Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Top Side of the Grass

My Aunt Louise Chavers Carswell.  Age -- 95.

Louise says her prayer every day. "Lord please take me today".  So far she remains among us. I suggested she might have to pray harder.  She is in fair health, but the stroke a couple of years back slowed her down and life is just more difficult ... slow ... and fragile.

So, I explained, "The Lord is not taking you today -- I am".

She and Bobby made their life in Panama City, Florida - some 120 miles from her roots in Milton, and his old High School in Allentown.  He became a barber and was one of the most well known people in the town, there, for many years. The town wanted to remove the 1950 strip shops off the downtown piers for years. But, they waited until Bobby died in 2008 because his barber shop was on that pier. And he cut hair for 65 years - most of those years - right there.  Louise held two jobs in the city - the first as a
bookkeeper for a Hotel the second as a bookkeeper for a furniture store.  She retired from the hotel at age 65 and the next day started working for the furniture store. She retired there at age 85, when Bobby died.

Their primary passion was the Florida Gators, University of Florida football team.  Bobby was helpful in recruiting some of the key players over the years and the two of them were regulars at games.  It was a big part of their life and the gator on the grave site commemorates that.

Louise grew up in a large family with 8 children Milton, FL. Of the three remaining, she is the oldest. Her early memories of family and growing up are fascinating. At a young age, her father forced her to say she "was sorry" for some infraction with a sibling. But she felt she was correct in her actions
and later she explained to her dad that she "was NOT sorry" and he cried, realizing he had pushed her to tell a lie.  It may have been an early imprint for her to NEVER lie.  To this day, if she gets a minor fact wrong in some story she tells, she cannot sleep that night until she phones and corrects her error. I usually have a phone call some hours after a visit.  It tells me that visits mean a LOT.  How many people go OVER and OVER in their mind - the conversations of the past few hours? She MUST correct any error and be sure she has told the TRUTH.

By age 14 -she was working.  After school and weekends she worked as an USHERETTE for the
Imogene Theater in Milton. It was built in 1912, so it was about 25 years old when she worked there and movies were the big thing.  Country school buses loaded kids and even some parents came on weekend trips to the movies in Milton. Louise thought it funny that some kids would turn 11 years old and it took them about three more years to turn 12. At age 12 the adult fare applied.  No more nickel movies.

After high school (- she thinks the class of 1940) she went to Ocala to a WPA Business School, where she learned to keep books.  She
remembered going to Sunday services at Silver Springs, especially for Easter.  Before the war broke out, she took a job with Tyndal Air Force Base near Panama City.  She would have stayed there but she had a friend in town whose dad had a Hotel and he NEEDED (begged for) help. She then became a part of the hotel office staff where she worked until 65. And then the Furniture store until age 85. She worked solid for 72 years. Even her year at business school, she worked for board and tuition.

They never saved much of anything. Imagine a well known couple, with graduations of ever customer's grandchild, every wedding, every funeral ... flowers, gifts, cards, cash. No retirement saved. Just social equity. She depends on social security. She lives with her sister in Milton. The sale of her house in Panama city helped to fund some of her new situation with her sister.  She and Bobby had no children.  The Chavers and the Carswell cousins are devoted to her. The memories that come from a graveside visit to "have a little chat" are loaded with laughter, love and family.

And now. Her prayer. "Take me".  Aunt Louise, there is no hurry.

I normally inform my Carswell cousins when I am bringing Louise to Bonifay to visit Bobby. But this time, with her frailty, we both agreed it was best to skip the normally wonderful gathering over a meal and make the trip shorter so she would not be worn out by returning home.  It was a good decision - with apologies to my cousins.

She has a hard and fast rule for her death. No Notice, no obituary, no flowers, no cards, NO Funeral. So we will be stuck -- having a party to regale the wonderful aunt who was always in the background and NEVER wanted to be the subject of attention.

We did make a 15 minute detour to drive around the magnificent lake at DeFuniak, the home of the Chatauqua of the South.  She liked that.  And, she adored the visit with Bobby.

The National Youth Administration - Ocala
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