I have been attending too many funerals lately. I’m at an age when the generation before me is passing away.
Since the first of the year, six friends or relatives, from age 86 to 98, have left this Earth. One of them was almost like a mother to me.
Lila Blair Wilson Lamay died four days after I saw her at the nursing home. I heard she wasn’t well and visited with full expectations of her being in bed. Instead, she was sitting up in the dining room, eating her lunch, giving the staff member a hard time.
“Was that polite to reach across in front of me?” she said to woman. “How would you like it if I did that to you? I bet you wouldn’t like it.”
That was Lila. She was quick to tell you if you did something she didn’t like but equally as fast to tell you how proud she was of you.
As far back as I can remember, our families spent many weekends together. Henry and Lila and their children, Elaine, Lyle, Larry and Leroy, were like family.
My mother said Lila was the first woman to visit her when she arrived in Westville from England in 1946. An easy friendship grew.
As each woman had children, we just seemed to blend together. I had Elaine and Lyle, both around my age, for playmates; my brother, Leslie, had Larry, about the same age; and my sister, Sharon, had Leroy.
After church, we would pile in the cars and go for a ride in the Adirondacks with a picnic lunch, campfire and hot dogs at Barnum Pond or go to the St. Lawrence Seaway to see the boats or to one house or another for the day.
Long weekends at Bernard Fleury’s camp in Mountain View were wonderful.
When I stayed the night at their house, Elaine and I ended up in her room talking about the cute guys in our schools or doing each other’s hair. The boys shared the upstairs loft, curtain between, and made sure they annoyed us as much as possible.
It was as dark as coal on Stebbins Road in Trout River. No street lights. No dusk-to-dawn lights, only the stars in the night sky. (Perfect for catching fireflies.) Larry and Leslie would scratch the wall or tap on the floor and make eerie sounds. We’d yell at them. Lila would yell up the stairs and tell us all to go to sleep.
The Wilson home was simple, comfortable and full of love. Henry’s parents had lived there, so it must have been built in the late 1800s or early 1900s.
Back then, indoor plumbing was scarce in Trout River. So, the original outhouse served as the “convenience room.” You can bet your last dollar when I stayed the night that my trip to the “facilities” was made before the sun set.
Anyone who has had the “pleasure” of an old outhouse knows you do your business quickly and no more than is necessary. Seemed like the Hilton Hotel when a bathroom was installed inside their home.
At Lila’s funeral service, the pastor asked if anyone had a special memory to share. As is common, nobody said anything, all afraid to be the first to speak up. I am sorry to say that included me.
Lila would have said, “You all came to my funeral and have nothing to say about me!” What I should have said, I say now.
For me, Lila will always be in her kitchen, with an apron on, cooking or baking something on her Home Comfort wood-burning cook stove. Didn’t matter if it was a pot of soup, a roast or cake in the oven, you were always welcome, and there always enough room for one more.
Elaine became a nurse, Lyle worked at General Motors and served as town justice, Larry is a doctor in Ohio, and Leroy is a correction officer. I’m sure their loving home formed the responsible adults they became.
Henry died first, then Elaine, then Lyle and now Lila.
Larry and Leroy are my “other” brothers. It’s a melding of the memories, when we are together, which isn’t often enough. Such sweet memories will always be with us.
One last thought, as always, please be kind to each other. The world needs more kindness.
Susan Tobias lives in Plattsburgh with her husband, Toby. She has been associated with the Press-Republican since 1977. The Tobiases have six children, 18 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. They enjoy traveling to Maine and Colorado, and in her spare time, Susan loves to research local history and genealogy. Reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.