By John Hassell Yeatts © 1984
Issue: September, 1984
Hers has been a lifetime of waiting. And on this particular morning in late July, she was waiting for the nurse's aid to tidy up her room at the Blue Ridge Nursing Home in Stuart, Virginia. But of greater importance, perhaps, she was also waiting for August 1, 1984 when she would celebrate her 100th birthday. Her memory would come and go, ebb and flow. And when it would go, she still talked with intelligence. Only her time frame was wrong.
She hadn't waited long, however, to marry Oregon Yeatts also of Mayberry, Virginia. Only 15 years and 16 days from her time of birth on August 1, 1884. She recalled the wedding and that the Reverend Billy Shelor had tied the knot. She remembered that "Pap" (Mr. Daniel Pendleton) had given her away, "When he should have given me a good switching instead," she commented, referring to being still an almost child. She recalled as well, that about 5 years before her wedding that she had attended school in the top of Mayberry Store, and that Jehu Barnard, survivor of the great fight at Gettysburg had been her teacher. She remembered, as well that one of his strapping boys, Wynn, had married her sister Annie and coaxed her off to the land of The Big Sky in Montana. Replying to the question of why she and Oregon hadn't also gone, she said, "Mammy just wouldn't let me. Wynn and Annie were here to see me awhile back," she said. But that was a visit only in her memory, of course, since they both expired several years ago,
Roeana's life of waiting has included some 72 months of pregnancy that brought her and Oregon 4 sons and 4 daughters. But now only three of these daughters and one son remain to help her celebrate her century of life on August first. Much of her waiting has included the death watch of those too young to die and other relatives who almost lived as long as she had lived.
Her long nights of waiting for her husband to return from his various lumber and timber enterprises were ended one foggy night when his truck rammed another loaded with steel rods. He couldn't survive the mangled hip and damaged torso and she was soon left a widow at 53. The Great Depression had not dealt kindly with the family enterprises and it was to be a tough road ahead. She didn't complain, lament or whimper. She just waited. And her surviving daughters and sons helped her to wait with grace and dignity.
As we talked, she wished Uncle Dave Robertson would come to the nursing home and treat her. "He's a fine doctor." she allowed. And some who listened remembered that she spoke the truth. Only Dr. Dave couldn't come now. His time ran out many years ago. When we conjectured that she might be the oldest person in Patrick County she quickly said, "No. Pappy and Mammy are older, of course."
Then we reluctantly departed. Her tired, but still pretty, face relaxed into a faint smile and she called, "Y’all come back now."