22 September 2008

Aunt Vera

We were eating lunch on the outdoor balcony at one of the fine dining establishments in Leavenworth, Wash. The mountains in the background added to the alpine atmosphere, and a hand carver busily chiseled grotesque faces into blocks of wood across the street. Someone drove by with a heavily laminated tree trunk cross section tied to the top of their van.

I must have been 5 or 6 and had started asking "Who cares?" in response to almost everything. Mom warned me about leaning too hard on the railing, and I must have given my customary response.

"We do," Aunt Vera said.

It's odd how moments like that get frozen into a person's memory and come to influence the way one thinks for decades to come. We did a lot of other stuff that day, but I don't think I ever used "Who cares?" the same way again.

In just two words, she taught me that words have meaning, and that the stuff we say ought to reflect reality.

She never struck me as a woman who talked a lot, but I always got the impression she knew a lot more than she talked about. Four or five years after the incident above, she spent several minutes talking to me about her memories of oxen triggered by the faltering attempts at western artwork posted on a bulletin board in my room. We talked about the weather in Paradise, California, too.

In memory of Vera Margaret Dearth: 4 February 1919 - 12 September 2008

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