When I was eight, my Paw McDonald was off work for a couple of weeks. Although that seemed strange to me, I was eight and didn't think a lot about it. To be honest, my eight year old brain could only wonder when Paw was going back to work so we could get our treats every afternoon! Then, the day came and Paw went back to work, but he went back on second shift. Daddy was also working second shift at a factory in town. Late in the night, long after I should have already been asleep, I kept hearing strange noises outside. That night was 43 years ago tonight.
I told Momma but she kept insisting it was just animals in the woods and that I should go back to bed and go to sleep. Finally, even Momma couldn't think of any more excuses. She also noticed that there was too much traffic on our country lane. Looking down the road to where Maw and Paw lived, she saw lots of lights. Knowing something must be wrong, she loaded all of us into the pickup in our jammies and headed down to Maw's house.
ca. 1942---The year they bought the farm where I grew up.
Ilene "Maw" and Herbert "Paw" McDonald
Horace and Van (Daddy) McDonald
A neighborhood man met us at the drive and told us Mr. Herbert had died. Mr. Herbert was my Paw McDonald. He had returned to work that day, worked his shift, come home and walked into the house, set his lunch box on the kitchen table and walked into the living room and fell dead in the floor at Maw's feet. The noises I had been hearing was Maw trying to call our for help. She had a telephone but couldn't remember any one's number at that moment. Neither we nor either of my uncles had telephones, but lived in 'hollering' distance.
My life changed forever that night. I was the first grandchild on both sides of my family and the first girl on Daddy's side. Maw and Paw had five sons, three of which had lived into adulthood. Paw spoiled me shamelessly. I was the apple of his eye and I knew it! If I wanted something, all I had to do was tell Paw. If it was humanly possible to be gotten, Paw would get it for me.
The McDonald Family
(While Daddy was in Germany with the Army)
Maw and Uncle Horace on back row
Uncle David and Paw on frong row
When we walked into their living room, Paw way lying on the sofa looking like he was sleeping. I thought that's what he was doing. I had never seen a dead person before. Momma shepherded us into the bedroom and put us back to bed. I lay there wondering why Maw was so upset and why Paw was sleeping on the sofa while Maw was so upset. Soon, Daddy and my uncles arrived home. I could hear them in the living room speaking quietly and sobbing. The only time I had ever seem my Daddy cry prior to that was when my baby sister was born dead a couple of years earlier.
I was confused. The morning finally came and we were carted off to my other grandparents for the day. There my Grandma and Grandpa treated us too kindly. My aunts wiped tears from their eyes as we walked in the door. Nothing made sense and it was making less and less sense. That night, we went to the funeral home for the visitation. We walked into a quiet room with sad music playing and there lay Paw in a pretty box with flowers everywhere. I didn't understand at all!
The McDonald Family
Late Summer, 1957-Tuscumbia, AL
Daddy, Momma, Uncle Horace, Paw, Maw and Uncle David
Daddy and my uncles walked forward with Maw, who was crying uncontrollably and almost couldn't walk. Daddy and my uncles cried as well, but more quietly. Then, Maw sat down and Daddy came back to where we were. He put his arm around Momma and she put her arm around him. Daddy took Charlotte's hand and Momma took Deb's and told me to walk between her and Daddy. We walked up to where Paw was lying.
I couldn't hold it in any longer. I looked up at Momma and asked why Paw was lying there like that. Momma explained to me that Paw had died last night and now he was in heaven with Jesus. I didn't know what to do or think. I reached up to touch his face and it was so cold! He didn't open his eyes. I talked to him and he still didn't open his eyes. I looked up at Daddy and asked him if Paw was with my sister. A tear rolled down his face and he said 'Yes'.
The Herbert McDonald Family
Paw, Uncle David, Uncle Horace, Daddy, and Maw
My Paw McDonald
Then, I understood. Paw was gone and Paw wasn't coming back. I started to cry and buried my head between Momma and Daddy. They both held me and let me cry until I was able to stop. To tell you the truth, I don't really remember too much else about all that happened. I know we went to the church the next day for Paw's funeral. After the preacher was done, we walked behind the coffin to the cemetery where they had opened his grave. We watched silently as the preacher prayed one last prayer and the pall bearers lowered the coffin into the ground. Then, they each passed by and dropped their flowers into the grave.
Other than that, it's all now a blur to me. Years and my own youth have left little more to remember. Except the grief, the absolute sadness that overtook our house after that. Daddy was always so sad and Maw cried almost every time we were with her. I cried myself to sleep for months afterwards. Eventually though, life returned to normal; except for Maw. It took at least a couple of years for Maw to begin to be herself again.
We would go to the cemetery and Maw would cry every time for the remainder of her life. She would walk up to the monument and gently stroke his name and through tears say "Herbert, I love you now more than I did then and I miss you more now than I did then." I never understood that.
Maw, I understand now. Paw, I love you more now than I did then and I miss you more now than I did then. And, Terry, I love you now more than I did then and I miss you now more than I did then.