Louisa shared with me the great fear she had carried as she cared for her mother. Fear that the consumption that spread from her father Friedrich as her mother cared for him would spread to her as she in turn became caretaker; that a wasting death would be her future should she stay and perform her daughterly duties.
It was her father who was first stricken with consumption and Louisa watched as her mother Louise tenderly cared for the man who had regularly beaten them both. Louisa watched as Friedrich passed on his consumption to Louise before passing on and Louisa, certain that she too would share the slow wasting fate of her father should she stay, remained at her mother’s bedside as thoughts of abandoning her mother in her time of greatest and final need played in her mind and preyed on her soul. She stayed; confessing to me that her decision was more from lack of options than out of love.
Louisa whispered that as Friedrich’s death approached she came to realize that her mama prayed not for her father’s recovery but rather for him to pass, that Louise longed for release from the tinpot tyrant who ruled their tiny roost as only a clucking strutting cock certain that he had been cheated by his wife’s pregnancy can, that Louisa, born a seven pound seven ounce “preemie” on February 25, 1924, had likely been the only reason for her parents’ August 10, 1923 wedding.
When Louisa spoke of her parents’ death I revisited with her tales of how my cousins Ivy and Sairy came to be under my father’s care, of the birth of mein halbbruder Floyd, all relatives that I know are of my generation but whom I cannot help but think of as aunts and an uncle.
Though two-score-years separate me from my three closest relatives I have nearly as full an understanding of the hardship of death by illness that haunts Louisa. I told how Papa had left Duluth and settled at Fort Snelling where four years later cholera took Augusta and left Papa a widower caring for three young children. How Papa managed to push through his grief and quickly marry Oneida Eades, a seventeen year old widow from Mankato where Papa, Mama, Ivy, Sairy and three year old Floyd then settled and where I was born twenty-seven years later.
As Louisa wove her tale of woe my mind slipped back twenty years to June twenty-eighth, the date of daughter Dreux’s birth and Hazel’s death and then leapt forward a decade to the monstrous action that took Dreux’s life. I again told Louisa a tale less than truthful, a recital tenuously tied to reality but more disambiguation than illustration, whitewashing for her my experience with death, destruction, and depravity.