When I asked my neighbor, Lil, if I could interview her for this story she said, “Oh, I don’t think there is anything interesting about my life to write about.” I said, “Lil, you’re 92 years old. I’m sure SOMETHING has happened in all those years.” In actuality, Lil had so many stories I had a hard time choosing which one to write about here.
Lil grew up in “the country” on the outskirts of a small town. She loved going to the one-room school because she knew that’s where she’d get to see her friends. She always cried when school let out for the summer because it meant she wouldn’t see her friends again until fall. There were no buses back then so Lil and her brothers walked to school every day regardless of the weather.
When Lil was old enough for high school life changed a bit. Because there were no buses to bring her into town from the “country” Lil had to move in with another family during the week. Her dad would take her into her “weekday home” on Sunday nights and pick her up again on Friday afternoons. She was fortunate in that her friend from church had already found a house where she could stay and invited Lil to stay with her. The family they rented from only provided the room, not the meals, so they brought their own food from home each week, taking turns with the responsibility of cooking for themselves.
It was in high school where Lil met her future husband, Bob. She was 13 when they met and Bob was 14 though they were both in the same grade. Bob made quite the advance one day when he borrowed the school encyclopedia from her to do some research and returned it with a stick of Juicy Fruit gum inside!
After high school Bob served in the Navy aboard a ship during WWII and Lil worked in an office in the Twin Cities. When he came home on furlough after about a year he told Lil that he would be up for shore duty in San Diego in a few months and implied that perhaps she could come out there with him. In response to his “invitation” she replied, “You don’t need to think I’ll live with you unless I’m married to you!” They were married the following Friday!
Lil remembers how quickly the wedding was thrown together. Her dress was bought straight off the rack and the bridesmaids wore their prom dresses. Lil’s three brothers filled out the wedding party and everything went off without a hitch. Bob left a few days later to return to his naval duty and they didn’t see each other for another year.
When Bob returned from duty overseas they moved together via train to San Diego. When they arrived Lil’s luggage had been lost, leaving her nothing to wear for job interviews except the clothes she’d worn on the train. They found a place to rent a bedroom but since there was no place to cook they ate out every night.
Shortly after moving to San Diego, Lil found a job working for a Lt. Commander at a warehouse that housed parts for the ships and airplanes on North Island. She and Bob took a boat over to the island to work every day. Lil’s job was to keep track of the merchandise that went out of the warehouse and still remembers that the most popular generator was GTR72C1A. She realizes that it’s a useless piece of information these days but her brain just won’t let go of that number.
Bob and Lil lived in San Diego for a year and moved back to their hometown when Bob had fulfilled his responsibility to the military. Shortly after moving home their daughter was born. Lil remembers how she went to sleep in a house they were renting, went into labor, had her daughter, and while she was in the hospital her brother and husband had moved them into a new house. “Nothing was where it was supposed to be when I got home from the hospital and I was so frustrated. And, I had this baby that I had no idea how to take care of!” Lil recalls.
Together Lil and Bob had three daughters whom they raised in the same town where they grew up. In 2002 Bob developed COPD and Lil took care of him for the remainder of his years. “He was easy to take care of,” Lil told me. “If I had to leave I could trust him to do what I asked him to.” He was insistent she go to her Bible study every week and her card club once a month so she’d get a break from caretaking.
In 2007, Lil was at Bible study when her daughter and son-in-law showed up at the door. She was sure Bob had died while she was out but was shocked to learn that instead it was her oldest daughter, Sandy, who had suddenly passed away. No mother wants to bury her child and Lil remembers being depressed for so long after Sandy died. One day she sat down to have a talk with God about it and decided to focus on how wonderful it was to have had her for 61 years and was grateful that Sandy was in heaven.
Bob died three years later after 66 years of marriage.
Lil considers Psalm 46:10 her life verse. “Be still, and know that I am God.” “When I’m disappointed or my feelings get hurt and I might be tempted to say something not nice I always remember that verse,” Lil says.
If you asked Lil, she’d probably say she’s had a pretty ordinary life with a few bumps and bruises along the way. But personally, I think she’s an extraordinary and brave woman who has met life’s challenges with grace and dignity. I’m proud to call her my friend.
Nancy loves to laugh and considers laughter a critical part of human survival. If you were to ask, most days she would say her glass is half full but when it starts reaching the half-empty level, she reaches for a funny book or movie knowing that indeed “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” Nancy has three married sons and five grandchildren. To read more from Nancy find her at www.nancyholte.com.