My maternal grandmother’s sister, Dorothea, was a widow by the time I met her. Her husband, John, served in World War I and was mustard-gassed. When he came home from the war, he worked as a plumber, but the effects of the mustard gas eventually killed him in the 1930s.
When I knew Aunt Dorothea, she lived in La Porte, Indiana, and she was one independent woman. She had worked her way up to a supervisor at the telephone company, which was one of the few places that would hire and promote women. She also owned her own home which is quite an accomplishment for a single woman in the 1950s. I remember her as smoking Lucky Strikes, just a funny, vibrant, outspoken woman. She introduced me to tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches on white bread.
When we would visit, there were no toys and I would amuse myself by sitting on her enclosed sun porch in the front of her house, in one of those green wicker chairs looking through her stacks of Readers Digests. I never read the articles, just the little bits of jokes and anecdotes.
But back to her husband John.
She had a framed photo on this little table outside the bathroom door, on a crocheted doily, of her sitting on a swing and Uncle John pushing her. I was fascinated by that photo. I got up my courage once and asked her why she didn’t get married again, and she just laughed as if that were a really stupid question and told me she already had the best husband she could have had and didn’t want or need another.