We’ve been having a fine time here in St. Petersburg, as fine as a recent widow and her fatherless daughter can have. Judy and Amy arrived right on time, somewhere near midnight, on Thursday and we sat up until 2 and then slept, more or less, until 9am. (Judy less, Amy more.)
Judy has a constant vague anxiety, which makes good sense to me because when I try to imagine widowhood after almost 40 years of marriage (I’ll be more than 90, omg, that triggers anxiety all by itself ) I get very anxious. During the day she is good-mostly upbeat, nice sense of humor, telling “Fred” stories and remembering and then, I think the nights are hard.
Fred was classic Midwestern, mostly rural, America. German heritage, employed during life as a top notch machinist, he married Judy when she had one son and no husband, at a time when she could well use one. She was young, barely grown, and waiting tables at the local tavern. They went on to have two children together and now two wild and bouncy grandsons who require Judy to pull out of any despair she feels swamped by at least on the weekends.
Remembering Fred has been fun, with lots of laughter and a few tears. Although Fred never bagged a buck for all the years he sat in a deer blind each fall, his passion for the birds and the squirrels was unsurpassed. This made him and me kindred spirits and we often compared notes on the best seed for each bird and he gifted me with a corncob feeder one year for the squirrels. His birds and squirrels, in Saline, Michigan, knew him well and waited for the clang of the tin can-3 times- against the fence to announce breakfast. Judy isn’t feeding them this winter; it’s just too hard with the bitter cold, the old wood garage doors waiting to be replaced with an automatic door and all the memories- but the birds and squirrels are sort of lingering, with hope.
One of the funniest Fred stories comes from the end of his life when he was surely suffering the effects of diabetes and congestive heart issues. By then, he was retired and was spending a lot of his life in the LazyBoy watching daytime TV- Dr. Phil (Fred is grumbling in Heaven about all the scandalous Dr. Phil news) and Martha Stewart. Fred talked to Dr. Phil and Martha as he watched and one day, when he thought he was alone in the house, he said to Martha Stewart, “Martha, you could fly through that TV and **** my **** and you would still be the meanest ***** alive.” Judy was actually in the kitchen and she exclaimed, “FRED!!!” and he just looked all confused and “what???” That story made the rounds of BCMA and when Fred died, BCMA sent the most beautiful and outrageous arrangement of long stemmed French tulips and ornamental kale, with a note that read, “Dear Fred- Not even in your wildest dreams. And may they all be sweet. Love, Martha Stewart” Fully half of Fred’s many relatives actually thought he got flowers from Martha Stewart with a cryptic message that didn’t make sense to them.
Last night, we had two mother and daughter teams
donating to Abby’s laundry machine fund playing poker. Amy and Judy and Abby and me. This was just silliness since the Snarl plays in poker tournaments when she needs to make extra money at the end of the month, so silly it was. At some point, naturally, the theme turned to “things my mother did to embarrass me.” Amy, now a fine young woman and special ed teacher in her own right, told about the wardrobe of white piped navy blue and red knit, ill-fitting shorts from Sears that her mother would buy by the gross each year at the beginning of school. Those and pastel tube socks. She also had underwear with names of the week on it and one time Fred, who was doing the wash, came to her and said, “Toughie, I only have Monday and Tuesday and today is Friday.” Amy did this imitation of Fred with a fair amount of blushing and we all fell out laughing and it took us two hands to recover.
Then Abby told one of her stories. The first day of middle school I had her wear this outfit: sharply creased Khaki pants that came up past her waistline by two inches but didn’t cover her ankles, a white shirt and a hand knit navy blue sweater with two fluffy white angora bunnies strategically situated over either side of her, ah, chest. Very fluffy. And then I pulled her waist-length hair up into a ponytail that sat on top of her head with a lime green scrunchy. This reduced everyone to 15 minutes of hysterical laughter and allowed Abby to win enough laundry money for another month in three additional hands. You know, at the time, I though she looked cute. Judy and I contributed feeble stories about saddle shoes but somehow, they weren’t as funny or as egregious.
As I read this, I realize that the humor of the evening was dramatically enhanced by fried green tomatoes, pulled pork, homemade salsa and peach bellinis to drink, plus this monumental recent loss. Perhaps you had to be there, but it’s all been good.
Yesterday, we made a group call to the other members of BCMA who were having a token meeting back in Michigan, and we all jabbered about missing each other and trying to figure a next meeting date and where (the consensus, with 7 degrees there and 70 degrees here is- well, here.)
Today we’ll take a nice beach walk down at Ft. DeSoto and settle down a bit. I haven’t had time to comment, despite 8 year old birthdays, daughters departing for Russia, and (my favorite) smart Chewie pigs- but I’ll be back in comment mode shortly, promise.
Have a beautiful Sunday and count your blessings.