Corey here once again. I really wish I didn’t have to be coming to you all like this, but we’ve had another bad week in the Forrester household. If you have kept up with me at all in my career, then you are probably familiar with my Granny Bain. She was the best person I ever met, the light of my life, and my best friend for 28 years. On June 21st, 2016 around 1:30 pm, my sweet Granny Bain took her last breath. I was there.. And I saw it.
If I’m being honest, I can’t really bring myself to write about it at the moment (though I assure you I will later). Until then, I will leave you with the Eulogy my father wrote for Granny Bain.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.. I hope you enjoy.
The Eulogy of Edna Bain: By Dale Forrester
It was a typical southern mid-July day in north Georgia …cloudless skies, humidity as thick as syrup and screen doors slamming up and down streets of small wood framed houses as folks fought the heat and the flies and the leftovers of a depression that seemed to hang over the south much longer than other parts of the country, as if it was even further payback for the audacity of that War Between the States.
It’s July 12, 1939 to be exact.
This day a lady is bedded down …the agonizing, yet beautiful birth process has begun at one of those houses over on McFarland on the outskirts of the Fairview community. Like she has done five other times in her life, Della is in labor, the results of each of those previous episodes can be seen and heard, scattered about the house.
Five girls … the oldest, fourteen year old Dot is offering help in any way she can, while twelve year old Jean is charged with the duties of warming water.
Soon, word reaches over to the Potter house, a house that sits less than a scream away just around the corner on Schmidt Road …Della’s on the nest and the Potter’s soon to be nineteen year old daughter excitedly scampers over to the Thompson’s to witness the event.
Within hours, yet another baby is welcomed into the home of George & Della Thompson …the sixth daughter in a row …this one they will call Jeri Sue. Yes, eighteen old Edna Potter was there …she seemingly saw it all. And why not, she was that close to the whole family.
Within a year Edna would meet the one and we are all quite sure THE ONLY Harvey Bain. I will not add the word thankfully even though a great many would laughingly say so. Harvey was Sand Mountain born and raised, a strikingly good looking man …and although 13 years her senior, they somehow found common ground. Edna was smitten. A courtship ensued and soon in April of 1941, Edna said I do and so they did. The beginning of a 52 year marriage. A son, Larry would follow in 1943.
Ah yes, childbirth.
Now, in Edna’s mind you could go ahead and use ALL the spiritual and poetic words and phrasings you want to muster up to describe it, but as far as she was concerned, she had learned most all she needed to know about this so-called blessed event and therefore felt absolutely no need, one whatsoever to experience it again in this and/or any other lifetime for that matter.
The families never lost touch. Somehow folks could do that back in those days without fancy smart phones, Facebook, Twitter and other various social medias. You just “kept up” as they used to say.
My dad used to talk about his aunt Laura Mae who could step out onto her front porch over on Salem Road when he was a kid and holler for her son Butch to come on home for supper. Dad swore the noise that supposedly emitted from her lungs actually came from a region just a little bit further south and could pierce through the trees and slice throughout that hollow over there reaching as far north as St. Elmo a good 2-3 miles away. Looking back, I guess you could say she invented the Instant Message, but just never got the credit she so richly deserved. It’s often that the pioneer simply does not receive their due.
It’s now 1953, and Edna is working at the old Rhyne Pharmacy on Chickamauga Avenue in Rossville. She was a hard worker, but she lacked confidence in herself. As the story goes, one day she is waiting on a customer, a customer that she had waited on many times before, Mr. Ronald Shankles. Yes, the Mr. Shankles who just happened to be the branch manager at the American National Bank across the street.
“Edna, would you like to work with us at the bank? We’re needing another teller.” …he mentioned to her as she counted out his change.
I’m quite sure this startled Edna. I mean an important man like Mr. Shankles offering her not just a job, but a position.
“Mr. Shankles, I couldn’t do a job like that …I only have an eighth grade education.” she replied.
“Edna, you wait on customers, you fill their orders, you take their money, you give them their change …you’re very qualified to work for us.”
Mr. Shankles was a very wise man.
That next Monday, Edna began her new job as a teller at American National Bank, a position she would hold for the next 29 years. A teller, who would eventually take over the drive-thru duties. A job that would make her instantly noticeable to thousands of folks in the community over the years …”Why that’s Ms. Bain from the bank” folks would say. In keeping with her new found celebrity, Edna seemingly felt the need to keep the same hairstyle and glasses for pretty much the rest of her life …you know, so her fans could more easily recognize her. While other folks hair over the years would often times turn various shades of white, gray, silver and blue, Edna’s hair always kept that slight auburn tint all her days, Yep, in a world of constant change, somehow Edna remained ageless and her adoring public loved her for it. She would be offered promotions over the years at the bank but would always turned them down …she liked doing exactly what she did and she was good at it …it brought her a sense of pride and customers often let her know how much they appreciated her.
It’s now 1959 and later that year Edna’s loving son Larry would turn 16. A sweet but an inquisitive and oh so slightly mischievous sixteen year old Larry Bain …some would say he was about to hit his prime. Now, I have heard many stories about those days and after asking around, I have found most of them to be absolutely true. Somehow through all those years, Edna not only kept her faith and her mind, but her hair color as well. All his days Larry simply could do no wrong in her eyes.
This day in 1959 it was a cold January morning when the baby girl that Edna witnessed entering this world a little over 19 years before, gives birth to her own child, a son. Word reaches Edna and she undoubtedly thinks back to those Fairview days and how she can’t wait to see that baby boy.
Weeks later, Jerrie made her very first appearance at Edna’s teller window with her baby boy in tow. A soon to be ritual they would continue most each and every Monday for several years to come.
Oh what a night, late December back in ’63 …it’s the day after Christmas when Larry and his new wife are blessed with the birth of their first child …a beautiful girl they will name Laura Beth. Yes, their first child, but more importantly for Edna it would be her very first grandchild. She took to her immediately like a young girl to a Christmas morning baby doll.
Two and a half years later another granddaughter Leslie would be added to Edna’s collection …followed by her first grandson, Jordan. Often times they would all visit Edna and many times Laura would simply not want to leave. Other times Laura would simply be taken to stay with Edna for periods of time. Life was complicated. Laura would tell you that her entire life she felt a bond with Edna as if she belonged with her. Larry’s marriage would end in divorce and Laura’s visits with Edna became more frequent to the point where a decision was made. Laura would come live with Edna …the year was 1969 when five year old Laura would come to live with 49 year old Edna and 62 year old Harvey. A few years later in 1973, Edna officially adopted Laura.
Larry would eventually remarry and he and Linda would later welcome Edna’s final grandchild Jennifer into the world.
Now, back in the seventies downtown Rossville was still a booming shopping district. Four women’s clothing stores, The Frances Shop, the Personality, LaDean and the Joann Shop as well as Miller Brothers. Edna frequented them all and dressed Laura up in the latest fashions. Laura was her baby and she dressed her like her baby doll.
She also encouraged her somewhat brief athletic endeavors on the softball fields of Fort Oglethorpe, but found her true calling when she heard the first musical note emit from the lungs of her precious daughter. Fire up the ol console stereo and toss on some Dean Martin, Jim Reeves and an Elvis album or two (oh yes and don’t let me leave out Edna’s favorite, the one and only Faron Young) and let Laura perfect her style. Soon, the prettiest alto in all of Fort Oglethorpe was ready to make her stage debut. Granted that stage was initially just the living room there at 406 Forest Road to whatever company …be it family, friends or possibly even an unsuspecting door to door salesman that passed by. These impromptu concerts were many times against Laura’s will, and often accompanied by the piano stylings of one Edna Bain. Soon, Laura was singing in church and the pride that ran across Edna’s face could simply not be removed. Laura was growing into a beautiful young lady and Edna made sure she also dressed the part …toss in the big hair and stardom surely awaited her. God bless big hair. If there had only been an American Idol show back then …well, who knows.
Aunt Pauline once said this of Edna …“I’ll tell you right now, Edna might walk out the front door butt naked, but she won’t walk out without her face done.” I am here to bear witness that Edna Bain passed that admirable trait onto her daughter.
It’s January of 1980 and I’m riding down the road with Robbie Robertson, the same Robbie Robertson sitting right there. We’re cruising along in his Jeep when he begins telling me about a girl he has gone out with a couple of times and how she’s a “church girl” …I’m sure I did a double take on that line. He then tells me her name and I already knew her …still he was adamant that I go to church with him the next Sunday to see her and watch her play the piano. Reluctantly, that very next Sunday I walked through the doors of Shiloh Baptist Church and there she sat up front slapping that keyboard in ways I had never heard in a church house as folks milled about hugging and laughing with each other just before the service would commence. We had found us a seat near the back on the left hand side and thankfully I knew quite a few guys there. I was still a little nervous and about to sit down when the room suddenly and with absolutely no warning switched to a super slow motion mode and I swear at the same time someone turned a fan on and pointed toward the front right side of the building just as a strikingly attractive girl went sashaying by like something out of a Cover Girl commercial …she was wearing a sweater dress and had hair that reached clean upward toward Jesus. She made her way up and found her place in the choir.
My lord, why haven’t I been going to church over these last few years?
No, I remember nothing of the service. But this I do remember distinctly. After the service, Robbie and I were talking with some buddies and were about to head out the door when I noticed a lady walking up to me.
It was Edna Arlene Potter Bain in the flesh. This time there was no six inch green tinted piece of glass between us …this time it was not a Monday …this time I wasn’t that little boy with his trusty Roy Rogers six shooters standing up in the back seat of that red Plymouth holding her up and demanding a sucker which she gave to me by the hundreds all those years many times faking fear at the very sight of this tough hombre who was robbing the bank of their sweet goodies.
…and this time I was not sitting in the car with my mom …Jerrie Sue.
I remember Edna reached out and gave me a big ol hug. I can remember it feeling like that favorite aunt that I hadn’t seen in awhile. She then turned to the side revealing someone standing behind her …why it’s Ms Sweater Dress.
“I want you to meet my daughter …Laura”
I GUARANTEE those were her exact words. Stunned, I reached out and shook her hand. I absolutely remember nothing else other than for some strange reason there were all these animated birds, they appeared out of nowhere and they were happily dancing and chirping as they floated around her head and they were accompanied by the most beautiful harp music ….I distinctly remember being shocked that someone around there even knew how to play a harp. Looking back I know it seems rather odd, but I’m telling you to the best of my recollection it happened just like that. Go figure.
Well, obviously, either the soul stirring message delivered by Rev Paul O’Neal that morning had made a huge impression on me or perhaps it was the piano playing, but for some reason I simply could not wait to revisit the house of the Lord once again that night. I’m sure I was thinking that maybe He would like me to perhaps wear my new silk shirt and for good measure toss on an extra splash of cologne as well. I probably sweetly asked mom if she could do a once over with the iron on my bell bottom jeans also.
Believe it or not, I became a faithful attender of any and all services at Shiloh Baptist church. I even made sure I was one of the first in the door to see those Missionaries slide shows on Wednesday nights. I couldn’t get enough.
I was totally convinced that this girl with the big hair and the nice dresses was totally out of my league and would not dare be seen with a heathen like myself. I was also somewhat convinced that she was possibly a figment of my imagination cause I went home and told mama about seeing Edna at church and meeting her daughter I was immediately informed that Edna didn’t have a daughter, she had a son Larry but did not have a daughter. Daddy backed up the story. Was she real? Was this all a big setup to pull one over on me? I was totally intimidated …it didn’t help that she sat up front there with Edna at each and every service much like a Mama Hen watching out over her prized baby chick. My gosh, they were church royalty and I was a simple commoner.
Various folks in the church were egging me on …“ask her, I don’t think she’s dating anyone” …“she’s 18, I think she’s a freshman in college” …“she won’t say no, well maybe if you ask her out for a second date …but I’ll bet she’ll go out with you one time.” Such encouraging words.
Finally, after six weeks I worked up the courage to ask her out. With my heart pounding I dialed, yes with a rotary dial mind you ….866-6877. I asked her if she’d like to go to a Youth Revival at Rossville High School the upcoming Tuesday night. Against all odds and perhaps out of sheer curiosity she said yes.
That night went well (at least I thought so, you may want to get her opinion) …as a treat, I took her to the Wendy’s on Brainerd Road for a late supper. We sat out in a lonely dining room there …just us and a policeman sitting a few tables over and to the middle of the room.
Nervously I asked, “well how are you liking college”
“I’m not in college yet”
Immediately I realized my well placed sources had been misinformed.
“Oh, so you haven’t decided on college yet.”
“No, I’m still in high school”
I took a deep swallow and then said, “You’re a senior in high school?”
That next bite of my cheeseburger didn’t go down very well at all, but I finally worked up the words ….
“You’re a junior in high school?”
She looked right at me and said ….“No”.
This 21 year old was now in a total state of shock, but I was working hard to keep it together. Sweat is appearing on my forehead and I’m looking for the nearest exit
I once more swallowed deeply and said …”You’re a sophomore in high school?”
Finally thank God she shook her head yes.
It was at that very moment that I knew this was it for me …the policeman was already there …I’m sure he was almost through with his meal …one more sip of that Frosty and he could go ahead and cuff and stuff me and I’d still have time to be on the 11:00 news.
We made it out the side door and headed home. It was only a five year difference but it may as well have been 20 years at the time …I didn’t know what to talk about anymore …hey, whats your favorite Saturday cartoon?Yea me too. Love me some Scooby Doo. I didn’t have much game to start with but what I had got tossed with the rest of the trash in the garbage can at that Wendy’s. To this day I can’t eat their chili.
I got her home walked her to the front door …shook her hand, kissed her on the cheek and left Forest Road as quickly as I could.
I told no one …well, except for Robbie …he wasn’t listening anyway …he had the piano player on his mind.
That next Sunday night as I was about to leave church, Laura walked up to me and thanked me for the date and then she said these four words …four words which change everything and alter the course of my life to this very day.
“Mama made a Cheesecake.”
What else could I do …you may as well have put a gun to my head …I had no choice.
Every Sunday night …there would be a Cheesecake or sometimes an Egg Custard Pie …there would always be something. Being the southern gentleman that I am, I felt obligated to drop by even if that meant at times waking up from a sugar coma on the love seat at three in the morning and driving home.
I went from being a fairly thin guy to having a new found roll around my stomach …my gosh that Edna Bain could make a cheesecake.
The pretty girl in the sweater dress and I would marry in September of 1985 on the hill at Shiloh Baptist somewhat looking over McFarland Avenue where in 1939 it had all began.
Our son Corey would be born in 1987, followed by Kirby in 1990. Mom would pass away in 1993, followed by Harvey just a few months later. My dad would pass in 1996 and finally Larry in 2004. Edna stayed on to help us. Her love and devotion to Corey and Kirby could only be equalled by her undying love for Laura.
Edna kept an almost permanent smile all her years …you seemingly could feel it without even looking her way. She was appreciative of anything …and my gosh that woman had a great sense of humor. Even over these past few years as her mind started failing her and her memories would rapidly leave, I could still throw zingers out at her and she would belly laugh like only she could. You would sometimes have to holler to get the words to her while other times she could hear you speak under your breath. When other family members tired of my humor and story telling I could always count on Edna to be my best audience.
She would often not recognize people …but I’m proud to say that each and every time I visited her I was met with a smile and the following words …
“Well there’s ol’ Dale!” that would be followed soon with “Is that a new shirt?” That same question was asked of me hundreds of times over the years. She would repeat it over and over to me each and every time I visited the nursing home.
Edna, for the record …this is a brand new shirt.
I was a spectator to it all these past months …I watched Kirby fix her hair and pluck chin whiskers while telling her how much she loved her …I watched Corey make her laugh and see the glow on her face just to have him step into the room and I watched Laura show patience and strength as she dealt with the day to day needs and other times I saw the roles reversed …the daughter became the mother.
Laura, Corey, Kirby I could not have been prouder.
I watched in these final months when at times Edna might not quite realize who Laura was at first …that’s when Laura would lean over very slowly and softly hold her cheeks with her hands and simply say ….”You’re my mother” ….and Edna would light up as only she could and look up at her and say …
“…and you’re my girl.”
Laura, to the very end she never forgot.
Oh, I wish you could have seen those moments.
I have watched many, many times as Laura would explain this seemingly somewhat complicated parental situation …“she’s my grandmother but ….”
I too have explained it countless times as well as if to be apologetic …as if to say “well she’s not really her mother, she’s actually her grandmother …but …”
Earlier this week a nurse came into Edna’s room and was kinda taken aback when she found out that Laura was the daughter.
I said … “well, did you explain it to her?”
She simply and proudly said …“No.”
Let it be known and let it be shouted to the world that today we are burying Edna Arlene Potter Bain, the mother of Laura Beth Bain Forrester.
Yes, today we will say goodbye to Laura’s mother, let there be no more confusion on that.
Shame on me for thinking less and ever thinking otherwise.
It’s as if Laura has lived her life with an imaginary asterisk beside her name …but no more.
Over the past year, Edna would often complain that her people never come see her and she continually spoke of wanting to see her mother and going to see her mother …a mother who died 46 years ago. Laura would remind her at first.
“Mama, your people all gone.”
Finally, she didn’t explain it anymore, there was just no need… She would simply say “they dropped by and you’ve just forgotten.” Or, “I bet they’ll be coming by soon.”
Now, I believe what I believe …and I’m of the belief she closed her eyes here for the last time on Tuesday
…but I also believe she opened them back up and there they were ….at last
I believe they were all there waiting …Marvin, Charles, Frank, Mack and Gordon …Nettie and Irene. Their mom and dad …believe it or not, I feel Harvey and Larry are close by as well.
They’re still laughing and singing and hugging all with new bodies ….and one more thing
….they’re all wearing brand new shirts.
God Bless you Edna.
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