A phone call came at mid morning on Tuesday. Rick was saying things in a sympathetic voice, waving me to the phone. I said hello and it was Laura, the daughter of our friend and former employee Sue, calling from downstate.
My eyes filled with tears. I said, “Oh, Laura,” because I knew what the news had to be. She said “Yes,” in a trying-not-to-cry way and we were both quiet for a moment.
I’d just been thinking hard about Sue a few hours before. I was sorting through my yarn box and there was the leftover variegated blue boucle I’d knitted her a hat with years ago–two hats, really, as the first one blew off. She’d been coming out of the Sportsman’s after coffee; the wind was blowing a gale (it was in March, I’m almost sure, and we were having one of those impressive spring blows that can go on for days and tip trees over, snatch garbage cans and lawn furniture out of yards and fling them down onto the beach, put the power out across half the U.P.); the wind caught the door and she didn’t have time to let go of it. Sue’s hat blew off and tumbled away and she fell out onto the sidewalk.
Someone–I can’t remember who–lay down beside Sue underneath a coat to keep her warm until the ambulance came, and then she was loaded up and taken to Marquette General, 110 miles away. Her pelvis was broken and she was there for a while–weeks, as I remember it–then using a walker and getting physical therapy at home for a long, long time after that. What she kept coming back to and seeming to feel very bad about every time I talked to her was the hat tumbling away.
It was such a relief to have something I could do, so I quickly got my hands on some more blue boucle and made her another hat, a copy of the first. She acted like I’d handed her the world on a platter when I gave it to her.
I’m sitting here right now wondering if she knew that, knew she needed to give me a project to make me feel less useless.
Sue set up the salad bar in the diner for us for many years, and no one’s ever done a more beautiful job of that. She loved coffee, scrambled eggs (well, actually I think it was Leo who liked his eggs scrambled but they often shared one of our big breakfasts and Sue went along with that when she might have preferred fried), slab bacon, wheat toast, philly steaks, slices of pie, pizzas. She loved hollyhocks, dogs, her church. She loved her husband Leo very much. She loved to sew and made all kinds of things on the enclosed porch Leo built for her on the back of their house, surrounded by her cupboards of fabric and projects-in-progress. We were the lucky recipients of her talent: she made new tablecloths for the diner several times, mended all manner of things for us that would have just stayed ripped or buttonless or unhemmed otherwise, helped me sew a wedding quilt for my brother and sister-in-law not long after I moved to Grand Marais. Sue’s was one of the first houses I visited in town, and I remember the warm feeling of being welcomed, the exciting idea that I had a friend in this new and sometimes lonesome place.
Sue Baudoux was an exceptionally kind, cheerful woman. She had the sweetest smile I’ve ever seen anywhere, the most delighted laugh. She understood when life was bumpy and hard, could listen in a way that let you not have to say much and yet feel comforted and comprehended anyway. She’s all over the place in my life and memory, and I’m grateful for that. I’ll miss you, Sue–like Laura have been missing you for a while already–and I’m so glad I had the chance to know you.