The days of wine and roses

Opinion: Columns

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By Mary Kay O'Grady

blogger

In the early '60s, I moved into an apartment at Diversey and Pine Grove with several other young women — it was OK to call us girls then. We were new in town, looking for jobs, starting jobs, and looking for husbands — or first husbands in some cases.

Jane was the glue that held it all together. She was interested in everybody, knew everybody, cared about everybody, and when everybody else avoided the job, Jane stepped up and baked a casserole and fixed a salad.

And that laugh. Throaty and frequent. And bridge. If there was a fourth, there was a game of bridge going on. 

I have no idea how we shared one bathroom and all got out of the house on time every morning, but we did. My roommate got up very early every morning to go to Mass before work, but I suspect it might have been to get to the bathroom first.

We wore fake Chanel suits, miniskirts, and beehive hairdos. Some of the beehives were big enough to conceal a gun. When we went to church, we wore little round pieces of lace on our hair. We smoked constantly and drank a lot, something awful like Seven-and-Sevens, which I think is bourbon and Seven-Up. And there was a wine called Mateus in cute little bottles that, later used as candleholders, decorated many newlyweds' first apartments.

For Jane, Saturday was for shopping. And sales. We would head to bygone fashion palaces like Bonwit Teller, Bramson's, Peck and Peck, Marshall Field (when Marshall Field was still Marshall Field), and Lord and Taylor. Ferragamo shoes were a coup if they were on sale.

Rheumatic fever in childhood left Jane with a weakened heart. I was honored to be there when Jane received a heart transplant at the age of 70, at that time the oldest person in the USA to receive a heart transplant.

We were told the heart had been flown in from St. Louis. I found a St Louis newspaper from that day with a report of a young man in his 20s being killed in a car accident. Part of him went on to become meticulous about exercise and diet, continued to travel the world, and remained a world-class shopper and dressed to the nines.

Bridge was Jane's passion. She played in tournaments in Chicago and all over the country. At a tournament in Omaha, she chatted with fellow bridge addicts Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. Buffett introduced Gates by saying, "He does stuff with computers." 

After bridge, politics was her passion. She was raised a Democrat on a farm in Iowa that was visited by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev during his Iowa tour in the '50s. She worked hard for Democrats all her life.

My daughter-in-law Su Jang catered the party Jane threw to celebrate the five-year anniversary of her transplant. Jane invited new friends she had made, all fellow transplant recipients.

Her heart did not give out; it lasted 17 years. It was the anti-rejection drugs that wore her down.

So many times during and since the election, I've wanted to call Jane and hear her say: "Can you believe this?" "What's wrong with this man?" I miss her, but I'm glad she doesn't have to endure this pathetic denouement that Trump is putting us through.

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Ellen Mrazek from Nashville  

Posted: December 4th, 2020 11:37 AM

Beautiful, Mary Kay. (By the way my first apartment was at Surf and Broadway)

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