Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sad Stories

I think it's interesting that I started this blog off telling some of the sad stories in my history. Maybe I just like my sad stories more.

Anyway, I started talking about mothers. But parents aren't the only persons in my life who have fulfilled a parental role. One person who was more of a grandmother to me than my own grandparents was Mrs. Drinkwalter. Bernice, I believe her name was, but she will always be "Mrs. Drinkwalter" to me.

She was always old.

Granted, she was forty years my senior but she was always a slight, white-haired woman to me. She took care of a set of fishermen cottages in northern Ontario, set on the South River near where it pours into Lake Nipissing. Her cottage was as rustic as the others. I remember visiting, having a cup of tea, talking softly while birds bounced themselves off the windows.

We would go there every year. Oh, growing up there were one or two years where vacation meant someplace else - but with those rare exceptions vacation was the Drinkwalter cottages.

Certainly it is sad that she is no longer alive, but Mrs. Drinkwalter did live to ninety-six. I visited with my family when she was a couple years from the pneumonia that would, finally, win the contest she had played with it all her life. Even then, she would take her daily walk. She would smile at our dog futilely chasing the chipmunks (she loved her chipmunks, so I quietly disposed of those critters that my dog had outwitted).

Like any woman in her nineties, Mrs. Drinkwalter would speak her mind. There was no time for subtle phrases or pointless tact. She gave my wife a huge compliment: Mrs. Drinkwalter approved of her motherhood skills and toughness.

The motherhood skills I understood readily. We have a disabled son. However, he is not coddled, nor do we excuse his bad behavior. He, like the rest of us, will be polite. Mrs. Drinkwalter approved.

To understand the toughness, one must realize something about my wife. She was raised in a suburb of New York City. She is not a nature girl. She is not comfortable around bugs, mud, or the like. Camping is not her idea of a good time. So when the carpenter ant swarm decided to exit our cottage rafters through the interior, she wasn't happy.

I had never seen anything quite like it. Hundreds, maybe a thousand inch-long, winged carpenter ants poured through a small crack near our bedroom ceiling and were crawling over and through everything. This happy event occurred while we were enjoying lunch.

As part of the decontamination routine, I had my wife take our luggage outside, remove each article of clothing, shake it to free the ants, then repack it. Mrs. Drinkwalter and her daughter-in-law, Michelle, were convinced that my wife would simply pack those cleared bags in our truck and demand to return home.

My wife proved her toughness by not doing that.

Sure, she was grossed out by the bugs. So was I. But once we had rid the cottage of the ants, who just wanted out to make new colonies, my wife settled back in. I am proud of my wife - she had impressed an important, grandmotherly figure in my life who was always honest with her appraisals.

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