Here are my mother’s memories of her great Aunt Abbie, who lived with my grandparents until I was twenty. Aunt Abbie became very frail and was no longer mobile. My aging grandparents were unable to care for her and she was sent to a nursing home where she died several months later.
Abigail Allen Brown
By Doris Graham Cleage
Aunt Abbie married a Mississippi Riverboat gambler, swarthy and handsome and no good, who stayed home on two visits long enough to give her two sons and then sent her trunks of fine clothes to wear or to sell to take care of herself and the boys. Whenever she talked about him she sounded like she hated him. She resented the lack of money. Said once the oldest boy Earl (named for his father) screamed for days with toothache and she could not take him to the dentist, who didn’t want any fancy clothes or jewelry. She resented raising the children alone. I got the feeling she hated them and they hated her and she resented him being off having a good time while she stayed home with the problems.
She talked about him in a completely different way than she talked about her Jewish policeman, who bought her a house on Ripley St. Spent much time there, for whom she loved to cook and keep house. She came to live with Mother to take care of Daddy(!) so Mother could come to Springfield and help me when Kris was born. In later years when they lived on Fairfield, Mother and Daddy used to argue about this and they would call me in to referee. He’d say he took Aunt Abbie in out of the goodness of his heart like all the rest of her family. And she was not supposed to stay on (!) them forever but was to go to live with Aunt Margaret. Mother would say Aunt Abbie came to take care of him because (here she would make a mouth at me) he could not take care of himself and work even though he could cook better than she and do everything else in the house too. (I think we are always angered at the way men can say this is the limit. I can’t or I won’t do this or that and we seem to have lives where you do what is to be done since you have no one who will hear you if you say you can’t or won’t. Hold my hand Charlie Brown!) And that he knew very well she was going to live with them and visit Margaret occasionally. Mother was right. He said Aunt Abbie came to have cataracts operated on and to be taken care of. He was wrong. Her eye operations came years later. He said to me once that he had always taken care of Mother’s people and she would have nothing to do with his. I know how Grandmother depended on him to fix things around their house. And he was most agreeable and I always thought he loved it. They made over him when he came with his box of tools. I was always there as helper, but he got very tired and mistreated about having both Alice and Aunt Abbie to take care of. He didn’t like either one. But I never could get him to send them to a nursing or residence home to live. He always said “What would people say if I did that?” When people talk like that I give up because they are obviously making the choice they prefer.
Back to Aunt Abbie. She loved to cook and do everything else about the house. Mother would not let her do anything except clean her own room and do her own washing and ironing…..and Mother hated everything about housekeeping except cooking; but she said her husband expected her to take care of him and his house and (she didn’t say this,) she’d be damned it she’d let anyone else do it as long; as she could. I couldn’t talk to her about it.. Aunt Abbie tried to get her sons to let her come to NY and live with them. They wouldn’t even answer her letters. Sad.
Note: I remember her son Alphonso visiting several times. Aunt Abbie was fixing him tongue because he really like it. KCW