Only two days left. You can do it! Please vote today and tomorrow for my “Grandmother Dearest” essay. Just click HERE to do the deed. Your vote counts — unlike Octo-woman. Or rather, she can count, but not correctly. The reason yesterday’s blob was so late getting posted is that she had somehow scheduled it for September 8 instead of August 8. At least the 8 was right, though.
When I called her yesterday (during the usual August heatwave in Sun City West), she was KNITTING. Now, I always thought knitting is what you do in November getting ready for the frigid winter months. But sizzling August in Arizona? Normal people might prefer floating in a nice cool swimming pool, but — nobody would ever accuse Peggy of being normal. And as a surprise to no one, she lives in a city called Surprise, Arizona.
It’s not her fault she’s not exactly normal. Her whole life is more like a Charles Dickens novel than a normal life story. It’s no wonder she gets disoriented.
Peggy retired from a successful teaching career in New York, and has more-or-less survived 45 years of marriage to my intrepid brother Leo. To know Leo is to love him, but to actually live with him requires stoicism and nobility. My sister Joan Fitzpatrick and I will attest to that, and we are, for sure, never going to forgive him for being our mother’s favorite.
Most of the retirees in Arizona are grandparents, and have the good sense to behave accordingly. Peggy and Leo have 6 grandchildren now, and they dote on them, just as you’d expect. But occasionally . . . Well, let me give you an example of Life According To Peggy. On the day their first grandchild, Virginia, was born, Peggy was dog-sitting the family dog of the expectant parents (Beth and Bob Brown) – along with her own dog, a little toy poodle.
Sadly, Peggy is always going to have to remember that joyous day – the birth of Virginia – also as the day a coyote caught her dog in the back yard and ate him. See what I mean? It’s not normal.
Wherever Peggy is, there will be dogs around, somewhere. Currently she has these two poodles – Beau and Daphne. They’re standard poodles – not toy poodles, and maybe they’re big enough that the coyotes won’t be able to include them as part of their next lunch.
And there’s another thing about Peggy you should know. She’s one of the very few people in Arizona – let alone anywhere – who recently earned her Black Belt in Tai Chi. I’m really proud of her. I keep warning repairmen, grocery clerks, bus drivers, and anybody else who gives me any lip, that “My sister-in-law has a black belt, Buster, and don’t you forget it”.
Like I said, Peggy isn’t what you’d call run-of-the mill normal.
When she was little, she grew up in a happy family in Auburn, New York. She had been delivered by the man she understood to be her father – Doctor Darrell Althouse. The doctor and his wife raised Peggy – and an adopted son named Kevin – in a comfortable home. She went to grade school and high school in Auburn, and then to Dunbarton College of the Holy Cross in Washington, D.C.
She committed to working for a year as an lay volunteer teaching at a Catholic school in Rock Springs, Wyoming, It was there that she met my brother Leo who was teaching in a public school there.
Later, Peggy went to Katherine Gibbs College in New York. After a year there she went to work for General Electric in Syracuse, New York. She and Leo had been in touch occasionally, but Leo went to visit her in Syracuse and after that it got serious. They were married in Auburn in 1966.
They raised three children – Michael, Beth, and Leanne. You’re going to think I’m making the rest of this story up but I’m not. I may have garbled some of the details, but I know for sure that Peggy is the heroine of a story that belongs in the pages of a novel.
A few years ago, in a casual phone conversation with her elderly Aunt Peg, Peggy learned the astonishing news that she had been adopted by Dr. Althouse and his wife. Her birth mother was one of the doctor’s patients, and she lived in the same neighborhood as the one Peggy was being raised in. All the time, her birth mother – now deceased – had been able to quietly observe her growing up.
An even bigger shocker though, was in learning the name of Peggy’s birth father. He had been a sailor stationed near Auburn. My nephew Michael was able to discover that he had died earlier, but that he had been a successful businessman, and had raised a family of five children here in Seattle — not many blocks from where Peggy’s daughter Leanne was living, and where I and my family live in Seattle.
Peggy was able to meet her half-brother and four half-sisters a few years ago when she came for a visit to Seattle. Their mother was still living but her children decided not to tell her about Peggy.
Someday, I’m hoping our family historian – Michael Gorman – is going to write up a more detailed and accurate account of Peggy’s story. Talk about drama! Sounds like a screenplay to me!
Today I had an email from Peggy, which closed with the following comment.
“BTW, I think I’m the newest septuagenarian in the family (official today). I just realized that we are 10 years apart. As of tomorrow, I’m going on 80 (oh my god) but I ain’t doin’ any bloggin’. Don’t pass the torch.
It’s nice to know turning 70 hasn’t squelched her sense of humor. Like, I said, Peggy isn’t normal. Thank goodness.