My Grandmother PT 3
The big question still remained. Why did you leave your family? How could you do such a thing. As a mother I understand how overwhelming it can be at times. But how do you just walk away? As we sat there listening to her explain it all, the feelings of resentment turned to sorrow. What an incredible story this was.
My grandmother said, "you want to know why I left? I'll tell you why I left." Maybe she needed to finally tell someone because after she said that the story poured from her lips. There was a woman who lived down the street from her. They were friends and she came to her one evening and said she had something important to tell her. Velma had put the kids to bed and listen to this woman tell her that Johnny, my grandfather, was planning to kill her. Now my grandmother went on to tell us how Johnny used to beat her. My dad had confirmed that years ago when we asked him about our grandfather. He said he was mean to my grandmother, and then to my mother. But, Velma didn't seem comfortable telling us anything bad about Johnny so she made sure to say, "but he was a good man and a good father. He worked hard for his family and provided for them." Hmmmmm I wonder why then, did my mother have to make dresses out of her brothers hand-me-downs? None the less it seems that the need to defend the actions of abusive men still remain today.
The woman convinced my grandmother that her husband was going to kill her and that she should take some money that was hidden under the back porch in a jar and leave. She showed Velma the jar and indeed it was full of money. The woman handed her $10 and helped her to pack. Then she was gone. Over the years I've often wondered how she just walked away. But it wasn't like that at all. Velma said she went up a hill near the house, into the woods and there she sat for three days on her suitcase, in the rain. She was trying to decide if she was doing the right thing. As she told us she talked about how frightened she was and that the longer she was gone the more frightened she became. She started walking back toward the house one day, unsure really of what she was doing, when a dump truck came by. The driver saw her and stopped. He asked her if she was okay and if she needed a ride anywhere. She said she just got in the truck and sat there. "He was a real nice fella. He didn't ask me a lot of questions. He just said to tell him when I wanted out and he would let me out anywhere I wanted," she explained. She ended up in Charleston WV, about 3-4 hours from where she started.
She would stay there for a year working in a liquid TNT factory making explosives for the military. Then, some people she knew said they were heading to LA. She said, "not without me you aren't!" And that's how she ended up in LA.
Only knowing little bits and pieces all of these years It always seemed like she left her kids to be in LA, where are the action is, where she could be single and free. But she wasn't looking for action, she was trying to stay alive. Now the question is, was that woman who told her that Johnny was going to kill her telling the truth? Velma said that some years later she figured she was lying because maybe she wanted Johnny herself. I guess we'll never know for sure.
The thing that strikes me the most is how this one woman's words, in one night of my grandmothers life, changed three generations lives. We were all effected by that one night.