Today’s guest post comes from Clyde.
Generation One: Edith, The Bootleg Baker
Edith was widowed in about 1924 with four young children when her husband dropped dead at the age of 36 of a heart attack. Fortunately his life insurance covered the cost of the house, but only that. She survived with the magic she could do with the stove. She cooked for many rich families and made it through the Depression mostly by running a bootleg bakery, “bootleg” in the sense of unlicensed. And, oh, how she could bake.
She had a son shot down over Germany in WWII and another son came home deaf. When her daughter ended up in a bad marriage and badly crippled from arthritis, she took them into her home, now doing all her magic in a tiny kitchen she had built upstairs. She shared her upstairs bedroom with her two grand daughters, one of whom is my wife.
She was described as always upbeat, giggly, and girlish. In her early fifties she seemed to have developed a sort of mild senility, which made her delightfully, charmingly dingy. I could tell thousands of stories about this, such as the fact she long carried around a piece of paper with my name on it because otherwise she called me Claude. Here are a few stories, in which you will notice forty years of widowhood had made her confused about sex.
My wife, the world’s most beloved human being, was packing for our honeymoon, including all the negligees she had received in her 13 bridal showers. Gramma Edith kept pulling them out of the suitcase and telling her to save them for something special.
She once told my wife not to undress in front of me because one day we may get divorced and then my wife would be walking down the street and see me and say, “Oh, no, I undressed in front of him.” After that she called several times in tears insisting she did not think we would get divorced, including more than once in the middle of the night.
In our poor but fun college years we would go over to the house to wash our clothes and take my mother-in-law for an outing. Edith would fold our clothes and take out and hide all the negligees. So I called up Edith and told her that Sandy was sleeping naked. She demanded that we come right over and get them. She would also hide food for us in the laundry, and once hid butter in my wife’s purse, which fell out of the purse when my wife was paying for groceries on our way home. My wife did not even try to explain. The clerk carefully ignored it, perhaps because my wife was purchasing such a modest amount of basic stuff.
Edith once ran short of apples for her famous apple pie, so she substituted watermelon pickles. She did not think we would notice. She made a famous torte, the recipe for which she stubbornly took to her grave.
Generation Two: Mugs, the Crip
Marguerite became pregnant at age 19 and rushed into a bad marriage, giving birth in March of 1940 to my wife Sandy. Four years later after giving birth to a second daughter, she developed severe rheumatoid arthritis, which over the next 42 years dissolved the bones in her hands and feet and gave her terrible pain. But she refused to let it limit her and not once in anyone’s memory ever complained. She went to everything she could at the Courage Center, where she hung out with the other “crips,” as they liked to call themselves.
She once took an assertiveness class, from which she was excused for her assertiveness. In my college years she spent many months at the U of M having her knees and hips replaced, among the first to have the operations. She and I had lunch together every day while she was there and became close friends. She spent the rest of her time there seeking out those who needed an encouraging friend.
It was my—is “pleasure” the word—to do her funeral, at which I told many of other inspiring stories about her I am not telling here.
Generation Three: Sandy, the Most Beloved Being on the Planet
In my wife’s yearbook,despite a very difficult childhood, it said by her picture “Everyone wants to be like Sandy.” Everyone loves my wife. Everyone. Loves her.
Our friend Lori recently went to one of my wife’s many doctors and told the doctor that she knew Sandy. The doctor acknowledged that she should not talk about another patient but told Lori how Sandy inspires everyone in the office, that after Sandy had been there no one complains about anything for the next few days. My wife goes there with her progressing lupus and five other illnesses and greets everyone by name in her perky manner. Sandy asks about their joys and problems, about which she has learned over her many visits. The doctor has to argue with my wife to tell her symptoms because then she would be complaining.
Who inspires you and how?