On Grounds of a Mental
"Gee mah Nittly! This has
to be the red soil of planet Mars!" I exclaimed. We were on our way to
Rod's aunt's home in Lexington, Oklahoma which was a hospital for the
mentally challenged who were aging. The new terrain differed from the
black soil of the prairie where I had grown up.
"I didn't know there was
land like this anywhere in the state!" The barren, alien looking
landscape truly fascinated me.
Actually, we never made
it into Lexington because the abandoned military base which was our
destination was looming up on the horizon. There were heavy gates
through which we drove. The location had been given over to be a guarded
area to hold patients. Rodney's aunt was the administrator over the
institution. She invited us to stay for a short visit with her while we
looked for a house in Norman, Oklahoma. Rod secured a good job at
Federal Aviation in Oklahoma City and we opted to live in Norman, which
was smaller in population. The stay at Lexington was to be for only a
short time until we could find a house in the town that was home to the
University of Oklahoma. I was in blissful ignorance of Norman holding a
cerebral palsy center for children. The decision to live there was
supposedly a place to be more comfortable. Rod’s aunt owned her home at
that location and said she could be in and out so that we could feel we
still had family close by.
Slowly our car crept
along as Rod drove through the barracks looking buildings to the very
edge of the compound where Auntie Pud lived. As head of the institution
his aunt was given her residence in the the old quarters once held by
the officer who at one time was over the base.
Auntie Pud stood in the
doorway while she held the screen open in a welcoming way. She was fully
dressed in her nurse's uniform and cap just as if ready to go on duty.
In fact, the dedicated woman was always on call. Rod's auntie was a
chain smoker and continually held a cigarette in her hand as she was now
doing. She was single, a widow, who lived in this rambling old house by
As I had learned many
things from Mary Jane, my education was soon to be broadened by this,
another bright woman, too. Naive with youthful unconcern on my part
there was no knowledge the Flood's had hatched a clever scheme to slowly
work me around to a place where they would be able to do what they felt
was best for my child and her father, their own. At the moment there was
blissful lack of fear for what was ahead.
Auntie Pud's hobby was
cooking. Her kitchen was now filled with the pleasant aroma from the
delectable recipes and dishes on which she had been working. The very
long, wide house was where anyone could wish to live. Spacious rooms,
polished furniture, large French doors leading onto a wide patio made a
person know the house was designed for easy living and entertaining.
Long overhanging eaves allowed the tall windows to stay open while cool
summer breezes gently blew through them, unhampered by drapes or fabric.
Pleasant odors of food cooking on the stove made us feel at home.
Our bedroom was at the
far end of the long house . Off that master bedroom another room was
adjoined the house. This space had windows covered with screens to
create what I called a summer porch. Heavy outdoor furniture which was
most comfortable was attractive, too. We did learn to find the pleasure
of each others company in that inside, outside space especially in the
evenings after dinner. Auntie Pud retired early and this extra living
room gave our little family privacy. There was not one television in the
whole house. For a brief time we took delight for life at this place,
with each other, Rod’s aunt and the other residents at the mental
Do you mind if I read some of the books
in your library?” I asked of Rod's aunt.
“Of course not! Let
me show you how they are arranged.” The wise woman evidently had
studied these books and must have known each one as intimately as
she knew a family. They were organized and neatly set up on the
shelves so that it was easy to find whatever a person wanted to
At Auntie's home
there were people to do the cleaning, the ironing and was even a
woman who enjoyed taking Rhonda for walks up and down the untraveled
road in front of the house. They were patients, true, but this
opportunity to get out away from the confines of their rooms they
This left me free to
do research on the conditions of brain damaged children. It was
probably, what fortified me in standing for the decisions I would
have to make regarding Rhonda's therapy and future place of
residence. I studied voraciously the behavior of children with
different injuries and their learned behavior or trauma induced
habits. Many times I was able to use this gained knowledge for the
good of some child in one way or another. As the alcoholic who
learns to deal with his problem by calling some happenings a “God
Thing,” so this became that to me. It was a “God Thing” which,
ultimately, caused their schemes to back fire on them.