Some things you just never forget.
Like how as a youngster, I think about 8 or 9 years old, I would work up a sweat with my niece Linda and nephew Jim while building a stick fort in my sister’s backyard. I would run into her home, head for the downstairs bathroom and turn on the faucet.
The water that poured out was the coldest I ever drank. I remember sticking my head under the spout and drinking until my belly was full. All the while, I could smell nothing but the Palmolive soap she had parked in the middle of the sink.
Then, I’d head back outside and continue building the fort. When the fort was built, we would break off limbs and look for sticks big enough to use as “spears.” Then we’d wait for those nasty Earls boys across the alley to attack us.
We’re lucky no one had an eye put out.
Mabel was the oldest of my three sisters. All were born at least 17 years before me as I was a huge surprise to my mother who, as I have written before, thought her fourth pregnancy was a bad stomach problem.
Last week, Mabel, 91 years old, finally said goodbye to this world and headed for another.
The stories told by family before and after her funeral service were slightly humorous and very true to form for a woman who never remarried after her divorce but always survived.
She had two bypass surgeries on her heart, two strokes and a couple of stents put in her arteries for good measure. But all that did was slow her down for a few weeks. She went from job to job, always finding ways to support herself.
She became the family historian. She loved to research our family tree and often would send me a letter outlining a distant relative we may not have known about. She was also thoughtful and kind enough to send me a list of every family member’s birthday — a list I wish I kept closer because I still forget many of them.
My niece, Linda, said she snuck a Coca-Cola into the nursing home and Mabel drank every drop of it the night before she passed. It was like a goodbye treat for her.
The next morning, I heard she ate a full breakfast, returned to her room, turned over and took her last breath.
Mabel was one person in my family who never spoke badly of another person. Now, maybe I missed a few comments over the years I was around her, but no one else could remember a bad word either.
When anyone in my family would criticize someone’s actions or demeanor, Mabel would always say something like “Well, maybe they had a good reason . . . or, she would never do that intentionally . . .”
Mabel follows my youngest sister, Mearlyn, in passing. Mary, the middle sister, rarely leaves her house in Connecticut after breaking her back twice, but she is still alert and has not lost her sense of humor. We talk a couple of times a month.
The memories of past family outings, holidays and visits provide solace.
And I can still taste that cold, cold water and smell the Palmolive soap.
It was a happy time.