Monday, January 10, 2005

Tales of the Shut-Ins

Being somewhat desperate for filler and not having any suitable "This 'n' That" material, the staff at FF has decided to revive its occasional series "Tales of the Shut-Ins".

Today's installment concerns one Irene Bauer, a member of RNR's first congregation who died a couple of years back at the age of 107 or 109 (we can never remember which).

Mrs. Bauer was almost an eighth wonder of the world:  she worked fulltime until she was 75, pushed her MS-afflicted daughter around in a wheelchair well past her 100th birthday, and lived alone until a few months before her death.

She was also the source of more great stories than anyone we ever met.  A few examples:  during World War II, she worked at a local munitions plant, and somehow got caught on a runaway train that looped around and around the factory.  And by "caught," we really mean "was hanging on to the top of for dear life."  

She was well into her 90s before her neighbors convinced her to stop hanging out her second- and third-story windows to clean them.  They may have been influenced by the time she drank a little too much of her "medicine" before bedtime and fell down the stairs.  One member of the congregation gave this blunt advice when we first went to visit her:  "Don't drink the iced tea!"  When we knew her, she could still keep track of all the cards played in a bridge game, and tucked into slices of pizza--crust first--with gusto.

Our personal favorite, however, comes from when Mrs. Bauer was about 105 or so.  She would take the bus down to Lancaster's Central Market, and then take a cab home.  One day the cab didn't show up, and we offered to give her a lift.  Our firm instructions were for her to wait until we could help her up into the cab of our pickup truck.  But by the time we could get around to that side to give her an arm, she was already up and in.

So we took her home, and once again told her to wait for help before she got out.  (We were not going to be responsible for the death of the congregation's oldest and best-loved member.)

But before we even got to the door, she was out of the truck and three steps up her front porch, instructing us to carry her bag of bananas and sweet buns from the market.  Lord have mercy, we thought:  she's going to bury us.

So here's to you, Mrs. Bauer.  Hope you're in a place where the iced tea is as strong as you like it, the bridge is played all day, and the pizza is good and chewy.

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