Farmer in the DEL

19 Jan

Del (Mary’s Mom)

In her hey-day, Del was venerated matriarch of not only the Minor family, and their ranch, but trenchant member of the historical society.  The entire town knew of Del’s praiseworthy work for the community, and knew she was married to a respected former school board member.  They were one of the longest established families in the small town.  Del was obeisant in Dayton, not just because the Minor family had been in the area forever, but because she was so involved in community activies and outspoken for Dayton.   Also she and her husband had produced five children who became productive, meritorious members of society, which is creditable in itself.  Two had even made it back to Dayton to live their adult lives.

Though Del was of an older generation, lived in a conservative ranch town, and was very naive, she never displayed xenophobia–meeting and liking Mary’s first longtime girlfriend (unbeknown to Del) who happened to be black.  When Del found out this black lady was coming to her husband’s funeral in rural Dayton, she wondered aloud to Mary if she would be able to recognize her.  I find this color-blindness admirable–especially considering Del’s age and rural background.

Despite being held in high-esteem by the town, I’m not sure Mary felt a closeness to her parents the first time I knew her.  Mary always felt like a forgotten child, and talked about how her parents were tired and didn’t care all that much by the time she came around.  Del and her husband had told Mary to play within hearing distance of the car horn.  Mary was always appalled at how far that was.  I happen to think it’s laudable that Del did not develop a drinking problem after five kids, but I digress.

Another of the common stories Mary liked to tell about Del was how she had been an accident.  Mary had liberal beliefs and thought abortion was alright even though her mother adamantly disagreed.  Mary could not stand to give her mother the courtesy of her opinions and tried to debate the subject with her often.  When they would discuss the matter, Del would say that if she had believed in abortion Mary wouldn’t be here today. . .  Maybe it’s commendable going through an unplanned pregnancy, maybe it’s worthy of ethical scrutiny, but your mother is still your mother.

Pragmatic Del had probably lived a hard life, and had helped manage the ranch while getting deeply involved in the community, and successfully raising five kids.  She told me of how when she first moved to Dayton and the Minor Ranch she and her husband were initially supposed to live in a chicken house.  She said she cried when the dilapidated thing fell apart on the way to it’s spot on the property and she had cried.  She said it was for the best, and even when things seem bad at the time, they happen for a reason.  You couldn’t help but to revere that kind of logic.

When I came back to Dayton in 2007, Del was looking much more hoary then I remembered–the recent death of her husband probably did not help.  She was still honored in the Dayton community, and Mary seemed to give her more homage than she ever had before, trying to include her in activities at the Cabin-Mansion instead of shutting her out like she previously had.

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