She was 86 and in my book no one deserves the kind of agony that comes with the last stages of ovarian cancer. When Bonnie the elder, (for she referred to me as Bonnie, the younger, being 4 years her junior) died two weeks ago I muttered “Thank God”. Of course it was just a cliché’, for unlike Bonnie the elder I am an atheist. For over fifty years I have challenged, envied and scorned her steadfast belief in a loving savior, but in the end I only had gratitude for the comfort it gave her.
Bonnie the elder’s Dad caused the family to move almost continuously. One year she went to seven different schools. In addition when drunk, which was often, he verbally abused and beat her mother. Bonnie stood it until about age 16 when she could stand it no more. She gave him hell and split the house. Wandering the town she found a church door open. She went into the darkened sanctuary and sobbed and sobbed. After a while she felt a strong healing presence, which gave her comfort. Though she had always sung in church choirs, she had not been a believer. She never forgot the experience. She was sure Jesus had his arms around her as I’m sure she still believed when the last hospice nurse to arrive compassionately administered two shots of morphine, ending the suffering for us all.
After her high school music teacher took her in, Bonnie found work in banks and clerical jobs until the day she was hired by the Hormel Girls, an all girls’ band and chorus of some note. She travelled the country as one of their soprano soloists, selling Hormel ham along the way. Her stories of these adventures go on and on. I’ll relate a funny one. At some rural stop a fan gave her a chicken, a young hen. Bonnie loved it, and snuck it into every hotel room as she travelled. Once in a hotel elevator, hidden under her coat, it started to cluck. The other passengers looked around so Bonnie broke into a full throated musical hit, belting out the words to cover the increasing clucks of her hen.
Years later when my miniature schnauzer had pups she bought one. Sonny was the light of her life and soon learned to sing, as well. I call it singing, but it was more like uuh uuh uuhing, but in tempo with Bon. They spent every spare moment crooning together. It was such a love match. More recently she rescued a batch of baby raccoons born in her back yard. Its no wonder she left her small savings to the SPCA.
Her charismatic spirit never left her. My life has been so enriched by Bonnie senior all these years I guess I should feel nothing but gratitude. But I can’t help feeling anger and loss. Her imprint will always be on me, a rich patina of laughter, caring and love. The way she looked on her 80th (shown below) captures her charisma.. Bye, Bon.