Paul's family is from Wisconsin and I have never encountered a heartier group of people. They are all stunningly capable and put my suburban-bred ass to shame.
Paul's grandfather used to own a dairy farm. In his younger days, he would drive up to Hurley, close to the Michigan border, and compete in arm-wrestling competitions. I have no doubt he won many of them. He has big hands. Like trash-can lids.
Paul's grandmother was a sweet soul, partial to pink and soft-spoken. Yet, she was a farm-girl by nature, and rumor has it that she dragged rogue moles, raccoons, and other critters to the river in burlap sacks to meet their makers.
She had cancer, which she fought on her terms, at home. The last time I saw her, she apologized for the size of her garden. She said she lacked the energy to make a good one. Her "pitiful" garden was almost an acre. It was what I would call a farm.
The stories go on and on.
Paul's uncle hunts bear.
Another uncle is an honest-to-God curler (as in the Olympic sport, although he is not an Olympian).
Paul's father and mother met at a snowmobile rally.
I haven't even touched upon the stories of lumberjack mishaps. They often involve bloody stumps and the dragging of remaining limbs through the forest. All true, they swear.
The first time I met these relations was a week after our engagement. To say I was nervous was an understatement. I slept in a guest room with a broken screen, and chiggers and mosquitoes swarmed all over my face, my arms. I looked like The Elephant Man after a few days.
Paul and I would take the canoe out. He would catch fish, while I would squeal that they were "too flappy", whine about my itchy skin, and complain that the water was getting all over my John Irving novel.
I tried to be gracious, but I was sure they hated me.
The day we left, Paul's grandfather looked me in the eye and said, "We like you." My heart swelled, although I didn't understand what they liked. My whining? My wimpiness? My complete lack of knowledge about Muskies? (That's a mean fish, I learned).
I learned later that this is what sealed the deal: I was helping Paul's grandmother wash some dishes, and I found a raspberry on the floor. Without hesitating, I popped it in my mouth. Paul's grandmother told my mother-in-law, "We like her. She doesn't put on airs."
I like her too. I miss her. In Heaven, I believe, she is gardening away, free from disruptive critters, with all the summer raspberries her heart can contain.
Thank you Travis, for hosting Memoir Monday. Come check out some other memoirs at his place.