Monica, "Monie" (rhymes with Ronnie) was a strong, intelligent, independent woman. One thing that kept us together 61 years was a mutual respect for one another.
I was constantly amazed at her ability to try something she knew nothing about, and come out a winner. Our honeymoon was a week at Chautauqua Lake. She had never played golf, and her technique was befuddling. She took lessons with a pro, and one year later was scoring in the low 80s. To golfers that is almost unbelievable. Monie and I won the Couples Club Championship four times. She went on to become the first woman ever elected President by the Board of Directors of the Gowanda Country Club, to her credit in a private, male-dominated organization. She spent 15 years in a successful real estate career which helped immensely when our brood was in college.
Monie's first husband, in a troubled early teenage marriage, was killed in a motorcycle accident. I came home from the Army, a couple years after that, and my claim to fame is that I knew a good woman when I saw one, regardless of the fact that she had three little boys aged 4, 5 and 6. Besides I was ready for picking. I'd had enough of bachelorhood and wanted to establish a home. I grew up in a home of loving parents, and expected to establish such for myself. Our first child was born two days after our first anniversary.
Monie's talents were whatever she wanted them to be, which I now think is the destiny of anyone who wants to be who they truly are. She painted a beautiful mural on the wall of our babies' room. She purchased lumber and built a slide in the yard for our kids who loved it. It was a large giraffe who stood with his chin-on the ground and his long neck being the slide. Monie never sat around idly. I guess that was my job. After all, somebody had to do it. Our six children are now a nurse, a lawyer and four successful, technical, engineering types.
About six years ago Monie said to me, "Ever since I had that stroke, I've had difficulty threading a needle." "What stroke?" I replied.
She said, "Oh, a couple of weeks ago I think I had a stroke." "Well," I said, "We better get you to a doctor." "Why?" was her reply, "It's over now."
We went to the Doc. They did a CAT scan of her brain and said a particular portion of her brain had suffered depreciation, and would never come back. They advised me that I should treat her more as a child. She couldn't accept that she had any limitation, like any child, and it was tough for a while when she refused to have anyone stay with her if I had to go out. It slowly got worse until one morning about a year ago, she was sleeping on the sofa downstairs and called out to me. She had to empty her bladder and couldn't get off the sofa. I helped her with her problem, but realized that she had deteriorated beyond my ability to help. Last September she went to a nursing home. She doesn't realize why she has to be there. She is aware of reality, but too often her dreams and other mental illusions create another world.
She is presently suffering from pneumonia and under Hospice care. Her mental vagueness seems to be the good Lord's way of letting her go in an easy way. I take comfort in the fact that she is well taken care of, and not fearful of her fate.
She asked me on a recent visit if I could hear her as she spoke to me. I replied that I could. She said that was strange because she had died and I could still hear her. She then assured me that dying was an easy transition and I shouldn't fear it, as it was a very easy thing to experience. I'll take her word for it. May God bless America.
Richard Westlund is a Collins resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org