Hushed Conversations: Bev, Babbs, Beulah

My Dad and older sister disappeared down the dusty gravel road one summer day in 1967. My nose was a little out of joint, I wasn’t asked along. They hadn’t returned by evening. My cool sheets were a relief from the heat of the day and I slept. I heard my mother’s slippers slap the linoleum, the milk jug removed from the fridge, spoon stirring hot chocolate and drifted back to sleep. In the morning, there was the evidence of four cocoa cups lined up beside the sink. Four?

The fourth cup, I would discover at breakfast was a beautiful, dark-haired girl named Bev. Dark circles underneath eyes that lacked sleep, met mine and I immediately felt a connection to her. She was a friend of my sister’s come to spend the summer. I had a blast with Bev that summer before my own puberty would announce itself. Bev and I were both anemic and drank all the eggnog and milkshakes my mother made. I can still hear her squeal as we caught frogs in the stream, and watched her learn to mount and ride our sorrel filly, both firsts for her.

I wandered into the kitchen seeking a drink, and my mother and coffee friend, heads together, stopped their chatter. At the time, I figured she was explaining Bev, but had no clue. With summer over, both Bev and my sister, were off to further schooling. I inherited my sister’s bedroom. Tucked in a box was a letter from Bev. I read it not understanding the encrypted words; something about a butcher, thank your mother for all she did for me, her mother kept talking about all the grandchildren she wanted?

Babbs entered my house with casserole in hand. I had been diagnosed with H1N1, 2004. She was an angel offering to help my almost bedridden self, putting on clean sheets, polishing bathroom taps. The next week she was back to do it again. As I passed her in my hallway, I saw a tear slide down her cheek. She hastily wiped it aside. I put the tea kettle on and invited her to sit. I reached for her hand and said, “Tell me, why so sad today.” The tears fled from her eyes as she told me it was 17 years ago she’d given up a baby girl. “Like adopted” I asked. Babbs shook her head, meaning no. As the tears continued to pool on my table, I listened to her story of a boy who had the money, a back alley in the next town, a decision only she and he knew.

Enter Beulah Fay into my ancestral tree, a cousin, born on a crisp Michigan winter day in 1894. Married at the age of 15 to a young man of 23, the first baby arrived, a boy came 7 months later, January 1910, a daughter 11 months after, 1911 and another boy, less than 2 years later in 1913. Beulah Fay died on March 6, 1920 when she was 26 years old. This is the wording of her obituary.

Laid Away in The Narrow House

Beulah was born February, 1894 and died March 6, 1920, at her home north of the village, aged 26 years, 7 days. Seldom has it been our duty to record so sudden a death. A dark gloom spread over the whole community when it was whispered from one to another that Beulah was gone. Her last sickness was of but brief duration – a little over four days, being proceeded by influenza a few weeks ago. She was married to ___ in 1909 and too them were born two boys and a girl, who with the young husband are left to mourn her loss, beside and aged father, one brother and one sister, and many other near relatives. She was of an affectionate disposition, bright and winning in her ways, so that friendship’s circle was to her a large one. Gone from our sight, but because life and love are stronger than death she is ours still. She is still the mother of the dear children, upon whom she doted with such clinging fondness and the companion still of him who mourns earth’s greatest loss, and may she not by this very transition wield over them a stronger force for goodness and truth than before. The funeral services were held from the Church of the Good Shepherd, Tuesday 2 o’clock. The Eastern Stars of which deceased was a valued member, held services at the church. The many floral offerings only proved the high esteem in which she was held and her body was laid away in the Lexington cemetery.

Beulah, 1894-1920

Beulah’s death certificate tells a different story.

trying to induce abortion, inflicted by herself. Septic abortions usually from nonsterile techniques

I would class myself as pro-life, however I am noticing a big BUT, in my thinking on this subject. With the revisiting of Roe vs Wade, in the U.S Supreme Court, this subject will again be hashed whether a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction is protected. My use of the word BUT comes from not wanting to use the words hushed conversations, butcher, back alleys and self inflicted. It is too close to the Handmaid’s Capitalism of a woman’s only use is in the kitchen and in the bedroom. To what extent abortion should be legal and who should decide the legality, once decided on January 22, 1973 may well again limit access to safe and legal abortions. Beulah shouldn’t need to die in 2021.

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