The twins. How am I ever going to be able to describe them? Ruthe and Bette. My dad’s youngest sisters.
They were the 4th and 5th children in the family with no money during the Depression and it is believed that they did not get enough oxygen during their birth. That is really the only explanation anyone had, as the other three children were whip sharp, active and creative people. Not the twins.
They graduated last in their class in high school then worked at minimum wage jobs. They were very pretty but neither ever went on a date. Wait, Bette went on one but he tried to get “fresh” and she was home within the hour. They lived with their mother until she died. Mother did everything for them. Shortly after she died, their brother Bill (child number 3) gave them a condo in an exclusive area of Palm Beach and they formally retired, though brother Bill never told them that he totally funded it. He was such a good brother.
My mom knew the twins in high school. When they tried to join a sorority – popular in those days – the twins were denied. They were mocked. This made my mom very angry so she, her best friend Marie and the twins started their own sorority. They had certain shoes, skirts, and everything else just like the other sororities. They felt very special.
This kindness was to come back to my mom a hundredfold.
She and the beautiful Marie would hang out at the twins’ house and have a ball with their mother. She was such fun and my mom adored her.
Brother Bill was injured in the war in the South Pacific and was eventually sent home. He and Marie met and fell hard for each other. They made a very handsome couple.
Dad arrived home from the war and surprised the twins while they were working in the dime store. One of them happened to look out the large window and there he was waving at them. Shortly afterwards, my mom was invited by one of the twins to go to their house where my dad just happened to be at that moment.
Her first words to him were in French – later her major in college - since she heard he had been in France. “Parlez-vous Francais?” He immediately replied in very good French, “Oui, je fais.” And that was the start of it all. She said the first thing he noticed about her were her cute knocked knees!! Being a legman, she couldn’t imagine that he could think they were cute since she hated them.
So they met. The end. For them both. The photo above was taken at her Senior Prom. Mom was only seventeen-years old and dad would not even take her elbow crossing the street. She was underage! On her 18th birthday, not only did she receive a beautiful bracelet from him but also he held her hand and she said that was glorious! Mom was barely nineteen when they married. On their wedding day, dad’s mother said to my mom, “He’s yours now! Good luck!” and laughed! She and mom enjoyed a lovely relationship for the rest of her life.
Bill and Marie also married. He was eventually to become an extremely wealthy businessman but when they were married, he was just beginning his career. Marie wanted to move to Florida but he had just landed a great job. She became unhappy. They divorced.
Bill loved her until the day he died.
Marie eventually re-married and had a daughter, Sandy. What we recently have learned is that she suffered from clinical depression. Mom never saw this when they were kids but said, looking back, it made sense.
A few weeks after her daughter’s wedding, Marie took her own life. She was 47-years old.
When we were in Chicago in 2007, mom and I visited several graves of relatives and friends. We could not find Marie’s. We continued to search for it after the trip. She and mom had made a promise to each other that the last one alive would put a white orchid on the other’s grave. They were very expensive in those days. This promise had not been fulfilled and nothing worries mom more than unfinished business. While we searched, Bill would call to ask if we had found Marie yet. He made me promise to let him know the minute we find her but sadly, he passed away suddenly.
We did not know the last name of Marie’s daughter Sandy, but we knew that she had married. Remember, my parent’s had moved across the country and it was clearly impossible to maintain the friendship after the divorce.
Just months after Bill died, I stumbled into a web site called: find a grave.com. I was doing computer searches. Mom was searching on her computer. She got a hit. She found a newspaper article announcing Sandy’s engagement. We finally had a last name!
Within seconds we had her phone number. Mom phoned. Her former husband answered. Thankfully, they had children together and still stayed in touch with each other. Mom explained who she was and they had a marvelous chat. He gave her Sandy’s number.
They finally connected. Sandy was so young when her mother died and she really didn’t get to know her as a person. I think mom has been able to answer a lot of questions Sandy had about her mother. She filled in some missing pieces. She told Sandy great stories about their childhood together and even about Sandy’s grandparents.
Sandy and John flew out to meet us. I hugged her and said, “Do you know how many years we have been looking for you?” We talked for hours. Mom has opened her heart to her.
The white orchid. Mom sent a check and Sandy promised her that she would place the promised white orchid on Marie’s grave. When mom got the photos, there were two orchids. One was from Sandy. What we didn’t know is that Sandy had been so traumatized by her mother’s death that she had never been to her burial site. Sandy told me that she brought her daughters with her, for the first time. Meeting my mom and learning about her mother though my mom’s eyes may have settled many things for her.
I can almost see Bill and Marie arranging it all from heaven.