Dinner With Auntie Fern

Last weekend Grand Auntie Fern called and invited the hubby and me to come to her retirement home for the holiday dinner.

In the past, she has been to our home, as well as to other extended family members in the valley. Everyone loves this sweet lady who will be 98 in April.

This time, however, she wanted company at her home. We were pleased to join her, as none of our girls could make the trip to ours. We couldn’t go out of town because of my Friday work commitment.

The dining hall was half-empty as many of the residents would spend the day with family. The food was traditional Thanksgiving; turkey, stuffing, mashed potato and gravy. Senior citizen sized servings found no complaints here. I usually eat too much.

The hostess asked if we would allow a recent arrival to join us at our table. Shirley had been there two days and didn’t know anyone yet. We were happy to make it a foursome.

Auntie was dressed in a lovely suit, with complimentary clip-on earrings and matching necklace. She always dresses up in the morning. She has never worn a sweat shirt or a pair of jeans.

“It makes me feel better to look smart,” she told us.

We weren’t quite as gussied up; but the hubby looked handsome in his sweater. I’ll keep him.

Shirley, however, was wearing a cotton nighty and matching duster. She was in a wheel chair and probably not able to dress herself.

The three of us introduced ourselves to Shirley and began eating and enjoying the chitchat.

“How old are you?” Auntie queried as she leaned towards Shirley with a sweet smile. Having one eye causes difficulty for her to see unless she gets very close.

“I am 86,” was her emphatic answer. Her speech was very clear, precise, and matter-of-fact. I don’t think she was put-off by the question. It was just a question.

“Oh, you’re just a young thing,” laughed Auntie and told her about her upcoming birthday. She went on to inform that she was the youngest of five sisters. Grace lived to be 108. Blanche breathed her last at 102, after deciding one day that she’d lived long enough. Sister Ethel passed away at age 98 and Jennie, the hubby’s gram, left us at age 95.

Shirley and her late husband had no children. However, they had lived a wonderful life. They had seen the world. She loved this town when they moved here and stayed to retire.

“I met my husband when I was working for Pacific Tel and Tel in San Jose.” Shirley told us. “Then we got married and I had to quit.” That made me smile. How times have changed.

“I really enjoyed that job. I was a switchboard operator and I would push in the little plug and say, ‘what number please’ and then connect them. I worked nights, but I never listened in on any of the calls. My supervisor would listen to see if I did. But I never did.”

The hubby and I talked about how technology has changed so much, that people use their phones for computers and cameras. Both ladies shook their heads and looked at us as though we were crazy.

“Well,” said Auntie Fern, “would you imagine that!”

Then Shirley started talking about the switchboard again.

“I’ll never forget one morning when I got off work and caught the bus back to my apartment building. No sooner had I walked through my front door than the phone rang. The voice said ‘this is Nellie Jackson.’ She was my supervisor.”

I thought her supervisor would accuse her of eavesdropping.

“She said ‘I’m ordering you back into work right this minute. Pearl Harbor has been attacked by the Japanese and we need every operator on duty immediately’. What and where was Pearl Harbor. I didn’t know. It was the first time I had heard of it. I’d never seen such a sight. The switchboard lights were blinking constantly and I spent the whole day just connecting calls. One after another.”

Shirley sighed and her shoulders dropped. She set her fork to work on the cranberry sauce.

“I remember that day like it was yesterday, too,” Fern responded softly. “Bill was hunting and I was home alone. The news came on the radio and my mind couldn’t even grasp it.”

And so the hubby and I listened to these young at heart women discuss the world as it was when they were young of body.

I asked Auntie Fern if I could write about her again.

"Sure!" She said and instructed me to tell you, my readers, that “Marriage is the only war where you get to sleep with the enemy.”

Then she giggled and we ate our pumpkin pie.


Claudia said…
Love that Auntie Fern!! It's amazing how time just flies and the things people go through.
Jenny said…
I LOVE this post. So, So much.

Oh and "Marriage is the only war where you get to sleep with the enemy"?

Amen sister. With age there comes wisdom.
C said…
This information about switchboards in the good old days is so interesting. You should publish this in a Bride magazine.
BarnGoddess said…
What a lovely story!!!!!!!!!!!

Auntie Fern is definately a jewel :) you are a lucky lady to have her.

I am with poster C, send this post off to Brides, it is HIGHLY worthy of published print. We all benefit from great ladies like Aunt Fern.
Pass the Torch said…
Love those old stories! And if we don't write them now, no one will ever hear them...

What a sweet aunt you have.
Kathleen Marie said…
Your Auntie Fern looks so much like my MIL it is uncanny! I had to do a double take. My MIL is 82 I believe. She teaches Bible study at the nursing home in NE.

This is a TREASURE! I am so grateful you are writing this all down. This is fabulous and this line is priceless, "“Marriage is the only war where you get to sleep with the enemy.”
Kila said…
Oh, I loved this post. You must write more about these ladies and their stories.

Isn't it a shame that youth is wasted on the young? Our seniors are treasures.
Karmyn R said…
I am sad thinking about all those stories that will be lost when they are gone.
Heather said…
I love this post! What great fun listening to those stories. I remember Marcel's grandma telling us about the first time she saw a plane fly over their small town. What a sight it was!
SongBird said…
What a lovely post!! It certainly made me miss all the wonderful saints who have passed out of my life and into the next.
Anonymous said…
wish I had a grandma ivy

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