Florence Louise Wilke
I remember everything about her that matters. Her hands, her heart. She raised me as a baby, my parents divorced and she was gone. We only met twice after that.
First, I was 9 and she sat in a rocking chair at my aunt’s house. I tip-toed to her bedroom door and stared in astonishment. I suppose she hugged me and said some things, but I don’t recall. I only remember standing breathless at the sight of her and the serenity that filled the room.
The next was 12 years later. It was an old folks’ home in Ohio near the place I was born. We sat on the edge of her bed and looked at old photographs from thin boxes. Her grandparents came from Germany. Her husband survived the First World War, then came home and got killed by lightning in his job on the railroad. At 34 she was alone with 3 children. She did not receive compensation, and she never remarried. She sold ladies’ dresses door to door. At 60 she was diagnosed with MS and went to live with her daughter in a house with no stairs.
She lived to be 81. She slipped out of bed and her hips cracked finally.