Blessed Be the Tie That Binds

My maternal grandmother died in a car accident, when her brakes went out on a winding mountain road in California.  Margarette Fairbank Dyson Milanese was a tiny woman, barely five feet tall, with a wavy pin-curl bob and starched white nurses cap.  She married late and birthed later, first a daughter, then a son.

She left behind her husband, two children, and a song.  A lullaby.

Mama’s girl is a good little girl.

Her husband, Martin, worked nights in a warehouse.  He tried to hold things together, his two children hospitalized with severe injuries.  His son suffered frontal lobe trauma, with an open head injury.  His daughter’s spinal cord was damaged, inflamed and angry in the time before steroids.

Mama’s precious Ruth-girl.

Martin called on the extended family.  Can anyone help?  Margarette’s sister, Dorothy, had married a boorish man, a loud presence in a Puritanical family.  But Uncle Wally was the one who massaged the circulation back into Ruth’s injured feet and legs with his calloused, working hands.

Close your eyes and go to sleep.

Meda and Mildred had children of their own, much older than Ruth and her brother.  Margarette had been the baby of the family.  Another sister, also a Ruth (Ruth Kathuleen Dyson Jordan), lived in Minnesota with her husband, Dick.  Dick worked in the men’s accessories department of Dayton’s for decades after returning from the battlefields of World War I.  Dick delayed his retirement when he and Ruth volunteered to take Martin and Margarette’s children.

Mama’s precious girl.

The daughter lived at home with her aunt and uncle while carpooling to Macalester College.  In her junior year, one of Ruth’s professors introduced her to a goofy gent from Eau Claire.  (“Ken, she walks funny, but she’s good people.”)

Mama’s girl is a good little girl.

Ruth and Ken courted.  One fine day, Ken asked Ruth to grab something out of the glovebox of his red ’64 Ford mustang convertible.  Out popped a ring box with a round diamond set in white gold.  She said yes.

Mama’s precious Anne.

The two married at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church fifty years ago.  The reception was held in the Art Room with cake and radioactive green punch.

Close your eyes and go to sleep.

The newlyweds settled into an apartment on Dunlap, three blocks from their current abode.  Ruth taught French at Summit School.  Ken commuted to 3M.  The doctors didn’t know what would happen if Ruth got pregnant, given her history of spinal cord injury.  She got pregnant anyhow.

Mama’s precious girl.

The girl babysat a lot.  Like a ton.

Anne’s boy is a good little boy.

Her favorite kids lived next door.  Emily and Michael.  Anne remembers the day each of them came home.  She was nine at the time of Emily’s adoption, a teenager when Michael arrived.

Anne’s precious Michael.

At bedtime: “Do you want me to sing to you?”  “Yeah.”  “What do you want me to sing?”  “‘Anne’s Precious.'”

Close your eyes and go to sleep.

Anne was there after Emily (age two) ate nine bananas.  She was there when Michael (seven months) peed in his own eye.

Anne’s precious boy.

Eventually, everybody grew up.  Anne went off to college and accidentally wound up in medical school.

Mama’s boy is a good little boy.

Anne’s grandma, technically her great aunt Ruth, advised her to “date a lot of men so you know what you want.”  She took her advice.

Mama’s precious Ezra.

Somewhere in the middle of residency, Anne showed a set of broken dining room chairs she had inherited to her friend, Margret.  Margret tilted her head to one side, thinking.  “I know someone who could repair those chairs,” she said.

Close your eyes and go to sleep.

Margret took about six months to fork over Stuart’s phone number, afraid Anne might prove to be too much for him to manage.  Stuart and Anne met, dated (he considered her his “practice girlfriend”), and after many many years, Stuart figured he’d had enough practice and they married.  The Big E was born a year-and-a-half later.

Mama’s precious boy.


Musical Moment – call me and I’ll sing it.

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