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Franckly speaking: A homegrown salute to a special roommate

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From page A4 | October 01, 2012 |

 In our house, there’s a room we call “Mim’s Room.”

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Whenever we have a guest, the first thing we say is, “You can stay in Mim’s Room.” Rarely do we explain who Mim is, why we named the room after her and why the name has stuck for 25 years after she left.

Even I am not quite sure why we continue to call it Mim’s Room.

Mim was a 26-year-old senior at UC Davis when she agreed to stay with us for a year and work part-time taking care of our daughter, 5, and our son, 2.

Only days after she arrived in August 1987, while we were still working out details of food and routine, I got a phone call from New York that sent me reeling. My vigorous 74-year-old mother called to say she had cancer. Despite “successful” surgery and a good prognosis, she died only a few weeks later, on Oct. 9.

My world fell to pieces as I tried to explain things to our children, traveled to New York with my husband for the funeral, helped with my dad — who hardly knew how to boil water — and dealt with my own broken heart.

Meanwhile, Mim was back in our house, working longer hours than anticipated and trying to explain death to 5-year-old Beth who really loved Grandma. Our toddler son, Daniel, was less aware of the death and, thanks to Mim, his world continued normally.

Soon enough, Bob and I were back home, but I wasn’t myself for an entire year. Mim continued on, sympathetic, and a huge help with the kids. We’ve kept in touch ever since, mostly with holiday cards.

Three weeks ago, Mim sent an e-mail. “This Friday we’re flying to Minneapolis. Adam has a job interview at Macalester. Is Daniel still in Minnesota?”

“Yes,” I wrote, hoping they would get together. What I didn’t think about was that Daniel, now 27, might not remember Mim.

They did meet, and Mim wrote afterwards, “It was funny because I asked him if he even remembered me. He said, ‘um … not really’ — which doesn’t surprise me.”

Mim, on the other hand, saw hints of the toddler in the grown man. “He has the same eye and eyebrow movements … it’s so funny!” she wrote.

It pleases me to think that Bob and I (with Mim’s help) raised the kind of son who would say “yes” to a reunion with a person he doesn’t remember. I like to think he did it because he grew up in a house where one room had a name, Mim’s Room, and he was curious.

I’m curious, too. Why have we kept that name all these years when we’ve had so little contact?

Then, as I started to write this column, I remembered a document that Mim gave me when I returned to Davis from my mother’s funeral.

It’s one page long, saved in a notebook with other things connected with my mom. I dig it out and reread it every few years. Sometimes I think of it without rereading. This document that permanently touched my heart exists only because of Mim.

“October 14, 1987.

(This was typed with help from Mim — the o’s didn’t always work so we used zeros. This was initiated by Beth when one day walking home from school with Mim she saw some flowers and said, “that rose reminds me of my grandmother. She died.” We talked about that and decided it would be nice to list all the things Beth thought of about her grandmother. “I’ll number them,” she said.)

What I like about my Grandma by Beth, age 5.

1. Whenever I see a rose it lets me think like my Grandma because her name is Rose.

2. When I see a rose I feel how nice she loved me. It was nice going to the swimming pool with her. Hearing her dead is very sad.

3. It was nice when she was alive. She got a little bored just sleeping there in the hospital except I don’t understand why she is heartbroken. It seems like she’s heartbroken except she’s still dead.

4. Seeing a rose it just makes me feel like how good a time we had and how nice we had swimming together.

5. She’s just like a rose. She’s so sweet and nice and nice to look at. It’s hard to hear her dead.

6. Other flowers make me think of her too. Like daises and tulips and sunflowers and … I can’t think of any more. Goodbye now, I have to get some stuff.”

Thank you, Mim. We’ll keep your room forever.

Marion Franck is a columnist for the Davis Enterprise. She is a part-time resident of El Dorado County.

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