Monday, January 11, 2010

Abbie's Account of Billy's Death

“When my brother Bill died I must have been 5 and he was 7, something like that. I was playing across the street. My sister and Louise, who was my maid, were supposed to be watching me and my brother. My mother had been away and she had brought him--he was very fond of the policeman, the private policeman the church hired to direct the traffic on Sundays, or weddings or funerals, and he’d go and out and watch him--and she bought him a little policeman’s outfit.

I was across the street playing, I don’t know what my sister was doing, but my sister and Louise were home, and he put on his suit and went out to the street to direct traffic and was hit. He went to the hospital and they operated on him all night, but he did die in the night.

The telephone call came at the Finley’s, where I was, and I was told to come home right away. And when I got home, nobody said anything to me, but my sister was very agitated and it was a feeling, you know, that something was going on, and I didn’t know what it was. And then I followed her around, and then my father came home. We had a long driveway and he came up in the garage and the turnaround and my sister ran there, and he got out of his car and he had two big bags of groceries and I don’t know what they said, but these groceries went [down on the ground] and he got in the car and he was gone.

And, I was gone with friends on the train to New York. I had no idea what had happened, but right away I was gone. I can remember to this day being on that train and also in New York, and my cousin Amanda [Ruland Talmadge, known as Toby, daughter of Aunt Edna], who may have been the granddaughter of this Amanda, met me in New York. She worked in New York and she must have been, oh, I don’t know, she started working in NY when she was 18, that seems young, but she may have been, 18 or 21, somewhere in there [she was 22], and she met me, and then we went to Southampton, and we went to her house which is right across the street diagonally from 49 N Main Street.

And I stayed there, and that night [Toby] put me to bed, and she’d never taken care of a little girl, and she thought ‘Oh, you better say your prayers.’ And I can see it as though it were yesterday. I’m five years old, I got down out of the bed, hands on knees, and I said, ‘Now I lay me down,’ and she told me this later, but I was married and much older, much older, I don’t know how many children I had by then. She told me this, but I do remember the praying, but what I said I don’t remember. ‘Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep,’ then I stopped, and she said, ‘If . . .’ and I said ‘If he hollers let him go, eeney meeney miney mo.’

And I was there at Aunt Edna’s for I don’t know how long, but then Babbie came and I lived with her and Aunt Ibby at Aunt Ibby’s house, well into the fall. And to this day, I’m just devastated by departures. But you see, I never knew. I had no idea what was going on at all.

My father had a lot of connections and knew a lot of people and one of them had his own private car and I was told that the whole family, except me, I was in Southampton already, plus the body, went in the private car on the railroad [back to Southampton]. [My father] was devastated, he was passionate about that little boy.”

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