Sunday, March 16, 2008

Aunt Myrt

Myrtle Jewell Frizzell Bonner Denison Jones, b. April 18, 1901, Bokhoma, I.T. (Indian Territory), d. sometime in the early Nineties, in a nursing home in Camden, Arkansas, in the care of her baby sister's children, who, at least in my case, loved her dearly.

And who wouldn't? Good-natured, to everyone including children, but ready to spit in the eye of any transgressor, and never hiding that fact, even from children. She was too much like her mother, perhaps, who was proud of a supposed connection to Thomas Jefferson (grandmother's oldest son, Uncle Alvin, did genealogical research which, ironically, demonstrated that, not only was Jefferson an upstart (everybody in Virginia knows that) but so were his well-born Randolph in-laws, in comparison to their family. heh.

Alas, both Aunt Myrt and her Mama--Grandmother-- had an abundance of the family gift for butting heads; I'm sure Myrt's teen-age years were dramatic. Thank Godde for Johnie Frizzell, who rarely but effectively kept them both from going too far. Grand dad's "Now, Hattie" told her when she was pushing it; she counted on him to do it.

Aunt Myrt grew up in a company town--the lumber company owned the town, the buildings, streets, sidewalks, etc., and employed all the town officials. SE Oklahoma was not entirely civilized at the time; the New Yorker, in a 1970s profile of then Speaker Carl Albert, pointed out it was hard to get a jury there in a murder trial, in that most believed in "Judge not, lest ye be not judged." Aunt Myrt enjoyed taunting the town cop on the streets as a young teen, who would happily have used his hog-leg .45 to end the matter, except for her father and her mother's brothers. One of my family pictures shows great Uncle Orville in a Black hat, with his right hand drawing back his dress coat in a practiced gesture; you can't quite see what you know is there.

She married, several times, her great love being the Native American Denison, who died working on a pipeline in Texas. She was a "Rosie the Riveter" at Tinker AFB in Oklahoma City, and I doubt she gave up her independence willingly, except on her terms. Her terms were "Ol' Bill Jones," who was very sweet to me, but not always to her; he had been on the Italian Front in WWII, and, in retrospect, clearly had a bad case of PTSD. They fought, and eventually split.

By the time I was in seminary around 1980, she was living next door to her son (and my mama's childhood playmate) South of Oklahoma City. There were deep eroded gullies behind the house, and beautiful red sandstone rocks shaped like blooming roses which are unique to the area. I liked to stop and spend an afternoon and evening with her on my way to visit my folks. Within a few more years, her son and my father had died, she sold the farm, and moved to the old folks' housing in my hometown where Mama was. She had a few more "good" years, until Dementia took hold, and even that in her style; among other things, she began to hallucinate her handsome young Doctor dancing naked on the rooftops across the way. And what's so bad about beautiful young doctors dancing naked for you, I ask?

I like to think my ninety year old Aunt, that lovely, lively strong loving woman, was dancing naked into Heaven, with whomever she damned pleased. We are so quick to call it "Dementia", because it no longer fits into our arrangements. But I like to entertain the notion, though it may well offend her mother--my grandmother--that such states are an advance welcome party from Godde, welcoming another beloved child to her true home.

I love you, Aunt Myrt.


Missy said...

Wow, Johnieb, what a charming tribute. I wish I had known your Aunt Myrt~

pj said...

Sweet. I love when you write about your family; your voice is so pure.

I'd like to go out hallucinating like Aunt Myrt. And your vision of Heaven's pretty good too. ;)

Fran said...

Oh my God- this is so beautiful. I have not been around much and to be greeted by this... Well it is amazing.

Thank you Johnieb!

Paul said...

Awesome tribute and I like Aunt Myrt's vision.

[Eater word!]

And what pj said.

BooCat said...

Aunt Myrt sounds like quite a great woman, Johnieb. I'd have loved to have known her.
As for hallucinations, I knew a psychiatrist at our state's large mental hospital who used to say, there are 5,000 people here who hear and see things that we don't. Who's to say they just don't have some kind of reception system in their brains that has been activated and that we are handicapped in that area.

Kirstin said...

What PJ and Paul said. I love your stories.

June Butler said...

She had a few more "good" years, until Dementia took hold, and even that in her style; among other things, she began to hallucinate her handsome young Doctor dancing naked on the rooftops across the way. And what's so bad about beautiful young doctors dancing naked for you, I ask?

If you're gonna hallucinate, have yourself a good one. Nuthin' at all wrong with that. Aunt Myrt sounds like a wonderful woman.

Ya got the gift of storytellin', Johnieb.

Crimson Rambler said...

So comforting to make Aunt Myrt's acquaintance this morning!

johnieb said...


it occurs to me finally y'all aint never heard me say "Aunt Myrt"; you won't hear no Yankee in my speech then: pure Okie redneck.

I'm glad I seemed to have conveyed a little of her to you, my friends; she always was one of my very favorite kin.

And, BTW, Mimi and PJ, I'm sure she woulda had a blast with us at Lunch. She mighta even described her Doctor in...ahem...detail, if we wuz in the right mood.

Jane R said...

Beautiful - and insightful. You have the Southern story-telling gift. And are you sure you're not at least a little bit Irish too?

Fran said...

Just came to say hi Johnieb!

johnieb said...

Tis possible, but I wuzna there.