Miss Mary was sensible.  She did things like collect and save every button she ever found and store it safely for future use in a canister branded Handy Dandy.  In the course of her lifetime, whenever a member of the family lost a button, she opened the canister and found a reasonable match and within seconds sewed it firmly into place.  No time for dilly dally.

I remember when I was in college and lost the button above the gold zipper on my Duck Head khakis.  It had been lost a while, but a button wasn’t something I missed much.  My belt worked just fine.  That is, until I drove home one evening with a buddy to visit Miss Mary for an All-U-Can-Eat feast.  Within seconds of our arrival, I was standing in white boxer shorts and Miss Mary held my khakis in one hand and the button canister in the other.  Without a pause in conversation, she stepped to the bathroom, reached for the dental floss, cut off a piece of this white durable fiber and threaded a needle.  In a whip stitch of time, I was back in pants, buttoned properly.  Miss Mary offered my father’s classic Navy Sailor advice with a wink, “Son, stay out of road houses.”  My buddy, sipping Johnny Walker Black on ice, laughed in amazement, “I think you just got a Handy Dandy job.”

I had not thought about the Handy Dandy button canister in many years until it appeared in my teenage daughter Charlotte’s outstretched hand.  “Pops, what do you want to do with Grammy’s button collection?”  After watching my mother die cell-by-cell in a slow motion death from Alzheimer’s dementia, we were forced into hyper speed to clean out her room within hours of her last breath or face escalating charges no longer covered by Medicare or long-term care insurance.  

“Charlotte, just put it in my box. I’m not prepared right now to throw out an 85-year collection of buttons.”  Charlotte weighed the canister carefully in her hand.  “Hmmm.  Feels more like 75 years to me.”  I laughed out loud.  The cruel tyrant Alzheimer’s may have tried to steal my mother, but Miss Mary’s spirit was alive and well.

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