Marion Wilson surrounded by her husband Robert, and son James.
Several times a month an envelope from Maine would arrive in our mail box with newspaper clippings. James’ Mom, Marion Wilson, would include a wide assortment of news that might deal with everything from strange sightings of moose, interesting columns regarding political events, along with funny cartoons from the paper. She had been sending James newspaper clippings from the time he left home for Middlebury College, and then during his studies in Europe. Her mailings were such a regular occurrence that we supplied the address labels to make it easier for her to send the clippings our way.
In almost every mailing there was a notation on one or two clippings which said something akin to “Gregory needs to read this” or “blog about this”. I will never forget when she sent me the 12,000 calorie a day menu that Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps followed, and told me to mimic his diet so to put on more weight.
The last mailing from James’s mom came in early November of this year. Shortly thereafter she was first diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer.
Marion Wilson passed away today, Tuesday December 20, 2011, at her home with family present and caring for her.
One of my first memories of Marion took place in 20o2 on the Maine coast while seated out in the sunshine with her husband Robert, along with James. We were at the Vaughn family home, long-time friends of the family, as fresh lobsters were brought to the table. It had already been quite a day for me seeing an ocean for the first time, tasting the salty water, and also taking a small lobster trawler, the Judith L Sullivan, out to where the lobsters were contained in a crate underwater. The crustaceans were soon to be lunch.
Marion sat across from me as a lobster was placed on my plate, and I suspect my face must have asked, “Where do I begin?” I will never forget how she went through the steps for me of getting the shell separated, and the meat out. Those instructions were the start of a love affair with lobster that only continues to grow.
Many a time Marion would call or write and tell us in Madison what the lobster prices in Maine were, and living near the ocean they were always far cheaper than what they were in the midwest. In 2006 she sent me an email that summed up her desire that everyone should understand how to eat lobster.
“Had a nice ride to Greenville on the 15th. Stopped at a new eats place there. 2 out of state guys there had lobster dinner with the clams. Didn’t know how to eat a clam nor how to pick a lobster. I resisted giving lessons but when they threw away the bodies without picking them, I nearly lost it.”
During the final weeks of her life she called me one day and said I needed to be at her home in 15 minutes as the lobsters would be ready, and if I did not make it in time a small portion would make her kitty very pleased.
That first experience on the coast nearly a decade ago was magnified many times over when during that trip a pot full of boiled lobsters was placed on her kitchen table. I had never seen anything like that before, and recall telling my mom about the meal. Instead of being impressed with the seafood Mom instead was more interested in pictures of the Wilson kitchen cabinets! I still recall my Mom having Dad look at the picture of Marion’s cabinets and wondering when she might have some just like them.
Knowing Marion I am sure she would want the picture of the lobsters on her kitchen table that night used for this story.
In many ways Marion helped make it easy for me to just relax and have a good time during that nearly two-week stay in Maine. I have not always had all the experiences that others take for granted, so at times that has made for a bit uncertainty with how to proceed. But that summer vacation was wonderful at her home while sliding into the pool, (though I do not swim), and operating an ATV for the first time. I have never had a dirtier face, nor a bigger smile, than after that type of back-road fun.
Over the nearly twelve years that James and I have been a couple I have heard countless stories told about his days of growing up, and the family times shared in Maine. The ones that stand out as testament to how deeply held those days are recalled and treasured, and the positive imprint they have left on James, deals with the family not always having as much money as desired, yet how Marion still was able to make a difference for others.
James recounts during tough times Marion always made wonderful meals for others to show her expressions of love and gratitude. If you were at her home come dinner time there was a place set at the table. You were treated like family.
Several years back after some bad news landed in our home James was in the kitchen within minutes to make some food for others to show support and friendship. I knew precisely where that kindness and warmth flowed from. It came from his Mom.
In the last few weeks I made sure to let Marion know how deeply and wonderfully she had instilled values in her children that have lasted over the years, and continue to make a difference.
I conclude this story about Marion with something that meant a great deal to me, and something which I let her know about this fall.
Over the years, but especially since 2007 when my Mom died, there were times when Marion and I would chat on the phone before James got on the line. After discussing this or that Marion would ask ‘is my other kid there”?
I cannot adequately describe how that felt, but it gave me reason to know I still belonged somewhere, and that in spite of everything there was still warmth and generosity of spirit to be found. It made me pause when I heard it over the phone time and again, and misty-eyed as I recall it while typing this story.
I know the laws of this country have not caught up to the real lives of so many, but Marion was for all intents and purposes my mother-in-law. She always treated me as family and with respect, and I always felt the same about her.
Many years ago my Mom had expressed her happiness that I had met James, and that there was someone to “look after me”. In the past weeks I let Marion know that I would always look out for James. Marion never met my Mom, but it is clear the circle of love and family is always widening and is at its best when affirming.
Though this is a most dreadful time in our family there is one thing that I can say with certainty.
The Maine sensibilities and values that Marion Wilson continually demonstrated in her home are the same ones that are reflected and shared here in Madison where James and I live. There is a continuity of love that lasts longer than the seasons.
I know there are many who feel heart-felt thanks for all that Marion did over the years. Her life impacted so many far and wide. She is loved, and will be missed so very much.
Thank you Marion.