I talked to my Aunt Polly on the phone today. She is one of my few remaining relatives, and that is by marriage. She is in her seventies, and has been diagnosed with a very serious kind of cancer, and is undergoing chemo. I'm not sure that it is going to be successful, but I pray that it will be. I call her all the time, just to tell her that I love her, and to talk, and to just allow her to talk. She and my uncle had seven children, and she has lost three of them, tragically, over the years, and sometimes that is what she wants to talk about.
Today, we somehow got on the subject of the different places she's lived--the different houses, and the times that I visited her, and spent weeks with her, while I was growing up, and afterwards. She misses her old house--she is now living with a son and daughter-in-law. She said that she wishes that she hadn't had to sell her old house, but that she knew she couldn't stay there anymore, the way things were. She was not talking about her cancer--she was speaking of what her old neighborhood has become.
She has lived her whole life there, in that town in Georgia that I've mentioned in my other stories on here. Her parents lived in a little house in the mill village, from the time that Aunt Polly was a little girl, and long years afterwards, too. During the latter years, while her mother was ailing, and until she died, Aunt Polly and Uncle Bo lived there with her in that same house. After my uncle died, she remained there, until about four years ago. She had always felt safe there, never locking her doors--not even at night.
But something happened to that little mill village. Gradually, over the past few years, every single dwelling there has been purchased by Hispanics. It is no longer the quiet, peaceful little community it once was where you could sit out on the porch-swing, any hour of the day or night, and feel safe. Now, at any hour there are cars racing up and down the street, loud shouting, crowds of people walking up and down the sidewalk, music blaring out of the passing cars, and adjoining houses. Once, while I was spending some time with her, there was a drive-by shooting, very close to her house. Only a few of the yards are still well-kept--most of them now have large stalks of corn, or something else, growing up the sides of the houses. The last time that I was there, a year ago, we drove by Aunt Polly's old place, and driving up the street, and around the neighborhood, I was reminded of the times, years ago, that I visited Tiajuana, Mexico.
All up and down the streets, going into town, the stores' windows are filled with signs in Spanish, and when you go into some of them, it is all Hispanic, and you hear only Spanish being spoken. It is almost surreal, making you feel like you took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up in another country. And the icing on the cake to this whole thing, is that her daughter-in-law who had worked for several years at a convenience store, was "let go" a few months ago. The new owners are Hispanic, and they hired only other Hispanics, and I'm sure, members of their own family. And it isn't only that store--it is happening all over the place , including many towns in the adjoining state of Alabama. Like it or not, that's the way it is now and we are expected to just accept it.
After all, we mustn't offend anyone. Not even if they are trying to change everything that was once dear, and familiar, to us all.