Nellie’s Letter

 

Concerning the Only Grandfather I Knew

after his death in January


    1970 February 21:  (Gladys to Wanda)  ...a gloomy day...depressed...not really my nature.... I feel sure that we all share your feelings, which I thought you expressed quite well.... Yesterday when I got home from school I had three letters.... Thought I, “Well, I’ll read Nellie’s first as it will contain the things I am least concerned about”—but to my surprise...and before I had finished I was in agony and torn into threads. No sympathy needed or expected, but it truthfully put me in bed. I suppose she meant well—no doubt she did, but it was not what I would call a consoling letter....

    The more I think about it, the angrier I get, only I know I should not be. I thought back to Dad’s visit when he said, “You children just don’t know how hard it has been.” I thought he was talking about the poverty of life—making ends meet—but now I know that they made his life unbearable, and the faith it must have taken to live through it. But faith he had, until the end. I am so deeply bitter.


Nellie’s Letter


    1970 February 19:  (to Gladys)  I hope you are feeling better by this time and Clayton I hope you have recovered from your accident.  We are all fine except for F__.  He has a real bad cold.  I tried to get him to stay home from work today and stay in bed but he wouldn’t do it.  We miss PaPa so much.  I keep thinking he will be back in the den in his chair in a little bit and when I get up in the morning and get F__ off to work and it comes time for PaPa to get up I miss him so much.  It was hard to go to Sunday school Sunday without him.  I got a call last week from Daulton and Carene Proffer’s little girl and she said we are missing PaPa and that was all she could say.  When I come home from work I keep thinking I will tell PaPa about this one and that one that asked about him and I think of so many things I want to tell him but he is so happy in Heaven with our Lord, I couldn’t wish for him back.  Everywhere I go people tell me how wonderful they thought he was.  We know how wonderful he was.  Gladys, my dear, you must not punish yourself for the things you may think you have said to hurt him for he was grounded in the faith.  You have helped F__ and I so much more than you will ever know.  I heard F__ tell some one that you invited us to come see you all with tears in your eyes and no one would ever know how proud and thankful that made him.  Please pray for F__ and for me too.  You will never know just how much I love and respect you.  I think you are one of the greatest Christians I have ever known and only when you get to Heaven will you know just how much good you have done in this world.  You know when all of you would be here I would hear you talk about your teaching and I would think just how wonderful you were.  You know God gave us all a talent and you have used yours to the very fullest.  God has blessed your work and you are top in my books.  I was so sad when you left here the last time.  Please don’t be blue.  I love you so very much and we need your friendship more now than ever before.  We will miss PaPa so much but he has just gone across the river.  Did I ever tell you about the vision PaPa had?  He may have told you this but I will tell it.  I never get tired of telling it because God’s love never grows old.  He and Mrs. Gregory were at church at some one’s funeral and I don’t know who this person was but he was a great Christian person and PaPa said he was not asleep he was wide awake and the Lord came to him and took [him] down a long winding road and they came to this beautiful river and the Lord stretched out his hand and said Behold.  They went on farther and they came to the river again and it was real wide.  There was a nice breeze and the trees were tall and pretty and across this river was a beautiful City and again the Lord stretched out his hand and said Behold.  Then again he was back in church at this funeral sitting beside your mother.  So you see my Dear that is why he spoke of dying as crossing over the river.  I will always treasure all the talks we had together about God’s great love.  You know [he] loves us so much.  I am so thankful for the privilege of living in PaPa’s home and for being a part of such a wonderful family as you all.  I truly feel as though I am kin to all of you and I love all of you very much.  We will come see you all and we want you all to come see us.  Yes I know PaPa is having a great reunion in heaven but if I know him he first made his way to Jesus and offered up his petitions for all the people he was so very concerned about and you were one of the first ones on the list.  Just a week or so before he went home to be with the Lord he told me he felt like you were sorry for the things you has said that hurt him and you know PaPa didn’t say things like that unless he believed them.  I had prayer with him many times in the past year and he prayed for all of you and your families individually and he loved all of you so very much.  Gladys you have so much to be thankful [for] and I know that you are.  PaPa was not perfect but he lived the very best that he could and gave God all the praise for the blessings that he had and they were many.  He and your mother raised five wonderful children that have given so much to this world.  Did you ever hear him give his testimony [about] when he was saved?  They were going to a revival meeting under a brush arbor and when the [preacher] gave the invitation this night he went down and gave his heart to Jesus and he thought he would shout like some of the others did but he didn’t so the next night he went down again and he did it for three or four nights and some old man came to him and [said] Alvin what’s the matter aren’t you satisfied and he said no I am not I wanted to shout like some of the others did and he said well Alvin maybe that is not the kind of religion the Lord wanted to give you.  You see Alvin we don’t want some one to shout it from the roof tops and preach on the streets.  We want some one that will live it so you see Gladys you live it every day as you teach the little boys and girls in school.  Like the little boy and the dime he stole.  That was one of the most wonderful sermons I ever heard.  When you get to heaven and that little boy comes and tells you thank you for what you did for him you will know life was worth living.  See what God has given you?  May God continue to bless you and your family is my prayer.


Six months earlier...



Gladys, Wanda, Worth, Ray, Dean

  

    1969 June 1:  (Ray to Gladys)  Left Worth’s place a 4 p.m. Friday and had no problem catching the plane in Dallas.  Ruth and three of the children were at the airport to meet me.... I told her all about the trip—almost.

    The situation in Gainesville is so “complex”—I’m sure this word is inadequate for it.  I’m so amazed that I cannot react—and this puzzles me.  You were right to tell me.  It’s too much for you to keep to yourself.  I felt so sorry for you on Friday but maybe you did some good.  Perhaps no one else could have helped.  At last some pieces of the puzzle seem to fall into place.  We need much more information to get a clear picture and this may never come.  My thoughts are mixed...at this moment, I reserve judgment on the whole affair.  You see, Dad was my main contact with sanity and faith, especially during the war years.  I’m sure all the family felt this way too at times.  After all he has done for me, it would take a great deal indeed for me to turn my back on him—in fact, I don’t think I could.  Even if the whole thing was based on hypocrisy, it was still effective.  By saying these things, I don’t mean to imply that you think any different or that you should think differently.  I don’t know how you feel by now....

   

    1969 June 5:  (Letter not mailed, Gladys to Dean)  Your letter came today.... This has been harder on me than it has been on the rest of you because I saw and heard ... with my own eyes and ears.  I am older, too, and remember childhood suspicions.  Finally, I have carried unshared all these years a story my mother told me from her own lips the last day I spent with her on this earth.

    My purpose in telling the story to you and the others was not to convince anyone.  In fact, it was not my idea to share the story with anyone except Wanda.... 

    So, blessings on the people who disbelieve.  God knows you will have a happier life, and be free from a burden that I will carry with me to my grave.  I have believed this so long, that knowing it should not make too much difference now.  Don’t ever mention this to me again.  I love you!

       

    1969 June 8:  (Ray to Gladys)  Thanks for writing the details of developments and about the [another] family meeting.  Yes, I suppose the family needs to know but I’m glad I was not there.  I could have done nothing to help.  As time passes, I find that I prefer not to believe most of the story, but this may not be realistic.  I keep having thoughts like—could there be a conspiracy...which is now beginning to backfire...?  Perhaps they are trying to “pay him back” for something by contorting this story to try to turn his family against him.  I don’t know.  Dad is the only person that could give us the true story, if he volunteers to do so.  However, it might break him completely if he tried to discuss it with any of us.  When I was there, he said that for the first time in his life, he felt ready to “give up.”  I thought he was referring to his health, but maybe there was more to it than that.... Please write when you can.


    June 10:  (Not mailed, Gladys to Ray)  Your letter came today.  So one by one the children weaken to brush the whole affair aside as an absolute lie.  I wish to my soul that I could do that too.  I think of it constantly and I get nowhere except right back to the same old spot, around that table....  It didn’t impress me as being a conspiracy.... Whatever Dad has done, I will not turn against him.  Whatever he has done will hurt me more than it will hurt him.

    I write him every Father’s Day a letter unless I think to get a card.  If I have a card, I mail it.  This year I wrote a letter which I considered a very good one.  Nothing unusual, I thought, as many times, or several times in the last few years, I have written just this type of letter.  I have never had a reply to my letter before, until this time.  As many times as I have thanked him for all that he has done for me, I got only total ignoring of my gratitude.  But this time he answered promptly.  I quote, “I’m not going to try to answer your last letter altho there is lots could be said, but it would do no good.  So I am going to try and forget it and the insinuations that was in it.”  (He did not deny. He knows that I know.)  The only possible insinuation I could possibly have made, and I did not mean it to be one, was when I said, “I have never failed in my love for you.”  Clayton read the letter before I mailed it and he didn’t detect anything wrong in anything I said.  So, he is very sensitive.  I have said sweeter, kinder things than I said in this letter and he never even acknowledged my love I tried to display.  As I have said before, have always thought, and will always believe, he thinks less of me than any of his five children.  This has never really bothered me much because I am the most sinful one and least able to throw any stones at any one.  But I have really gone out of my way to be a dutiful daughter.  I always felt that probably he needed me, but now I realize that he never needed me at all.  I don’t want you to believe this story.  I don’t want any of you to believe it.  But when I heard.... All of you would say, “Why didn’t you tell us?  We would have done something.”  But nobody does anything with Dad....  There is not a one of us who wouldn’t break our necks to forgive, understand, and do all we could to strengthen his faith and build up his courage.  If he would only trust any one of us, we could lighten the burden and cause him not to want to give up.  But who dares to approach him?  To me, he said, “Come when you feel like it.”  He told us they were selling some calves....  I dare not appear on the scene.  All I can do is wait.  He said he had to write to Wanda.  I just wonder if he will confide in her.  If he asks Worth if I told, what will Worth say?  What will Wanda say?  Oh dear, oh dear!  This is all I know.  I haven’t heard from Wanda, but I may any day, and I may not.

   

    1969 July 12: (Gladys to Wanda)  My real purpose in writing is to report my last experience out at Gainesville.... I had a letter from Dad. He related the story like this, and the letter was brief. “On Sunday morning I was on my way to my room when a terrible hurting came in my chest. It nearly knocked me out and I thought I was not going to make it. [My heart really cut up, jumped, pounded and turned, jerked and hurt.] After that I was so weak I have been in bed ever since. Nellie sure keeps the bed nice and clean. I am in a chair while she fixes my bed.” Mistake: he did not list all those verbs to describe the heart spasm. He told me that, so cut that part, for it was not in the letter. So I redressed and left at once for Gainesville, for I knew that if he wrote me that kind of letter he naturally would expect me to come, and on my part it was the normal thing to do, as I would always before have gone—and I wanted to go this time as there is no change in my love and appreciation of all that he has done and meant to me.

    On the way driving out I felt very much alone and frightened. I wondered if there was something he meant to say to me. Clayton wanted to go with me because after I read the letter I could not help it but entered again into this pattern of uncontrolled crying. But I didn’t want Clayton, for if he wanted me to come, and I think he did, then I wanted to go alone. The nearer I got to the place the weaker I got. When I reached the door to the den I stopped. Nellie was at the telephone. I waited until she had concluded the conversation then I said, “Hello. Dad wrote me that he is ill. I got the letter today and I have come to see him.”  She said, on her way to the kitchen, “Come right on in. I’m sure he will be glad to see you.” She hardly looked my way. But I was already wrung dry so that didn’t bother me. Dad was lying flat on his back in bed, pale and weak. He did not seem surprised or particularly glad to see me but he was too weak to show any feeling one way or the other. We talked slowly at first. General subjects. He told me about Dean and Dilly’s visit, which I did not know about...about wishing he could see Kim. Then he told me the story of his heart spell—which you can now read in the already written sentence. He said that Nellie, for the first time in a good while, was going back to church, but he said he didn’t feel like going. But, he said, “I got to thinking about it and I felt like I ought to go too so I was going to my room to get ready when this hit.” Now I am wondering what could have happened or what might have been said to change his mind to go. He had already told her he didn’t feel like going! We will never know. Why this sudden spell on the eve of his decision to go? Maybe nothing—then maybe again it was something she said or F__ said—I wonder. I sat and listened. I didn’t say a word because Dean has already warned me about causing his death—if I said anything to upset him. So I was silent. He let me know that he was doing a lot of thinking. In fact, he said, and I can quote, “I am trying to walk in the straight and narrow path.” He expressed his love for the Methodist minister in Gainesville. He is concerned, he said, for Uncle John’s soul, who, so far as Dad knows, has never publicly acknowledged the Lord, which Dad considers very important. The Methodist minister has been to see Dad twice and he asked about Uncle John. So—I could tell Dad was tired—I left in an hour. Nellie was in the kitchen. Her sister was sitting in the corner as you enter. Nellie, hardly looking my way as she worked on her cabinet, said, “I left it to Worth to call you. I told him to do what he thought best about it.” I very calmly said, “I don’t think Worth will call me.” She said, “Well, that’s alright.” All this very curtly, as if to say then if he doesn’t, that’s bad for I certainly won’t. So onto the porch I stepped with no energy to expend on further conversation. I saw F__. He was friendly but looked up at me in a way I could find only one word to describe.... The attitude toward me was antagonistic, cool and evasive. It was a relief to be on my way back to Mulberry, which I began to look upon as the most peaceful spot in the world. I didn’t cry on the way home, but I did try to analyze the situation. To me, it seems, and I may be wrong, there is building up a closeness between Worth and Nellie, probably a common feeling about me. And I don’t feel the least bit guilty. I regret less and less that I shared this horrible story. True or untrue, let us all be awake to reality, whether we like it or not. I don’t like being deceived. Personally, I could feel much better to know the truth, whatever it is. Analyzing again, this could be a lie from start to finish....  It just could be that when Dad told F__, “I don’t feel that I’ve done anything wrong”—that he was telling the absolute truth.... Did I tell you? Dad said to me, “There is a lot to be said, but it wouldn’t do any good so I will try to forget it.” What does that mean?

    Well—I fundamentally feel as I have always felt. Something has happened to somebody. What it is I don’t know.... The only true evidence I have came from the mouth of my father which I heard with my own ears—and my mother, if I should dare to call her name, which I cherish above all things in this world. I’m a nervous wreck. If you know anything to say to help me, do take time to pass it on, as I’m floundering around.  This is wholly unlike me, but I cry over nothing! I can’t believe it. That’s just not like me. All these years, facing all sorts of problems, I’ve never cried except sometimes quietly at night when nobody knew. I don’t know what to think. Probably Worth’s attitude toward me has a big part. I have really tried—tried hard to win his love and respect—now it is dashed to pieces. He told me one time he thought no more of me than a rank stranger. Now I really believe this.

    Maybe I should stop right here and count my blessings. Love, Gladys