The way I was told it – was that she died in among the chickens.

I mean that’s what they said. Apparently, her hair had been matted with chicken crap – I kid you not. She had raised these little critters from the egg and this was the way they wished her a goodbye.

In the end, it was only the chickens and my Aunt Claudia who did say a fond farewell to her. I wasn’t allowed anywhere near the burial, even although she was my grandma. My ma and pa, and my twin sisters all stayed away from her funeral.

I was six years of age when she died in among her animals – that must have been about late ’49. My grandma had celebrated her 80th birthday that year by jiving to the big bands. She had never been so alive; she was always in the best of health, always had the biggest of grins.

Then life turned up, the way it does, to crap in her water.

It seems that some guy from a New York newspaper had come looking for her. Something to do with all those years ago in Austria. Something she hadn’t told none of us about.

You see my grandma had been a nurse all that time ago in that faraway country. When she’d come to New York City she’d tried other kinds of work, but in the end she went back to nursing. That’s where she met my grandpa, the day he checked in with a broken arm. They fell in love, got married and moved to Queens.

Yet anytime, anyone asked about the old country, she’d sigh, then smile, and then tell us all that she’d take everyone there one day. It never happened of course. Apart from my Aunt Claudia, who moved to Trenton, no one ever left NYC.

But this guy, this reporter, was real persistent like, saying that my grandma would have to tell her story, or otherwise he’d tell it the way he knew.

I remember she locked herself in the shed out in the yard on one of those days he came to call. She shouted to me that I was to tell the man that my grandma wasn’t in. And that is exactly what I did.

I said,” my grandma told me to tell you she ain’t in.”

He just shrugged his shoulders and went back to sitting in his automobile that sat outside in the street. The photo is the one he took and I kept.

She never helped him with the tale, so he printed his own version of the story. It seems that there was a woman back in Braunau am Inn, in 1889 who had trouble having a baby, and that the baby nearly died. The one who saved the child was a nurse by the name of Annette Eichrodt (my grandma’s maiden name).

Seems the life she saved was a baby boy by the name of Adolf Hitler. The way I see it, she was only doing her job.

I wasn’t allowed to go and see my grandma after that, and I guess it all got too much for her. Not long after the story was printed, she took a heart attack and died, like I say, among the chickens.

The photograph is all I got left.

 

Bobby stevenson 2017

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