My maternal grandparents are the only grandparents I remember (my paternal grandparents had died before I was born). Ma and Pa is how we all referred to them, and we only saw them when we visited occasionally because they lived in another small town in Tennessee.
The main thing I remember about Ma is that she had suffered a disabling stroke and was bed-ridden and unable to talk, and as a small boy, I was terrified of her. When we did visit, I remember that she always wanted to give me, her youngest grandson, a hug and kiss, but I was always reluctant because all I could see through a child's eyes was a bony, old white-haired woman that only made moaning and groaning sounds and I believed her to be a witch or something evil. (Sorry, Ma, and please forgive me.)
I vaguely recall having seen Ma 2 or 3 times, but I distinctly recall the night (and the next day) when my Mom got the call in the middle of the night that Ma had suffered another stroke and wasn't expected to survive much longer.
My Mom, Dad, and some of my older brothers and sisters (2 car loads) headed out, and being the youngest, I was thinking of this, not as an emergency or tragedy, but as an exciting adventure and a chance to see my aunts, uncles, and cousins who I rarely saw.
We arrived at my grandparents home just before daybreak. Some of my relatives were already there, and I recall Ma's doctor was there as well (this was back when small town doctors still made house calls).
I remember listening to the adults as they talked among themselves, and I distinctly remember when my Aunt Rose arrived with my cousins, her children, in tow. Someone asked her where my Uncle Marshall, her husband and my Mom's brother, was and she explained that he had gone to work at a local truck stop to finish some important task he had started the previous day and would be along in an hour or so.
A while later, Aunt Rose called my Uncle Marshall's job to check on his progress, and I remember to add to the commotion and excitement (to me anyway), Aunt Rose became extremely upset during the phone conversation. After hanging up the phone, she said that Uncle Marshall had had a stroke at work and had been taken to the hospital.
My Mom took control of the situation. She insisted that Aunt Rose was too upset to drive, and that she and my oldest brother would go to the hospital.
With my curiousity running amok, I begged to go along with my Mom and brother. With my brother driving and my Mom in the front seat, I rode in the back seat. While traveling along the lonely country road from my grandparent's home, I became extremely sleepy from lack of sleep and the excitement of it all. I stretched myself out on the back seat (this was before the current seat belt laws) and almost immediately fell asleep.
I remember being woke up suddenly by my Mom yelling "WATCH IT!" and my brother slamming on the brakes of the car. I was thrown from the seat to the back floorboard from the forward momentem, and I distinctly heard a "thump". My brother, with an upset and excited tone in his voice, said, "Oh my God, Mama, I just hit that man."
I got up on my knees on the back seat, looked out the rear window, and saw nothing. My brother got out of the car, looked underneath and all around it, and checked the roadsides and ditches and found no one. He got back in the car and he and my Mom both assured each other that there had been a man in the road and the man had appeared suddenly from nowhere.
With our nerves rattled, we continued on to the hospital only to find out that my Uncle Marshall had passed away, and after we arrived back at my grandparent's home, we learned that Ma had passed away during our absence.
So, in short, my Mom's mother and her brother passed away from strokes, and their deaths made front page headlines in the local newspaper. It read "Mother And Son Dies, Same Day, Same Cause".
A double funeral service was held, and after all was said and done, little was said about the man my brother had hit with the car, with the exception that my Mom said that she truly believed it was Uncle Marshall trying to get to his parent's home so he could go with his feeble mother to the other side.
My lifelong regrets are how stand-offish I was to my ailing grandmother and that I had gone to sleep and didn't see the man in the road.