Flora’s Taxi Ride


My grandmother Alwine had two sisters that I knew about – Aunt Toni in Des Moines, and Aunt Flora in New Jersey.  At very long intervals, my mother would write to them.  At some point she asked Flora what she was doing, out there in New Jersey, and Flora replied that she took care of old people.  Flora was herself 90 at that time.  My mother invited Flora to come and live with her – in the house from which she was later to be evicted, filled with trash and over a hundred cats.  My mother didn’t see this as an impediment.

They discussed how Flora would get to Wheaton a bit, after which Flora announced that she intended to take a taxi – which she did.  She had a single, ancient suitcase.  And we were never able to find out how much she’d paid for the trip.  She was a sweet old lady, unlike Alwine, and appeared committed to make the best of it.  She’d been in the Red Cross in the First World War, and had known guys like Eisenhower and MacArthur when they were junior officers.  After a spell, my mother was the one who began complaining:  Flora didn’t get the dishes clean; and she limped.  One day my mother carted Flora out to the County Farm and dumped her – without the $5,000 she had brought with her from New Jersey.

I should explain that my mother was sincerely honest.   She never agreed to make time payments intending to default.  And she borrowed Flora’s money fully intending to repay it.  It just never, ever worked out the way she planned it, and like Mr. Magoo she dependably left chaos in her wake.  My wife Lenore and I used to visit Flora at the home, but eventually we moved to California, and when Flora died we had her cremated.  She’s in our back closet.  My mother’s there too, but at the other end of the shelf to ward off potential spontaneous combustion.

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