Earlier this week I received a phone call from my niece, Pat, telling me that her father had died a few weeks ago. Somehow in the confusion of the sudden death there was a mix-up in the phone calls, and I was not notified at the time.
George Watson was married to my husband’s sister, Mary, and news of his death made my heart ache and the memories flood in.
George and Mary were the first ones in the Miller family to warmly welcome me into the family. I was from the wrong side of their tracks, so while the other two brothers and Mom Miller were cordial, they were less than enthused about Carl marrying poor white trash.
Over time, the rest of the family came to accept me – I guess they figured the marriage would last after we passed the 20 year mark. That’s how Carl and I joked about it for so long, but really, after a few years the rest of the family did warmly embrace me.
The Miller family was, and still is, a supporter of St. Clement church and school in Centerline MI, and George was a member of Dad’s Club, as was Carl and his two brothers, Dick and Gene. Every Friday during lent the Dad’s Club would hold a fish fry, and we would all work there. The men cooking fish, and the wives making sides.
George was a snorer. A very loud snorer, and one of the stories we loved to tell about him concerned a hunting trip that Carl and I took with George and my sister’s husband, Robert. We all enjoyed bow hunting and were out on a beautiful, crisp fall day tramping through the woods. At one point, we split up, Carl and I going in one direction and Robert heading in another with George.
Apparently at one point, George decided to snuggle up to a log and take a quick nap. When we all joined up again, and Carl asked Robert how it had gone with them, Robert said, “”Well, George here snored so loud, he chased all the deer away.”
I have a million other wonderful memories of trips and holidays and card games and the annual Miller picnic to celebrate the end of summer and have one last hurrah before school started. It was always held over Labor Day Weekend, and we would rent a space in a local park to hold all the Millers.
So today, my heart is heavy and tears mist my eyes as I think of all those lovely people who are gone, Mom, Carl, Shirley (Dick’s wife), Mary, Gene, and now George.
If they can connect up with one more up there, they have two tables for euchre.
It’s only fitting that I share some of the last jokes that George sent me:
THINGS KIDS KNOW
You can’t trust dogs to watch your food..
Don’t sneeze when someone is cutting your hair..
Never hold a Dust-Buster and a cat at the same time.
You can’t hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk.
Don’t wear polka-dot underwear under white shorts.
The best place to be when you’re sad is Grandma’s lap.
THINGS ADULTS KNOW
Families are like fudge…mostly sweet, with a few nuts.
Today’s mighty oak is just yesterday’s nut that held its ground.
Laughing is good exercise. It’s like jogging on the inside.
Middle age is when you choose your cereal for the fiber, not the toy.
It’s frustrating when you know all the answers but nobody bothers to ask you the questions.
Time may be a great healer, but it’s a lousy beautician.
I’m currently reading an ARC of Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult which releases next week. Ruth, the central character is a nurse who has spent most of her life trying to get along with white people, doing whatever she has to in order to be accepted as a person and not be judged by the color of her skin. She is a labor and delivery nurse, good at her job, but the only black nurse in the unit.
A couple, members of the KKK, demand that Ruth be barred from touching their baby, and the nursing supervisor capitulates. Ruth is stunned that her colleagues do not step up to defend her, but she swallows her hurt and anger and does her job.
The baby suddenly codes and Ruth is part of the crash team, giving the baby chest compressions, and the baby’s father sees her. After the baby dies, the father files charges and Ruth is arrested for negligent homicide and murder.
Unlike white professionals who are notified of the charges and allowed to turn themselves in, the police swarm into Ruth’s house in the middle of the night, guns brandished. They push her down on the floor and handcuff her roughly. When her teenage son runs out to see what’s going on, the police put him down and handcuff him as well.
Other than occasions when people made comments that were insulting, or Ruth was treated badly by some of her white school friends at the prestigious boarding school she attended, she has never come so starkly face-to-face with this type of ingrained hostility toward black people.
Her sister, on the other hand, has experienced the hostility many times. After Ruth is released on bail, she is having lunch with her sister; the two of them trying to figure out what she’s going to do. Ruth’s nursing license was suspended so she can’t work, and her sister suggest that Ruth connect up with a preacher and activist, who is frequently on the news, talking about one injustice or another.
Wallace, the preacher, always talks loud and gestures wildly and Ruth asks, “Does he have to be mad all the time?”
Her sister laughs, “Well hell, girl, I’m mad all the time. I’m exhausted just from being black all day.”
I thought that closing statement was very revealing. The story offers insights from both sides of the color line, which is something I tried to do in Open Season, but it was only a subplot in that story. This book attacks the issue head on and is a must-read book for anyone who would like to see what it is like to be black, or white, and face the bigotry that is still so rampant.
This is it for me folks until Monday. I have another busy weekend at the Winnsboro Center for The Arts; first an author appearance by Stanley Nelson, who will be discussing the research for his book, Devil Walking, which focuses on the racially-motivated murders in Mississippi in the 60s by a splinter group of the KKK. Then on Sunday there is a classical concert featuring the vocalist, Jared Schwartz, and pianist Mary Dibbern.