Joni B

The very idea.

Meet the Blounts


As I think about writing this, I hear the robot from Lost In Space yelling, “Danger, Joni Shank.  Danger!”  There is a lot of judgment that comes from total transparency. Yet, these are the stories Holly loves.  You know they are true because you can’t make this stuff up.  However, when whack-a-doodle things happen there is dysfunction involved.  We all have dysfunction… just some of us more than others.  So… here goes.

Let me introduce you to The Blounts in this post.   The family consisted of Harold, Gladys and Mae Frances.  They were “there” for me my whole life.  Dysfunction or not, they were good to me.  My earliest memories of them are from a traumatic time in my young life.  It was the early 70’s and I was 2 or 3 years old.  My mom had some tumors and was sent away to a hospital in Boston for months.  My sisters stayed with friends as they were much older than I while I stayed with my grandmama and granddaddy.  I adored my grandparents, but they weren’t my mama.  I clearly remember crying into my grandmother’s shoulder while she rocked me and would sing about all the pretty little horsies.  We’d watch the Carol Burnett show, Lawrence Welk and it was during this period that my granddaddy turned me into a die hard Cardinal fan!  I didn’t realize until I got older how difficult this must have been on my grandparents.  They were worried about their little girl while at the same time having to comfort her little girl.  I had a hiding spot.  It was my grandmother’s closet.  I’d crawl behind her clothes and refuse to come out.  She and her sister, Inez, tried everything to get me out but I was too upset and afraid.  That must have ripped her heart out.  That’s when it happened.  They called Mae Frances to the rescue.  Mae used to tell me that when she showed up that day there was a plethora of cookies, candy, milk, soda, bacon, toys and anything they could think of piled on the floor in front of the closet to try to entice me out.  Let’s be honest, if I don’t come out for bacon….I ain’t comin’ out!  Mae, in all her Kindergarten teacher expertise, didn’t beg me to come out.  She yelled, “Hey Joni B!  I’m going to see the firetrucks!  Are you coming with me?”  The closet door flung open and I was in her little red rabbit lickity split.  We drove over the bridge and to Pickwick and to X-L for a Coke or Sprite Koolie all the while playing “I Saw It First.”  I swear she loved to make mad on purpose.  From that point on, I spent days and nights with the Blounts.  They became adopted grandparents to me and I was the grandchild they’d never have.  Before I can tell you stories, you need to meet them so, here goes….

Harold Blount was a State Senator.  By the time I came around, those days were long past but I still recall hearing people call him “Senator” when he’d take me on outings.  Now, I have heard tales from people around town that don’t always cast him in the best light.  I don’t know much about that.  I’m sure there are people around me who can provide insight into that.  The man I knew was kind and spoiled me rotten! I called him “Man.”  Mae told me one day “Let’s go back here and see this old, ugly man.”  From there on, he was “Man.”  Man always had a roll of Butter Rum Lifesavers that he’d offer me when I meandered into his man cave.  He never shooed me away but would pick me up, put me on his lap and tell me stories.  He’d take me to the grocery and buy me whatever I wanted.  I remember insisting on a box of Tide.  He questioned why in the world I wanted Tide.  There was a “free” towel with an animal on it that I had to have.  We went home with “squish” cheese, peanuts and a box of Tide.  When he died, I came home from college and snuck a roll of Butter Rum Lifesavers into his casket.

Gladys Blount was one of the classiest ladies I’ve ever known.  She was a Latin and French teacher at our high school.  She was a beautiful woman and she was my Mama Blount.  She treated me like I was her grandchild and to me, she was a grandmother.  She was an enabler, to say the least.  She thought it was love of that I am sure but it became very difficult as I cared for them in the final days. Mama Blount was born and raised in Kentucky and an avid Kentucky basketball fan.  She loved traveling to Europe and the royals.  She carried herself well and held some strong opinions.  She loved her family and she loved me and mine.  I loved the conversations we held especially in her final days.  She lived to be 97 and kept a strong mind until the last couple of weeks. I held her hand and sang hymns as she slipped into eternity.

Mae Frances was the only child of older parents.  She was spoiled.  She was a control freak and a manipulator.  She was a food addict and ended up morbidly obese.  She never married or had children of her own.  That said, she was the greatest kindergarten teacher ever.  She was my rescuer.  She was my confidante. She drove me nuts and we went horn to horn many times.  She had a beautiful voice and most of the time a good heart.  She called everyone in town all day and knew everybody’s business.  As soon as you said “Hello,” she responded with her key question “What are you doing?”  She gave up on life far too soon and died too early.  I might add she died on my birthday.  I knew she would.  When her health turned south the week before, I told my mama “Just wait and see.  She’ll hold on to die on my birthday.” She did.  My beginning days with Mae were some of my best and my last days with Mae were some of my worst.  I know this description is harsh but you have to get the clear picture to understand and be able to laugh at the stories.

Good or bad, the Blount’s weren’t blood but they were family.  I loved them dearly.  I’ll start the stories later, but today is for meeting and getting a glimpse into who I knew them to be.

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