Monday, June 25, 2018

My Great-Aunt Glad

Writing about my father made me think about his favorite relative -- Aunt Glad.  And it made me see her in a new light.

Gladys Soltau married Barnard Wolf, and they farmed in the Princeton area. Uncle Barney was a talented machinist, and during WW II, he worked his way up to shift supervisor at the local aluminum factory.

He was promoted to the job of plant manager, but they had to move to Indiana.  That was right after the war, and it seemed like a good opportunity.  But Uncle Barney had a “nervous breakdown.”  Although the family never really talked about it, he probably had an anxiety disorder. But, at the time, there was no diagnosis or treatment -- so they moved back to Iowa, to a quieter life with less stress.

They settled on a small Scott County farm, and Uncle Barney did carpenter/plumbing work for other people. But that farm had a big creek, requiring Uncle Barney to drive his tractor (pulling the necessary plows and planters) over a wooden bridge.  He couldn't stand doing that -- so, eventually, they worked out a deal with another farm couple, and actually "traded farms".  They had three children, Innis,  Dick and Jannie.  They always made my father feel like a welcome part of their family, and we saw a lot of them growing up.

When John and I moved back to Iowa and built this house in 1981, Uncle Barney built the screened-in porch.  He had very little patience.  I can still see him, throwing his hammer on the ground when a nail bent, or something wasn’t quite square…he’d stomp around the thrown object, cursing the whole time.  I'm telling you -- could that man cuss!

In 1986, I was about to open my fabric store -- and Uncle Barney came to the warehouse where I was sorting through a semi-load of fabric from a Pennsylvania supplier. He said, “this is a helluva mess, honey…”  He helped John lay out plans for my fabric shelving.  But he died of a heart attack before I opened the store.

For the next 15 years, Aunt Glad lived alone in the small town of McCausland. Her home was the complete opposite of her sister Pearl's -- up to date and modern -- and spotlessly clean. Uncle Barney enjoyed woodworking, and he built their grandfather clock, and her china was a lovely home, and she enjoyed entertaining.

Aunt Glad was a happy person who had many friends and always seemed to take things in stride. She was the busiest senior citizen I ever met. She kept a daily journal, and her activities were all written out on the calendar that she kept by her chair.  Her typical week was filled with card clubs, community luncheons, family visits or church events.

After we finished building our house, Uncle Barney and Aunt Glad visited us often and I loved having them for dinner. Uncle Barney’s favorite dessert was lemon meringue pie. which I made for him many times.

But that pie is A LOT OF WORK…and after Uncle Barney died, I pretty much quit making it. Then, several years ago, Elliott told me it’s HIS favorite dessert…and so now I'm making it again.  And I always, always think of Uncle Barney when I do it.

When Ross was 8 years old, he made a salt-dough ornament for Aunt Glad. Care Bears were big at that time, and ht was blue with a round circle on it's tummy.  He wrote, “# 1 Ant” on the front -- and she hung it on the knob of her kitchen cabinet.

It was still hanging there when she died.

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