I took her to the dermatologist today. He used liquid nitrogen to freeze off three pre-cancerous growths and seriously cautioned her about scratching at her face, as it, too, may soon become precancerous. Like I/we haven’t been harping about it for almost TWO years! I think he got through to her, but how long she remembers, and the force of habit may be the determining factors.
Her friend Al visited her Saturday and reported that he is having to carry more and more of the conversation.
Today began as a good day. I asked her about her visit with him, which she remembered well.
“He did all the talking, though, mostly about his family and what they are doing. That’s okay, I’m a good listener.”
At supper she asked me again if her mother was still alive. I got her to think about it, and she agreed that she was not, but seemed surprised that she died so long ago.
I asked her again about when she heard about her mother’s death. Earlier she had told me her grandfather took her to lunch and told her. I expressed surprise that even though she was living on her own in Cleveland at the time that the family hadn’t told her her mother was ill.
“Maybe she wasn’t!” she shot back.
Wow. Okay. I started pressing for more.
“Reuben Parker threatened many times to kill her,” she said. Reuben was her stepfather, the widower of her mother’s sister Emma, who had died in the 1919 flu epidemic. He had brought their three children to the “old brick house” where his in-laws—and Esther and her mother, Ruth, lived. He and Ruth eventually married, as I have explained elsewhere.
“Did you ever hear him say that?”
“Oh yes. He was a constable, and always ready to go for his guns at the slightest provocation. Things most men wouldn’t think anything about.
“Once he lined up me, my mother, Bob and Willie, aimed his shotgun, and threatened to shoot us all. Phyllis wasn’t there, she was working at the grocery store.
“Grandpa Schmidt broke it up. He said ‘There’ll be no killing in this house.’
“That’s when he kicked Reuben and the rest of us out and we moved to Hummel Road.”
I had heard part of this before, but what came next was new.
“I came home from work one time and found him choking her. I screamed and yelled—she had only one hand to defend herself. I don’t know why he stopped, but then he started beating her. The next day I went to the police department in Berea and told them about it. They were his bosses. They told him if he killed anyone in his family he’d go to jail for the rest of his life.
“He knew I had told on him and hated me for it. I was terrified of him—we all were.
“I think he killed her. Nobody told me how she died. The funeral was in a funeral home, but I don’t remember which one.”
I am still stunned. I’ll try to look this up in some archives, but don’t have time to do it for a few weeks. What a story. But it makes sense in light of other things she has told me. To be continued…