Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Happy Alone

A letter to Ruby McClellan Davis from her Aunt Nellie started out well, with answers to family history questions. Somewhere in the middle, though, the ninety-something woman’s attention was drawn away from the task at hand and refocused on her own current problems.

Admittedly, rheumatism is nothing to take lightly. Small wonder that first personal mention on the previous page of her letter would be brought up. That seemed to jog her mind onto a different direction, and Mary Nellie Broyles Jones began revealing a few of her other problems.

As we’ve already seen, Aunt Nellie was quite the resilient woman. While she overcame considerable health issues, perhaps there was more at stake than had already been divulged to her niece, Ruby. On the other hand, that perennial battle between the generations on just when the right time should be to gracefully pass the baton from the elder to the younger can go either way. Sometimes, the time is right—or long overdue. Other times, I wouldn’t be surprised if some become the victims of generational stereotyping—being stuffed inaccurately into the pigeonhole labeled “too old.”

Apparently, from this letter, Nellie was not ready to be confined to that rigid stereotype of the Old Woman. And she was fingering her daughter—whom she labeled here merely as “MN,” though that clearly meant her fifty-nine-year-old namesake, Mary Nell.

After all, now that we know the rest of the story—from the date of this letter, Aunt Nellie lived seven more years until her passing on June 14, 1976—we can presume that she was quite capable of maintaining her independence.

With a little bit less help than some people were insisting on providing her.

            Don’t believe I’ve written you since MN moved out from me and I’m alone and much more contented. Tried to tie me in a nursing home for the rest of my life. Was in the hospital til some one died to give me a bed. That failed in the attempt. Then she got an apt, in the hills 3 miles clear across town in the wood. Muddy rocky narrow road on top of a hi ridge. I’d never try to drive. Said she was happy, alone, and that’s all that matters. Tom and Gene call and come around evry day. Friends, also, especially one in the building. I’ll never want for attentive friends.
            MN hasn’t given me her phone or called me, been moved the 23d one month. Enough.
            I’ll send the dates to Bill, too.
            Hope all is well with you all.
                        Love to all, Aunt Nellie


  1. So did MN have enough? Cranky old women are hard to get along with:)

    1. Apparently, Aunt Nellie outlived even her own daughter. Who knows what that tiff was all about. By the way, when Aunt Nellie mentioned she wouldn't drive that road up to MN's new place, Aunt Nellie was already well into her nineties--and, by the way, still driving. She didn't stop driving until she fell and broke her hip a few years after she wrote this letter.

  2. Sometimes kinfolks are mighty difficult to get along with. The older one gets the more pronounced one's personality (flaws and all) seems to get!

    My g-grandmother (the snake killer in Oklahoma) wrote letters like this one - the tone one reads in the letter - may or may not actually be there.


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