An Emptiness In My Heart

Patricia Rhodes


Way back in the day,1953 to be exact, my family lived in a four-room tenant house in the middle of a large field.  I was a small, shy girl of four years old and lived with my parents and a younger brother.  We were poor, like most farm families of this time period, but we didn’t know it because we were happy because of the love we shared. 


One late evening, just about dusk when the sun had already set, I was playing on the front porch.  Suddenly, I looked up to see a large, black car in clouds of dust-like smoke coming down the dirt path toward our house.  This was an extremely unusual sight since very few of our neighbors owned cars.  We only had a small Farmall tractor to drive to the little country store for essentials, and my grandmother picked us up for church on Sundays.


I ran to my mother and excitedly told her what I had seen.  She opened the front door and stepped out onto the porch, with me clutching at her skirt from behind.  As I peered out around her side, I watched a giant of a man get out of the car.  He was dressed in a long, black coat that was buttoned except for the top button.  His large, wide-brimmed hat shaded his face from my mother and me.  I ducked back behind my mother in fear.


As the man walked closer, he slowly removed his hat and extended his massive hand.  “Hello, Christine,” he said.  “Where is Perry?”


My mother opened her mouth, obviously shocked.  She told him that my daddy would be home any minute, and then she invited him to come in and wait.  As if she had just remembered that I was behind her, she turned to me and said, “Pat, this is your grandfather.”


This is the only memory I have of my grandfather.  When my daddy came in from the fields, he was in deep conversation with his father for a long time.  As I watched my grandfather drive away, Daddy told us that he would be moving in with us in a couple of weeks because he had cancer and needed someone who loved him to be near him during his last few days on earth.  I didn’t have enough time to be excited at the prospect of having my grandfather in the house with us.  He never came.  He died a week later in Florida.


I have always had an emptiness in my heart in the spot that was reserved for this grandfather.  I have been told that he was a very good man who was reserved and very sad because he missed his family.  Divorce was rarely heard of in 1953.  Through no fault of his, Daddy’s father had to leave his home.  The blame was entirely and correctly placed on my grandmother.  She had inherited the farm land from her father after she and my grandfather were married.  Grandmother was a demanding, controlling, selfish woman who probably would be considered bipolar today.  By no means does this excuse her harsh actions of abuse to her children, to a black woman who lived in the back room of her house, or to her husband.  He worked out of town often with a construction company.  When he came home one day, my grandmother had his bags packed and sitting out on the front porch.  Much to his surprise, another man had moved in to what he thought was his home and was standing at the door beside her.  The truth is, leaving was probably a relief to my grandfather.  His youngest child, a daughter, had already turned fourteen and was the apple of her mother’s eye, so he was confident that she was in no danger.  Since the other children had already left home, he really had no reason to stay.


            I know I would have loved him dearly because I know how much he loved his son, my daddy, and how much my daddy loved him.  Some day, when we meet in Heaven, I will stand between my daddy and my grandfather and tell them both how much I love them.