|photo by John Thomas Grant, cemetery photographer|
One day, as my father become more lively, he began to speak of meeting new women. My mother had often joked that he would not be at a loss for women if she was no longer around. And I believe that he did meet several, but then suddenly, there was Trudi. Full name: Gertrude Haftka. They met at an anti-war march, and she lived in the same town as he did, not far away, and they seemed to have a lot in common in addition to political activism and hopes for peace.
They both liked to walk, be active, think, read, discuss, travel. Book groups. Study groups. Soon, he introduced Trudi to his family, as she introduced him to hers--her daughter, Judy. Her son, Harold. Their spouses and children. And then they were talking about moving in together, and then they broke up, and then they got back together, and then she moved into his house, and then they got married. And she was Trudi Messer. We (meaning his daughters) had many complicated feelings about this, as we tend toward complicated feelings in our family, but overall, we could see how happy Trudi made our father, how she helped him come out of his shell, with the same extroverted spirit our mother had.
One thing about Trudi: She was very good with her hands, with the fine-motor skills--sewing and knitting and so forth. She had long, graceful fingers, and even now I can remember how they looked when they were working and when they were still. As a charitable project for her temple, she used to launder and press other people's fancy table cloths (she had a way with fabric). She did one for me once, and it was so beautiful (every stain gone; crisp and perfect) that it brought me to tears. Here she is, with my father and my daughter and her knitting--about 15 years ago.
It is not an easy thing to sum a person up, to do them justice with a brief description, and I will not claim to even be trying to do that here. The point is that my father died in 1998, and this was difficult for her, of course, to lose her true love, and it was also difficult for us, his daughters, to lose our second parent.
Then, she became ill, and her slow withdrawal from life began. And this morning her daughter called me to tell me that Trudi had died. I told her daughter that my sister and I often quote Trudi--one memorable quote in particular. Whenever we were feeling discouraged or downhearted and hoping for change and revival, Trudi would say, "Look. I don't know when it's going to happen. I don't know how it's going to happen. I don't know where it's going to happen. But I KNOW it's going to happen."
Why, just last week, when I was talking to my sister (neither of us having any inkling that Trudi was in decline), she used the Trudi quote on me, and I think we both felt better.