Tuesday, May 21, 2013


I am going to miss this lady.

She was 92, and she was ready. I wasn't ready-- I don't think anyone else was really ready to say goodbye, to live the balance of our days left without the benefit of her quiet laugh or perfect hems or Oatmeal Carmelitas. 

I bonded with this lady way more than I ever bonded with my own grandparents. It sounds terrible to say that, but it's true. It's the whole urban-rural divide, I think. Esther was a rural wife, a career homemaker in an era when that was a woman's highest calling-- and she made it artful. She inspired my own housekeeping-- though I will never be able to claim napkins pressed as neatly as hers. She had this incredible devotion to rightness, to the best way things can be made or fixed or thought of: and that's what I loved most. I lean on a lick and a promise sometimes, but I wish for the patience and care enough to do things right the first time. 

The first time I met her, I was aware how much I had to learn, I wanted so badly to make a good impression. It was Patrick's and my first autumn together, and we had baked pie. Apple pie. And left one at his parents' house for the weekend, during which Esther was going to be visiting. Strategic pie.

Stopping by on our way through on Sunday, Esther's first words to me were, "That was some pie. I heard you put vinegar in the crust, that makes it flaky." Just like that, I think, she had decided that any young woman who can execute a flaky pie crust using a time-honored trick of household wisdom-- any young woman like that would make a good wife for Patrick. She loved him dearly, she wanted him to have a life full of flaky pie. So she loved me, too.

I never thought about how her love for me was just an extension of her love for him. I asked her once what her favorite sewing project had been. She was a champion seamstress. Looking at old family photos, part of the dialog is talking about which dress "mom" made and where she got the fabric and how special Jan or Judy or Joy felt when she put it on for the first time. Esther's answer was a pale blue tuxedo for Patrick, when he was maybe five, when he was a ring bearer in his aunt's wedding.

It was bittersweet to spend the weekend remembering and celebrating her, and meeting so many of the people she'd touched-- and fed. But so final. That's the hardest part-- knowing I can't love her through sending mail, or stitching Christmas presents, or baking pie anymore. I have to love her while keeping my hands still-- so, so hard. Somehow I think that might be the very core of what we had in common. We loved with baked goods, and careful stitches, and tidy flower beds.

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Anonymous said...

Thank you! It's a joy to hear how she touched the lives of others.

You had a head-start: Patrick loved you, and you had so much in common--which may have something to do with why he picked you.

Becky said...

Beautifully written. She will always be with you.

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