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
“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.
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.