The other day I wrote the Ripe Women and A Dancing Scrooge post because, as I had mentioned, so many wonderful "Ripe Women" are in my life. Well, the reason I had been thinking about it was that my mothers Aunt Peg, a woman I call Aunt Peg as well, and my Grandma's sister, suffered from a serious stroke a few weeks ago, and is half paralyzed. She's been on my mind. And you are going to see why, shortly.
Peg lives near Whitefish, Montana. Not exactly near it, by Indiana standards, but within a very long drive. So pretty darn close if you live out West, where driving all day is a short drive.
Whereas Whitefish itself is on a train track that runs the entire breadth of America (I've ridden from Portland Oregon all the way through Whitefish, to Chicago. And I've ridden from Syracuse, New York, to Chicago. So I've ridden the entire track. It's a hell of a run.) Aunt Peg lives on the way to absolutely nothing but glacier's and Fir Trees. Her property is beautiful, with a alpine lake and pier. And it abounds with all kinds of animals, which I know about, since Peg has a special relationship with these creatures.
Peg's, came down with some sort of medical problem a year ago, and went to the doctor. The doctor, a kindly fellow, didn't know her personally, so he apologized at the long list of questions he had to ask her, like, "Have you ever had a relationship with someone from Burkina Faso?" Peg told him, "No."
Well the doctor went on, and his last question was a little more farfetched than he was entirely comfortable with, so he apologized as he asked it and said, "Sorry, but have you ever shot a rifle?" Peg told him, "Of course!"
And she has. I've never personally been to her property, for I am a perpetual fool who thinks my fabulous family members present some sort of endless welcome for me, never really needing to be satisfied by an answer, like, "I'm coming." But Peg has told me numerous times, and the rest of the family even more, that she, "killed an Elk from [the] kitchen window." I couldn't hit a semi truck at a truck stop. But Peg, yeah, she's shot a gun.
I don't have a lot of stories about her. I hope to ask around for a bunch more. But one story that isn't even really a story so much as a great memory, was my sister Angela's, wedding in Portland, Oregon. Most of the family was there, and most of the family was doing what people do at a wedding. So as the evening warmed up, and the formalities were over, we all started to loosen up and dance. Now, I am no great dancer... I sort of do it to check it off my list of inhibitions, even as folks around me wonder why I am hopping about the rooom, kicking people. But if my lovely family wishes to dance with me, I'm going to dance at any comer. I might even dance with them! They're more or less safe for such activities. Well... Peg started dancing with us. And you gotta understand, this was a little over eleven years ago, but she was still, even then, in her late seventies. She danced with my brother, and she danced with me. She danced with my Dad, and did sort of a Conga line. She danced with some grandchildren, and we all did the Twist. Some folks swore she danced to the restroom. Everytime a man would sit down, there was Peg jumping up to dance again. By the end of the night everyone was laughing and filled with that awareness that togetherness gives you at a celebration. You had forgotten, but these people are spirirts and ghosts of your best nature. Almost not realizing it, you come to: I've (Mr. Brooding) been laughing for three hours. Aunt Peg's arthritis is like anyone's: it hurts. But all of us were ignoring our aches and our pains, and right at the center of it was a small woman: laughing.
I hope you can see why when my family gets together I try to look right in their eyes. I haven't always done this, and to tell the truth, at Angie's wedding, I'm pretty sure I didn't really do it either. But in the last five years I have tried (and sometimes failed) to look. To really look at these people. We are not kings and queens in my family. We don't drive limo's and our ancestors can't be counted as the movers and shakers of the world (though they carried my life to it's beginning. And for a man, that should count, as somewhat more important than empire.) But if you ever go to a celebration, or a wedding, or even just a dance hall for an evenings pleasure, look around, and find the folks who are laughing. They'll dance with you till your Vioxx gives you a heart attack, and make you play hookie the next day to boot. They aren't important people: but they'll give you a hug and a kiss, and laugh at your stupid jokes.
These people are like the hollywood family you see in a movie, when the truck goes deep into the wilderness and finds the self sustaining folk with the heart of gold. It doesn't seem real in the movies, but in real life it's reality is measured by how much not feeling it breaks your heart. And I've been places in my life when I didn't feel it. Where people seemed motivated by self promotion, ideology, and their own problems and perspectives above all other things. Maybe I am wrong, but there is a mountain north of Whitefish, Montana, that defies the odds of cynics and the selfish alike. And has a real bad reputation among the proudest Elk.
Peg is what reminded me of the glorious females of the world: not of, but beyond a certain age.