I had been having trouble with this week''s column. I started to
write about one subject but decided it wasn''t working out well
and switched to another topic. Unfortunately, after about three
pages, I decided that I was striking out with the second topic as
well. Then yesterday, June 4, I was getting dressed to attend the
wake for the brother of a friend of mine when I received a very
distressing phone call from our nephew in Pennsylvania.
My wife''s sister Annie had passed away. She died in her
daughter''s arms at the age of 90. Annie was the most remarkable
woman that I''ve ever met and I hope you don''t mind if I simply
use this column to say my own goodbye to her. If I were a
Catholic, I would without hesitation nominate her for sainthood.
She was widowed at a young age with six children to care for in
a house of the most modest accommodations. The door to that
house was open to anyone for sustenance, conversation,
counseling or therapy. There were many times of tragedy and
pain that might easily have caused one to become bitter or
depressed. Yet Annie maintained throughout her life an aura of
inner peace and optimism and wisdom that helped make her
home a refuge for those with their own problems and needs.
Indeed, Annie was not happy unless she was doing something for
someone else. In the days before she died her concern was that
she was no longer of any use and she was ready to go.
Annie''s humble kitchen was her temple. From it flowed items fit
for royalty and in quantities that boggled the mind. She could
even butcher a deer if one was presented to her! Her nut rolls
were to die for and on our return trips back to New Jersey our
trunk was invariably loaded with jars of her pickled beets and
pickled cucumber with onions and garlic. We still have a goodly
supply of the former and will eat them with relish and with
Annie believed in the old fashioned ways of doing housework,
disdaining offers by her children to buy her an automatic washer
and dryer. To the end, she insisted on using her old washing
machine with wringer and hanging her clothes out to dry. The
past month when she was in the hospital, some members of her
family installed new flooring, and a modern washer and dryer.
The intention was for her to spend time at her daughter''s
recuperating, then return to her newly renovated house. When
asked if she wanted to stop and see her house after her discharge
from the hospital Annie said no. It was probably for the best.
So goodbye, Annie. I could go on and on but I know you hated
long speeches. You will be sorely missed by all who have had
the great good fortune to have known you.
Allen F. Bortrum