May 20, 1987.
Two things happened today. One: it was the last day of school and Two: My grandma got a new bed today that has wheels and metal handles that make it go up and down at the top. We are not allowed to play with it but when my grandma went to the bathroom she said I could put it down for her and I did. It was like a robot.
Also my grandma has two nurses that come now: Jacky and John, they are not married, they just have the same first letter. Jacky was not nice but John was.
My mom did all of my Grandma’s laundry and made food for all of us and she and my Grandma talked a lot all the time. At first when we moved in I was real watching to see if they would argue because my mom gets real mad all the time but she did not hardly get mad at all at Grandma Judy’s house. But I think it is because it is always clean at my grandma’s, and even Becky knows to not make a mess.
I like my Grandma’s new bed because it has lots of room on it. Me and Becky even play Candy Land on the end of it. My grandma didn’t play but she said she liked us to play it in there so she could listen because she said she liked that game a lot
I like that game too, my favorite part on the game is Queen Frostine because she is beautiful and she lives on a cotton candy cloud. I think that is what heaven must look like, because it is white and fluffy and pretty. But the game does not end by Queen Frostine, it ends by King Kandy, who looks real friendly and nice but his castle is brown and made out of chocolate and it is not white and pretty like Queen Frostine’s. I wonder if God lives in a castle like that, or if his house is made out of cloud.
I have been thinking about heaven a lot because of Grandma Judy going to die. I keep wanting to ask my mom or my Grandma about the witch thing and about the hell thing but they are being so nice that I don’t want to make anybody mad.
Also I was gonna ask Carrie Ann but she is not my teacher anymore, it is Mary Kaye Greene, and she is not nice, I mean, she tries to be nice and she brings us one cookie every week that she makes from homes but I can tell she is the kind of lady who would not be nice to talk to, also she is really old and grown up like a Grandma age and I don’t want to talk to her about dying because she might die too soon.
So the only person I had to talk to about any of this was God. But it was hard to talk to him because now I go to bed with Becky in the same bed and Grandma Judy’s apartment is small so even when we go to bed if Becky goes to sleep my mom is right outside the door in the living room watching Jeopardy so she would hear me if I talk out loud and I don’t know if God hears me when I talk inside my head.
But sometimes I did talk to him, and when I did I always ask him to not let her die and to please forgive her for being a witch.
June 22, 1987
I found out more about the witch stuff.
My mom was outside in the driveway and she was lighting three books and some papers on fire a couple weeks ago and when I went out she said the garbage already went and she was burning trash but I could see what some of them were- they were all books that I had seen on my Grandma’s little shelf by her bed before. One of them had a star and I could see W-I-C-C on the part that was not burned and I know that was not spelling W-I-T-C-H but it is sort of the same and I think that witches like stars and moons besides. And I did not tell my Grandma but I think she does not care about anything in the house at all anymore, mostly my mom is in charge and also my Grandma Judy was not reading anything by then at all, just laying in bed all the time with her eyes mostly closed, and sometimes she is listening to the radio on the Christian station, which my mom turned it on because I did not know that my Grandma knew about.
July 2, 1987
My grandma is more sick than ever. She had to go to the hospital two times for surgeries, and now she has no hair at all on her head, and she wears a scarf on her head and it looks like she is a gypsy fortune teller and I wonder if witches have crystal balls like gypsy fortune tellers do, that tell you what is going to happen because I would ask if my grandma is going to get better or if she is going to die from this cancer.
I have been thinking a lot about her dying and sometimes I feel like all twisted up in my stomach like when I went on the rides at the fair last summer, and two times I had to put hide my face in my arms on my desk at school because I was thinking about- what if my Grandma died while I was at school and I didn’t know it, and she went to hell and I never told her that you have to say the “come-into-my-heart” prayer to go to heaven??
And then in Sunday School we were gluing cotton balls onto pictures about ninety-nine sheep and I was thinking about what I can do to tell my grandma about the hell thing, so when the time was up and all the boys were racing out, I started going real slow on my craft so that every other kid would leave and I could ask Miss Mary Kaye without anyone else there. But I waited and waited and Tanya Miller was going real slow too (I don’t know how come) and the thoughts inside me were just pressing up harder and harder inside me until I said real loud,
“Miss Mary Kaye, how come a witch has to go to hell?”
And Miss Mary Kaye got all red and her mouth was O shape and first she said she didn’t know but then she said she guess that that anyone who rebels against God is choosing to go to hell and I said I didn’t think anyone would choose to go to fire, (and what is rebel anyway, except I heard that the civil war had rebels and I don’t know what that has to do with it) and she looked at me through her little red glasses and said that “the everlasting fire is reserved for the devil and his angels, and for all who choose to follow him, which would be witches, because they worship him.”
And then I don’t know what made me do it, but I yelled right at her that my Grandma doesn’t worship the devil!!! Because I know she does not!!!! And she said “MISS FREED SIT DOWN” but the class was over, so I knew I did not have to stay sitting so I grabbed my paper even though it was not dry at all) and I ran out and all the way down the hall to the fellowship hall bathrooms and went in and locked myself in a stall and put my feet up on the toilet so you could not see me.
And I was breathing hard and real angry at her and after a minute a grownup opened the door and said “Jessica Freed, are you in here?” and I held my breath as still as I could and they went out again, and then after they went out, I cried until I was done crying, and then I looked at my paper and the cotton balls were all messed up, some of them were all coming unstuck, so I pushed them around in the paste and tried to smooth them out because the sheep that did not have the cotton looked weird and naked next to the ones that did, and it was a long time, but then the door opened again and this time it was Becky and she looked under all the stalls and when she saw me she said “Everyone is looking for you” and I wiped my face with my dress and came out.
And then me and Becky snuck through the side bathroom door that goes to the nursery, and no one was in there, and we were standing by the door, and I listened to the hallway to see if there was anyone out there, and I could hear Miss Mary Kaye, and Mrs. RIce, who is the pastor’s wife, and they were talking, and Miss Mary Kaye said,
“Well I don’t know what kind of home those girls are growing up in, you know that woman came from the rehab center not two years ago, and now one of those girls talking about devil worshipping?”
And then Mrs. Rice answered saying that that’s what you get when you go around with the wrong sort of people, those poor children, she said. “They haven’t been taught right from wrong from the start,” she said, “being raised by that woman.” And I thought they were talking about my grandma, cause she’s a witch, but then she started talking about my mom’s skirt and how it was short and how she was raising her hands during the music and her skirt was so short “it was giving the whole show away” and I realized they weren’t even mad at my grandma, they were just talking bad about my mom!
I heard them just talking and talking about her and about all kinds of things they didn’t like about her, and I was thinking about my mom and how much she was always trying to be like those ladies, like wearing the same kinds of shoes and things cause she saw them do it, and how sad she would be if she coulda heard them now. And the more I thought about my mom being sad, the more I just got mad even more.
And I took up Becky’s hand and tucked my paper under my armpit like my mom will hold her purse sometimes, like a grown up, so I could grab onto the door, and I opened it real hard and walked out in the hall past them and I LOOKED at em, I looked at Miss Mary Kaye and I looked at Mrs. Rice, each of them in the face, with my mouth closed tight and hard and they were both big eyed when they seed us come out of the nursery cause they had been right there next to the door, and I showed them with my face that I knowed all about what they said. And I just held Becky’s hand tight and marched out of there to the foyer, and found my mom, who was standing by Pastor Rice.
And Pastor Rice, (who is the same one who stands up at the front and does the big talk every Sunday, and also his daughter is Brooke, who is in my class and will never talk to me) and he is usually real smiley and friendly and shaking people’s hands but this time he had real angry eyebrows and he was talking to my mom about how she had a lot of work to do.
And at first I thought he was talking about cleaning, because every Saturday night my mom comes to the church and does all the mopping and vacuuming with another lady named Mandy Wilson, but then I knew that he was not talking about cleaning because he looked at me and Becky and said, “You don’t want these beautiful young girls to end up the same way you did, do you?”
“No, sir,” said my mom. Which, I don’t know why she said that because she is a great mom and perfect and beautiful and a lot more nice than those other ladies! And I was so hot inside after Miss Mary Kaye, and Mrs. Rice, and now Pastor Rice, and all over again I wanted to say something but I felt like my throat was just getting even tighter and then my mom said, “Jessica, do you think you should apologize to your Sunday School teacher for yelling at her?” but I could not, I just could not, I just shook my head and squeezed on to Becky’s hand really hard but I could not say one word, I was just going to cry and my mom sighed and said, “I’m sorry, Pastor. I guess I’ll have to take her home and deal with her.” And then Pastor Rice said he had a paddle in his office that she could borrow, and I was almost scared but then my mom said no, she would deal with me at home, and she took my hand and we went out.
And then we went out to the car, and I thought my mom would be real mad and just yelling and talking real loud to me the whole way but I just smoothed my paper flat on my lap and fixed some of the cotton balls that were falling a little bit and then I looked out the window and she was driving and did not say one word and I did not say one word either. Only Becky was talking to us both about stuff that she did with her friend Kelly, and she asked me like five times why I was hiding in the bathroom.
And then when we got home to my grandma’s house, guess what, my dad was there sitting on the front step, and when we drove up I thought he looked like he was crying, but I was wrong because when when we got out of the car he was just smiling at me and he tickled me and Becky both, and he said that there was lunch for us in the kitchen. Then me and Becky went inside and there were three ladies in the kitchen (one was Nancy that she played cards with sometimes) and they were all smoking and making coffee and talking quiet with their arms crossed on their chests and Nancy said, “What do you got there, Jessie?” and she took my sheep paper from my hand and said, “My, you did such nice work at your church class,” and she showed the other ladies and they all acted like it was good schoolwork and then she hung it on the fridge with a magnet and said did me and Becky want some macaroni and cheese and did we want to watch a TV show in the living room. So we went in there and Nancy brought us both a bowl and we were eating it but my throat was all full up like I could not swallow.
Becky turned on Alf, and she turned down the volume on real quiet so my mom did not hear because my mom does not like that show because of how he eats cats, but even though I always wanted to see Alf, I wanted to know why those ladies where there and were my mom and my dad were, because they were not in the living room or outside anymore.
So I went down the hall and I could see there was my dad and Jackie in my grandma’s room, and she was laying real sunk into the white blankets on that different bed, And I thought it didn’t look like my grandma. She didn’t have on her scarf, just had a shiny bald head like an old man.
And her face was not happy like her face always was, and she had no lipstick or nailpolish to match, and her nose was so big like I didn’t remember it, and I thought how she really is a witch, isn’t she, with a big nose and looking so ugly and mean and I was scared about it but I didn’t want to go back to Becky, I just watched my dad and he was sitting in a chair and didn’t look sad or nothing- just tired kinda and the nurse was fixing my grandma’s blanket and then my mom saw me in the hall, and she told me to come in.
And I went in.
My dad said, “Come here, baby,” and I went over to him and sat on his lap, and then he said I could hold my grandma’s hand if I wanted, and I did not want to because my Grandma looked real scary, but I did. It looked just like her normal hand, even though all the other parts of her looked bad. And as soon as I put my hand on hers, she squeezed onto it, just like always when she held my hand, but her eyes were still closed. So I just was sitting there a real long time holding onto her hand while my mom and the nurse lady were talking real quiet. And then my grandma opened her eyes again, and she was not looking at me, she was looking at my mom and she said her name, she said,
And my mom got up from her chair real quick, and kneeled down in front of my grandma, and said “Judy, I’m here.”
And my Grandma Judy opened her eyes and was looking at my mom, and my mom was holding onto my Grandma’s other hand with both her hands, and my Grandma said, “I’m in a real bad way, Donna.”
And my mom said, “I know.” And then my grandma closed her eyes again and my dad started to talk a little bit but my mom did not look at him. She just said, “What do you want me to do, Judy?” And my grandma did not open her eyes, but she said, “I ain’t mean to go against God, Donna. You tell him that?”
And my mom was all of a sudden crying real hard but without any noise at all, just red eyes and wet on her cheeks and she said, “I think you got to tell him yourself, Judy, I’m sad to say.”
And my grandma was squeezing my hand so hard like I thought it was bust and she opened her eyes and said “He won’t listen to me, I’m so lost, girl. You don’t know what I’ve done.” And I don’t know what it was but something strong jumped up in me and I came off my dad’s lap and threw my arms over her like my chest on her chest and I put my hands on her cheeks and I said to her “Grandma, Grandma, no,” I said, “listen, he will listen to you, Mr. God is so nice, don’t you know that it says when one sheep was lost, he left all the other ninety-nine to go out and find it??“
And my grandma looked at me with her normal black eyes like I always remembered, and she grabbed onto my arms strong and whispered, “You think so, honey? You think he would even for me?”
And then that was it, that was all the last thing that happened because the next thing I knowed I was crying so loud that my dad picked me up and carried me out to the couch and sat with me for a long time while Becky watched Family Matters and two episodes of Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers and then I went to sleep right on the couch and when I woke up in the morning I was in the bed with Becky and my grandma was not there anymore because she was dead.
And the bed was all flat with the white blankets, and the ladies were gone, and my mom and my dad were sitting at the table and I sat on my dad’s lap and I leaned on his chest and he smelled like coffee and cigarettes and he smoothed my hair a long time while they asked me if I was okay and told me about how we were going to go down to the cemetery and I didn’t have to go if I didn’t want to, and I just listened to him and my mom talk for a long time, and I didn’t really answer very much until my dad said to me, “What’s that paper you got hanging on the fridge? That your artwork?”
And I got down and got my cotton ball sheep and it was still pretty wrinkly and a lot of the cotton balls were gone but I said,
“This is the shepherd and these are the sheep, Daddy. There are one hundred of them, but one of them is lost.”
“Is that this one down here in the bush?” he said, and I said, “Yes.”
“That’s the one that ran away,” I said. And my dad said, “Oh, and then what happened to him?”
“That’s what I said, Daddy, about Mr. God. He is a real nice shepherd- he does not get mad at all- he just goes after it to find it and bring it home.”
My dad was real quiet then, he just looked and looked at the paper for a long time and I thought he was going to say that there were a whole lot of cotton balls missing, but then he just said- “And what happens at the end, baby girl? Does he find it?”
“Yes, Daddy,” I said, and I turned over the paper to the words of the lesson that were on the back. And because I am the best reader in my whole class, I read the whole thing, all the way up to this part:
“And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
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