Hattie. Oh boy, what I can say about Hattie? I could probably write a whole book on her, because there is a lot I remember. If you asked which set of grandparents I was closer to, I would have to say that I was closer to my mom’s side of the family, but in all reality, I think I saw more of my Dad’s family, in particularly my grandma Hattie.
She was my father’s mother. She, like my other grandma was quite attractive. It seemed she dressed very nice and always smelled good. She was a tall woman as I recollect and if I had to describe her in a word it would be cantankerous. The dictionary definition of cantankerous is “difficult or irritating to deal with.” Next to that definition should be the word Hattie.
In her earlier years, Hattie lived in an apartment at 24th and Main. In her later years, and before being moved to a nursing home, she lived in an apartment at 29th and Portland.
The main street apartment was small and I can still see the layout of the place. For some strange reason, I always wanted to live there. There was a much bigger apartment (house) in the back that was attached to the part that she lived in. Eventually my sister Dorothy Ann bought that house and lived in the back part with her husband and kids. I think when Dorothy Ann sold the house, grandma was forced to move. That move took her to the Portland Avenue address.
I loved to go visit grandma on Main Street, because she always had the Welch’s grape juice and lots of good snacks – mostly chocolate. It seemed there were always a lot of people there. I would love to run into my uncles at her house.
I can remember visiting there a lot and found it enjoyable because of the snack factor, but mostly because my sister lived in the back part of the house.
Dorothy Ann and Hattie did not see eye-to-eye on a lot of matters. (I also believe that this statement is putting it mildly.) My grandmother was mean to Dorothy’s kids. They could probably address that better than me. On more than one occasion, I can remember Dorothy Ann referring to grandma as a witch or something. I would have hated to be there when Dorothy Ann and Hattie had those heated discussions. I can remember it troubling me a lot because I loved both Dorothy Ann and my grandmother. Although, I wasn’t, I felt in the middle.
Often times, when visiting Dorothy Ann, Grandma would be home and would sometimes not answer her door, or the apartment would be locked up tight as to give the appearance that no one was home. This would, in some sort of strange way, hurt my feelings.
My grandmother raised my cousin Kevin. Kevin was a very strange character as a kid (and as an adult). He was highly intelligent, and would often quote my grandmother as a child. I can remember at the age of 3 he would go around saying “a sweeper sweeps, a washer washes, a buffer buffs and an agitator agitates.” He would also state many times “I am a sick woman.” Being a teenager I would often find that funny, and NEVER once attributed his weird characteristics as a direct result of being raised by grandma. I didn’t want to make that connection. Kevin is another chapter for another day, but deserved honorable mention in Hattie’s chapter.
The reason I call her cantankerous is because she was. My grandmother fought with a lot of people. I remember she would take me and my cousin Vicky shopping and out to lunch. The only shopping in those days was downtown. Of course we went downtown on the bus. She took Vicky shopping much more than she took me. I always felt Vicky was her favorite and I got to go along sometimes as an afterthought. When we would stop for lunch, Grandma was always so rude to the waitresses and would send back food. She was grumpy to bus drivers and other passengers. I would sometimes be very embarrassed in her behavior.
Many times family and friends would be gathered at our house to play cards. Someone would always agree to drive Grandma home (about 2 blocks) and it seemed she always had trouble finding her key. One night it was Frankie (a neighbor’s husband) who made the two block trip to take Hattie home. As they drove down Main Street, she started fumbling in her purse for her key. Frankie assumed Hattie was getting money out of her purse and was going to give him that money for taking her home. Frankie said “that’s ok Mrs. Miller, you don’t have to give me anything.” Hattie said (very rudely), “Don’t worry, I’m not giving you anything, I’m just looking for my key.” So much for gratitude – but that was Hattie.
After she moved to 29th and Portland, Grandma’s health seemed to falter. She suffered from facial myalgia. That disorder would send shooting pains in her face and suddenly, with no warning, she would scream in pain. I mean it was a loud scream that would often scare the living daylights out of me. Out of nowhere - SCREAM!!!!!!
Grandma did have some tragedies in her life. When she was on Portland Avenue, Hattie was once robbed by a bunch of thugs. They broke into her apartment, held a rifle to her head while they made away with her purse, money and some other things. This scared her, and it truly broke my heart. She was old and no matter how mean she appeared, I felt she did not deserve this. That is the first time I ever saw my grandmother as frail.
She was still living when my father died. He was 61 at the time of his death. I can remember her being devastated at his passing. She said to me (speaking of my father) “no matter how old they are, they are still your babies.” I will carry those words with me forever, because I feel the same way about my own grown children.
This brings me to grandma’s upstairs neighbor on Portland Avenue, Loodie. I’m not sure if that is how it is spelled or not, but that was her name. I never met or laid eyes on Loodie. Loodie was a drunk and would often times come home in the middle of the night inebriated out of her mind and making a lot of noise, as she fell over chairs and things. Grandma would call her up and scream at her for being so loud, and sometimes threatened to call the police. Grandma and Loodie went at it tooth and nail, all the time. Grandma and Loodie probably had more feuds than grandma and Dorothy Ann did. And believe me, that was a lot.
Grandma didn’t seem the same after the thugs broke in on her. Her health continued to deteriorate at a rapid pace. She was eventually put into a nursing facility on east Jefferson Street. As I often do, I had a sudden urge to visit her. I went into the nursing home to visit her but she did not know who I was. She was half naked. There was a bed sheet that did not cover her. I covered her up because I wanted to protect what little dignity she had left. The place smelled badly of urine. It took several days to get that smell out of my nose and even longer to get it out of my heart. I was crushed when I left the nursing home that day. How could a woman with so much spunk end up like this? It just didn’t seem fitting. She had made a mark on society, several waiters, bus drivers, bus passengers, Dorothy Ann, Dorothy Ann’s kids and Loodie. Now she was reduced to this. Several hours after that nursing home visit, Hattie passed from this world. I can honestly say that her death affected me greatly.
My niece Karen’s high school graduation was around the time of my grandmother’s funeral. I sobbed like a baby at Karen’s graduation for many reasons. Karen was growing up, and my grandmother was gone. I really, honestly did miss her. Despite her meanness, ingratitude and her great lack of tact - I missed her.
Maybe my feelings were not unique and can be explained, or can best be described through the actions of the lady at my grandmother’s funeral. I had not seen this lady before. The mysterious lady came into the funeral home and was at the casket crying like her heart was broken. I mean, this lady was sobbing immensely. I asked one of my uncles who that lady was and they told me it was Loodie.