But, once in a while, in the middle of all the goofing around, when you least expect it, she would move without warning onto heavier topics. I don’t know what I’m more amazed by – that she’s gutsy enough to talk about these things, or that she injects just enough humor for them to be bearable.
Here are a few things Bernice told us the other day, while writing. (She can’t help talking when she writes, which by the way, is pretty funny.) She’d look up every so often and make comments like these and then return (oh yes, straight-faced) to her page, leaving the rest of us in silent awe. Two seconds later – when we regain consciousness – someone would say, “Bernice, what you just said was amazing.” And all she would say is, “Really?”
Pop would come home at night; Ma would have a list of who’d been bad. I was always at the top of the list. All the parents knew what time school got out and if you weren’t back at the house a certain time after that, you’d better watch out. How come they said when they were whipping you, that it hurt them more than it hurt you? Pop would take all his belts out from the basement and ask me to choose. I said I didn’t want to choose. He said I had to choose. He beat the daylight out of me. How could it hurt him more?
We had a mean teacher. She was so mean. We said good morning. She didn’t say good morning back. That was how mean she was. I don’t know what kind of a husband she had. But she took it out on us kids.
One time the doctor said I didn’t have much longer left to live. Well, the doctor could say anything he wanted but God is the head doctor, you know. So I said to God, fine, let your Will be done. Ha! Turned out He’s not done with me yet. You know what I don’t understand? When I was at the hospital, I walked by other people laying in their beds cursing God – I could hear them from the halls – now why would they do something so stupid? That’s the last person you should be cursing. You should be praying. You shouldn’t give up on yourself. Let your last words – if they are your last words – be nice ones.
(Want to read more? Check out the Blog Archive for the older post "Black and White Grits". Watch Bernice tackle civil rights!)