|Photo by Greg Hume|
The first story comes from my own memories. As I wrote last year, Mary Lou and my sister lived with my family for a while around 1968. After they moved to a place of their own, they couldn't have been too far away, because we used to visit them semiregularly. One of the really fun things about visiting was that Mary Lou had a fish tank with real piranhas. (Yes, I'm pretty sure it was illegal even then to have piranhas, but I was a kid, so I didn't think about these things.) Mary Lou would let us feed raw ground beef to the fish, always warning us that we shouldn't let our fingers get in the water because the fish would be more than happy to bite us along with the meat. We loved watching them gobble up the beef and then look for more.
The second story was one my mother told me. When Mary Lou wrote letters, it was stream of consciousness. Whatever she was thinking about, she wrote. So a letter might start off with the latest family news and then continue with, "Oh, someone is at the door. I'll get it and be right back." Then it would pick up with information about whoever had been knocking, whether friend or salesman. She even wrote e-mail messages like that sometimes, just whatever popped into her head. Since Mary Lou was Irish on both sides of her family, maybe she was channeling James Joyce?
Mary Lou has been gone since 2004. I like to think she knows I'm writing about her and appreciates it.