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We will remember Mae

Dec 13, 2012 - By Betty Starks Case

You don't expect a summertime story in the middle of December, but that's how my sister-in-law Mae comes to mind -- with thoughts of a warm, positive, and joyous spirit, a love for preparing great food, and laughter, always laughter. So it seems fitting to me to remember her recent passing with one of her favorite stories from our years together.

Each year, when I see the first aphid of the season, I'll chuckle. And I'll think of Mae.

She and her 12-year-old granddaughter were visiting at Pheasant Crest Farm while our husbands, (brothers) were off on a fishing trip

Driving around town to entertain ourselves one day, Mae spied a garden of tall, green dill. Among many foods she loved to prepare was dill pickles, so we stopped to admire the aromatic plants. To our surprise, the lady who grew the dill asked if we'd like to have some, even providing containers.

Mae piled several grocery sacks full of dill into the back seat of the car and drove back to Pheasant Crest, frequently rejoicing at her good fortune.

Next morning, Tina, the granddaughter, ran out to the car for clothing and returned shouting, "Grandma! Grandma! The car is just full of little green bugs!"

"Aphids," I said, unsmiling.

"What?"

"Aphids."

We hurried out to look. The whole interior of the car was green and crawling. Mae grabbed the protective seat blankets and proceeded to shake them, clothing, and everything in the car vigorously into our yard. I stared glumly, knowing full well how the little critters multiply.

"Ned just finished spraying everything around here." I announced.

Mae now began to realize the potential of the thousands of homopterous little insects, and truly helpless to change anything, she said, "I'm sorry, Betty. I just don't know what to do about it now."

She stuffed the dill into the car trunk instead of storing it in my refrigerator as she'd planned - a wise move as I saw it.

"All my life," she mused later, "I've been able to come up with a solution, a quick fix for any problem. But this time, all I could think of was, how do I gather up my aphids?"

Each time the story was retold, we burst into gales of laughter.

Mae and I first met as teens, she attending Morton High School, and Ned and I as classmates in Pavillion. Working on our school newspapers, we soon became acquainted.

Then Mae and I discovered we shared a fondness for a couple of brothers, and our lives drew closer. Eventually, we married those brothers. We gave birth to our first babies about five months apart; our babies grew as childhood playmates, almost as sisters and brother. Together, we rushed one child to the doctor, praying as we raced down the road to Riverton. Together, we shared sorrows and joys. And the years rolled on, lives ever more deeply entwined.

Today, Ned's and my son and his wife traveled many miles over snowy mountain passes to be with his cousins as they say good-bye to their loved mother and his Aunt Mae.

Together, we'll remember the years backward and forward. The dances, the parties, the family gatherings -- the good food shared with endless fun and laughter, at our homes, trips to the mountains and far-away places.

Our relationship reaches in other directions. Mae and husband Max (Tuffy) became lifetime friends of my older sister Lorraine and husband Wilson, of Keith and Lois Annan, to whose family my younger sister was related by marriage. Together we shared the love and memorable experiences of our extended families.

Now, with my story of Mae barely begun, I'll relate the happy ending to my beginning tale of the aphids.

When Ned returned from the fishing trip, he told us he'd fertilized everything at Pheasant Crest with a systemic chemical that kept the tiny monsters from even liking the plants.

We never saw any of the little beasties again. But later that evening, Tina asked worriedly, "What if some of those bugs end up in Grandma's pickles?"

"Why, they're green and tiny, and you'll just think they're dill seed," I assured her.

Or did I? Tina may not have cared as much for dill pickles that year.

But today, through our tears, we'll laugh once more with Mae at one of her favorite stories, one she loved to share even when telling on herself.

And we'll hear her merry laughter.

And we'll remember Mae.

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