Farewell to my godfather, aka Wee Wee the elf

I'll never forget a phone call I got one December when I was a kid. It was an elf calling from the North Pole!

My own personal elf, he told me. I asked his name and was surprised when he said "Wee Wee."

"Wee Wee?" I asked, wondering if he had a bed-wetting problem.

He explained that was his name because he was a wee little elf. He told me a bit about Santa's preparations for the big day and after a short talk, hung up.

I was too little to know that Santa's real elves don't have time to make phone calls. My godfather, Don, had made the call - and had not had the foresight to think of a name for the elf he was pretending to be. We had many laughs when I was older about his choice of moniker.

Don passed away April 21 at age 86 after battling cancer and dementia. He left behind his wife, Betty - my godmother - a son and daughter-in-law, two granddaughters, three great-grandchildren, eight sisters and two brothers.

Don became my godfather somewhat by default, as he married my mom's best friend since junior high. He met Betty on a blind date, set up by his sister, Maria, and her boyfriend, Warren. Warren had a best friend named Tom (my dad) and Maria worked with a girl named Donna (my mom) and they set those two up on a blind date as well.

All three couples married in 1962 and all three had just one child. I've always found it amusing that my dad's best friend's wife was the sister of my mom's best friend's husband.

I remember many visits to see Don and Betty when they lived in Oak Forest. The best visits were after they moved to Peotone, where they had several acres with a creek and a huge garden Don had planted. We would come home with zucchini and tomatoes that my mom would turn into a sort of ratatouille (although neither of us had heard of that dish at the time). We'd also bring home ears of popcorn - Don's favorite crop - that we would twist off the cob and pop in a pan on the stove or in our air popper (this was before the days of microwaves).

His love of popcorn (and hatred of the squirrels with whom he battled for it) was evident at his funeral Friday, both in the giant bowl in the break room and the reference in a beautiful tribute written by Betty and read by the pastor who was officiating.

We'd seen Don and Betty only three times since Ainsley was born. Distance and schedules, two things that seem so silly now, deterred additional visits for a time. Then Don fell ill with cancer.

More than once Friday I uttered the phrase heard at so many funerals: "It's good to see you. I wish it was under different circumstances." At one point Maria introduced me to a brother I had not met as "Tom and Donna's daughter." I can't remember the last time someone referred to me that way.

I am sad to lose Don and my heart goes out to Betty, who lost her partner of the past 62 years, and Mike, who feels the pain of losing a parent for the first time.

I also grieve for the loss of yet another person who was part of my childhood, who watched me grow up, who knew me as Tom and Donna's daughter.

- Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected].

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean