When crafting the story of my visit with Aunt Lois, these are the words that bubble to the surface.
Asked what she’s most proud of, “Being a child of the King” was first on her list. Eager, it seemed, to tell her story. Lois not only welcomed me with open arms, but she had prepared for my visit. You could say she’d done her homework.
Fitting, isn’t it? Since she’d spent the majority of her working days in education, it should come as no surprise that the homework was done. Lois received her degree from Berea College in Kentucky. It was in school where she met Garland, her first husband. Together, she and Garland moved to Maryland in 1965 to begin their careers, both earning their income as teachers. I had no idea that the date of my visit was also the anniversary of Garland’s death.
Waiting for me on the table in their living room when I arrived, a folder containing family photos and neatly typed stories had been prepared.
Purposely, I avoided the folder. I wanted to hear the unscripted version.
I could see it when she talked about the picture on her wall. You couldn’t help but notice in the way she attended to her husband. What makes you happy? “Harry.” “My family.”
Due to geography and circumstances, Lois was the first person I reached out to when I actually took steps to begin this little endeavor. Harry’s health is declining, so they travel less these days. I was pleasantly surprised, however, when I arrived. Harry is still plenty sharp to share stories of his childhood. Of days spent growing up in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. Memories of one of his early jobs selling “soft seats” (cushions I presume?) in the grandstand at Pittsburgh Pirates baseball games.
I like Harry. He’s a baseball fan. It was fun to hear of him speak of stadiums like Forbes Field and Shibe Park. Places that exist only in history archives to me, but once were very real places that Harry had experienced early in his life.
I returned home and have read through the folder that Lois had laid out for me. Times were different. Life was hard.
Family was important.
Some things, fortunately, remain the same.