Clayton Will Not Forget


    1971 June 13:  It seems like he gets worse every day, but they tell me it is nothing to worry about.  Anybody who has taken much medicine knows how some of the stuff can get you down.  It really worries me.  I’m going over early in the morning and have another talk.  Dr. Wells said yesterday he had never heard of anything that said you should not give shock treatments to an ill man, but that he was going to do it.

    June 15: got to the place where the nurses were more worried about me than they were Clayton.  I was so afraid.  I felt that I had to be here to watch them.  And I did.  I watched like a hawk and asked questions like a four year old.  So now that the time is nearly over, I am beginning to relax.... I talk to Loraine real often.  She has been so concerned about Clayton.  Everyone has.

    June 16:  You are not to come home [from Peace Corps in Iran].  You are not needed.  I have been through some rather dark hours, but I knew I had you and Gary and all the others saying prayers for us, so I made it fine.  Do not call Dr. Wells....

    June 18:  We got back about 9:30 a.m.  Went by Bonham so Clayton could get his hair cut.  He had no temperature this week.  He looks better and talks stronger.  Now I have to cook a good meal because he is so tired of that food.  I think I can have a good meal with little effort, but have no time to lose.  Clarence is talking to Clayton now.  He just eats up every word Clarence tells him, still loves every thought of the farm.

    June 26:  Clayton dismissed!  Joy....

    June 30:  Clayton went out to watch them get the cows in the lot yesterday afternoon.  It was cloudy all over and cool, as dark banks hung to the west and north of us.  But we got no rain.  Clayton did no work.  He may have blocked a space in herding the cows.... Then Clarence drove him over to the Caney Creek pasture.  When he got back he was trembling all over.  Clarence called me and told me not to let him come to the barn when they move the cows this morning.  He got up from breakfast and started right out, but one word from me and he returned to bed.  He feels some better today, but I know I can’t let him out to see the farm or what is going on until the doctor sees him again.  It will take him all day to get over yesterday.  It is just hard to realize how he is at this time.  He can’t even stand to see the work going on.  He said this morning, “I wish I didn’t have anything to worry about.”  He is worrying now, afraid the cows will eat some Johnson grass and die.  This is possible.... So I don’t know how he is going to get well.  Clarence is doing all he can.  He is very worried about Clayton.  I guess I have more hope for I’ve seen so much of this, and I learned about it here and there.  He is calm this morning. 

    July 9:  Clayton and I have been to see about the cows.  I’ve been on our land that I had never seen before.  A real experience.

    July 15:  The month is half gone and still no rain.  This is the very first time I have ever really felt depressed.  Always before I have known that it would rain eventually, and before too late, but now I feel helpless to hope.  The grasshoppers are eating things and the leaves are crisp and falling already.  For myself, I don’t mind, but I am in the habit of steering my thoughts toward things that make you happy.  I think I can live through it.  People’s houses are burning.  Folks around here are afraid to leave home.  One lone match would burn Mulberry to a desert.  This sounds bad but let us look to brighter things.  I’m beginning to get over the long weeks at the hospital.  Clayton barely remembers it.  He has gone on his horse to the river to see about the cows.  He never did find the cow.  It is possible that he miscounted and that a cow is not gone....

    July 16:  I still say I will just have to change my writing.... Get Mulberry out of your mind.  For Pete’s sake!  You know how it is here.  Just work—so it always has been, and always will be.... A life ahead in this corner of the world.

    July 17:  July 28th.  This will just about get to you on your birthday.  Of all days, I wish you could be home on that day.  We will be thinking of you, so do something for fun, for us.  As things cross my mind I come to this sheet that I keep at your place on the table....

    I want to tell you a dream I had while Clayton was in the hospital.  You say dreams mean something, so I’d like to hear you interpret this one.  It started off so sunny.  No introduction, or was it?  I saw my mother in a vision, just all of a sudden.  She was wearing a dress I remember well but had not thought of in years.  She looked quite well, but was very serious.  She did not smile at all.  At the first glimpse of her I made a few rapid steps toward her and would have thrown my arms around her, so glad was I to see her.  But she stopped me with a slight gesture.  I stopped several feet from her.  She said, “I have come to tell you something.  You won’t believe it, but it is true anyway and I think you ought to know about it.”  I asked, “What is it?”  She said, “Clayton is going to sue you for a divorce.”  I said, “He can’t do that.  He’s sick,” and in my mind I saw Clayton in bed in Allie’s bedroom.  His head was at the foot of the bed and he had the sheet pulled up high around his neck.  Mama continued, “I knew you wouldn’t believe it, but Allie went with him to see a lawyer.  Clayton said he used to love you but he doesn’t anymore.”  I looked beyond the vision of my mother and saw in a woody road the old Ford Dad used to drive.  He wore a black hat.  Wanda was with him, young and silent.  I walked to the car alone.  Mama had vanished.  Dad said, “I don’t want you to let Clayton have a penny of the money I left you.”  I answered, “Dad, I won’t.”  Then he drove away.  Then I walked in a daze back into this house which was not in the other scenes.  I tried to decide what to do, and rather quickly made up my mind.  I felt that I couldn’t take the car as Clayton would need it.  So I decided just to take my most prized and needed things. I opened the dresser drawer.  I put in the ring you gave me, the star sapphire, and snapped on the charm bracelet Gary and Sandra gave me.  I took off the wedding ring and left it with the other jewelry.  I got some clothes on hangers and left. I never looked back, but walked on and on thinking that I should write Teacher Retirement and Social Security to mail my checks to wherever I decided to live.  The next morning I was exhausted from walking and crying.  When I was fully awake I felt afraid.  It was so real.

    July 27:  Last night I went to Miss Josephine [Garner’s in Ravenna] after a covered dish supper in her back yard, with tables set on a concrete slab next to the horse lot and dog pen.  I went in her house and dressed in an exaggerated fashion, with beads, ear rings, hat, gloves, and when she came for me, I returned to be introduced as Dear Abbey from California.  Miss Josie had about six people all set for coming up to seek my advice, but lo and behold, the group thought it was for anybody, and several additional ones came.  Sure was funny.  I had to do some fast thinking to answer these problems that I hadn’t counted on.  It went over big and pleased Miss Josephine very much, and just made her party.  I took a salad they all loved, so they want the recipe. 

Clayton is going to mow pastures.  The doctor gave him something for the shaking.... Just had another call from one of the women at the meeting last night.  She sure made a lot of wild statements.  She said, “You have missed your calling.”  She said she had lived everywhere from here to California, and been to all sorts of entertainments, and she had never seen anything so cute in her life.  So, maybe I should go on TV?

    1971 July 28:  Happy Birthday to you! And our gift to you from God is a rain. In fact, I am sitting now at your place at our table and I look out on the patio at this moment to see rain splashing down, and I hear the tinkle, tinkle of rain above the stove fan like we always hear. It has been raining hard, just one rain right after the other, even before we got up. It seems to be a general rain, for the entire sky is low with clouds and it is raining as far as we can see in every direction. It is getting heavier and the drops come fast in a slanting position. We must have the gutters cleaned out. This one right north of the glass doors is running over. How we wish you were here today to enjoy the rain and to have your birthday dinner with us. Sometime we get so lonesome to see you but just push it out of our minds because it is no good to moan. It is beginning to lighten up in the north, but I hear distant thunder.


    1973 February 27:  Substituted at school.  Tonight Clayton came to my

d after I had gone to bed.  He knelt down by the side and said, “Let’s pray, Sweetheart.”  Lying in my bed, I prayed aloud, then he prayed.  As he got into his bed, he said, “You are so strong and I am so weak.”  I said, “God made us all different.  You have nothing to be ashamed of.”  He told me how much he loved me.  I told him I had never really loved another man, which is true.  Only Clayton, but I realize now how long he has been ill.

    March 7:  I spent the night with Gary and Sandra, as there wasn’t much gas in my car, and everyone knows how frantic I am about running out of gas.  When Kim woke up this morning, she asked, “Why are you still here?”  I told her.  Then she wanted orange juice, which I got.  When Sandra got up, she shut the door to Kim’s room.  Kim’s lips trembled and she said, “She shut the door!”  I’m sure she thought Sandra would come in and love her.  Wanting to be independent, she went to Gary. He romped with her on the bed, and when I looked in she was smiling all over her face. I’m sure Sandra took time to love her later.

    But this dug up unconscious memories of myself as a mother, when perhaps many times I failed to respond to my children—so busy, so rushed. I am sure I am guilty of neglect more times than Sandra will ever be. Then, I didn’t know any better. I can’t ever remember being loved at home. Never! Mama was always sick. Dad was always busy! But I never suffered from the lack of it. I may have acquired certain traits that affected my life as a wife and mother, or even as a teacher, for in all three instances, in order to be successful, one must know how to transmit love. Maybe I never knew. I love—very deeply—but I may be a failure at being able to show how much I love. I never thought of myself as a warm person. When I start to analyze myself, the picture of Melissa looms up. Tho’ I do think I am not as cold as she was. As a child, I drew away from her—the hard, cruel coldness chilled me to the bone. But in the face of all my coldness, my mistakes, I found in Doctor Zhivago, which I have just finished reading, a few sentences that struck me as being exactly the way I feel. I quote from page 399: “I don’t think I could love you so much if you had nothing to complain of and nothing to regret. I don’t like people who have never fallen or stumbled. Their virtue is lifeless and of little value. Life hasn’t revealed its beauty to them.”

    March 19: Substituted. Clayton had a bad spell. He got it into his head that Steven was unhappy about his talk with Greg.... He waved his arms and got all worked up into a mad frenzy. Said he was going to talk to Steven. I called Gary. He called Steven and he said that everything was fine. It took me nearly an hour to talk Clayton out of this idea. If I were not a good, forceful talker, I don’t know what I would do. He is so sick. He said, “Oh, may the Lord forgive you for being such a lover of money! I’m not going to be a party to it. You have done an awful thing.” I told him Steven wanted out of the contract, but he insisted.... I finally got all I could take, so I told him some pretty straight things. He came to his senses, got up, ate, but asked for a sleeping pill at 1:00. I gave him one. Then in the morning he was as bright as normal.

    March 29: Vietnam War officially ended today. Last of prisoners are coming home! It’s over. One prisoner saw Walter Cronkite and said, “My God, there’s Walter. I can’t believe it. “

    After lunch, Clayton went to bed and told me he did not want me to leave. So I called the school and told them I couldn’t be there. Then at 1:00 he got up and said he had to do something, so he went to work with the Mexican.  After this I went to Bonham and graded Spelling.  Got some groceries.

    March 30:  Last night after we went to bed, Clayton complained of not being able to sleep...the first time he has not been able to go into a deep sleep with the medicine he takes.  It looks as if he needs more medicine.  I asked him what he feels most.  He said, “Depression, fear.”  I went on talking, and he said he thinks about all the mistakes he has made.  He says he can’t feel forgiveness.  Now he worries about the line fence between him and Glenn Hemphill.  He says they feel ill toward him, and with reason maybe.  I told him we would talk to Iona and Glenn.

    April 6:  Today Clayton looked so thin.... He says he doesn’t hurt.... I have so much pressing down on me.  All the things that should have been seen to years ago, are all open to me, and lying on my mind to be attended to.  Our wills at the moment are unacceptable and unfinished.

    April 23:  Rainy!  Clearing!  Had fierce blues all day.  Clayton feels that he will not live long but is trying desperately to be brave.  This so upsets me.  I’ll say for sure, life has not been easy, but I understand that we are not promised a bed of roses.  I can’t imagine life without him.  No straw on the floor, no muddy tracks, no torn up bed—this absence will drive me mad.  If he leaves, I will never be happy again.  Of course, I can carry on, but what I seemed to dislike most about us will be what I miss the most.

    1974 August 7:  Greg did all he could to help us.... April’s birthday—one month old. 

    Had a hard day emotionally...felt very much a failure, and coming this late in life.  Also approaching August 14 week, the last day with Mama, on August 14, Sunday, and this year the days are right.  So I’m beginning to feel and live the days over again.  I want to forget, but that’s what I did all my life.  I forgot that Mama wanted things I never gave her.  Maybe $25, then again, it was when I wanted to do something like this that Clayton would not approve.  He wouldn’t say so, but he wanted every cent I made, and both of us knew this.  I wonder why I let him do this to me.  I went to bed feeling “blue,” and pretty soon I was letting tears flow, then I felt myself crying, when I remember how my son never misses an opportunity to do nice things for me.  As tired as he must have been, he didn’t leave until he had fixed the fan, so nicely.  He never half does anything.  Then I thought of Gary, his concern that I have what I need.  Both boys are more than I deserve, remembering how negligent I was as a child, to my parents.  I didn’t do a thing to lighten their loads.  So I wept most bitterly, then it became a wail of “Mama! Mama, how I need you and want to see you.”  Clayton heard me, even above the noisy fan, and rushed in to see about me.  I wanted not this at all.  He said, “What’s wrong?”  I said, “It’s too much.  There is too much on me.”  He said, “Well, I’ll just turn it off,” and he turned off the fan.  I couldn’t believe this.  I broke out into a frantic rage.  “You stupid, silly man,” I said.  “Leave me to my own sorrows,” because just such logic as the above was a big part of the problem.  It goes on.  Got to be too much.  He left, poor man, abruptly.  It wasn’t fair.  It wasn’t right.  It wasn’t Christian.  But I had to be alone.  I continued to talk to “Mama,” and it really seemed to me that she heard me.  I felt her so near to me.  She was a comforting atmosphere.  Almost touching me.  I was tired out and quiet.  The fan was cool and felt good, but my head hurt, my throat hurt, and my ears hurt.  The anguish I felt had gone deep inside me, and sort of left me satisfied that this was a good beginning for this coming week to August 14.  I begin to feel that this is the kind of feeling I should have for our Savior.  It was He and my mother who joined hands and came to comfort me.  This should be, could be, and will be a new dedication for me to live like this good spirit of love expects.  But I always come out so far from what I should be.  I can’t do it alone.  Nothing was said about the incident this morning, but he [Clayton] will not forget.  He remembers all the bad.

    1981 July 23: Dear Wanda, We spent July 21, our 51st wedding anniversary in the hospital in Sherman. It seemed that Clayton was about to have pneumonia so I took him to the emergency room on Monday evening. We have been in the hospital ever since, and he is recovering slowly. He has a bad bronchitis and they can’t get the stuff up, but they are trying. He is on a breathing machine all the time. It is nice that Gary is free now to come and stay here at night. I go home and sleep all night, up at 6:00 and here by 7:30. Peaches are ready to go in the freezer but I am too tired to do any work. But I am going to do some tonight. I hope you are getting over the trip. Love you, Gladys

    August 5:  (to Wanda)  Well! Well! After you left me on Thursday morning of our reunion week, I took Clayton to the throat doctor in Denison, as I told you, then he developed a deep hoarse cough with fever. On Monday his temperature was 99 degrees, and by evening it was over 100, so I left as soon as I could for Sherman. He was admitted to the hospital and is still here. After a few days he took pneumonia and we are still in the hospital. He has been very ill and had surgery this past Monday. At one time, covering a period of about three days, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, we thought he was going to die. We called Gary from his vacation trip and he took a flight to Denver and on to Dallas.... We have all just been worried out of our minds. Willie, Lelia and all of the Hall clan. I really be
lieve he may live now....

photo: at Hall reunion (1978)

        Clayton, Clarence, Willie, Lelia, Vera

    I don’t have much to say. Just tired and worried. I had one sitter to come at 7 a.m. and leave at 3 p.m. but I soon found out that I was not able to do 3 p.m. to 7 a.m.—16 hours, so I had to hire another sitter. Now my shift is every day from 7 to 3, then I go home to rest.... The nurses’ station is right across the hall from the door to our room. I guess this is all.

    1985 August 14:  Dear Nea,  I’ve taken Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to recover from my exciting weekend...lady Edna...still a dynamic force in my life.  Don’t ever forget who you are—you are Edna’s daughters, and we all know what that means.  Whatever comes up, you can make it!

    My mother died in our home forty-seven years ago today at the age of fifty-one.  Unlike your mother, she was a quiet spirit of love that permeated the modest home, and each child was given as much love as he or she needed.  I didn’t need much, so I didn’t get much.

    I loved my mother more than anything in the world, and when she suddenly closed her eyes and left us, my whole world fell apart.  It was ten full years before I was able to conquer the overwhelming loss I felt.  I kept count of the years, as they dragged by, and every morning when I woke up, I would unbelievingly stare at the walls and think.  She’s here.  She’s got to be here.  She can’t be dead.  Yet I knew in my heart that she was.  In a way, I never did get over it, yet I know I did, because God made it so we have to.  Time finally wins.  Today I am teary-eyed, sad, always yearning for my mother.  Sometime today I will weep bitter tears, then I will wonder why I did it.  I have never put a flower on her grave.  In fact, I have visited the grave—count the times on one hand.  I don’t feel guilty about that.  That’s the way it has to be. Any other way would not be me.  The three or four times I have been to her grave, she wasn’t there.  So I walked away, realizing that she is in my heart, buried so deep and so secure, and that is where she will always be.  I know she is content there, and I can be happy to be aware of her presence.  This is the first time I have ever written how I feel about my mother.

    ...This last week was Clayton’s death and funeral week [anniversary] ... he was too sick to enjoy his life or his loved ones.  I had prayed for God to take him, and I thanked him for it, but I was sad to have my prayer answered. 

On Hearing of the Death of Clayton Hall

by Michael Busby

He is dead,

and gone like the fast flash

of River line lightning.

Oh, but I hear the thunder!

My Great Uncle,

kind good patient man.

You join the Crestline

with Grandfather.

I feel lonely, less sure,

standing at the Crestline,

praying for both of you.

I have no precise answers

for what must follow

this great motion-filled life.

I am not sure,

nor can I leap to Knowledge

about the great After All.

But I hear the thunder.

I remember.

I love and rejoice for a time with you

as winter deals harshly with                                        

        Crestline views.

photo below: Ray, Gladys, Dean, Worth

        at Mulberry Cemetery,

        August 7, 1981