When my dad was born, my grandparents named him Elwood. Poor kid. Elwood Arthur. Well, grandma’s name was Orpha and they already named my aunt, Wilma, so it made sense to stick with stupid names. What is worse, is that dad had a first cousin that was born a week after he was, and so what did they name that sweet, tiny, baby? You got it, Elwood. Yeah, two Elwoods in the family.
My grandfather was a strip miner and land developer. He named a lot of street names in Weirton, West Virginia. Even named one after grandma…sigh….Orpha Avenue. I forgot to mention that Orpha’s best friend’s name was Zella. I can’t make this stuff up. He once converted an old mansion into apartments and named them the Vickie Lynn Apartments after me. How about that?
I just loved my grandpa. He spoiled me rotten. I wanted a fur coat, so one day he bought me one with a fur collar. Did I mention I was only four years old? I hung out with him all of the time. In the summer, I would stay overnight with them and we would watch Bonanza and the Ed Sullivan Show. We would sit on the carpet and play marbles. I became pretty good with my shooting. My grandma would run bath water for me in like 1/2 inch water. I guess she thought I would drown or something.
But, I had fun with my grandpa. But he used to lie to me all the time. He always wanted company when he would have to drive over to Zanesville, Ohio, to look at one of his strip mines. He told me one time to come with him, because he was going to stop at a relative’s home over there, and they had a baby elephant. Are you kidding me? A baby elephant? Yes, of course I will go with you!! When we got there, there was a terrier on a long leash that was attached to a clothesline, running back and forth. “Grandpa, where’s the baby elephant?” “Well, they must have sold it.”
When I would stay overnight and eat with them, he would tell me to hurry and look out the window, and then he would steal something off of my plate. He would smile, but would never give it back to me. He always ate grapefruit. Every morning there was a half of a grapefruit sitting on a plate. I hated grapefruit, so I got those white powdered donuts. I am sure she cooked something for me, but I remember gourging myself with those dry donuts. I had fun at their house. They had a cat named Tommy, that was tied up in the kitchen and was rarely allowed anywhere in the house.
I always knew there was something not right about my grandma, but I really didn’t see it. I found out later that she once took a train by herself to Philadelphia to see a specialist because she thought she had wires coming down in her mouth. Ok…..I also found out that when Grandpa wanted to take a cruise or fly to Florida, he would put Grandma in a “rest home” while he was gone. He was wild. He had several palimino horses that he would dress up and ride in the parades in town. He even owned a farm where the horses stayed. We would take sleigh rides on the Cherry Farm. Life was grand.
Well, then he got hurt. Seems that crazy Grandma was chasing him through the house with a butcher knife and he fell and broke his hip. After that, he just seemed old and frail and before long he was always in the hospital. Then he had to live in a nursing home. One night my dad got a call from the nursing home and my dad took off quickly. I thought maybe Grandpa had died and I cried all night.When my dad got home later, I sneaked and listened to my dad tell my mom, (after he got a beer and sat down) that, chuckle, chuckle, chuckle, that Grandpa had taken off all his clothes and they found him in bed with some old lady who was a very prominent citizen in town. Luckily, she didn’t know her own name, so I guess she didn’t mind. That’s one thing when you have Alzheimers. You make new friends every day. (Sorry)
I was 15 when my grandpa died. I believe he was 85. I don’t know why I felt like I wasn’t supposed to cry. They held a viewing for 2 days and I couldn’t get over how many people came to pay their last respects. I was so sad. Until some stupid woman with a black shiny pocketbook came over to my mom. I remember I could see myself in the reflection of that damn purse. I was wondering if she buffed it to be so shiny. I bet she only had a hankerchief and a lipstick in it. She spoke to my mom and offered her condolances. “Oh, my, Georgiana. Is this your adopted daughter, Vickie?”
Ok, I was 15 years old. I was adopted when I was a few days old and was carried to a street corner in Wheeling where my mom and dad were waiting. I know that sounds a bit fishy, but it was supposed to be a private adoption. How more private can you be than by hanging out on a street corner, waiting to pass off a baby? Anyways, this lady looked at me, excited to meet Georgiana’s adopted daughter. Ok, it was SHOWTIME!
“I’m ADOPTED??????” I looked at the lady and then looked at my mom..and then looked at the lady and then looked at my mom..And then I burst out crying, put my hand over my mouth and ran out of the room. When I got around the corner, I slowed down, smiled, I thought to myself, “That’ll teach her.”
In the end, I got to cry over my grandpa’s death. Indirectly, of course. I peeked around the corner and I could see the lady begging my mom for forgiveness. It looked like my mom didn’t tell the lady that I have always known I was adopted. Hmmm, interesting. I think that meant that I was going to have to get a whipping when I got home. Do the little “Spank your Ass” dance around in a circle. I didn’t care. Pocketbook lady deserved it. But, I wasn’t done. I looked over at David, who was standing by my dad, looking like he was ready to cry himself. I then sort of ran over to my mom, made myself cry again right before I got to her and the lady and I said, “David wants to know if he is adopted too? ” I pointed in David’s direction. Mom and Pocketbook lady looked over at poor David.
Like it was on cue, David looked like he was ready to cry.This can’t get any better. The lady looked like she wanted to hang herself with the strap on her shiny black pocketbook. I asked, “Mom, is David adopted too? We aren’t real..pause… pause….crying….lights down low…..”brother and sisterrrrr?” I burst into tears again, walked over to David, and hugged him. I think he was a little shocked that I just came over and hugged him. We weren’t huggers. But, it was part of the acting. Such great acting. David had no clue what I had done.
But, my mom knew EXACTLY what I was doing. I was 15. I hadn’t been whipped in a very long time. I was sent to my room a lot. But that was a long time ago also. I had a feeling I was going to be sent away to a boarding school. That is the kind of look she gave me. Her neck and ears seemed a bit more red than usual. Yeah, this was going to be bad.
My mom didn’t say a word on the way home. She didn’t say a word to me when we got home. It was late, so we got ready for bed. I laid in bed and she didn’t come in to tell me my flight was booked for boarding school. Nothing. So, I put the TV show, Mission Impossible theme music in my head and creeped to the family room to hear my fate.
They were both smoking and the TV was on in the background. They seemed to be talking about the funeral home and just the day in general. Then I heard her mention my name. Something something..Vickie. Damnit, speak louder, Mom. All I could hear was little snippets. “I was so proud of her.”…..”How dare she mention the word adopted.”…..”I’ve never liked that woman.” …”She deserved it.”…..”She is so very sneaky.” Ok, who was sneaky? I’m thinking it was time for me to get back to bed, or they were going to find out how sneaky I truly was. I turned around to rush back under my covers, when I tripped on the damn dog, who had plopped down beside me, and I flew into something that made a noise. Just great.
My mom saw me and just looked down at me. “You have had a long day, Bette Davis. Time to go to bed, don’t you think?”
She smiled at me and walked into the kitchen. Wow. Finally, one of my lies paid off.
And I got to cry over Grandpa.