Worried about legacy Libby might have left

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 14, 2015

Our family lost its last vestige of the greatest generation when our Aunt Libby passed last week.

She was tiny, but her presence loomed large in our lives. As recently as December, she berated me for not having visited her 92-year-old self in the assisted living facility where she spent her final months. I smiled obediently and said, “Yes, ma’am.” (Never mind there were three others with me who had been as tardy as I; I took my tongue-lashing like a big girl.)

Several years ago, she worked for weeks on the details of her will, calling and asking what one or another would like to have from her home. Many had ready answers – the piano; the clock on the mantel; her mother’s biscuit bowl; an antique desk. Others of us said we would treasure anything that was hers.

Generally, we meant it. Secretly, we are terrified.

Though a maiden lady, she was the family matriarch, and attendance at a reunion she hosted on Easter Sunday was not optional. Consequently, she received many gifts related to Easter. And she kept them. Stuffed rabbits, ceramic rabbits – you name them, she’s got them. If you hear I am opening a bunny store, you’ll know I won (lost?) that lottery.

There’s one more thing I’m curious about.

Once, Aunt Libby was recuperating from a hip replacement in our home. Janet Beste brought her own aunt, Eva Jo, to visit, as Libby and Eva Jo were contemporaries and lifelong friends.

Making polite conversation, Janet inquired about Libby’s yard, whereupon Libby immediately launched into a sermon on keeping up one’s yard and the difficulty one has finding good help these days.

“You just can’t get good hoe-ers anymore,” she said.

Only it didn’t come out just the way she intended. Thank God, she wasn’t wearing her hearing aids and didn’t realize how much Mrs. Beste and I were giggling.

Between Christmas and Easter of that recovery year, Libby got the flower beds weeded – mostly by herself. The yard was, as usual, magnificent on Easter Sunday.

When Mr. Honey went to help her that fall, she set him to “fingerpicking” weeds from her garden of greens.

He lasted only a few minutes before he recalled having seen greens for sale on the side of the road for $2 a bunch. He gave up that effort and found something else to do, instead.

But Libby never did give up on trying to make a good “hoe-er” out of him. She was forever calling to tell him what she had accomplished in the yard, and to deliver a gentle ribbing about needing help with the “fingerpicking.”

With her goes a work ethic, a sense of determination, and a love of laughter that is unmatched.

I can’t wait to see if she willed Mr. Honey a hoe.