Every Sunday for the last few years, right around noon or so, Boscoe would get up from wherever he was napping and start following Doug around the house, fixing him in that intense You-Can't-Get-Away-From-Me border-collie stare. He knew that Doug went out to see his mom on Sundays, and that meant there was a good chance of meat loaf, or, even better, pot roast. Boscoe was not about to be left behind. He adored that Pot Roast Lady.
Mavis adored Boscoe, too, as she adored all dogs, and she kept a framed photograph of him on top of her television set. She used to sneak him shards of roasted meat under the table during dinner, or bits of potato drenched in gravy. Theirs was a relationship of mutual devotion.
But then, a sense of devotion was a wide streak in Mavis--devotion to people, to dogs, to the Twins and the Vikings, to God, to doing the right thing. She was one of the best-hearted people I know--kind, generous, funny, and strong. Like her siblings, the lively Paiges of North Dakota, she had a great sense of humor, getting through the bad times by sharing stories and jokes that turned tears to laughter. It was one of her most endearing qualities, that merry humor, that readiness to smile.
The stories about her are endless, and dear. She grew up on a farm in North Dakota during the Great Depression, and when she was a young woman her older sister, Vi, sent her to nursing school in the big city of Bismarck, using money saved from Vi's job at the Minot five-and-dime.
A few years later Mavis met and married Eddie Iverson, a World War II fighter pilot, and they had three children. She told me just a couple of weeks ago that Eddie was "the prettiest man" she ever saw, and that she thinks she would have died if she hadn't been able to marry him. In 1959 they moved from North Dakota to the Twin Cities.
She and Vi lived together for about five years after they were both widowed, and we used to stop by the house and see them sitting side by side in their matching leather barcaloungers, hollering at the TV. Umps and referees generally infuriated them; she were certain that there were conspiracies galore against her beloved Minnesota teams. Or sometimes they'd be watching something beautiful--a ballet, or Olympic skating, and Mavis would look up with that mischievous look in her eye and say, deadpan, "I could do that if I wanted to."
Doug swears you could tell how her teams were faring by how clean her house was; he remembers her vacuuming the living room furiously at 11 p.m. one night after the refs waved off a last-second goal, allowing the Canadiens to beat the North Stars in the playoffs.
She fervently believed that if she watched a close game all the way through, she would bring bad luck to the team; many a time she’d get up from her easy chair and disappear into the kitchen, where you could hear the slap of cards on the round wooden table while she played solitaire to distract herself. She’d shout around the corner ever minute or so, “What happened? What’s the score?” And you could usually count on seeing her curly head and big eyes peering around the corner, furtively, trying to glimpse the TV.
She liked to take care of things herself, that Depression baby farm girl. One time she and Vi thought they heard someone in their basement. They did not call 911. They did not flee the house. No, they tiptoed down the basement stairs to investigate, arming themselves with a hammer and a power drill. Vi was in her 80s at this point, and Mavis in her 70s, and I think it is very lucky that there was no intruder--lucky for the intruder, that is.
There were a few things that made her uncomfortable, though, and one of them was left-hand turns. She preferred not to have to make them. Instead, she’d go an extra block and then make three right-hand turns. Every couple of years she drove back to North Dakota to visit family; I was never sure how you can get all the way to North Dakota without ever turning left, but apparently she figured it out.
Mavis’ political leanings were personal, not ideological. She stuck with Nixon because she felt sorry for him. She told Doug years later that she had voted for Carter in 1980 because she thought the poor guy deserved another shot.
Mavis was at peace when she died. She told us a few weeks ago that when she was very ill she had seen God -- a bright, shining light that filled her with peace -- and that that was an enormous comfort to her. Doug wrote, "There was something in the way my mom shared her religious experience, nothing overbearing about it. It came across as soothing, yet she got her point across. There is something telling in that, something that shows the sort of person she was. My mom seldom said, 'Do this, don't do that.' Instead, she was showing us that she was going to be OK and that if we followed her example someday we, too, will be OK."
We will miss her merry laugh, her pot roast, her peanut butter cookies at Christmas, her delicious potato salad in the summer. We will miss her humor and good nature, her delightful sense of fun, her passion for sports and dogs and family. But mostly we will simply miss her. As Boscoe knows, Sunday afternoons--and, indeed, our lives--will never be the same.