There’s so much to say about these people who made, raised, and loved me and my siblings. Just too, too much to en-capsule in a casual blog. That said, I ask you to forgive me for bringing them up again and again. Something will happen, someone will say something, I’ll glance at a picture I’d forgotten about and memories will drift and flow like friendly smiling ghosts.
I would ask Mom over and over about how they met. Each time she’d share something new. As much as I can remember, it went like this:
Mom had been doing some bookkeeping at the feed store which her dad managed. Not much money, but she was able to keep a small upstairs apartment and feed her daughter, Mary, and son, Ralph. She never said this happened, but I like to imagine the army convoy rolling into town while she watched, not knowing that Dad was driving one of the trucks.
March, 1942, she and Dad were in the same Sunday school class at the Church of Christ, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. They knew each other’s names but that was about it. There was an older gentleman, Mr. Wilson, a widower, and “sweet on Mom.” She had warm feelings toward him, but not enough magic to encourage him.
The church held a New Year’s party to welcome 1943 and Dad asked her if he could walk her home. I can’t say they dated. I think they were just together at functions like card parties and sat together at church. I know she had him for dinner a few times and was frustrated that he, ever obedient to his mother’s command to clean his plate, ate the leftovers she had carefully planned to feed her family the next day.
At the end of Sunday night service Feb 3rd, the minister announced that Russel and Doris were going to be married and would anyone like to stay and witness the event. Hold it! Isn’t this lifetime commitment a scant one month and 2 days after the first date? Yup. She said they were mature enough to know what they were doing at 35 and 36. To resume, someone carried the American flag down one aisle, another the Christian flag down the other aisle. Vows were exchanged. Snacks and a cake followed in the basement, courtesy of Mabel Peterson, Mom’s best friend. Simple. (Don’t you mean fast?) The bride wore a navy blue dress, the groom his uniform.
These two people taught me how a man and woman are supposed to love each other through all the highs and all the lows and all the dull in between. As many times as Dad came home exhausted and crashed in front of Gunsmoke or Wagon Train (name the western, he had to see it), they were seen holding hands, smooching in the kitchen, hugging, grinning at each other, or fighting over politics. Dad was the Democrat, Mom the Republican. “You voted for WHO?” and they were off. I heard what president sold which part of the country down what river with which bill back to Woodrow Wilson. I’d give anything to have it in writing now. Back then, I put my hands over my ears and left the room.
1990, a hockey game in Litchfield, MN. Notice the scowl on Russel. Notice the smile on Doris. It was just after Thanksgiving, 1988, that we moved them to Minnesota. Dad deplored it. Mom was relieved not to have to care for a house. That’s exactly what Dad thought he could do but couldn’t. Time to move. Mom adjusted, Dad tried to. Nevertheless, wherever she went, he went. And there he sat when he wasn’t in the men’s room. Dad: “Get me some hot chocolate.” I wait in a very long line. I carefully avoid spilling on the way back. “Where’s Dad?” “The men’s room.” There he is, slowly making his way back to the bleachers. “My chocolate’s cold.” (eyeroll)
Getting those two out of the home, into and out of a car and up to the bleachers was daunting. Factor in cold and ice. But the desire to go out superseded any difficulty in going. Besides, the grandson is on the ice. “Brenda, sit next to us and watch the game.”
April of ’92. Mom turned her face to the wall and refused food. She had outlived her son that spring. She probably thought we were able to live without her just fine. Time to go. Mom, are you sure? We brought in the cats to get her attention. How about the huge, smelly Labradot retriever? Lilacs were her favorite. She ignored all. Her final mini stroke took her away May 27th.
They were in the same room at the home but Dad kept to his side while she drifted off. He attended the funeral. He sat in his recliner disinterested in everything. After three months, he took my hand and informed me that my mother was gone. Even though he lit up when we visited, he was just as ready to go as she was; he followed as soon as he could December 23rd.
I would see them sneaking smooches in the kitchen and run over to them to hug, or tickle, and I was embraced. They were fun. So it’s only natural that Stan and I would do the same. Brenda would see that as an invitation to wedge in between us, giggling. “Something’s come between us!!” (giggle, tickle)
I hope my kids carry on the tradition. Live, love, touch, giggle, smooch, hold. Let the kids see it. Let them join in the fun. Life is short–make it overflow.