What's with this cheap tray?
My aunt, Olive Leeper, lived most of her life at 607 Columbus Avenue with my
grandfather, A.C. Leeper. She worked as a rural school teacher for a few
years, but when my grandmother deserted her children, Ollie quit her job
and stayed home, caring for her brothers and sisters, including my dad, Bud.
A.C. worked for the school district and was in charge of plant services being
a self-taught steam boiler engineer. When he retired he spent a lot of time
repairing clocks before they were all tied up in collections. From a very
practical perspective they had no money. My mom and I lived in a bad house
on Columbus and theirs was about the same; about as poorly constructed as one
can be and still allow you to survive MN winters.
We usually went to their house on Christmas Day. Christmas Eve was spent with
my mom's family and I usually got a few nice gifts, nothing excessive but they
were special. At Ollie and A.C.'s I'd usually get a nominal gift. As the years
passed on, the gifts became fewer and this was the last I received from them. It
was probably in 1968 or 1969. After that I was off working, doing National Guard
things or in the cities at school. I never really saw them very much after that
Christmas and that, in hindsight, was neglectfull. They aged even more and died
w/i a couple of years of one another.
I don't have many things from them and for some reason I was so out of it that
I never even went there or offered to help my aunt Hazel clean out their house.
What was I thinking? Regardless, they provided unconditional love and were
my safe haven on Columbus for the 13 years that I lived there. Both of them
are gone, but I think of them every week, Olive and her 'innovative' way of
stretching most meals with old bread or potatoes, and A.C. with his dry wit
and limitless compassion for those worse off than him. They are part of me.