I’ve written about my grandparents and will try to share some of the things that I can recall about my wife Cindy’s grandparents. Her granddad Morrison, I never met. He had died before I met Cindy, but her grandmother, Pearl Elizabeth Morrison lived as a neighbor to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. She lived the last years of her life in the old school beside the church in the Bear Run Preserve. She was a stubborn woman who wanted things done her way.
If it didn’t move or breathe, she painted it. If she wanted something done, she wanted it done yesterday. I remember that she had a beautiful old dining room suite and thought the hutch was too tall. She used a hand saw and cut out the middle section so that the top rested directly on the bottom.
Pearl attached the lights and ornaments to her 5 foot artificial Christmas tree and placed it in the center of a bag used to keep a live tree from shedding needled when it was removed. When Christmas was over, she would pull the bag over the tree and have my father-in-law Bud, carry it to the attic. The next year all she needed to do was to open the bag and her tree was ready.
She would tell my mother-in-law Retha, that she liked something. Retha would buy it and give it to her later as a gift. Pearl would say, “Why did you buy that for me?” Later, Retha found that Pearl had traded it to someone else. One Christmas, Retha bought a clothes hamper because Pearl said she never had one and would like a hamper. Retha bought it and when Pearl opened it, she said, “Why did you buy that for me?” Retha had had enough and said, “You told me that you wanted one and I don’t want to see you trading it away,” but Pearl was hard headed and put the hamper in the hallway with a vase of fake flowers on it, never using it for more than a plant stand.
She had two bedrooms, but chose to sleep on a cot in a corner of her dining room. Buying regular sheets and blankets, she would cut them in half and hem the raw edge to use as bedding. Her perfume still lingers in a halved flannel sheet even fifteen years later.
She was hospitalized with a stroke. When Cindy and I went to visit her in the hospital, Pearl shared that she had been attacked by a skinny black woman during the night. At first, we thought she was confused, but we found out later that a woman had gone over the edge and tried to choke Pearl. The woman was put in the psychiatric ward.
Pearl was proud that she could move the arm affected to the point that she could reach overhead, but not high enough to reach the trapeze bar that patients use to ease their movements while in bed. I said, “I need to get a paint brush for you. You’ll get your arm high enough.” That made her smile. She knew that Bud said she painted everything, including the oak hutch that she cut in half, the table, and chairs. “It wasn’t the right color” and she spread on several coats of a tinted varnish.