Here's the Scoop: March 26, 2014
Here’s The Scoop ...on Peg
“You’re not going to put that in your column!” Well, I guess it’s nice to have a reputation.
Those words rang in my ears numerous times during my years of authoring Here’s The Scoop. My mother, Margaret “Peg” Sweeney, spoke them often. I’m sure others will echo similar sentiments about not wishing to be a column topic, but Peg will no longer be trying to keep her name and potentially embarrassing incidents out of this space. Peg passed away on Saturday at the age of…
…sorry, few people really know Peg’s true age. That’s the way she always wanted it. I’m not about to give up that cherished information now. On the other hand, since Peg is no longer with us, I guess she can’t stop me from writing this column!
From the time we were kids, Peg (everyone called her that, even her kids) always told us that she simply preferred to be known as “Forever Young.” The truth is, Peg did not have some Fountain of Youth secret. Her body was failing, led by an extreme case of arthritis that made walking difficult and painful, in recent years. Despite this condition, Peg bravely soldiered on and continued working her job as a clerk at the Fairview Library in Margaretville until mid-December.
Severe cold and a series of snowstorms finally got Peg to concede to taking the winter off. She didn’t argue with this suggestion from her children. This was the first chink in her armor of stubborn determination that kept her “on the job” three days a week.
Work certainly was not a burden to Peg. Far from it. She loved her job. Some patrons may think that she took the job a bit too seriously. The library users who felt this way were almost certainly people who were delinquent with their borrowed books. Peg protected the library’s books like they were her kids. Many times over the years the name of a perfectly respectable citizen would come up in conversation and Peg would frown and recall a time years before when the person in question had to be reminded several times about an overdue book. These folks were forever branded with a Scarlet “O” in her book, so to speak.
The defining moment of her Book Protection Program occurred when Peg continued to chase after one patron who was particularly tardy in her book returns. Or, lack thereof. After a few calls from Peg, this patron responded with an f-laced tirade that was totally inappropriate for a library that prides itself on the art of quiet conversation. The librarian (another staunch German) took great offense — and the patron was arrested for not returning the library’s property. They threw the book at her, I guess. The Associated Press picked up the story and it ran across the country. Peg was a bit embarrassed by the incident (but secretly proud). I thought it was awesome.
Even though she was closely associated with the library, Peg’s life extended far beyond. She was well-known for her quirky nature. While she was generous in many respects, she was also exceedingly thrifty. Peg was always “at home” in her house — in spite of the fact that she consistently kept the thermostat hovering on the lower side of 60 degrees. We called it “The Igloo” during winter visits. She would (begrudgingly) let us turn the heat up (but not much) during social calls. However, she was quick to order, “Turn the heat down,” as we left.
Peg was similarly watchful over her electric bill. I’m sure more than one NYSEG meter reader was asked by a boss, “Are you sure this is right?” when reporting the readings at Peg’s house. “Turn the lights out,” were the words that always followed the reminders about the heat. That, plus a house filled with 25-watt bulbs resulted in electric bills that rivaled an abandoned house.
She was also a legendary coupon clipper and would save coupons for family members. I usually forgot the ones she gave to me. However, in Peg’s honor, I asked the funeral director if there were any coupons that could be applied to the casket purchase. There weren’t, but I know Peg would have been proud of my request.
Born in New York City, Peg found true love in the Catskills and embraced rural life. She spent countless hours performing volunteer work and did so because it was genuinely important to her to serve her community. She had no interest in recognition — but she’s getting it here and she can’t complain!
As is fitting for a library worker, Peg loved reading. Note: she always brought her books back on time. She also did a good bit of TV viewing and had a particular fascination with Judy Judge. In fact, in just about every real-life situation, Peg had a Judy Judge case that she cited for comparison.
Whether she was watching Judge Judy or something else, it was certain that Peg would have an ample (I’m way understating the case) supply of cookies, candies and other sweet treats within easy reach. Her sweet tooth was epic.
Peg’s declining mobility resulted in her needing more assistance in recent years. We would often bring her something from our house or I would “cook” her meals. My repertoire was limited and usually started with the reading of microwaving directions, but she appreciated the effort. It didn’t matter how many “sweets” she had next to her chair, no meal was complete without dessert. Having inherited Peg’s sweet tooth, I understood completely.
We all have funny stories to tell about Peg’s idiosyncratic nature. However, the humorous episodes mask a deep-rooted sadness that began clouding Peg’s life with the passing of her husband at a young age and her daughter and daughter-in-law, both in their 40s. Peg soldiered on without these loved ones, but her life was shrouded in an emptiness that was always present.
True to form, Peg never fully admitted the amount of physical pain that she endured in later years. She finally agreed (very reluctantly) to go to Margaretville Hospital in February. Despite a legendary fear of doctors and hospitals (“They’ll just find something wrong with me,” she liked to argue), Peg gave in and let the staff care for her. She loved it. In fact, she was mad when she had to leave. Who knew?
Peg returned to her home of more than 60 years for the last nine days of her life. She was severely limited in her activities and required a live-in aide. Hospice personnel and her family shared the task of keeping her comfortable. Her condition deteriorated swiftly in her final two days. However, on the day before she left, Peg still possessed her independent spirit. When the Hospice nurse asked Peg if she needed anything else, Peg responded in her special way, “Why don’t you go sit down and read a magazine.”
That’s why we loved my mother. I hope she won’t be mad if she hears about this column — I tried to make it “sweet.”
— Brian Sweeney