September 13, 2013

Muriel Hickling (1925-2013)

Muriel CroppedMy wife's mother, Muriel Hickling, died on Tuesday, after taking ill on Sunday, her 88th birthday. She was rallying after six months in hospital and newly adapting to life in a nursing home, only to be taken by a C. difficile infection.

Those of you who have met me at summer conventions know Muriel second-hand, through the fabulous, colorful shirts she made for me nearly every Gen Con. Perhaps I invited you to ooh and aah at her painstaking matching of the pocket to the pattern on the shirt behind it. Though she never knew exactly what to make of my work, she was always pleased to hear about the many positive reviews her latest masterpiece elicited each year. From now on the new ones will all be store-bought.

Muriel served in the Canadian Women's Army Corps in WWII. She raised six children and for decades managed the household component of a working farm. Given the time pressures that entailed, her policy of never being wrong can only be seen as a key efficiency.

By the time I met her, she was a prodigious quilter and equally dedicated assembler of her huge clan's vast genealogy. She collected costume jewelry, rocks, glassware and perfume bottles. Muriel documented her life and those of her children with diary entries jotted on stray pieces of paper and then stored with a trove of artifacts. One Ziploc bag of treasures included her payment slip on discharge from the Army and the receipt from her wedding corsage.

Her passing leaves a considerable absence for Valerie and me, for her husband Harold, her other surviving children, their spouses, six adult grandchildren, and the aforementioned extended brood.

For the next little while, looking in my closet will mark a bittersweet moment.