Two great folks died this past week. One was around for over 90 years and did a lot of really good stuff. The other one, maybe 30 years or so, and not too much will be credited to his name. Anyway, I am going to miss both of them.
I met the first lady when I was a student at GC in the 60's and very early 70's. I had her for an "independent study" class in nutrition. In other words, she set apart an hour, two or three days a week, just to help me meet the requirements for certification in elementary ed. We would meet in her office, and she would go over assignments, etc. She really knew her stuff. Next, I encountered her as a friend's advisor. The friend was a home ec major and had to prepare a meal for guests as a part of a class. The friend, two other couples, this teacher, my husband and I, all enjoyed a meal together at the home ec house. After that, I knew that if I had any questions about food, I could ask her, and I did. I found out that she was a great seamstress, too, and she helped me out by putting buttons into a dress I was making for my daughter.
But where I knew this woman best was at church. For years, she was our church hostess and the chef for our family night dinners. Those dinners were truly fantastic. She served a full meal, salad, entree, at least two vegetables, hot homemade bread, and homemade desserts for $3.00 a head (and that was even in the last five years!). She cooked almost every bit of it herself. Not only was the food fantastic, she took extra time to decorate all the tables with fresh flowers. She also had theme meals for the holidays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, President's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Easter. The two biggies, Thanksgiving and Christmas, she would have hot appetizers, cheese balls, raw veggies, punch for folks to enjoy while they were waiting for the meal to be served--you wouldn't believe it if you didn't see it.
She took great care of her regulars, too. For instance, she knew that the pastor didn't like raisins, so whenever she served her dressing with raisins, she kept out some just for him. Also, since my mom was allergic to fish, she would be sure that there were little ham biscuits for her while the rest of us ate salmon croquettes. And she would be sure that there were special sugarfree desserts for the regulars who were diabetic.
In addition to this gift of hospitality, and it was a gift for sure, she had one of the greatest spirits I ever came across. There was always a twinkle in her eye--maybe no smile on her face, but the twinkle was there. You could tell she enjoyed life and wanted to make the most of it, but on her terms.
Near the end of her life, she moved into an assisted living home here in town. We had friends who would regularly pick her up there to take her to church. One morning the couple arrived at the home to find that she had moved out the day before--she didn't tell anyone that she was moving. They later found that she had moved back to her home. I guess she got tired of institutional food!
I sent her a Christmas card, telling her how much we missed her on Wednesday nights at supper. She wrote back to tell me, "I keep hoping I can come back and cook one more supper." That really meant a lot to me, to know that she still had hope. God has her now, and I'm sure there are fresh flowers on the tables at the banquet feast.
The other fellow is not quite as well known. He was a student I had about ten or twelve years ago in my special ed class. He was autistic, in a day when autism wasn't getting the press that it gets now. He didn't speak much, he had really severe mood swings, and at times he was very difficult to work with. However, what I remember most about him was his sweet, sweet, smile. It was very hard to stay mad at him for long. I remember one day I was walking him down the hall to his speech class, and he reached up and touched my cheek. "What's that, Mrs.M?" he asked. "Feel like a boogie?" It was. I guess he thought he was sharing. Another memory: he would play and play a computer game in the room. When he got ten answers correct, there was some sort of onscreen reward. All day, my daughter thought he was saying, "Damn right, Mrs. M!" The actual statement, ten right.
Two other memories to share. His favorite book was In the Napping House. He just loved that book, about a granny who was taking a nap and joined by all sorts of critters (including a grandson) until the bed finally collapsed. He would just laugh and laugh when I read it to him. I suspect it reminded him of his own granny who took care of him sometimes, but I'll never know for sure. And then there were the trips to McDonald's. All the time I taught, I found that trips to McDonald's were great motivators for my kids, no matter what age or for what purpose. Occasionally this fellow would earn a trip for something or the other. He and I would have great fun over a hamburger, french fries and ice cream. He absolutely loved the big yellow centrifuge where pennies would spin around and around before they finally dropped into the bottom of the container. Give him a quarter's worth of pennies, and he was in heaven, where, I hope, he is now. I hope there is a great big centrifuge up there and all the pennies he could every want!
Treasure the folks in your life who make you smile. Watch for twinkling eyes, and don't get up tight over a boogie on your cheek! Love you, and God bless.