Lee Perish, an appreciation

My wife Laura’s aunt Lee was smart and tough and sarcastic and funny and fierce. That last most of all.

That toughness and humor reminded me of the women who raised me, and I liked her from the moment I met her. That was at Laura’s high school graduation almost twenty-two years ago. The feeling was mutual. Part of that may have been that I sat down to talk with her, so that we could be at eye level while she used her wheel chair. Some of it may have come from my grabbing a pad of paper and a pen to talk so that she didn’t have to read my lips. Some of it was the fact that we were both science fiction fans and cat people.

Mostly though, I think it was because she loved Laura fiercely—just as she did everything fiercely—and she trusted Laura’s judgment. Since I was having the usual issues with being the new boy come a-courting, and maybe a bit more than the usual issues, that instant acceptance was very welcome.

When Laura went to college that fall, Lee got into the habit of taking her to every Shakespeare play that came along at the Guthrie Theatre. We would pick up Lee and I would drop them both off and pick them up afterward. That lasted two or three years until Lee suggested that I really ought to come with them. For nearly twenty years after that Lee was our regular date for Guthrie shows, mostly Shakespeare, two or three a season. It was always wonderful to see Lee and have dinner and chat, and it’s going to be very hard to go back to the Guthrie without her, though she wouldn’t want us to stay away, which means we won’t.

In grad school, Laura took sign language courses so that she could speak to Lee more easily, and I learned what I could at second hand, finger-spelling and a small vocabulary of signs that let me at least communicate the basics without resorting to spelling or pad of paper. I never got very good at it, but she was always patient with me, and glad to see me doing what I could. We talked about lots of things, the three of us, but mostly about books and cats, which were her passions as well as ours. That and our lives.

She always wanted to know what we were up to, and she cheered us both on as Laura worked her way through grad school to becoming a professor and I went from wanting to write to being a published author. She never let a visit pass without telling us how proud she was of us and how much she loved us, and we loved her back, likewise fiercely.

That’s how we’re going to miss her too, fiercely.