“Aunt Edna”

 

    Around 1935, under “Philosophies,” Gladys set down for Edna: “Many a business man would like to have my ability to manage; think twice before you speak!” In Oklahoma, near Boswell, Allie managed “government land” before he and Edna returned to Mulberry with their ten children.


    1943 December 22: John Palmore deeded the Wis
ely home place, about two acres, to Edna Hall, for $1,000 —her “separate property,” the money from her father’s estate. Palmore’s “release” was dated December 2, 1946.



photo: At her beloved home, Aunt Edna

        and Uncle Allie



    Edna went with her children to work in the fields, usually on the 200 acre Hall “homestead” that Lelia and Vera rented to Allie. Each day before she left her house, Edna had the noon meal under a table cloth. Tea cooled in a large crock pitcher that never broke, “all” oldest son R.A. wanted when she died in 1983. Aunt Edna never made just one pie; chocolate was a favorite, and always a piece for me.


    1961 January 28:  [Gladys writing] This morning Edna came out alone to go to Sunday School.  Allie didn’t show up.  I said, “How’s Allie?”  She said, “Oh, he’s fine.”  In a few minutes she clammed up.  At church she lagged behind.  We all went on in.  In Sunday School class she looked awful, and without any reason wiped tears from her eyes.  I don’t know what was wrong, but I could read between the lines.  She was quiet all the way home.  Stayed at home all afternoon.  I called her and asked her to come over here but she wouldn’t.  Allie was fixing gates, wasting time—oh, not that, but passing time, I’ll say.  I asked her if she was going to MYF.  She said no, but she has just called to say that she will go....



    1967 September 24:  (Edna to Gregory in London)  Well, I am sitting here wishing my favorite nephew would let me hear that knock knock on my door and I could say come on in Greg.  I do miss you so very much and think of you a lot every time I go in the back yard.  I look at the tree you set out for me.  Well, really I don’t have anything very interesting to tell you.... Janice has been working on school reports all afternoon.  I went to sleep for awhile.  Your mother came over for awhile.  As usual she is very busy.  She is now baking a cake.  Hope she brings me a piece.... Ellamae went to work in a nursery a few weeks ago.... I can tell you, their children love Uncle Clayton.  They was real glad when he gave them the pigeons.  Said they laid eggs going home and three everyday for some time.  Well, today I had to try to teach the Bible class.  It was my day as we all decided to take it time about.  Your mother is real pleased about this and it seems to be working out fine.... Well, Greg, I don’t know anything very interesting to tell you.  Guess you will get tired of all this.  Now I don’t expect you to take time to answer unless you want to. I enjoy hearing your mother read your letters and I am glad you are having a good time and enjoying it over there so be sweet.  We love you.  Aun
t Edna.

    P.S.  Your Uncle Allie is about the same.  Looks bad.  He won’t ever be any better I don’t think....



photo: Aunt Edna visits Gregory’s park



    ... [Gladys to Gregory in Iran, 1971]

I went to see Edna and read your letter.... Then Loraine came and I heard her and Edna review the early days in the Hall family.... The Halls would not ask Loraine to wash on their Delco washer when she was sick and had a brood of young ones. Mr. Hall would get on his black horse and ride up to Willie’s and yell out in the early morning, “Get up! You all goin’ to stay in bed all day?” Mr. Hall gave the grand kids whippings.... Mrs. Hall was not understanding toward Edna and Loraine as they had one baby after another.... Edna review what a hard time she had when she was in Oklahoma.


    1971 March 1:  I went to see Edna to take some sugar home.  I read your two long letters.  She sat in her chair and took in every word.... She said, “I can just see everything.”  The next day she called and said she dreamed that she and I went to see you in Iran.  She said it was a long way on the airplane and we rode and rode.  There was a skip in the dream and we were suddenly at your place.  She said we had to pass around some chickens on the sidewalk as they wouldn’t move.  You showed us your house.  She said she can see it very clearly even now, a hall with a room on either side.  You were telling her how you were going to fix it.  Then you said, “Just look at mother.  There she goes!  She’s liable to run into some people and she can’t speak a word of their language and will get in trouble.”  She said she could just see me now, walking up the sidewalk toward the shops.  You were so concerned about what I might do, but Edna said, “Oh, leave her alone.  She’ll be alright.”  So you two started talking about what we would have for supper.  You talked a lot about food, she said, and then she woke up.  She said it was so real that she felt like she had actually been there.  She said she just sat up on the bed and laughed to herself.  I just thought, if I had millions we would do that very thing—fly to Iran.

 

    1971 May 23:  Edna insists that she is seeing Allie die inch by inch, which I guess is very true.  Too bad it can’t be over.  He does look v
ery thin and weak....


    1971 August 20: Sunday night Loraine and I were sitting close together at church and someone asked me if I were going to teach.  I said, “No, I’ve taught long enough.”  Loraine said, “Yes, and you missed a lot you can’t ever regain.”  I said, “Yes, I guess I have.”


    photo: “Aunt Edna” 


    1971 September 22:  (to Janice)  You have a great mother and I love her.... Your old Aunt Gladys hopes to add to your pleasure [with] this lovely picture of your mother....

    The walk from my house to Edna’s house.... We knew that Tom was coming to Mulberry.  We knew, also, that his daughter was coming, and you, of course.  “That’s nice,” was the general comment.

    ...now that walks are a prescribed part of my daily life, I sometimes make the routine travel twice each day.  Consequently, I was on hand to observe the goings-on for Tom’s coming. Needless to say, it was a hard time for Edna.  She wanted everything to be the best she could make it for you and yours.  It started on Friday.  She cleaned part of the house and made pies. Tension mounted. She was all unnerved about Allie’s bleeding arm, and this was normal.  All I could really offer was my moral support, which, I like to believe, was appreciated.  I worried about her, and so on Friday morning, I called.  She was in a bad state, the cause of which I won’t go into, but I tried to console her.  In the midst of her disasters she had burned the sweet potatoes, and that was bad because she had wanted them to go with the roast.

    Well, as soon as I could after lunch, I went up to see what state of mind she really was in by this time.  What I saw when I entered was a picture I hope never to forget.  It will be hard to describe, and one would need to know the difficulties faced and conquered previously to fully appreciate what I saw.  Just as you will never know this morning story; just as true, you will never know the afternoon story.  The house was in order, windows open, curtains blowing a bit.  Not cool—not hot—yet there stood Edna bending over the kitchen table in her Sunday slip.  Her hair was not a Beauty Shop special (terrible sentence), which could not ever have done as much for her as the soft natural comb out at home.  Her face was soft and pleasant, no tension.  That was all gone.  She had but this one more last thing to do—iron the table cloth.  She smiled as she ironed and talked, chattering about nothing of any special importance.  She ironed the table cloth on the kitchen table with nothing as padding.  She ironed away, this lovely unconcerned mother of yours, unconcerned about the wrinkles she left with no worry or fuss.  It was finished.  She sailed into the dining room with the trailing white cloth.  She slung it over the table.  “Oh, its too long,” she said.  “I must put in another leaf.”  I told her we only needed to pull it a little to the east.  We did.  Then she said, “This sure is wrinkled.”  But said I, “It won’t show when you get all that food on the table.  We turned to leave the dining room.  “Which glasses would you use?” she asked.  We looked them all over.  A blue set, a green set, a yellow set, then I saw the goblets.  “Use these,” I said.  “Perfect for ice tea.”  She gathered some up in her arms and we went into the kitchen.  She was elated.  “See, the meal is all ready.  It may not be quite as good (cooked early), but it is ready and I don’t have to worry about it.”  I was amazed.  Everything was ready.  Fried chicken, roast, gravy, English peas, small stewed potatoes, and what else, I can’t remember.  It looked plenty good to me and I thought, “Now, why can’t I do like this.”  Edna did it again.  By this time in the day with all she had gone through, I would have been a wreck.  Not Edna!  Her baby was coming—and Tom was coming.  She wanted to please you both and I know she did.  I went away wondering how she does it.  You have a great mother and I love her.

    As I said, this does not do justice to the story, but you get the idea I hope.  Your old Aunt Gladys hopes to add to your pleasure this lovely picture of your mother.  Honestly, I just looked at the peace on her face—no make up except powder—standing in that white slip—and I declare to you I thought her beautiful.  Beautiful as far as beauty is concerned—but also I saw beauty of love, character, acceptance of her lot in life, pleasure in the thoughts of you and your new life with Tom, unselfish as she is, I could have envied her.  But I didn’t.  I just tried to share with her all that she was thinking.

    Thank you, Janice, for the lovely flowers, the pot plant, and the pretty woven basket.  Thanks also for the use of your gowns, for your love, your visits, your prayers.

    Love, Aunt Gladys


    1971 September 25:  Edna says Loraine talks to her a lot....  I told her what Loraine said to me about missing a lot, and Edna at once said she meant I had missed what she and the rest had had to live with.  She didn’t agree at all that she referred to the joys of home life that I had given up.  So I don’t know.  I do know that, if I had not had my work, I could never have made it—at least, that’s how I have always felt, and the way I feel now.  I’m just not made up so I could stand it.  But I still know I can do anything I have to do.  I’m just glad I didn’t have to stay here all these past years.  Edna says Allie is very calm and controllable, and not nearly as nervous as he used to be.  She says he can now sit still when someone comes....


    1975  January 7:  Allie is worse.  Edna is a nervous wreck.  Wants me to come to see her....


    1976 September 16: (to Nea)  ... When I got home I rested for an hour then went up to see your mother. Allie kept calling her and calling her. She says he does this all the time. He is so restless and seemed to be uncomfortable. She would ask him what he wanted and he would say, “Nothing.” Finally, I said, “Well, you better go to him and see what is wrong.” She did and found that his arm was bleeding very badly. I got a wet towel for her and she made a compress for his arm. Blood was on the sheet and on his sleeve, so a complete change had to be made. One side of the bed, the railing, was not working and Edna could not leave him for fear he would fall.... I finally left and came home to rest more.


    1976 September 23: Essie wanted to go. I told her I could stay there until Edna got home...gave Allie his banana at 3:00 as Essie told me. He seemed to enjoy it. He talked to me more than he has in ages. He was a clean as a baby, just as comfortable as he could be, not restless at all, and when I said, “Do you want anything else?” he said, “No, Gladys. Thank you!” He asked me, “Where’s Edna?” I told him she had gone to the doctor, and he said clearly, “I’ll be glad when she gets back.”

    Loraine and I had a long time to talk and she seemed to enjoy it. She was her old self and very alert. When Edna got back, she set the groceries on the table, went in to let Allie know she was back (I told her what he said). She said, “Did you miss me?” and Allie said “Yes!” so Edna laughed. She then got into a cool dress and then just like a professional nurse, she said to Loraine, “I know you are tired sitting in that chair. Get up! I fixed a place on the couch before I left.”  Well, Loraine got up with a lot of difficulty. Edna had to pull and tug and the walker was slipping backward, so I caught it, and Edna directed her along to the living room.... Then I left as Edna put up her groceries. Oh yes! Alma and Jimmie were coming for supper that night, so she had all the food ready. Rolls rising, everything, so you see, on top of having Allie to wait on, she had cooked a meal for company, gone to the doctor, got home to care for Loraine—all in one day.


    1976 October 25:  (to Diary)  Cold!  Edna called us that Allie had fallen in the floor.  Clayton and I went up there to help her get him on the bed.


    1980 On August 25 Allie took a turn for the worse after being in the Bonham hospital for ten weeks. On Tuesday, August 26, Lelia wanted me to go up to be at the death scene in her place....

   

    1981 August 19: (after Clayton’s death) Dear Nea, Janice, Betty,            

    Edna has been watching after me like a sister. After you left, and Gregory and Gary left, I was rather sad so I got Edna and we went to see Lelia and Vera....

    Then I got the surprise of my life.  That afternoon about 5:30 or 6:00 Edna walked into my kitchen.  She brought two deviled eggs and a can of soup, and she said, “I have come over to eat supper with you.”  I just hugged her....


    photo below: Gary Hall and son John visit Aunt Edna (1982)


    1983 June 13:  (to sister Wanda) I’ll try to write in the correct order of events. Gary was very doubtful about the wisdom in my going to

t
he hospital, but I felt that I simply had to go...down the hall to Edna’s room. I asked for a little time before going in and stayed outside while Bettie went on in. She told Edna I was coming in to see her, then called me to come on in. This required instant entrance, and I must say I was not prepared for what I saw. She was death in person. Not repulsive, but calm, suffering death, coming by degrees. I went up to her in the bed. She is so wasted away that I could but wonder where the body could be beneath the sheets. She knows everything and talked. She said, “I am so sick” and “I am in a terrible shape” and “Gladys, I can’t live like this,” and after asking for water and getting it through a straw, she started coughing.... She finally says, “I will choke to death.” At last, when all this was over, she tells Bettie to have me sit down. Still thinking about me. That’s when I got started. I just couldn’t take this. She has always known how sensitive I am and has tried to shield me and help me at all times. I left the room for a little while, but I felt I had to be with Bettie, so I went back. It was with such love that Bettie stood over her mother and comforted her.... I did it for Clayton for hours and I know what it means. It is mental, emotional and physical exhaustion, and no tears. Finally, as the hour drug on, I started thinking of my own death and could see Greg doing for me what Bettie was doing for Edna, so I had to leave again.... Bettie told Gary to come and get me, which he did....


    “Mother and I were in the hospital room tonight when Aunt Edna died. Bettie, as much as anybody can, will take her place in the family. She called out loudly from the side of the bed, ‘We’re all here, Mama. Everything is alright.  We’re all here.’”

—Gregory, June 20, 1983



















photo: “Aunt Edna” at Nea’s house

        for a party




 

Thomas Sharp (1796-1864) was born in North Carolina. In the 1840 census he was in Prairie Township, Arkansas, with Sarah, the mother of his eight sons and three daughters. Blind, in January 1864, he was beside his fireplace when Federal forces, the 18th Regiment of Iowa, passed through, forcing able-bodied men to join the Union army. Thomas stood up and was reaching for his cane when a soldier struck his head with a rifle butt and knocked him into the fire. Evelyn, a colored woman, tried to help, but the soldiers beat her and clubbed Thomas to death. Almost sixty years, and four generations later, Thomas’ descendant, Edna Mae Jones, married Allie Hall of Mulberry, on December 20, 1923. She became the mother of ten children, and was my “Aunt Edna.”