After his Sister’s death Roy took solace in spending time with his wife and children. Mae’s parents had decided to rent a farm just out of town on Waller Road. They had a four-bedroom farmhouse and when Mae felt well, they enjoyed weekend visits.
Roy did his best to help his father-in-law with some of the heavier work while Mae and her mother worked in the kitchen.
One evening they sat in their parlor listening to the player piano with Verle pretending to play the tunes.
Roy bent over and whispered to Mae. “Looks like we have a new musician in the family.”
Mae laughed, “Yes, even though he can’t carry a simple tune.”
On Sunday as they got ready to leave his mother-in-law handed him a basket. “Mind you handle this with care. I put a dozen eggs inside, the hens have been laying more than we can use this week and I also put in a pitcher of milk and a freshly baked bread.”
The next morning, they enjoyed scrambled eggs and toast slathered with fresh berry preserves.
“May I be excused?” asked Verle as he wiped the jam from his lips.
“Where are you off to in such a hurry? “ Roy asked,
“The guys are going to have a baseball game and I don’t want to be late.”
“Well, then by all means be off with you. Mae if you don’t mind, I think I’ll take my coffee out to the porch and enjoy the fresh air while I read the paper.”
“Go ahead. Iva and I will do the dishes then we’ll make some pies with the berries we picked on Friday.”
Roy stepped out onto the porch and settled himself upon the wooden rocker he’d made. Across the road from the store, he could hear the Salvation Army setting up their band in the Hobo camp.
A bit later Mae wiping her hands on her apron came out. “Mind if I join you. Iva says she can handle the pie making by herself.”
“It would be my pleasure,” said Roy as the sounds of “Onward Christian Soldier” began to drift a cross the road.
“I see were being serenaded again”
“Ah yes,” said Roy. “I don’t know why they bother the men never pay any attention to them.”
Mae took a sip of her coffee.” I thought we’d take the pies to this evening’s neighborhood potluck.”
“Just so long as you leave some extra pieces at home for me and Verle.”
There was nothing he or his son loved more than berry pie.
The neighborhood had taken to holding potlucks every Sunday night. Nothing fancy everyone brought whatever they could contribute and the men pooled their money together to buy some wieners to roast over a bonfire. The tough times seemed easier when they were shared.
He and his son took in baseball games whenever they could. Iva had become a teenager.
One morning Mae informed him. “Iva is going to go get herself a perm today with some of the money she’s earned.”
Roy frowned, “What’s wrong with her hair the way nature made it.”
“Oh Roy, every girl wants curls. So no matter what you think when you see her this evening, say something nice. She’s sure she’ll be the cats meow.”
Roy kissed his wife on the head. “Don’t worry, I will be sure to tell her she’s beautiful just like her mother.”
On Friday November 10th, 1933 Roy came home early in the afternoon after delivering a cord of wood to a neighbor. He found Mae leaning back in the chair, wheezing.
He sat down in front of his wife; her wheezing breaths were coming in short gasps. “How long has this been going on?”
“Not long, could you see if there’s any belladonna left in the cupboard.”
He rummaged around the cupboard and found some shoved in the back. He returned to Mae’s side who continued, wheezing in short, strained gasps.
“Try to keep your breath regular. Remember in for five and out for five, come on breathe in 1, 2,3, 4, 5. Now out 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.”
As her labored wheezing continued his mind raced ahead. What would he do if she turned blue or lost consciousness?”
I’m getting the doctor,” said Roy.
“No, she whimpered, we can’t afford it.”
“Yes,” said Roy, “you need his help. I’ll be right back.”
He ran over to the store as fast as his legs would carry him. “Call doctor for me. Mae’s having a bad asthma attack.”
He raced home. Inside the house, he dropped to her side. “Come on Mae, come on, take some deep breaths in for five and out for five. You can do it, you’re doing well.”
Despite his calm reassurance her breaths grew torturous, with each inhalation, it was as if she was at war with herself. The seconds crawled by until the doctor arrived it was as if time had stood still.
The doctor when he arrived dropped to her side.”How long as this been going on?”
“I’m not sure. I found her wheezing when I got home about an hour ago. But it’s getting worse.”
After listening to her heart and lungs the doctor hung the stethoscope around his neck. “Help me move her into the bed. I’m going to give her a shot of morphine.”
After the shot Mae’s breathing started to ease. A sense of relief flooded his body but then he realized she wasn’t breathing at all. The doctor grabbed his stethoscope and put the round metal end on her chest.
His face grew graven. He took the ends out of his ears shaking his head. “I’m so sorry. She’s gone.”
“No,” moaned Roy, as his own heart raced. “It can’t be. She can’t be gone.”
“I thought her heart would be strong enough for the morphine. There’s nothing else I can do. You have my deepest condolences. I will step out and leave you alone to say your good-byes”.
Tears streamed down Roy’s face as he accompanied the doctor to the door. “I’m afraid I can’t pay you.”
“Don’t even think of it, there is no need to pay.” He patted Roy on the shoulder. “I have no words to tell you sorry I am for your loss. I’ll let the folks over at the store notify your family for you.”
Roy went back to the bedroom where Mae lay. She looked so peaceful. He laid his head down on her chest and sobbed. “How am I ever to go on without you?”
It wasn’t supposed to end like this. She was only thirty-seven, she had so much more life to live. Why at 48 he was the older one. They were meant to grow old together, watch their children graduate, get married and play with the grandchildren sure to come.
“Oh, Mae,” he sobbed. “There will never be another for me. You were my one and only love, of this you can be sure.”
When no more tears would come he wiped his eyes and stood. Shaking and feeling lost he glanced at the clock. The children would be home from school soon. They couldn’t find him like this, he had to be strong when he told them their mother had passed. He walked into the front room and closed the bedroom door behind him.
He had never felt so alone in all his life.
- Information about the rented farm and player piano came from my Dad’s writings and reminisces he shared with me. As did the info about the Sunday neighborhood potlucks.
- A note Mae wrote to her mother described Iva getting a perm for the first time.
- Info about Mae’s death came from things my grandfather said along with his children’s memories of that day. He death certificate verified the info.