The last time Wanda and Mom visited Cody before the ovarian cancer took her, I gave her a gift I think was her all-time favorite. The first few days, she persistently said, “Doug, I wish you’d get your hair cut short like Jess and Paul.” She …
Last Friday, Aug. 5th, was my late sister Wanda’s birthday. I thought about her more than normal that day, but there isn’t a day that passes ...
The last time Wanda and Mom visited Cody before the ovarian cancer took her, I gave her a gift I think was her all-time favorite. The first few days, she persistently said, “Doug, I wish you’d get your hair cut short like Jess and Paul.” She was the best, head-thrown-back laugher I’ve ever known, and her head flopped backward when I answered, “Why? They both look hideous.”
On about the fourth day, I thought, “If she wants to see me with short hair for the first time since we were teenagers, so be it.” When I arrived at Paul’s house for a family barbecue, my hair was even shorter than my hideous brothers’ and the amazed Blough comments were flying like shrapnel. I cherish the picture someone took of Wanda taking my picture as I walked up the sidewalk.
Speaking of photos, I used to take hundreds of my cats and dogs. But since Wanda died, I haven’t taken any, because there’s no one to send them to that will be impressed. She’d always call with that “Ahhh” reaction and ask questions about each one. She completely got my animal passion, and every time she’d visit, she and I would take a trip to the Cody shelter.
Speaking of pets, her two Himalayan cats, Stormy and his son Junior, meant everything to her. When I’d visit Pennsylvania, she’d have to show me how Stormy would chase the sheets when she made her bed, and how he’d “chirp” when she put the canned food treat into his bowl. Even on her death bed, she worried what would happen to her kitties.
Stormy was perfectly healthy when Wanda passed, but two weeks later, he developed cancerous mouth tumors and had to be euthanized. Junior, who seemed to have a psychological disorder since he’d been abused as a kitten, shied away from anyone but Wanda. After Wanda and Stormy were gone, Junior began spending his time with Mom, whose own beloved cat was killed by a neighbor’s dog the same day Wanda was taken by ambulance for the last time. When she was soon moved into assisted living, troubled Junior went with her and never left Mom’s side. Any time I called Mom, she’d tell me what Junior was doing.
Nobody deserves cancer, and no one less than Wanda. She laughed uproariously when I made fun of her big, floppy hat she wore when visiting Cody the hot summer before her diagnosis, but insisted I should be wearing one too, since “I can’t think of anything worse than getting cancer from something we could have easily prevented.”
I’ve never worn a hat and seldom applied sunscreen while roofing shirtless for almost four decades. I’ve drank, smoked and chewed snuff, yet it’s the pretty lady with the floppy hat that gets MS and then cancer. But I know … the good die young, and no one ever said life was fair.
In the years before she got sick, Wanda was a devoted FOX News fan. She’s the one that got me addicted to FOX, since I hated the Republican vendetta against Clinton, which we often discussed on the phone. So when Wanda realized my brothers and I actually knew Al Simpson, the funny guy she saw and admired on FOX, she was like a little girl being told Santa Claus is real.
In 2000, I went into Sue Simpson’s art gallery and told her I’d love a signed copy of Al’s book, “Right in the Ol’ Gazoo,” for Wanda’s Christmas present. Sue wouldn’t take my money, but said, “Give me her address so Dad can send it to arrive quicker.” Wanda received it on Christmas Eve, and the first page was filled with a personal message from Al to Wanda. It was a close second to my haircut for her favorite gift ever.
Since Wanda only had one child, her son Derrick, but desperately wanted more, little children was her greatest joy. She bought gifts throughout the year for all her Cody nieces and nephews when she visited. So when my great-nephew Trey was born on Wanda’s birthday 16 years ago, she (not Donna Fargo) was “the happiest girl in the whole USA.”
Wanda’s favorite program was Judge Judy. She and her husband Skip weren’t close in a lot of the conventional husband/wife ways, but from 5 to 6 o’clock EST every day, they were together in front of that TV watching it. She sold me on Judge Judy too, and I still watch or tape it every single day.
The verdict is in: I miss Wanda like there’s no tomorrow.