The Wall of Life

The Wall of Life

Granny Gertrude was a spry old lady of eighty plus she was known to say when asked her age.  “It’s nonna they business how old I am.” When you passed her little white cottage in Clover Village on Diamond Street, you were subject to find her mowing her lawn on a summer day or planting flowers in springtime.  Or, the next day trimming hedges or pruning the Dogwood Tree that grew in her front yard.  Always a “good morning” or “How ya doing today baby?” as you passed by.  Granny, as she was affectionately called, spoke to everyone who passed, by neighbors and children alike.  She never knew a stranger.  To Granny a stranger was someone who was never introduced.  

“How ya doing?” She’d ask the children on their way to school. 

“Fine, Granny.” They’d reply.  

“Ya’ll be good and listen to ya teachers ok?” Granny Gertrude would say reminding the children that school was now in session.   

“We will Granny.  We will.” The children would assure her. 

            Granny sometimes walked down to the corner store at the end of her street greeting everyone with a smile or a conversation as she passed even the homeless man.

“Hello Gray, I see God is still good to you boy.”  She’d say.  

“How you figure Granny?”  Gray asked.

“Cause He give you all of Mother Nature’s earth to lay yo’ head at night and greet Him in the morning with the sun.”

“Yeah, when you talk to Him again, tell Him I could use a pillow for my head sleeping on this hard bench.” Gray would grumble. 

Staring at Gray with her hazel brown eyes Granny said, “I’ll be sure to ask Him, but until then you might want sleep on the grass.”  Then she’d throw her head back laughing.

“Now come help me carry my groceries home.”

Gray laughed right along with her saying, “Yes ma’am. You ain’t right Granny, you ain’t right.” 

This is Granny Gertrude.  A kindhearted, quick-witted woman bringing out the best in everyone she talked to.  She stood all of 5’2, but walked with such dignity one would think she was 6’ feet tall.  The neighbors say Granny married three times once for love, once for money, and once for companionship. When asked what happened to her husbands, she’d wink and say with a smile, “They couldn’t get it right so, Jesus saw fit to take them and leave me here. There’s still work for me to do.”  Throwing her head back laughing, the neighbors laughed right along with her.  Granny never had children but she was never lonely.  She’d say, “Things happen in life for a reason sometimes, you just don’t understand.  God does provide.”  At one time, she said how much she longed for children so God gave her a neighborhood full. With explanation or comment, she’d laugh and smile and cause everyone within her presence or the sound of her voice start to  laugh even when they had no idea what she was talking about.  Her laughter was infectious. 

One day, a neighbor named Sheila asked Granny if she ever wondered, worried, or feared death and dying as her years wind down.  From time to time, Granny was known to say, “Chile yes my days are winding down, but we all got a reckon day with da Lord.”  Sheila was known for being uncouth.

On this particular day the kids were still in school and Sheila decided to come outside and sit on the porch to watch Granny trim her hedges.  She observed Granny’s concentration on pruning her rose bush. 

“Granny!” Sheila yelled thinking Granny hadn’t noticed her or was too busy concentrating on the rose bush. 

“What Chile?” Granny yelled back.

“Granny, I was wondering are you afraid or do you believe there’s an afterlife?” Sheila asked.

“Chile yes.”  Matter of fact she said, “I look forward to signing the wall of life.” 

“The wall of life. What’s that?” Looking confused Sheila asked. 

“It’s a place between earth and heaven.”  Granny smiled as she looked up at the sky.  “When my angel comes to escort me home, I’mma write my name on the wall just like every saint who’se gone before me.  I’mma write, ‘Granny was here from 1925 to whatever…peace out!”  Then she started laughing. 

Giving Granny a curious look Shelia said, “Come on Granny surely, you don’t believe in such a thing?”

Granny winked at Sheila and said, “I sho do.  Did I ever tell you the story about Herbert, my third husband?  God rest his soul, I believe he signed that wall.”

            It was noon and the kids where still at school so Sheila thought she’d go over and sit on Granny’s porch and listen to her story. 

“It was 1975 when I met Herbert with his jet black self and a head full of soft curly hair. Girl it took everything within me not to jump that man’s bones when I first saw him. Girl he was fine!” 

“Oh Granny…”

“Chile please, we grown or at least I am.”

            Anyway I was a fine sexy caramel skin gal.  I was all of 50 and had already buried two husbands by then.  Sad.  But no one could tell my age not even the men.  To be fifty, I looked 35-40 easy.  Yeah, those were the days she thought smiling to herself.  My figure made me look twenty-five, I still had hips and nothing really dropped much.  Good genes, I think that’s what they call them.

            Anyway, I thought I give you a little back-drop.  I was working in the hardware store for Ole Mr. Miller down there on Pekoe Street downtown next to Cook Cleaners.  Like everything in life, things change and that hardware store ain’t there no more.  I hear Cook Cleaners is holding on by a thread now there ain’t a lot of clothes that need to be dry cleaned no more.  I loved to see men and women in starched shirts and pressed dresses, they look so nice.  Anyway, my Herbert walked in on a Tuesday afternoon and I swear, I was his girl by next Wednesday the follow’ren week.

Sheila laughed, “Com’on Granny, you couldn’t wait at least two weeks?”

“Chile no.  I told you he was fine and a gentle man.”

“You mean a gentleman?”

I said, “A gentle man, I know what I mean now listen Chile.”

He walked in wearing a pressed Albert uniformed shirt and slacks.  At that time, there was an Albert’s Factory, over on Union Street where they make them machine parts and what-knots.  He needed a new hammer for somethin’ or other, I was just glad to get it for him. When that man smiled at me, he had the nerves to have holes in his face and white teeth.  Ain’t nothin’ like a man with good teeth and a job Chile.  He alright with me! 

“Wait a minute Granny, did you say he had holes in his face?”

“Yeah, he had holes in his face.”

“Do you mean dimples?” Sheila asked.

“Yeah, whatever they call’em that’s what he had in face.  The man was fine! Chile.”

            Herbert came back the next day and invited me to dinner.  At dinner we talked and laughed about everything we could think of to the restaurant closed.  Herbert never had kids or ever been married before.  I kinda felt sorry for him.  I believe every man ought to have something to leave behind with his name on it.  We started dating and then we got married.  It was good. 

Sheila noticed how Granny looked down at the ground when she said it was good.  At that moment she was reminiscing. 

“You alright Granny?”

“Yes Chile, I just got caught up thinkin about him that’s all.”

“Then what happened?” Sheila asked curiosity getting the best of her. 

            Anyway back to the wall, Herbert use to wonder when we all die if we go straight to heaven or is there a waitin period along the way.  He’d say, “Baby doll, I wonder if there’s something we leave behind or a way of saying I was here if we don’t leave no chile’en?”  Herbert was a gentle man, but I must confess he at times he was little strange in the statements he made. 

Well one morning, Herbert told me about a dream he had.  He says to me, I dreamt I was standing in front of a big old wall on my way to heaven.  I stood there staring and wondering if there was anyone I knew.  I searched the wall and I found my mother’s name out of the millions of names written on the wall.  Baby doll, I don’t know how I found my mama’s name.  The wall was huge and long but it was if I could float up and down and search for names.  I saw friends and family names and then, I even found my own.  Chile my heart hit the ground.  I say, “Herbert quit talking like that!  I don’t want to hear no foolishness from you now ya hear!”  Chile, I was angry with him.

“Baby doll, I saw my name. I’m okay and I’mma go on to work now.” He kissed me on the check on his way out the door. 

            “He kissed me on the check.”  She quietly said and went off to work.  Somehow I knew he was telling me the truth, but I didn’t want to hear it.  Later that day, I got a call from his job telling me Herbert had a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital.  But, he died on the way to the hospital.  Sheila, he was the best man I ever had in my life.  It took me three tries to finally find him but I did. 

“Lord, I’m so thankful he stopped by to spend some time with me,” she said a single tear rolled down her cheek. 

Sheila sat quietly watching and listening to Granny.  “Yes, I do believe in the wall of life.  I sho do.” 

Patricia Tramble

Patricia Tramble is a published author from Akron,Ohio. "A mother's wisdom" by Patricia Ross was her introduction into the publishing world.  Since then, she has written short stories that explore themes of interest.

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