.”

I looked in her big bag, “You won’t find Him in my bag, but you will find Him in here,” she said as she reached for my bible. She flipped through the pages and said, “Let’s try this one.”

I nodded in anticipation.

Diane's 12th Birthday

Miss Cookie Thomas read from the Book of Mark. Jesus, the Healer was approached in a village by Jarius, a father in distress. His twelve year old daughter needed help. The father of the girl was told to not bother the healing man, because his daughter was already dead. The Healer told the father of the girl, “Be not afraid; only believe.” Then the Healer went into the little girl’s house as the crowd laughed at Him. Jesus paid no attention to the mockers. He focused on the sick child as he held her hand, and said, “Talitha cumi!” which meant – “Little girl arise and live.” And she arose and walked. Everyone was astonished.

“What’d He say? Talli…?”

Miss Cookie Thomas said it again, “He said, ‘Talitha cumi!’” She wrote the strange sounding words on a piece of paper in red crayon. “Diane, any time you feel sad or tired of this bed, look at these words, remember them, you’ll feel better.”

After almost a year of bed-rest, I was allowed to walk again, and eventually returned to school. But soon thereafter, I relapsed and spent many more months in bed. I recovered once again, only to relapse again.

Miss Cookie Thomas came as often as possible, but now had other small children to read to. I was getting older. Now she left her big bag of books at home, since she had read everything in it. She read from my bible.

I loved it when she read about the Healer’s followers. Jesus taught them how to heal too. Every time she mentioned James and John, the sons of thunder, she made a loud noise like thunder. She made me laugh and forget about being sick, and it was thrilling to hear about sick people getting well in an instant.

One day she asked me how I’d like it if I had two sons called, the sons of thunder. After that question, I didn’t want to hear about the sons of thunder anymore. Recently, the doctors told me that I could never have children. Now at such a young age, I really wasn’t thinking about having my own family. But it made me sad to realize I had no life now, nor would I have a life in the future. And it was hard being sick while aware that life was going on all around me, as I was secluded in this back of the house bedroom.

And then there was Miss Winnie Collins.

While painting the house of Miss Winnie Collins on Old Norcross, Daddy got to know this odd little lady. She was an artist and puppeteer who went about Tucker on a bicycle. She strapped a black suitcase onto her bicycle and would pull out all kinds of strange things from her suitcase. One being a huge wide brim black hat layered in long black silk which hid her face while making a perfect stage back drop for her puppet shows. She gave me art lessons and entertained me and my sisters with her shows. Miss Winnie Collins kept me busy drawing and painting. I used my bible to steady my paints and turpentine. Mama gave me a look of shock when she saw green oil paint on my bible. Then she smiled and said, “Well I did say to keep it with you.”

Needless to say, there were many discouraging days when I could only dwell on my loss, especially on pretty days when I could hear the students play at recess time at Tucker Elementary. Nothing Miss Cookie Thomas read, not even Miss Winnie Collins’ puppet shows, could cheer me. I was approaching twelve years of age and was not allowed to stand on my own feet. Mama fed me. I could not draw or paint anymore. I eyed my bible and thought about the strange sounding words of the Healer. I looked at the red letters Miss Cookie Thomas made for me, now crumpled and ragged with age. I thought about the twelve year old girl in the bible, and how her father went out and found Jesus, the Healer.

Dianes Birthday with parents

Diane's 12th Birthday with parents, Tom and Helen Story

I closed my eyes tight and imagined my own father driving up Morgan Road and turning right onto Chamblee Tucker and then down Main Street – Tucker. I imagined that Daddy parked his van and walked out into the Cofer Brothers Lumber-Yard. While purchasing lumber for his next job, Daddy ran into a stranger in town; a carpenter. I imagined that my father told that particular carpenter about his daughter at home in a sick bed. This carpenter told my father that his name was Jesus, and He was here ready and able to heal sick children.

In my mind’s eye, I saw the Healer get into Daddy’s van and come to our little Morgan Road home. They came into my room and the Healer said to Daddy, “Be not afraid; only believe.” The Healer held my hand and said, “Talitha cumi – little girl arise and live!” I imagined myself standing up. I saw myself being received with open arms and astonishment by my family.

I concentrated on my soon approaching birthday and my attitude changed. Now, when I heard my family talking and seemingly enjoying life without me, I imagined they were preparing a home coming party for me as did the father of the Prodigal Son. In my heart of hearts, I knew that soon, I would join them. I would get out of this bedroom! I looked forward to my birthday – my twelfth birthday. The day came when my mother placed a birthday cake on my lap in bed. My cousin, Rachel, took pictures of the celebration. I keep those pictures in my bible, so I can always remember that day. I became twelve – and that year – I became well. I left my sick-bed and never returned.

Diane's 13th Birthday, happy to stand in the kitchen.

Diane's 13th Birthday, happy to stand in the kitchen.

I still go for yearly check-ups for my heart. The doctors cannot believe it. “It’s amazing,” they’ll say, “how you can have such a long history of heart disease and not even have the slightest murmur – it’s beyond reason. And, you have children?”

“Yes, I do. I have two sons, James and Jon. They’re the sons of thunder, you know,” I tell them as I hear Miss Cookie Thomas make the sound of thunder in my mind. It makes me smile from the top of my head to the tip of my toes.

Diane with sons James and Jon

As you may have guessed, I learned to appreciate my special Christmas gift from my parents. It is now ragged around the edges and the pages are pulling loose, but after all, it has been well over fifty years since I first received it. It has been a life long journey in which the book revealed itself to me. It’s a gift that I have sometimes ignored, sometimes mistreated, but I know it is a treasure. It’s the place where I learned that Jesus was far more than a carpenter. My bible has parrot green paint and turpentine circles on it. It bears my name in gold letters. This is my bible!

Squash Blossom

Long ago I left my small-town Tucker and moved to prominent Dunwoody, Georgia. My husband, Jim, had George Bramlett build my dream house, a spacious Cape Cod, on fourteen acres which was adjacent to more than two hundred acres of family owned, Pounds-Spruill property. My family and I enjoyed this equestrian domain, all the while convenient to Perimeter Mall and specialty shops, a perfect world to rear our two sons.

Although all seemed perfect in a perfect world, one night I laid in bed, longing for the simplicity of my sweet hometown, Tucker. I had had enough of “the good life.” My bubble of happiness in a perfect world had burst. It was over. And there I lay, with hot tear stained cheeks. I unplugged my phone and covered my head. I was at the end of my rope.

You see, I had a problem too big to handle. I lost all hope and felt as helpless and alone as ever I could be. How could this happen, with a lovely home, horses and barns, cars and trucks, beautiful meadows and big woods to walk through all the way to the Chattahoochee River? I had no answers, only a disturbing reality to face – the look of constant overwhelming despair in the eyes of my sixteen year old son.

Lois and Wade Voyles - "Memi and PawPaw"

Lois and Wade Voyles – “Memi and PawPaw”

I closed my eyes and longed for sleep. Relief, I must have some relief. I found it, in my dreams that night. I found myself driving my car down Main Street – Tucker. I drove slowly past Cofer Brothers. I stopped as always at the railroad crossing and proceeded with caution. I drove past Matthew’s Cafeteria. The traffic light caught me before I could cross Lawrenceville Highway. The light changed and turned green, giving me the okay to continue my journey. I drove down Idlewood Road, and turned right into my Memi and PawPaw’s drive-way. I put my car into park and opened the door.

I was delighted to see Memi and PawPaw standing on their front screened-in porch, already on their feet in anticipation to our visit. PawPaw stood and waited for me in the coolness of the far corner of the porch, while Memi stood in the doorway leading into the house, both smiling and happy to see me. I took my time as I strolled past Memi’s zinnias, and took a moment to admire the blossoms on PawPaw’s apple trees and snowball bushes. I made my way up the three steps and opened the screened porch-door.

Suddenly I heard someone behind me. I turned to see who it was, and was met with two little arms reaching for my neck. It was my son – at age five. I bent over and joyfully received his hug and heard him whisper, ‘Mommy, I love you,’ in my ear. I savored that unexpected moment for as long as I could. He pulled away from me and looked as though he wanted me to examine his face. I peered deeply into his eyes. Gone was the depression. There lived only the complete and total joy of a five year old.

I stood up and turned excitedly toward my grandparents, “Look who’s here!” But for some reason, my Memi and PawPaw refused to respond. They seemed preoccupied in their own thoughts – far away. I spoke to them directly, but still, they refused to speak. Their faraway gaze was frozen.

Curiously, I turned to my small son, but he was gone. He had disappeared as quickly as he had appeared. He was nowhere to be found. I called out for him as I searched the apple trees, the rope swing in the backyard, as well as the vegetable garden. I even called out to Mr. and Mrs. Westbrooks, trusted long time neighbors. I saw Mrs. Westbrooks pouring milk into the cat dish outside her backdoor. Mr. Westbrooks was busy tending to his tomato and pepper garden.

“Have you seen a little boy running around here?”

Neither acknowledged my call.

“Hello! Mr. and Mrs. Westbrooks! Have you seen my son?”

Again, I received no acknowledgment from either one. I searched the Westbrooks’ Muscadine arbor, but to no avail. My son was not there. I walked around to the other side of my grandparent’s house and saw Mrs. Almand playing with her two granddaughters, Cheryl and Carol Williams.

“Mrs. Almand! Hello! Have you seen a little boy out here today?”

Garden toolshed now in a deteriated state

Garden tool shed now in a deteriorated state

Mrs. Almand and her granddaughters continued to play their game of ring-around-the-roses, and completely ignored me. This was strange. These neighbors were always so quick to throw up a hand and give you a smile, but not today. Everyone seemed to be in their own world and I was invisible to them.

When I turned around, I saw something I had missed before, something I had not seen since my own childhood. There set my Memi’s dining room table and chairs under the coolness of the shade trees in the backyard. The table was set with china and loaded down with food ready for the whole family to share a meal – together. In the center of the table was a six layer stack of Memi’s apple pies; pies made from PawPaw’s apple trees. Ham and chicken were surrounded by her pickled peaches and spiced apples. PawPaw’s snowballs graced the table. I realized that the whole family was expected, but where were they? And where was my son?

I turned and went down a path in my Memi and PawPaw’s vegetable garden. I made my way through the pole beans and squash blossoms. He must be in their little garden tool shed, but no, he wasn’t there. As I walked back to my grandparent’s house, I noticed the tree swing empty and being pushed about idly by the wind. I came to the realization that my little boy was gone. Indeed, he was not the little five year old who so easily expressed his feelings.

Now he was approaching adulthood and struggling hard to find a reason to exist.

I awoke the next morning renewed and rested – back in my Cape Cod home in Dunwoody – ready to face the present world. I thought about my dream – my unexpected visit to Tucker. I realized that my Memi and PawPaw had given me a gift, a much needed gift, a heartfelt hug from my son. It was a gift that reminded me of just who my son really was and is. A gift I will cherish all the days of my life, especially in the difficult days just around the corner. It was a time when I discovered All Roads Lead to Tucker.

 

“Just like hound-dogs, Helen,” laughed Aunt Annie, “we’re eating just like a bunch of ol’ hound-dogs. Grab the food and run to the road and chomp it down.”

“Well, Annie, we could go to the Piccadilly or Po Folks if you want to. I know you like to eat at those places, but I didn’t think you felt like getting out that much. I thought you wanted to go to Wendy’s…”
“Yes, I do like Wendy’s. I’m just saying – it’s the way ol’ hound-dogs eat. You’re right; I don’t feel like getting dressed or combing my hair. I don’t look descent enough to go out, and Wendy’s has good food. But, think about it Helen, don’t ol’ dogs grab their food and run to the road and hog it down?” laughed Annie. “We’ve turned into hound-dogs sittin’ out here on Lawrenceville Highway!”

Helen laughed, “Hound dogs huh? Well, maybe.”

Annie ate a few more French fries and then spoke with a serious tone, “Y’ Mama would turn over in her grave if she could see us now. I don’t ever remember seeing her table without a tablecloth – and flowers. In the spring-time – it was y’ Daddy’s apple blossoms in a quart jar, and zinnias and snow-balls in summer, Nanina limbs in fall, and pussy willows in winter. Remember how she fried squash blossoms? I’ve never seen anybody else do that. Yes, Lois Voyles could cook a good meal. Yes sir, when I wanted a good meal I went down to Lois’ house. Always used china, don’t believe my sister ever used a paper plate.”

“That’s true Annie. Nothing fancy, but Mama always set the table.”

“Remember her pies? Lord have mercy! Lois and Wade would dry apples in the summer and store ‘em in big white pillow cases and hang ‘em from the ceiling. Then she take out what she needed and boil ‘em down, then she added sugar and the like, cooked ‘em with a top and bottom crust, and stack ‘em up six high!” Annie laughed, “And that Wade Voyles would cut a slice all the way through. Lois would say, ‘Wade, surely you’re not gonna eat six pieces of pie!’ and Wade would smile and say, ‘No, Lois, I’m just gonna eat one piece!’ Yes it was one piece, but it was six deep!”

“Yes, Mama did make some good pies, and Daddy loved them,” laughed Helen, “I guess that’s why he grew so many apple trees. But this is a sign of the times. None of us are able to go to that much trouble anymore. We need to get going soon, Annie, it’s about time for your medicine.”

“Y’ know, Helen, Lois was hard on you girls,” said Annie totally ignoring her niece’s suggestion to go home.

“Mama was strict all right.”
“Lois was hard on me too. I know I was her little sister, and she always thought she could tell me what to do. But she couldn’t. We had it out many a time. I didn’t cook nor sew the way she did. And I couldn’t make a flower live if my life depended on it, and I didn’t want to do those things. Lois did. But, you know, we never lived more than two miles apart. I lived just beyond one end of Main Street Tucker, and Lois lived just beyond the other end of Main Street Tucker. And no matter how upset she got at me, she always set me a place at her table.”

“Whether you came or not…”

“Before I could say – I’m sorry – Lois would say, ‘you gotta eat. Come on in,’ the best time to make up with Lois was at supper time.”

“Well how about it Annie? Have you finished your supper? Are you ready to go home now?”

“Yes, I am, just as soon as I finish off this last bite of burger. Yes, Lois would throw a fit if she saw me here with my face in a piece of paper eatin’ like a dog.”

Annie threw her head back in her usual whole-hearted way, clapped her hands, and laughed. My mother, Helen Voyles-Story, now looked after her aging aunt, Annie Jenkins-Sorrells, and on some days, Annie “did not do well.”

As Mama put away their trash and helped Annie wipe her face, she said, “All right now, Annie, let’s go home. Did you enjoy that?”

“Yes, I did, just like an ol’ hound dog!”

The closer Helen got to Old Norcross, Annie became increasingly more uncomfortable. “Why are we going this way, Helen? You know I don’t like this part of town. Why are you going down this road?”

“Annie, you live here.”
“Why do you want to say such a thing to me, Helen?”

“Because, I’m saying it, because you live here, Annie. You have lived here for years. Annie, are you all right?”

“I’ll be alright, just as soon as you turn this car around and get out of here!”

Helen pulled into Annie’s driveway and put the car in park. “Helen! Get out of here now!” Annie was very upset. She cried. “Please, Helen, don’t do this to me! Get out of here! Why, oh why, have you brought me to the poor side of Tucker?”

“Poor side of Tucker? Annie! What’s wrong with you? This is your home! You built this house during the war, remember? “

“I never did such a thing! Helen! This is not my home! Let’s get out of here! Get me out of the poor side of Tucker now! You know I’m afraid of this part of town.” Annie covered her face with her hands and cried.

Helen got out of the car and walked around and opened the door for her aging aunt. “Come on, Annie, it’s getting late. I think you’re confused…”

“No, please Helen, don’t make me get out…”

“Come on now. I’ll help you inside and then you’ll be alright. You’ll recognize your…”

“Please, Helen, no. These people will come home and call the law to us…”
“No, Annie, it’s okay. You’ll see.”
Helen coaxed Annie out of the car and up the steps. Helen then put the key in the front door.

“Helen, what are you doing with a key to this house?”

“It’s your house, Annie. You gave me the key. Remember this door? It’s not just any door; look how thick it is. You got it from the old Biltmore Hotel.” With that the door opened, and Annie cried out and trembled all over.

“Let’s get out of here, Helen!”

“Annie, what in the world has come over you?”

Yes, something had “come over” Aunt Annie. Just last week, Mr. Jimmy, a nice man who took care of Aunt Annie’s house repairs, called Mama.

“Mrs. Story, this is Jimmy. I just wanted to let you know that Miss Annie is not acting just right. She seems scared, and she wants me to tear down her front porch – and wants it done immediately. I really don’t think I could remove that concrete porch without equipment, and that would damage the structure of the house.”

Mama told Mr. Jimmy to not tear down the porch. She would talk to Annie and get back to him.

“Annie, Mr. Jimmy called me. He says you want him to tear down your front porch.”
“Well, why did he call you? That’s my business.”
“Well, Annie, I don’t think you have thought it through…”
“That porch has to go!”
“You love to sit out there in the summer-time…”
“Not going to sit there anymore.”

“Why, Annie? What’s wrong with that porch?”

“Mr. Andy told me about the drive by shootings that’s going on now. People get shot sitting on their front porch now a days.”

“Not one drive by shooting has occurred in Tucker…”
“Yes, they have! Mr. Andy would not tell me a lie.”

Mr. Andy visited with Aunt Annie every Sunday; they had formed a serious relationship. No matter what was going on, when it was time for Mr. Andy, Aunt Annie tuned him in and tuned everybody else out. She sat and watched him with a goofy look on her face – as though she was being courted by this man.

“Annie, Andy Rooney reports news from all over the world – not Tucker, Georgia. That’s 60 Minutes…”

“I know what I know, and I want Mr. Jimmy to tear down that front porch! You tell him to tear it down! Or I will get somebody who will!”

Annie Jenkins was the baby sister of my mother’s mother. Annie’s only sister, my Memi, had long left this world, as well as all their other siblings. Annie was the last of her generation. Her first husband, Will Akins, was a much older man, and died leaving her a young widow. For years, she lived alone and focused on work and saving money. She never had children. Later in life she married Orin Sorrells. She out lived him as well.

Orin and Annie Jenkins-Sorrells

Until recently, Annie was a self-sufficient woman. Annie owned and paid for, two automobiles at a time, though she never drove a car. Her husband, Orin, did the driving, and on her instruction, alternated driving one car and then the other. That way the battery would stay charged up in each car, and each car would maintain low mileage. Now, my mother drove her car over to Aunt Annie’s house, and then drove Aunt Annie’s cars for her.

Once Aunt Annie told me that though she could not read, she had learned the numbers that mattered. She set her alarm clock to four o’clock AM. Upon rising, she dressed like a man to do a man’s work. She caught the five o’clock morning bus that carried her to her job on the south-side of Atlanta, where she made cardboard boxes on an assembly line. Annie worked two shifts five times a week, “Diane, I may not know much about book learning,” she would laugh as she spoke to me, “but I figured out one thing. I work one shift to pay my bills, and then I work a second shift to buy CDs at the Bank of Tucker.”

Annie saved and waited until she could afford the best. According to her, she had a sturdy house that no wind or rain could move. And she built it and paid for it – all on her own. She had the best furniture. Her dining-room suit was a mahogany Duncan Phyfe. Her beds were sound with the top of the line mattresses. Her grandfather clock was the best in town. Her hardwood floors didn’t have a scuff on them. Annie was proud of her humble beginnings and accomplishments. But today, Annie was easily moved to fear and tears. And she was determined to get rid of that front porch.

But tonight Annie did not recognize her front porch, nor did she know her own living room.  According to Annie, she had just broken into a stranger’s house on the poor side of Tucker. She made a run for the front door and tried to escape. Helen was able to get between her and the door.

“Annie, please, calm down. Don’t cry. If you calm down, and sit a minute, you’ll come back to yourself. Here, sit in your swan chair. You remember the swan chair. You fell in love with the swans carved on the arms. You put it on lay-away at Rich’s and Tom picked it up for you. Here, Annie sit in your swan…”

“I’ve never seen that chair before in my life! No, Helen, please, let’s get outta here, before somebody catches us here! We’ll go to jail for this!”

They struggled, the front door jarred open. And Annie broke free from Helen’s hold. Suddenly, Annie stopped and was quiet and perfectly still. She stared out across the porch, across the yard, and across the street. In the glow of the street lights, she saw something that stopped her cold. Annie was frozen with bewilderment. Helen put her arms around her and asked, “Annie, what is it?”

“Harold and Estelle’s house,” answered Annie with tears streaming down her face.

“Yes, that’s Harold and Estelle’s house. They’re your neighbors – they have been for years.”
“Oh, Polly, help me, please help me.”
Mama smiled and hugged her Aunt Annie, “Oh, Annie, you’ve not called me Polly in years. Am I still your Polly?”
Though crying, Annie tried her best to speak, “You’ve always been my Polly. Why would I call you anything else?”

Turning Annie around and going back into the house, Helen said, “I’ll help you Aunt Annie. Come on now; let’s get out of this night air. I’ll put you to bed and give you your meds. You’ll feel better in the morning.”

“Will you stay with me until I go to sleep, I mean, will you rub my back until I fall asleep?”
“Yes, Annie, I will, I always do. Now, come on, let’s go inside.”

Upon crossing the threshold, Annie cried out, “God, help me. I don’t know this place!”

“This is your home; the home you love so much. Come on Annie. Just take a step when I take a step. Watch my feet. Don’t look around.”

Becoming very childlike, Annie obeyed, “Okay, Polly. I will. Will you pray for me, Polly?”

“Yes, Annie, I’ll pray for you.” Helen seemed calm, but inside her heart pounded. Helen prayed a silent prayer all the way to Annie’s bedroom. She prayed silently while putting Annie’s gown on her, while brushing Annie’s hair, while rolling down her support hose, and while putting warm socks on her feet. She prayed silently, “Please, Lord, give me the right words for Annie tonight.”

My mother’s silent prayer was answered when she looked at Annie sitting on the bed. There Annie sat with her head bowed, eyes closed tightly, and hands together under her chin like a very small child. Helen knew what to pray. Helen prayed these words for Annie.

“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord, my soul to take. Amen.”

Aunt Annie had the Alzheimer’s disease.

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