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Frances, Her Tumor and No More s*x (230 hits)

Cousin Patrice said it was too much information. Readers didn’t need to know all the details. They’d understand the story without them, without my divulging Frances’ private life. So, I mulled over Patrice’s comments for a week or two, initially thinking she made a valid point—disrespecting the privacy of my beloved deceased godmother.

But after deep consideration of the goal of the book Sojourn to Honduras Sojourn to Healing, I decided to leave Frances’ silent bouts with her health and s*x in the book so that other women and men can use her experiences as a catalyst to heal themselves, their families and their own s*xual activities. I have no reservations about sharing her story here.

My Beloved Frances

Frances and her family the McDowells moved from South Carolina to Washington, D.C. during the Great Migration, that period in U.S. history between 1910 and 1960 when over 5 million Negroes moved from post-slavery southern towns to northern cities—their southern cooking in tow.

Besides my mother, Frances reigned supreme as the best southern cook I ever knew. Lest I forget, Sylvia Woods of Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem, New York ranks high in that league. She’s another South Carolina daughter.

Frances’ Sunday meals included delicious Crisco-laden southern fare, including her homemade biscuits and what I considered a strange part of the cow to eat—cow’s tongue. Sometimes I flinched my nose at it while it cooled in a big pot on the stove. Frances caught me one Sunday and brushed me away. “Go on away from here. That’s for Leroy,” she’d say.

And he loved it. Smiled at me across the dining room table when he ate it. So, one Sunday I decided to give it a try, just a little taste of the thick eight-inch slab of pink meat. Leroy carved a piece for me and laid it on my plate. I stared at it, wondering if I should douse it with butter or gravy. I decided against both. I cut a small piece from the slice, chewed, swallowed and smiled back at Leroy. Cow’s tongue tasted just like ham.

Baked goods? My mouth waters thinking about Frances’ German chocolate cake. Truly a great southern cook. But my beloved lady, unfortunately, lived with high blood pressure. She never mentioned it, never complained. She swallowed her medication every day and cooked the foods she knew best, the way she knew best, as do all cooks of starch-rich, creamy foods. I never heard it from her if her pressure rose too high and made her feel bad. Leroy, always quiet and composed, passed the news along to us, including the news one night in 1979, that Frances had stopped taking her medicine and died that evening. Frances loved me and cared for me like the child she never bore. I loved her too.

Twenty years after she died, Leroy drove up from Washington to visit me in New York. Frances and her health, never far from our lips, dominated the conversations. Leroy often repeated stories about her, especially the time they decided to buy and sleep in twin beds because Frances didn’t want to be intimate anymore.

I was an adult. I had an understanding of life I didn’t have when Frances lived, so I defended her. Her decision laid deep-rooted in some incident in her life, I thought. I knew she cared for Leroy too much to sleep in a separate bed and deny him intimacy. What went wrong? Was her medication making her sick? Was she working too hard?

Frances was a housekeeper and cook for a Kennedy administration lawyer in D.C., and with Leroy, operated an office maintenance service in the evening. I rallied Frances’ cause but Leroy subdued me when he said doctors found tumors in her uterus the size of grapefruits. When they removed them, Frances changed and decided she didn’t want to have s*x anymore. I was sad for her and Leroy. I thought the tumors not only prevented them from having children but may have caused her high blood pressure. I asked Leroy if Frances saw a therapist or counselor after her surgery.
Posted By: Beverly Oliver
Monday, April 8th 2019 at 2:24PM
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