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Revised 20 April 2011

AUNT THELMA

(This photo is not the best, but it is the only real photo I have of Aunt Thelma. True to this picture, she smiled a lot and loved to laugh.)

When we were kids, there was a general family joke that if you ever saw a car driving down the road and it looked like nobody was driving it, it was probably Aunt Thelma. Aunt Thelma was about 4'6 in her stocking feet and a bundle of love and laughter. She had studied to be a concert pianist, a talent with which she supported herself her entire life.

Aunt Thelma was married to my grandmother's brother, Osborn, who was a concert violinist. She accompanied him in a duo act in vaudeville. Uncle Osborn died very young as a result of encephylitis. Aunt Thelma was a firm believer in love as a ruling factor in life and from her, we all learned the gift of music and laughter. She was strongly embued with a delightful sense of humor and loved nothing better than to have a good laugh at life and indeed, at herself and her own weaknesses.

Over the years, Aunt Thelma garnered a large collection of sheet music from their vaudeville days. It was a day of joy when we were told we were going to visit Aunt Thelma because we knew that after eating a belly-busting lunch.....a common occurence in the farmlands, that we would gather around the piano and spend the next several hours going through the boxes and picking out fun songs to sing. If we were lucky and Thelma's daughter was there, we would be treated to piano duets. Their Rachmaninoff was superb. From these visits, I learned a wealth of repertoire that no formal education could match.

Aunt Thelma considered herself to be extremely unlucky in love and, so it seems, her beliefs held true. She married four times and outlived all of her husbands. Osborn Keebler, her first husband, was the father of two sons and a daughter. She married a second gentleman and had a son with him named Chucky. When this husband died, his parents declared her an unfit mother because she worked on the stage and Chucky was taken away from her. She never saw him again. The parents were rich and she had little money to fight to keep him. The third marriage I know little about. Her fourth husband lasted the longest and proved to be the best of all. That was Uncle Grant.

Uncle Grant was a no-nonsense farmer who worked hard from daylight to dark. To his credit, he raised her children as his own and he adored her absolutely. She was his queen.

Since farm houses are usually in remote locations, it was customary to come to the door or an open window and yoohoo in rather than knocking on the door in case you caught the family unaware. This way they had fair warning to get themselves decent and get their pants on. On one particular visit, we arrived earlier than expected and Dad went to the window as usual and hollered in the usual "Yoohoo, are you decent?" To which he received a reply in a loud voice from the rear of the house...."NO! Wait for me to get my girdle on." He got so tickled by the reply that thereafter, when we visited Aunt Thelma's house, the greeting was no longer a "Yoohoo" if Dad got to the window. He would yell in loud and clear...."Hey Thelma....get your girdle on, we're here!."

Thelma's two boys liked to show off for his female cousins. About the funniest capers they decided to pull was to put on a short rodeo for us. The feature event was pig riding. When I say short, it is simply because a pig will only tolerate so much and then they are done. The "rodeo" ended up with a couple of loud squeals--one from the pig as it dove into the mud wallow and the other from the boys as they abruptly followed, head first, into a mouthful of muck. It never ceases to amaze me what a fellow will do to get a girl's attention.

There is no moral to this story. I simply mentioned it because Aunt Thelma was a hoot and I know you would have loved her as did we all.