By Ed Nichols
We used to go visit Grandma Perkins down at the insane asylum in Milledgeville ever so often. Grandpa Perkins would not accompany us. Just me and my daddy and mother and my brother Roy would go. We’d get up early and travel for the three hours it took us to get there. Mother would always fix us a good picnic lunch and if Grandma Perkins was in the proper mood they’d let us take her out onto the grassy spot between the two big brick buildings and sit and have our lunch and sometimes good conversation with her.
Sometimes she’d ask us questions and talk just like normal. Other times, she’d tell us that this might be the last time we got to see her because the doctors and psy-col-a-gest were making plans to kill her. Mother would always say to Grandma Perkins, “You know that’s not true, Helen. They’re just trying to help you get better, so you’n come on back home.”
Grandma Perkins would usually holler out, “Ain’t so! Ain’t so!”
And, my daddy would get so upset seeing Grandma Perkins in this sort of a mood that he’d get up off the grass and walk around behind one of the big brick buildings. It sure got to him and took a lot out of him to see his own mother in such a state of mind. He never could understand how God had allowed someone from our family to get in the shape that his own mother had gotten into. What evil demon or force had penetrated her mind and allowed her to see and hear things that was not happening—and was not going to ever happen.
Daddy told me once that we had a distant cousin way back that went plumb crazy during the Civil War. The Yankees had come through and burned his house and barn and took all of his stock, even the few hams he had curing in his smokehouse. And my daddy said that this cousin went completely nutty. He ran off in the woods and lived in them for years. Talking to himself and all. Living off the land, as best he could. Daddy said finally the County Sheriff talked this cousin into coming out of the woods. And he did. And he lived for several more years with Uncle Dutch and helped around on his farm until he died in 1904.
But Grandma Perkins was the only’est one in our family that ever went to the insane asylum and never came back home. I knew of some other folks in our county who had relatives that was sent to the insane asylum, but most all of them got to return home after they got the treatment that they needed. But Grandma Perkins never made it back home. I hated it. I really missed her. Before she went crazy, she was the best friend I had growing up. She’d cook about anything I wanted to eat.
When I was ten years old, I made up two rabbit boxes and I put them in the woods behind our house, and whenever I caught a rabbit, Grandma Perkins would dress it and fry it for me while I was at school and when I would get home she’d have it ready for me to eat. That was good eating for a young growing boy. And sometimes in the spring, she’d shoot some doves for our family supper. She was a crack shot with a twenty-two rifle. Never used a shotgun—she could just pick them off every time with the twenty-two. I do miss her.
They say she died in her sleep one night in the insane asylum. She was only fifty-nine years old. I have often wondered about those times when she told us that they were going to kill her. The day of her burial in our family plot in the county cemetery I asked my daddy if’n he reckoned they had killed her in the insane asylum. He had looked at me real sternly and said flat out, “No, son. I think she died of a broken heart.” Then he stared at her grave for a long, long time.