I Can’t …’See’… Milk
By Gloria Faye Brown Bates/aka Granny Gee
My beautiful mother… and my Grandma Alma. Two of the most special women in my life.
I held my head down, crying. No matter where I went, I wasn’t wanted. Everyone had a home, but… me. I just ‘stayed there’. I stayed with my Grandma Alma, George’s. My paralyzed grandmother, and blind step-grandfather. I loved them with my heart… but, I’d never known that kind of living.
Go on! Didn’t I tell you to get your ass up to Grandma’s! One of my cousins was being mean to me. When they were in a good mood, they would play with me. When anyone was ill… I was the one it was taken out on. Fatty-fatty… two by four, can’t get through the bathroom door! Get your ass on up there! Don’t you ever come back down here, no more!
I walked the path back up to Grandma Alma, George’s. I sat down on the porch. My feet were on the top step, my chin rested on my hands… my elbows were propped up on my knees. I moved my face, pressing it against my hands…. my cheeks against my teeth. I felt myself making faces… ugly faces.
I was maybe ten years old… I wasn’t wanted anywhere. Even my mama threw me away; though sometimes, she did come back to find me. My mama would leave me for weeks, months at a time. If I died, she’d be sorry. She’d wish she hadn’t left me.
She threw me into ‘Hell’… the house I had to stay at was guarding the portal of Hell. Everyone raised hell all the time, there. They were some very evil people when angry. Fighting, cursing, screaming, gnashing of teeth….. it was no place for a little child.
I watched my cousins play out in the front yard. They were playing ball, something I loved to play. They usually wanted me to play with them… not today. They were ill-asses, today. Just the sight of me made them hate me… I was so unwanted.
I got up, entered the front screen door. The door opened into the living room …’front room’… of the house. I stood there. I could hear Grandma Alma, George ‘raising hell’. It was loud, too. George was helping her get to bed… to take her nap. He’d lay on his bed, once he helped her. I had to be quiet… George would get me, if I didn’t.
Where could I go? What could I do? I looked to the doorway to the right. I thought about sneaking into my aunt’s bedroom (she was a hateful-ass teenager). I changed my mind… she did something bad to me the last time.
She beat me badly, leaving blood on my legs, arms. As she beat me, she cussed, raised hell. Her face was contorted into a ‘monster’ face. I didn’t recognize her anymore. She’d become a demon. I hated her.
She had picked up a piece of wood from the stacked up wood…. it was for the wood-burning heater. She used that piece of wood until she was exhausted.
I screamed to her that I was going to tell my mama when she came back, and that I hated her, wished she’d die. I hated her with a passion. My mama was going to kill her! I wanted her to! I was going to kick her if I got the chance! Damn b____!
I had learned a lot of cuss words living at Grandma Alma’s… I knew how to use them, too! I never thought what they meant… I just knew when I was mad… it felt good to say them. I would say them good!
The strange thing was… I loved my aunt very much when I wasn’t mad. A child doesn’t understand ‘why’ they do things…. they just do them. It’s only when someone teaches them… that they learn. No one was teaching me anything but…. hate, anger, unhappiness… how to fight to survive… and cuss words.
A little good girl ‘gone bad’…. I think if you mistreated a cuddly, sweet, little puppy… it would ‘bite you’, too. I was a sweet little girl, responded to love when it was given to me. I wished for love… there never seemed to be enough to come to … me.
It was the worst time I’d been beaten as a child. My aunt knew it, too. She was almost breathless, when she began trying to bribe me not to tell my mom. She was scared… I could see it.
No, I wasn’t going in her room. She might kill me if I do. She was mean, an evil… witch. She screamed, cussed all the time. I loved her, anyway. Sometimes, she was so kind to me. Even sometimes, she would say, “I love you”.
I wanted something to drink. I was thirsty. I tiptoed into the house, so… as not to wake Grandma Alma, and George. They took naps every day. George would holler very loud if I woke him up. Grandma Alma would wake up, and holler at him. No, I didn’t want to wake them up.
I walked in a straight line across the floor from the screen door … I entered the ‘middle room’… this was the ‘arena’. This was the arena everyone came to ‘raise hell … to fight until someone was laying on the floor… in blood. Bleeding, crying… strange thing… always females. I don’t recall any males fighting there.
Flesh upon flesh… slapping, punching, kicking each other. Scratching, ripping flesh. The arena was where it all took place. Men would have loved watching all the pretty women fight… they put on a spectacular show.
Grandma Alma had an old, faded pink, upholstered rocking chair sitting beside an old dresser in the middle room. On it, sat all her bottles of medicine… her dingy glass of ice water. Behind that, sat her bottle of Beauty Ray lotion, and bottle of alcohol.
George used the lotion and alcohol faithfully 3 times a day, to ‘rub her up’. I later found out when I was older… he gave her ‘range of motion’ exercises 3 times a day.
You have to love someone dearly to do what he did, for twenty-some years… and be blind. He devoted his life to her.
They fought like hell… when they fussed. The older I got, the more I understood… what else did they have to do… they couldn’t go anywhere; they didn’t have anything to make them happy. Their frustrations came out in their fusses… like a kettle on a stove… when it boils… it releases steam. The more it built up pressure… the more it steamed.
If I were blind like George… or paralyzed like Grandma Alma was… I’m sure I’d cry, raise hell… scream, too. Then… again, most likely I wouldn’t… but, I’m sure I would ever once in a while… I’d be the meanest b____ around… at least for a little while.
Don’t you know they felt anger sometimes, for the position life put them in? For the hell in their life? Never having any comforts in life? No money, yet… they went on… they had a lot of love.
Maybe that’s why their house was sitting over the portal to hell… maybe that’s why they gnashed their teeth. They lived in hell, over hell, and everyone reflected it… their life was… hell.
That house today… has been remodeled. Yet… not so long ago, Skip and I went there… it took several days to get past the sick feeling I had inside my stomach. I stood on the porch, in the doorway… looking inside. I became physically sick….
Bad things have happened in that house through the years… it sits there…. looking pretty, innocent. It’s a ‘bad’ house. I don’t remember any happy things happening there through the years. I don’t think Grandma Alma, George ever got a break from the constant stress they lived under, until the day they died.
People have come, gone through time. No one ever seemed to want to live there very long. Bad things happened…
The last ‘bad’ thing I heard happening there was a young mother who hung herself…..
I’m sure the devil came up to visit my aunt. I would like to know if the very door to ‘Hell’ was in her bedroom. She sure could be mean.
Maybe … he was the ‘blue ball lightening’ I used to see… it seemed to always ‘look for me’. I would always be under a quilt on Grandma Alma and George’s old, red vinyl couch… peeping, watching it… my breath held until I felt faint.
That blue ball lightening would roll out of my aunt’s room… looking back into the past… maybe he was her boyfriend… she could be an evil b____!
She had a reputation for being evil as she grew into a young woman… older woman. She was one of the most evil women I ever knew. Yet… I still loved her.
She hurt me many times through the years before she died… not only that… she got a lot of other people, too. She was just ‘mean’… and hid it with a sweet smile, and under the pretense of loving, liking someone until she found someone’s weakness.
Once she did that… she’d strike… doing awful damage to families, different people. She didn’t have a heart. I never saw that woman cry… I always saw a ‘gleam’ in her eye. Yeah… I’m sure she and the devil ‘had a thing going’ …back then.
The blue ball lightening would roll out of her bedroom door slowly…. toward me; it would stop, sit there…. stare at me. I ‘knew’ it could see me… I ‘knew’ as a little girl, it ‘knew’ I was very afraid. It never came any closer.
Every time a storm came up… I ‘knew’ that blue ball lightening as big as a basketball was going to look for me.
Everyone dumped their children on Grandma Alma, and George’s, knowing they weren’t able to care for them. They cared for them the best they could; they loved their grandchildren.
George loved my Grandma Alma with his very heart. She loved him in return. No matter they had some ‘hellacious’ fusses… they loved each other.
When something happened good to them… it happened ‘far and between’. Usually what someone brought to them… was more worry, and ‘extra’ hell-raising, and a good fight in the ‘arena’… located in the middle of the floor. The arena was situated right in front of Grandma Alma’s rocking chair… George had a wooden cane chair sitting beside hers.
Their seats were ‘front row’ seats. They saw many shows, and fights. They never had to pay a thing… only pay attention. Grandma Alma would cry, or begin screaming… George would cry out for them to stop. No one ever heard a word they said… never. The ‘show’ lasted until someone was disabled, bloody on the floor.
It was awful… a child should never see, hear… feel such ugliness, hatred, violence… never. It affects them deeply. The arena was the place to come to be as ugly as a human being could be… without actually murdering someone.
I hated it… I hated whoever chose to come to it to fight… I hated it when someone came to it… and my mother was involved. I would run up to the fight on the floor, and slap whoever was hurting my mom… slap them very hard in the face.
If I could, I would slap as many times as I could, and scream, “leave my mama alone, leave my mama alone”. Sometimes, I’d be sent flying through the air… my mama would ‘really kick ass’, then. She might throw me away, but… she’d fight for me… I’m sure she loved me … at least a little.
I was thirsty… I tiptoed to the refrigerator. I was going to sneak a taste of milk! I had had milk until I came to Grandma Alma’s… when I came there, I didn’t drink it anymore. George would holler, raise hell about children drinking the milk up from Grandma Alma. She needed it… she was sick. I just wanted a taste… that was all… just a taste of it.
I used both my little hands to open the refrigerator door quietly… I thought I had. Just as I reached for that carton of milk, I heard him.
“You better not be getting into that milk! It cost too damn much to keep buying it for everybody to drink it up”! My little hand came back down, I closed the door quietly, and tiptoed out of the room quickly!
This is how I learned ‘not to drink milk’. That’s ‘why’ today… I don’t see milk when it’s in front of me.
This has amazed Skip all these years. He can’t believe how I never see, or think about milk… as much as I … love milk. He has to remind me to drink milk sometimes… if he doesn’t drink it… it’ll sit there… ‘forever’.
I can open the refrigerator door, and see everything but… milk. I love milk… but, I don’t see it.