As my time with Velma Wancura draws to a close, Velma and I talked about some of life's nuggets. These are some of her thoughts about:
- Neighbors. Velma said it used to be that neighbors helped when you needed it and didn't expect to be paid. When her husband, Ted, passed away in the fall, the fields were tilled and ready for planting, their neighbors brought their equipment and planted their wheat.
- Best Friends. Velma said the true mark of a friend is when you need them, they don't ask or say, "if there's anything you need... call." True friends simply come and do what needs to be done.
- Government Programs. Velma felt during the 1930's many farmers would not have survived if it hadn't been for government programs. She did say that she thought the recent bail-outs were too extravagant, and the wealthier class seemed to benefit more than anyone else. She also said there didn't seem to be much oversight in how the taxpayer's money was being used.
- The Secret to a Long Life. Be calm. Don't go overboard about anything. She's had bad times, but she's weathered through.
- Being the Last One Standing. She said it is hard to be the last one left. "It's really sad when you think about something you'd like to ask someone about a recollection, and there's no one to ask." She recalled her bridge club that started out with 13 members, then there were five, then four, and then three. Three wasn't enough to play cards. The club had ended. She told me that a poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes summarized how she felt.
The Last Leaf
I saw him once before,As he passed by the door, And againThe pavement stones resound,As he totters o’er the ground With his cane.
They say that in his prime,Ere the pruning-knife of Time Cut him down,Not a better man was foundBy the Crier on his round Through the town.
But now he walks the streets,And looks at all he meets Sad and wan,And he shakes his feeble head,That it seems as if he said, “They are gone.”
The mossy marbles restOn the lips that he has prest In their bloom,And the names he loved to hearHave been carved for many a year On the tomb.
My grandmamma has said—Poor old lady, she is dead Long ago—That he had a Roman nose,And his cheek was like a rose In the snow;
But now his nose is thin,And it rests upon his chin Like a staff,And a crook is in his back,And a melancholy crack In his laugh.
I know it is a sinFor me to sit and grin At him here;But the old three-cornered hat,And the breeches, and all that, Are so queer!
And if I should live to beThe last leaf upon the tree In the spring,Let them smile, as I do now,At the old forsaken bough Where I cling.