Sunday, October 14, 2018

Aunt Louise --1921--2018

In previous years this is the week I should have been in Ft. Worth, to celebrate Aunt Louise's birthday.  She would have been 98 years old on Oct. 19th.  

She was born the year before women got the right to vote.  In 1941 she went to work for an airplane manufacturer that would later become General Dynamics--designing airplanes (because the men had all gone to war).  In 1945 the company decided she was too good an employee to replace with one of those soldiers returning from the war so she continued to design airplanes for them for the next 50 years--and always she was the only woman in that department.

She was a role model for my sisters and myself and such an important part of our growing up time. So many summers were spent with her and Grandma Zelma.   She and her mother were  surrogate babysitters for three very rebellious, preteen/teenage, girls.

(our trip to Italy in 1998)
Aunt Louise introduced my sisters and myself to museums, ballets, concerts, live theatre, geneology, the nature of Texas, and history of every sort.  The absolute highlight of my time with her was when, at 87 years of age, Aunt Louise decided she wanted to find her grandfather's home town of Barga, Italy.

It was a wonderful trip that I will never forget. 

I recall how sister Mary and I worried that the trip to Italy would be too strenuous for her--boy, we were wrong.  She walked us to exhaustion and never once complained.


While waiting for a table in this popular restaurant in Florence, we discovered how the Italians revere the matriarchs of every Italian family.  The owner of this highly acclaimed restaurant came rushing outside and cast a worried glance at Aunt Louise.  Seconds later he returned with  a chair, a small table and a glass of wine for her--while sister Mary and I continued to stand.  After dinner the owner presented Aunt Louise with a bottle of wine to take with her as a souvenir.  He gave us the bill.

Her last two years were enhanced by a wonderful caregiver, Suzanne, who made sure that Aunt Louise continued to stay interested in the world around her.  

This was my favorite picture of her someone brought to the memorial service.  She is holding a baby pig.  


 This was Aunt Louise's 'crush'. During happy hour when he was performing he would always come to her chair, take her hand and sing directly to her.  (much to the chagrin of all the other ladies in the room) He sang her favorite hymns at the memorial service.

(Memorial at Hill Villa)

When Aunt Louise first arrived at Hill Villa, she was invited at mealtime to join a table, shared by two sisters and one brother-in-law.   Within the first year one of the sisters died and no one else was asked to join. Three years later the last three died--within two months of each other.  It was so sad to see that empty table that four friends had shared.  Someone finally removed the table from the dining room.  "Too many ghosts." was the reason given.

Monday, September 24, 2018

A Family Reunion

The Maxwell Family Reunion was still going to occur even though it seemed we were surrounded by crisis.  Mary was hourly watching out for lava flow back home in Hilo and talking regularly to Jim to be sure he was ready to vacate the house if necessary.
Mary was also preparing to dash to Ft Worth as soon as the weekend affair ended to start funeral arrangements for Aunt Louise.   I planned on waiting to leave for Ft Worth until mid-week because cousin Jamie was having open heart surgery on Wednesday and I wanted to stay around long enough to know he (and Linda) were okay.

(Mr/Mrs Ken Maxwell, Patsy Maxwell, Doris Maxwell, Jo, Mary, Denise & Jamie)

Half of us at this affair are Maxwell descendants and the one thing a good many of us seem to share in some way are crummy tickers!  

There were others missing from this event that were also dealing with heart problems--cousins, Jerry Otis and his son Tavius. Thankfully all the hearts have been repaired and are mending.

Once again family friend Dickie let us use his beautiful renovated plantation home for the reunion.

The veranda was everyone's favorite spot.

Linda is surrounded by her mother and her aunt--twins.

(Wendy, Dickie, Mimi, Dwight)

More sisters.


Aunt Doris Maxwell is the last surviving aunt of that generation. And she is still as cheerful and loving as she has ever been.  We also have one surviving uncle, Merrill, who could not attend.  He is in an assisted living home in San Antonio.  

Dwight with the youngest Maxwell descendant.

Are we laughing or crying?

Little Lindsey

That is the original kitchen.  It is not used as a kitchen anymore--storage I think.

Dickie is very rightly proud of the chandeliers he has installed.  They are beautiful.

The bedrooms are lovely.  The plantation house is being used for weddings and reunions like ours but it will soon (we hope) be a B & B as well.

(Wendy, Jamie, Mimi)
Two sisters and their fantastic dad.

The last day before everyone was due to leave we went to Mimi's house for a very traditional 'Louisiana Crawfish Boil'.

These little tiny lobsters are tough to crack and peel so one has lots of time to sit and visit while working one's way through that mountain of crawfish.

During that afternoon we actually went through two mountains of this delicacy.  Food just doesn't get any better.  But boy, were my fingers ever sore. 


The Master Chefs, Brian and David

Mary, on the phone to Jim. "The lava isn't getting any closer."

Cousin Stephanie and the newest member of the family.


The next morning Jo and Mary headed to the airport.   Jo returned to Redding where, in only a few weeks time the Carr wildfire would force her out of her home.  Thankfully the fire skirted her street but it came very close.
Mary headed to Ft Worth and I would meet her there in just a few days time.   Such a happy/sad summer...stressful and never relaxing with so many crisis in a row. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Sisters on the Gulf Coast

 We spent one night at Fontainbleau State Park on the east side of Lake Pontchartrain.  Expecting only a place to park for the night, we were pleasantly surprised by the abundance of....

...WILD life.

This guy was so tame he strolled right past us without a concern,

But here was REAL wild life.

We didn't try to get close.  There were also deer roaming around, just a great spot right off the highway for getting close to nature.

Our first beach stop was Biloxi and we discovered that Daisy could earn her keep.

Jo was thrilled to get her feet back in the sand...

...but for 'Hilo Mary' it was just more of the same but without the lava.

Daisy discovered that someone put salt in the water.

How annoying!

It was a sublimely pleasant time.  Three (cranky, independent, opinionated, slightly senile) sisters plus a dog, spending 10 days and nights in a 24 foot long RV--has its challenges.

Staying close to the water with lots of room to play...

Soft breezes, the whooshing sound of foamy waves, plus the occasional cawing of hungry seagulls is the perfect antidote to 'ruffled feathers'.

We took the ferry across to Dauphin Island then traveled to Gulf Shores State Park south of Mobile where we stayed a few nights before heading back towards New Orleans.

We explored Fort Morgan. 

As we left the park we noticed the nest on top of the chimney at the Ranger station.

When we crossed back into Louisiana we received the call from Suzanne that Aunt Louise had died. Her passing was easy, she went with no pain.  She was a very strong lady.  She fully expected to be around for a few more years--and so did we, but in the end I think she was just too tired to keep going.
We were 24 hours from the family reunion in Thibodeaux so we decided to attend, especially since Mary had to change all her flight plans and I had to repack the RV for the trip.  So for the next two days we wore out the phones making all the arrangements to reside for most of the summer in Ft Worth and do the very difficult task of closing up an apartment, a history and a life.