Saturday, March 15, 2008

Quite Something

Leslie Russell

When I started dating my wife, Toni, I was shown pictures of her mother who was a twin. It was easy to see that she was beautiful and I was told that she was quite something, although quite something was not clearly defined.

About a week before I met Leslie, I met her twin sister, Debbie.

The first thing that Debbie told me was that although she and Leslie were twins, they didn’t look a bit alike. When I finally met Leslie, contrary to what Debbie had told me, I realized that she and her sister looked exactly alike. Even though they were identical in every way, or perhaps because of it, they alternated throughout their lives between being inseparable and not talking to each other.

Leslie prided herself with never giving in and always doing what she felt best. She was not easy to be around during the early years, but time made both she and I calmer and I grew to cherish her friendship.

She loved people, places and things either intensely, or not at all.

She loved bingo.

I remember one night when we were broke. Leslie had won the big pot at bingo and woke us up after midnight as she spread hundred dollar bills on our bed. She was excited because she was able to give us money that she knew we needed. She was completely, totally unselfish.

She loved politics.

She had been some sort of Republican Party official in Iowa, but, as she grew older, she favored a more liberal version of politics and delighted in watching MSNBC and CSPAN. In the early days of our friendship, she and I used to argue about politics, she taking the liberal view and me the other view. I never changed her mind on anything I can remember, but I respected her opinion, and she mine.

She loved games.

She and Toni would play Rummy Cube for hours. They must have played thousands of games with the scores about split between Leslie and Toni. Leslie, also, loved crosswords and she would randomly ask people questions about history, geography and sports, not to engage them in conversation, but in the hope that their answer could help her solve a crossword puzzle.

She loved her family, especially Creighton and Ashley.

Ashley recently confessed that Leslie had bought her beer for her Junior Prom party. I was not surprised. The party was just a few kids in our home. No one had a car and nothing bad was going to happen.

As for Creighton, she loved him through everything. They were a team - Creighton and Grandma Leslie. Creighton was a challenge and Leslie proved herself to be “quite something” in her love and support for him.
When Leslie was first diagnosed with bladder cancer, we went to what we were told were great doctors in Chicago. Leslie was not satisfied with these first doctors and asked for another opinion. I thought this was just Leslie being her irascible self. Then, we found a doctor who was actually a great doctor. He is recognized as one of the leading, if not the leading, bladder cancer specialists in the world. Once again, Leslie was right in not accepting what was not right for her.

As her disease progressed, she fought bravely. She never complained and she was happy to help in whatever way she could. She and Toni continued their marathon Rummy Cube games and she continued her crosswords. She sat daily by the fire that we kept roaring day and night as long as she wanted to sit there watching politics on TV or listening to country music.

She left us peacefully after a final, brave fight. We shall never forget her.

She was quite something.

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