Jim Woster

Jim Woster

Whenever I have the occasion to spend time in Reliance, the schedule is always the same. There’s a visit to the Reliance Cemetery a bit north of Reliance, a drive around town, so to speak, and coffee at the home of Ruth Ann McManus. Oh, just for your information, I also check my personal plot at the cemetery because some day I hope to make that the final resting place. That is, of course, assuming that they accept me. Ruth Ann’s son, Donnie, told me he has attempted to bring it up for a vote on several occasions, only to result in a tabled motion. My knowledge of procedure in this type of vote is limited but brother Terry, who covered the state Legislature for 40 years said, “I shouldn’t speak for cemetery process but in Pierre, tabling a motion nine consecutive times is not a good sign of things to come.”

When I replied, “Jeez, Terry, doesn’t being famous count for something?!” he gave me a look of sympathy but no response.

Boy, that’s what I call wandering from the original topic, which is the fond memories I have of Grandma McManus, who lived just a few houses down the street. It was a very small house, as were many a century ago. Grandma had a grandfather clock sitting against the north wall of the living room, the chimes of which were very distinct and enjoyable even at 2 in the morning.

Grandma had a tiny but highly functional bathroom, and very importantly, for as many years as I can remember, she also kept the outdoor facility in useable condition. Thinking back on the number of McManus family that gathered on occasion, thank goodness it was there.

Our abode on South Sixth Avenue is relatively small, especially when 20 people are on site to eat and have fun, but I suspect it is at least a third again as big as Grandma’s, which makes me wonder where in the world would she seat everyone for the holiday meals? As I recall, after the men folk were fed, the kids got in line, allowing us to eat and “get outside.” Weather made no difference, at a gathering of the clan. The youngsters spent most of the time outdoors. By the way, whining that “it’s cold outside” was ineffectual to say the least!

Grandma McManus is the only grandparent of whom I have any vivid recollection, and I still think of her, that little house and the fun we had.

I was 12 years old when Grandma left us, and it was the first death in my life that really hit me hard. I was one of the servers for the funeral Mass and I remember struggling throughout the service to keep from crying, but I made it. We traversed to the cemetery and back without a display of grief, but when everyone gathered at St. Mary’s hall downtown for lunch, the restraint of grief disappeared. I managed to sneak out the back door, or so I thought, and the tears came in a torrent. “Boy, am I glad I made it out here without anyone seeing me.” Wrong.

Suddenly I felt a big hand on my shoulder and heard the voice of Uncle Lyle McManus, who quietly said, “Jimmy, it’s OK to for a guy to cry, especially when it’s your grandma. Heck, I been crying for three days.” So much for no one seeing me leave, but that was Uncle Lyle. He knew and he followed me outside to help a bit, and oh my, help me he did.

We stood there long enough for me to regain a bit of composure and headed back inside as if nothing had happened. I have never forgotten that lesson and I have applied it on more than a few occasions.

I don’t have to tell the reader that I’m a grandpa and as boastful as this may sound, a pretty darn good one! When a fellow is a couple weeks shy of 60 years old and walks into a hospital room to take a peek at a new baby girl, ah, this is preaching to the choir. Every grandpa I know felt the same way, regardless of his age. You know what? That feeling never changed with the arrival of four more. In fact, they tell me that a great grandpa feels even more emotion when the time comes. We’ll see. Be safe as you attempt to finish up and thanks for what you do.

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Jim is associate editor of Tri-State Neighbor and also works with the SDSU Alumni Foundation.