Anyone who has been around Menard for any length of time, knew Earnestine Menzies. I literally knew her my entire life. I was born April the fifth over what is now the city hall in Menard. Earnestine was the nurse who helped deliver me when I was born. She gave me my first bath and put on my first diaper. So, when she said she had known me for my entire life, I knew she was telling the truth. Even though I had known Earnestine my entire life, I really didn’t get to know her until she moved into the retirement center at the Menard Manor in the year two thousand and one. I didn’t realize what an important part of my life she would become in those eleven years she resided at Menard Manor.
Without a doubt Earnestine was one of the most unique individuals I have ever known. She was without a doubt the pickiest eater I have ever known. She did not eat eggs, ground meat, or chicken. She did not drink milk or water. She sucked on ice all day except when she was asleep. She went through at least three or four pounds of ice every day. The only food she really liked was chips and any type of junk food. As soon as she crawled out of bed, she would grab her a hand full of chips and open a coke. She would eat the chips and drink the coke, and then she would take a shower and get dressed for the day. She told me this was pretty much her daily routine since she was a teenager. Earnestine was a creature of habit. Once she did something she liked, she thought she had to do it every day for the rest of her life. She would tell me, “I don’t know how I have lived to be this old. All I have ever eaten is junk food”.
Earnestine was a person who virtually didn’t like anyone. I don’t even think she liked herself at times. She told me one time that, she bet her two husbands, Clarence and Alex, were glad to die to get away from her. She didn’t mind sharing her opinion no matter whether they hurt someone’s feelings or not. She didn’t care who it was or what it was, if she didn’t like someone or something, she didn’t mind telling them. Pete Davis had known her since they were children together. He lived across the hall from Earnestine, in the retirement center. He told me one day, “John, I have known Earnestine since we were kids, and I have come to the conclusion that she is the perfect blend of good and evil.” I have thought about what Pete said that day, and I believe he gave the perfect description of Earnestine Menzies.
In spite of Earnestine’s outspoken personality, she was one of the most liked individuals I have ever known. When her birthday would come around, she would receive thirty or forty birthday cards. I would be lucky to receive two cards on my birthday. She was truly one of a kind. When I mentioned Earnestine’s name to someone, they would often say, “They broke the mold when they made Earnestine.” Maybe that uniqueness was what drew people to her like a moth to a flame. She had so much charisma that people couldn’t help but love her no matter what she said.
Earnestine had a deep abiding love for her family. But, that did not mean they were immune to her criticism. If company over stayed their welcome. She would tell me, “I have enjoyed the visit, but it is time for them to go. All they do when they are here is stand outside smoking.” I remember one time when her granddaughter and grand son- in- law had been visiting for a few days and Earnestine was getting tired of having to entertain them. So, they were finally getting ready to leave. They were in the manor lobby and Earnestine hugged them goodbye and told them that she loved them. They walked out the door and she turned to Pete Davis and said, “Thank God they are finally gone.”
One morning we were sitting in Earnestine’s room visiting and we looked outside and we saw someone walking down the sidewalk towards Earnestine’s room. Now I want say who this individual was, but it was someone Earnestine liked very much. But, it just so happened she was not in a visiting mood at that moment. When Earnestine first saw her coming down the sidewalk she said, “I wonder what she wants? The last thing I want right now is to have company.” I feared Earnestine might be rude to this person. So, the lady came on in the building and when she opened the door to Earnestine’s room, Earnestine said, “Well hello sugar, come on in.” I thought to myself, this makes me think that Earnestine is a little two faced. I couldn’t help but wonder if this is what she thought when she would see me at the door. But, this was just vintage Earnestine.
As I have said before, Earnestine was a picky eater. She complained about the food at the manor until the day she died. This was not because the food at Menard Manor is bad. She didn’t want anything to eat but chips. Earnestine had taken some kind of food preparation course at Texas Tech when Clarence and she were living close to
. This boosted her ego to the point that she felt like she was the only one in the world who knew how to cook. She was a fabulous cook. But, she never could realize that there were other people who knew how to cook. So, she was constantly criticizing the dietary supervisor and all of the cooks in the Menard Manor kitchen. She would take food, she thought was badly cooked, and she would save it and take it to the administrator trying to get dietary in trouble. I am sure they did not appreciate this. Anyway, Earnestine got sick and had to go to Lubbock, Texas for a few days. When she finally got back from the hospital, she told me she wanted to talk to the food supervisor. I knew she wasn’t impressed by the food at Shannon Hospital Shannon, so I thought she wanted to give the dietary supervisor a compliment, by telling Rose that their cooking was better than Shannon’s. So, I went and found the food supervisor, Rosemary Gonzales. I told her that Earnestine wanted to talk to her. She came to the room to see Earnestine. Earnestine told Rose to come over to her chair and she reached out and held Rose’s hand. I thought to myself, she is finally going to give Rose a compliment on the food in the manor kitchen. Earnestine said, “Rose, I just want you to know that the food at Shannon is just as bad as it is here.” Rose just laughed. I told her later, “You do realize, that was as close to a compliment as you will ever get from Earnestine.”
As I have stated in the past there very few people that Earnestine liked. But, there were two people that she hated more than anyone else. I am never going to reveal the names of these two individuals. Many times when she was particularly mad at one or both of these individuals, she would tell me, “John, if I don’t make it into Heaven, it is going to be these two peoples fault, because they are standing between me and the gates of Heaven.” I would remind her that as Christians we have to love everyone. She said, “I know John. So, I just have to ask for God to forgive me for what I am thinking, every night.”
I can’t put into words how much Earnestine meant to my family and I. The night she had her stroke, I went down to take her little dog out to potty. I visited with her for about forty minutes that night. I marveled that night at what a good mind she still had at the ripe old age of ninety seven years old. She had a wedding card for my son and daughter-in-law that she wanted to give me that night. The card also had a fifty dollar bill in it for a wedding present. She told me to be sure and not forget it. I told her if I forget it, I can always get it in the morning when I come in for work. She said, “If something happened to me tonight, they would never get this card and money. So, do not forget it.” I didn’t forget it. I look back on that night, and I realize that she must have had a premonition that something was going to happen to her that night. For some reason that night we got to talking about funerals. Earnestine had always been adamant about not having any kind of funeral service. She said she didn’t want people coming to view her body and talking about how pretty she was in the casket. She said that would be a lie because she knew she was just an ugly old woman. She stated that she didn’t want any kind of a death notice in the paper. I ask her about that during our conversation that last night. She said, “I guess you could put a little notice in the paper. But, if you do, I want you to use my full name. I want you to say Earnestine Alexander Williams Menzies died, and that is all.” I asked her what about her middle name. She said it was Mildred. But, she said I never did like that name, so don’t list it. After she died I conveyed this message to her granddaughter and they honored her request.
I could go on and on about Earnestine. What a interesting and unique individual. You might not agree with everything she said or did, but you could never accuse her of being dull. If she saw something she thought wasn’t right, she didn’t mind voicing her concerns. In many ways I admired that in her. Some people are afraid to speak up when they see something that is not right. It never occurred to Earnestine to be afraid of what people might think.
If life was getting me down, I could always go visit her and we would talk out whatever problem I was having. If I was angry and upset about something, there was nobody better than Earnestine to have a griping session with. I know she wasn’t perfect. But, there is not a day goes by that I don’t think about her and miss her so much it hurts. She meant so much to not only me but my entire family. She was one of the last people alive who knew my parents and grandparents. When she died, it severed that last link between myself and the folks who raised me. She was such an interesting person. I may write some more on her later. But for now, that’s all folks.