My mother is 96 and her memory is failing, but like most people in this condition she has crystal clear memories of incidents in her youth. Although you expect it, it is still always surprising. Most curious to me (and I ponder this often) is exactly what made a particular story stay in her mind – or all they all still there, just not accessible. This year at Thanksgiving as we sat around the table drinking our coffee and digesting, apropos of nothing, she began a story. What struck me about this story, although it certainly stands alone as interesting, was how clearly she told the details, without pause or uncertainty. There was no doubt as to the truth of the story, she is no longer capable of exaggerating without tell-tale hesitation or eye-shifts.
When she was growing up in
, there was a man with a very large ranch between her father’s and Montana . He had a son who was learning disabled but still largely functional. The only problem was that he would wander off into the countryside and it took much time and many people to find him. So they decided to move him into Great Falls . They found him a rooming house right downtown next to the Paris Department Store where everything was convenient for him and he seemed to be doing very well. Every morning he would go into the hole-in-the-wall cafe next door and have them fill his thermos with coffee. Then he would return there for his afternoon meal. He followed this routine without fail. One day his family came to visit him and they stopped at the café first. They were told he was doing well, had been in for his morning coffee, but strangely, had not come for his lunch. When they went to his room they found him on his bed (Mom hastened to assure us he was fully dressed!) but he had passed away. In the corner of his room they found 21 bags from The Paris. Each bag contained a pair of pants and a belt. They all still had their tags and the sales slips. This was a comfort to Mom as she was confident they had been able to return them and get their money back. Great Falls
It is such an inconsequential story, sad and amusing at the same time. Obviously it had made a large impression on Mom when it happened and I can envision her family sitting around the table discussing it…just like my family did.