I talked with my brother after I wrote the account of Ma and Pappy. Lots and lots of memories. Lots of things I didn’t remember, too. I find that memories are strange beasties. He knows a lot of things about Ma and Pappy that I don’t remember and I know a lot of things about Grandma and Grandpa Elliott that he doesn’t remember. I think it has to do with who we spent most of our time with as children. As the son, he spent most of his time with Dad and I spent most of my time with Mom. So he knew about Ma and Pappy and I knew about Grandma and Grandpa—not that any of it was privileged information, but just that when Mom went to see her mom and dad, I got toted along and when Dad went to see his ma and pappy, my brother was with him. So those little bits of information that were so much a matter of course to our parents that they were never specifically presented as ‘something you kids need to remember’ only came up between ma and pappy and Dad or between grandma and grandpa and Mom.
Anyway, as we talked my brother ( From now on I’ll call him Buster. His name is Myron, but I’ve never called him that. Maybe more on that later) As we talked Buster reminded me that Pop Bear placed our dad with Ma and Pappy as soon as he was able to leave the hospital. Mom Bear was too sick with tuberculosis to even come home. Pop had asked Ma and Pappy if they would care for Dad, but they hadn’t thought they would be able. The only other caregivers available were a couple that Ma and Pappy didn’t feel were acceptable spiritually to care for their friend’s baby. My grandmother Bear had been saved under Ma Dodge’s aegis so she and Pappy had a special interest in her baby.
Pop Bear took Dad home from the hospital straight to Ma and Pappy. They raised him until he was old enough to be independent and could go to live with Pop and his brothers. By that time his mother may have passed away. Now that isn’t to say he was never at home and never knew his mother; it was only that Ma and Pappy provided the constant care that Pop couldn’t manage with working and caring for three other boys. Even after Dad was living with his own family Ma and Pappy were with him as much as his own father.
When the rolling mill closed Pappy was thrown out of work. He was too old to find another job and he and Ma were about to lose their home. By this time Dad was a grown man and married. He bought the house from them by paying off the remainder of the mortgage. He didn’t have enough money to keep the house and still pay off the loan for the mortgage so he put the house up for sale and when it sold he paid off the small loan he had taken out to cover the mortgage and used the remainder to buy the farm that my brother and I knew as “Ma and Pappy’s.” He bought it for them to live on for the rest of their lives.
Ma and Pappy had tremendous faith. Or maybe I should say they had a very simple faith. Much like Louie, they simply took the Word of God at face value. Trusting God was their way of life. Buster reminded me of he time Ma fell going out the door of their house. Or rather she had gone out the door to throw some food scraps to the chickens which always gathered around the sidewalk.
It was an old house and there were a couple steps going down from ground level to the level of the door, then inside the door there was another step down a couple inches and a kind of platform before another couple inches down to the floor of the kitchen. Ma stepped back from tossing the scraps to the chickens and missed one of the steps inside. She fell backward hitting her back on the edge of the big table. She hurt herself so badly that she could not get up and had to lay there until Pappy came back in from the barn. He helped her up and took her into their bedroom adjacent to the kitchen. She lay there a while and tried to get up but couldn’t move her legs well enough to sit up. Pappy laid her back down and there she stayed for I don’t know how long…weeks I guess. Pappy took care of her faithfully.
After a time she stopped hurting and was able to move a little more. Finally she was able to sit up and get around. Within a while after that she was fine and going about her day to day chores. Time passed and her fall was forgotten.
A few years later she was having trouble with her kidneys and the doctor wanted x-rays of them. She went in and had the x-rays done. When she went back for her follow-up appointment with the doctor the kidneys were fine, but he asked her when she had broken her back. Ma told him she had never broken her back that she knew. The doctor referred to the x-rays and showed her three vertebrae that were so perfectly fused that he told her no surgeon could have done that without screws and pins. The only accident that she had ever had was the fall in the kitchen when Pappy had helped her to the bed and she stayed there for weeks.
No one could ever convince me that the Lord doesn’t heal. Those were the kinds of stakes that were driven deep into my heart when I was a child. They made me know beyond any doubt that God is real and he cares for His own. They are the kinds of stakes that we need to have driven into the hearts of our children. They will hold them firm when the storms of doubt and the world sweep around them.