Aunt Lula’s long hard road


We called her Aunt Lou. She was born in Putney sometime around 1911 on my great grandfather’s farm off East Putney Falls Road. When she was 7, my grandfather purchased a farm in Ludlow and the family made the move north. Sad to say, but bad luck and heartbreak just seemed to dog poor Aunt Lou for most of her life. She developed a fatalistic demeanor, but still knew how to have the occasional good time, despite the cloud over her head.

Her first marriage to a wonderful man from Springfield got off to a great start. They purchased a farm in Bethel, Maine, and before long they were blessed with a daughter they named Connie. During World War Two my Uncle Everett was logging part of the farm off when he was struck in the head by a chunk of wood that flew off a tree as it was coming down. He made it back to the house where he complained of a headache, laid down on the couch and expired.

Lou sold the farm and moved to Springfield where she worked for the Eagle Times. She eventually remarried, but it turned out to be an unhappy union that ended in divorce. I think it was about that time that Aunt Lou developed this desire to make herself present at every family hardship. She would show up wringing her hands and commiserating, and it was appreciated by each and every tragedy-struck recipient of her attentions. Lou finally met another wonderful man, and was married at a friend’s farm, now the big Christmas tree farm on Connecticut River Road that runs parallel with Route 5 east of Springfield. I remember it because I was there. While Lou’s new husband lived in Connecticut where he held an important position at UConn, she made the trip to Vermont whenever she was needed. We also visited her there and I spent several school vacations in their spacious home in the Storrs Countryside. I even got to meet Judy Collins once, a friend of Aunt Lou’s.

Fast forward a decade or so and Uncle Bob died of cancer. Meanwhile my cousin Connie was graduating from UConn as an adult student. Several days after graduation she was hit headon by a drunk driver, killing her instantly. Aunt Lou was suddenly helping to raise her grandchildren. This was not the last tragedy that befell Aunt Lou. Several years after her son-in-law moved to Maine, a grandson was backed over by a family member’s car and killed. Aunt Lou had remarried yet again, and when her last husband died, she moved to Maine to be near her adult grandchildren. Lou died a couple of years ago at age 101.

I was reminded of Aunt Lou’s tragic life while driving a dealership loaner car while my Subaru was in for its 30,000-mile service. The loaner had a back-up camera, and that’s what triggered the memory. If that family member had a back-up camera, at least one of Aunt Lou’s tragedies would have been averted, but this technology hadn’t been developed at the time.

I have five grandchildren; the oldest is 8, the youngest is 2. Backing up a car is not something I enjoy whenever we visit our grandchildren. I’m always hyper-vigilant in those situations.

I recently ordered an after-market camera for one of my trucks. It is not installed as of this writing, but I have it scheduled. My experience with the Subaru loaner car was more than enough to convince me of this technology’s safety value. Backing out of my driveway can be tricky as we have a garage that seems to move and get in the way. I’ve hit it twice, and even one of my neighbors who operates heavy equipment popped it once. While backing out with the loaner I watched the camera and was amazed by how confidence-inspiring it was. They ought to make the things standard equipment on every new car that is built, and I’m sure it will eventually happen as economies of scale are reached. Too late to have altered one of Aunt Lou’s sad outcomes, but now available to make our long roads less tragic.

Arlo Mudgett’s Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT FM Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m.


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