Told by Jim Heath
(as dictated to April Heath Pastis)
I loved my grandma.* My grandma’s mom, was the sweetest kindest woman who always treated me as if I was the best kid in town. One night I was awakened from my sleep and saw my grandma walk into my room. I sat straight up in bed cause I couldn’t remember grandma ever coming to our house. I had always seen her at Grandma Sullivan’s house. Grandma didn’t live nearby and I only saw her when she came visiting.
“Grandma!,” I said. “What are you doing here?”
“I need to talk to you Jimmy. I need you to do me a favor.”
“Sure, Grandma. Anything you want.”
She sat down on my bed and talked to me in a quiet kind voice.
“Jimmy, I need you to go over to your grandparents and wake up Grandpa. Ask him to go into the other room with you. When you get into the other room, tell your Grandpa that I came to you and told you to wake him up. Tell him to wake up your Grandma Sullivan very gently, and tell her that I died and she needs to call home.”
“No. You can’t go away grandma. I don’t want you to go away. I love you Grandma!”
She smiled and said, “I love you too, and I’ll always be with you Jimmy, but I need you to do this for me.”
Well, I thought it was some kind of game but I did what grandma said. I got dressed and ran down to my grandparents’ house. It wasn’t that far away. You got to understand that I spent a lot of my time over there. So, even though it was the middle of the night, I didn’t have any trouble getting to their house.
So, I got to the house and I was kind of hestitant about going into my grandparents’ bedroom. You just didn’t do it. No one, no how, no way was ever allowed to go in their room. For no reason, at all. Well you get the point. So, I crept into their room and knelt down by Grandpa.**
“Grampa. Grandpa.” I nudged him.
“Jimmy! What the hell are you doing here?” Grandpa was a man you didn’t cross.
“Gggggrandpa,” I stuttered. “I need you to come out here for a minute.”
“What? Well, all right,” he said and got out of bed and followed me into the living room.
“What is it? Is everyone OK?” he asked, worried something had happened to mom or one of us kids.
“Well, kinda.” I said and I told him about the game grandma was playing.
“ARE YOU PLAYING WITH ME?” Grandpa said. At the point, I realized it wasn’t a game.
“Grandma told me to come here and to wake you up. She said for to tell you to wake up Grandma Sullivan very gently and to tell her that she had died and that she needed to call home.”
Grandpa looked me up and down with a scowl on his face, then his expression softened.
“If you weren’t just like your grandma I’d whoop you good.” he said. “OK, stay in here.”
He went into the bedroom and before long I heard sobbing.
“Norm, why are you telling me this? You know mom hasn’t been well.” I heard grandma say.
Grandma came out of the bedroom and went into the kitchen to make a pot of coffee. Grandpa followed her and took her in his arms. That’s the first time I remember him ever holding her like that.
“Ruth, he said. “Jimmy’s here and he said your mom told him to come here and tell you that she died. Now you’re going to have to call home and find out what’s up.”
Grandma looked at me.
“Well, shxt,” she said and she walked over to the telephone to make a call. But before she got there the phone rang. It was her sister, her mom had died.
* Ida Mae Dollins, mother of Anna Ruth (Buchanan) Sullivan, wife of James Buchanan, died Feb 25, 1951 in Cardwell, Craighead, Missouri. James Harry Heath, was her great grandson. He was 13 years old.
** Norman G. Raymond Sullivan, son of Walter Gray Sullivan and Minnie Belle Duncan, and grandfather to James Harry Heath.