(continued from 8/26/2011)
Yesterday I wrote about meeting and becoming acquainted with Mary Weber, one of the neighbors of the South Sprigg Street neighborhood where I grew up. The beginning of our relationship was somewhat traumatizing for me as a 4th grade girl. But, as time went on, the trauma subsided and, in its place, good memories were made.
My neighborhood buddy, Brenda Stafford, and I had a profitable business working for the Webers. We each received $1 for mopping the floors and washing the dishes. One dollar was worth a lot in the late 50’s and early 60’s. Brenda and I took turns with the chores and after the first major cleaning, it was fairly easy work. Before long, that putrid smell was gone from the house and the welcome smell of their wood-burning stove was what greeted us when the cool weather came.
In the process of doing our chores at the Weber house we became acquainted with Mary’s siblings, Louis and Loretta. Louis was the oldest, Loretta was the youngest, with Mary being the middle sibling. I would guess Mary’s age to be around 50. As I wrote yesterday, they all had Muscular Dystrophy, each in differing stages of the disease. Mary was the most mobile of the three, Loretta had little mobility, and Louis had little to none. In fact, in all the years I visited them, I only saw Louis stand up once and that with great difficulty.
Louis was quite tall, with a shiny, bald head. He sat in a recliner chair beside the window the entire time I knew him. The chair was always in a reclined position because Louis could not breathe well in an upright position. He wore a plaid shirt and suspenders. He was well-educated and continued to study and share his knowledge with me as long as I was interested. He knew several languages and also knew a lot about animals. He spoke slowly and with effort so I really had to listen hard to get what he was saying. He never seemed to mind the effort it took to teach me though.
Loretta had shoulder-length dark brown hair and seldom got off of the couch. She and Mary had in the past, before I knew them, occasionally taken a taxi to the downtown area on Main Street to shop. After Loretta broke her leg a couple of times, they decided not to do that anymore. Her leg was in a cast when I first met her I believe. She, like Mary, wore a house dress every day as did many women in that era.
Mary was a little plump, with short dark-brown curly hair. She was the only one of the three who could get around very well.
All of the Webers were ill-kempt, with bad teeth. There was no one to assist them with personal hygiene. They were a frightful threesome in appearance, but I can tell you that they were beautiful on the inside. I enjoyed being with them so much that I visited them several times a week, not just when they needed chores done.
They taught me how to play board games. I especially loved playing Clue with them; I learned some logic. They had shelves full of books which they would lend to me and then discuss with me when I was finished reading. They had a little chihuahua named Mitsy and also some caged birds that actually nested and had baby birds. Louis taught me a lot about animals. Loretta was always laughing and telling jokes.
I guess the Webers became dear to me because they ALWAYS were happy to see me and they ALWAYS listened to what I had to say and they played games with me. They were available. They became my family. They even had a birthday party for me which none of the neighbor kids came to because they were afraid of the Webers. But we had a great time anyway, playing games and winning prizes. No one had ever had a birthday party for me before.
The Webers were very special people. Knowing them taught me not to judge a person because of the way they look because underneath there could be a real treasure of love.
I found an ad in the Southeast Missourian from 1963 offering canaries and cages by Mary Weber on Ranney St: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=GrcfAAAAIBAJ&sjid=mdcEAAAAIBAJ&dq=mary%20weber&pg=6818%2C1894988
Update 8/30/2011: In searching the Southeast Missourian, I found Loretta being admitted to the hospital in 1963. Here is a link to the hospital admissions: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=tcEfAAAAIBAJ&sjid=fNgEAAAAIBAJ&dq=loretta%20weber&pg=923%2C4970810
Update 8/30/2011: In searching the Southeast Missourian, I found Loretta’s obituary August 10, 1971: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=GWofAAAAIBAJ&sjid=CtUEAAAAIBAJ&dq=louis%20weber&pg=1136%2C4061852