We have three loved ones in the hospital right now—Pap-paw, George, and now Martha. We went to see Martha last night. She is feeling well and talkative, as usual, even if frightened by the hospital and the unknown cause of the small stroke she suffered on Sunday. She wore a sea-green silky nightgown with lacey trim. The room was dark except for the TV, which cast flickering light upon her face as she talked. I love hearing her talk, even though her German accent, still strong after five and a half decades in this country, is a challenge. I love her “evening,” pronounced “eebening,” and her “beautiful,” pronounced “bootiful.” I love how she calls us “the kidz.”
Last night, she trailed into a story about her girlhood in Germany, in Bavaria, I think. She was scheduled for an MRI, or as she says, “The Toob,” and was telling us about her claustrophobia. That led her mind back to the woods in Germany, through which she and her brother used to sneak in Hitler’s time to trade city items—like shoes—for farm items—like ham. Sometimes, they would sleep on the forest floor, which was clean, without the brambles of Tennessee woods. Once, they hid in a large drainage pipe so the Nazi guards—the ones in khaki, Martha said—wouldn’t see them. Martha didn’t want to go in. She hunkered outside and said, “No, I will die in there,” but her brother pulled her in anyway. That’s when she realized she didn’t like small spaces.
While we talked with Martha, Gertie, her daughter, sat in the chair next to the hospital bed. She talked on the phone, helping someone in her Sunday School class. Phrases like “when the rapture comes” and “the Holy Spirit passed into you” mingled into our story every now and then, contrasting with Martha’s nostalgic giggles.