The Kensley Report XII – To Kim Cooper Brooks from Ken Ken – Today I worked our regular shift in the gift shop at Easy Georgia Regional Hospital with Aunt Kay. Aunt Kay’s Statesboro mothers, Miss Edith and Miss Moena, worked the information desk this morning too. They are right around the corner from the gift shop. The gift shop has a display case located in the Women’s Pavilion that is used for displaying baby clothes (because that’s where the babies are born). I mean in the Women’s Pavilion, not the display case. Anyhow Aunt Kay and I took some sale signs down there to put on the display case and as we were passing this one door, Aunt Kay pointed to the sign on the door and said, “Do you know what that means?” I looked at the sign that read “Morgue.” And I answered, “No Ma’am” and she said “That’s where they keep the dearly departed.” It took me a minute to figure out what she meant but it took her about two or three minutes to catch up with me after I understood. I could hear her footsteps running behind me and I could hear her gasping, “Slow down, slow down, they won’t hurt you!”
We ate in the cafeteria. Miss Edith said she wasn’t sure she wanted to walk down there with Uncle Ben because he made fun of how slow they walked. She said Miss Moena was the one slowing everybody down because she recently broke her hip and now she uses a cane with all kinds of psychedelic colors on it and when she looks down at her cane, she gets dizzy. Then we have to stop for a minute until Miss Moena’s head clears.
I was in line with Mr. Darell who is the head of the volunteer services and Uncle Ben. When they served my plate, I got rice and spaghetti and Mr. Darell kept staring at my plate and he said, “Kensley, you’re not going to get the meat sauce that goes on the spaghetti?” and Uncle Ben said, “Kensley is a weird eater. She is a carboholic. She eats rice and potatoes and pasta and bread on bread. Last night she ate five super-sized scoops of chocolate ice cream with about four ounces of chocolate syrup poured all over it and a half cup of chocolate chip morsels sprinkled all around. It took me a while to find a bowl big enough to hold it all.” We talked about buying groceries because Aunt Kay and Uncle Ben usually buy groceries after Tuesday lunch in the hospital. They see Miss Edith in the grocery store a lot of times and she always looks at their shopping cart and shakes her head and says, “You have entirely too much food in that buggy!” Sometimes they will run when they see her because they know she will scold them for being such pigs.
Uncle Ben regretted bringing up the subject of women reading all the labels on the products in the grocery store because he thought Mr. Darell was going to back him up. Mr. Darell said, “I can’t help you with that argument because I’m the one in my family who reads all the labels. He does a lot of the cooking in his house. So then Uncle Ben had to back track by saying “I guess that’s right. Today’s woman does not cook.” Then I said, “You’re right about that. I’ve got an aunt who has lived in her house for six years and she has never used her stove.” Aunt Kay said “Shhhhh, don’t be telling all your family secrets.”
Uncle Ben once asked Miss Moena about her name because it is unusual. It’s pronounced “Mo-wee-na.” She said she was named for a famous Georgian named Moina Michael but her mother spelled it with an “e” instead of an “i.” Miss Moena did not know much about Moina Michael but Uncle Ben Googled her name and printed her story for Miss Moena. Uncle Ben said every girl and woman should read Moina Michael’s story because she was a strong, caring, enduring example of what women can do. Anyhow Miss Moina Michael was instrumental in beginning the national tradition of selling red poppies on Veterans’ Day each year. In World War One, she left her home and job at the State Normal School to go to Washington, DC to help in the war effort. She was too old to go overseas so she remained in Washington where she worked at the National YMCA helping with the war effort. She read the poem “In Flanders Fields” and was so moved by the poem that when the occasion arose she took the opportunity to campaign for the selling of red poppies as a fundraiser for helping disabled war veterans. Today hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised by the Veterans of Foreign Wars to help veterans in need and she is known as the “Poppy Lady.” Moina Michael is a Georgian. The State Normal School she left when she went to Washington is today known as the University of Georgia. She came back to the UGA to continue to teach. She wrote a poem, “We shall Keep the Faith,” in answer to “In Flanders Fields.” She was honored as one of Georgia’s most famous women, a U.S. Postage Stamp was printed in her honor. A bust of Moina Michael is in the rotunda of the Georgia state capitol and a Liberty Ship was named for her after her death in 1944 during World War Two.
Uncle Ben said we probably never would have known about Moina Michael if we had never met Miss Moena.
After we got home Uncle Ben told me I should always listen carefully to older people because they didn’t get to be that old by being dumb. He said that although a lot of older people might seem slow to me, they have lived a lot longer and they have a lot more experience in getting through life and almost everything we can learn from them is really valuable. Then he said, “Just look at Aunt Kay. She didn’t know that much when I married her but now she’s a lot smarter than I am.”