Jason Deal

Aunt Thetus was sitting on the edge of the bed in her room at the local nursing facility that was her home.

“I have something I need to tell you,” she said.

Before I tell you about that, I suppose some background is in order.

Aunt Thetus has been precious to me all of my life.

She and my Grandma Deal were sisters-in-law, but they were also best buddies.

After my Granddaddy died, Aunt Thetus and Grandma helped one another out.

She would always come over to my Grandma’s when “it was about to come up a cloud.”

Neither liked bad weather and when the storms came up, it was just good to have company.

During those days, they had all kinds of experiences and generally looked out for one another and enjoyed hanging out.

Grandma has been gone home to heaven 18 years this past August.

Aunt Thetus had sensed for a while now that she was in the evening of her life. She was 96 and she had something she needed to tell me.

“Anything you need to tell me, feel free to do so,” I said.

“I have a confession to make,” she admitted.

She began to tell about how one summer she and my Grandma decided they needed a “mess” of peas.

A “mess” in south Georgia units of measure is more than “a smidge and less than a “right smart.”

It had been thunderstormy those days and she had come over to spend the night with Grandma. They generally got up with the chickens, a couple of hours before the sun ever broke the horizon.

This day, they were on a covert mission.

They watched until they saw my parents leave home to go to work at what was in those days Mershon Tractor. That’s when they saw their chance. Armed with a bucket, they went to the pea patch and picked themselves a mess of peas.

Aunt Thetus related they came back in and shelled them in the den while “The Price is Right” with Bob Barker was on. I miss Bob Barker. It’s just not the same without him.

They put the peas on the propane-powered stove in the kitchen, dropped in some bacon and fixed a few other things to go with it.

Aunt Thetus confessed they ate the whole bowl full of peas for dinner — just her and Grandma.

“We enjoyed them. They tasted sooooo good,” she related.

Good enough, I suspect, to make your tongue knock your brain out.

Both had bouts with severe diverticulitis, a very painful stomach disorder. Sure enough, by the end of the day they both had tremendous regrets about eating all those peas.

Still, and I guess this is where the confession came in, Aunt Thetus said the two of them made a pact.

“We decided we wouldn’t tell our children what happened,” she said.

Wrapping up the story, she told me she just felt like she needed to tell me about it.

Aunt Thetus went home to heaven Saturday, Oct. 2. She was 96.

I passed by a mess of peas on the buffet of a local restaurant this past Sunday.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry and honestly, I did a little of both.

The secret, you see, was in the peas.

• Jason Deal is the news editor for The Blackshear Times. Reach him at jdeal@blacksheartimes.news.