Dave Simpson: Miss Frances Didn’t Mince Words

Columnist Dave Simpson writes: "My mother-in-law, Frances Elvira Wood, came to live with us 10 years ago. She was 86 at the time, and didn't mince words. That's where her salty Franisms came from."

Dave Simpson

March 17, 20215 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

We called them “Franisms,” and our friends couldn’t wait for the next installment.

My mother-in-law, Frances Elvira Wood, came to live with us 10 years ago. She was 86 at the time, and didn’t mince words. That’s where her salty Franisms came from.

We started posting them on Facebook.

Every week she would get her hair done at the local cosmetology school, where she paid  $7, plus a $1 tip.

“A dollar doesn’t go very far,” Fran said, “but that’s what she gets.”

One day on the way home she told my wife Caryl, “I had a new girl today. She didn’t have any tattoos or purple hair.”

“Maybe she doesn’t like that,” Caryl replied.

“Just give her a month,” Fran replied, “and she’ll look like the rest of ’em.”

Driving past a tattoo parlor in town, she said, “I hate tattoos. They just ruin a pretty girl.”

Another time she told Caryl, “All those girls wear six-inch spike heels.

“They deserve to fall on their faces for such stupidity. And I’m not helping them up.”

She told me the students were “little devils” when they took up all the parking spaces in front of the beauty school, so they could smoke cigarettes in their cars during breaks, requiring Fran to walk half a block with her two replaced knees and a walker.

The tattooed, purple-haired beauticians liked her anyway. When I get haircuts, the barber often remembers “Miss Frances” from the beauty school. (Must have been those $1 tips.)

For years she went to Walmart with Caryl every Sunday, and shopped in a motorized shopping cart. One day, as they were checking out, she said, “Every woman in here is two ax handles wide and covered in tattoos.”

“You can tell who’s been eating the potato chips.”

I did my share of driving Fran around town, because Caryl was still working as a nurse practitioner in the psych unit at our local hospital.

One day we were stopped at a stop light. An obviously disturbed guy walked across in front of us and gave us the finger. Far from offended, Fran broke out laughing, and said, “He’s probably one of Caryl’s patients!”

Fran was not impressed by the closing ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics: “This is the damndest mess I’ve ever seen. It’s so loud I had to take out one hearing aid.”

She was equally brutal one day when a bouquet arrived.  “That’s not a very nice bouquet,” she said. “They just threw in a bunch of crap and filler.”

One morning in 2017 Fran fractured her hip. An ambulance took her to the hospital, where a surgeon repaired the hip.

After the surgery, Caryl reported that her mom was “doing pretty well,” considering. She told Fran she was heading home.

“Go home and go to bed,” Fran replied in a croaky voice, “and stay off that damn computer.”

She told her nurses, “I have been deaf for years and it used to bother me. But now I don’t give a damn that I can’t hear what you girls say.”

After her surgery, she said,“They give you drugs, and when you’re out they toss you around like a sack of potatoes.”

“They said I might not walk again. Bull—t! I’m not going to lay around in this bed for the rest of my life!”

When they tried to dismiss her from the hospital earlier than expected, she said, “If you send me home tomorrow you might as well call the undertaker!” She got two more days.

Two weeks ago, Fran was in the hospital again, this time with internal bleeding. She told Caryl, “I’m going to strangle my doctor for ordering all these blood draws.”

“You have a different doctor here in the hospital,” Caryl explained. “It isn’t your regular doctor’s fault.”

“Then who do I strangle?” she replied.

Frances Elvira Wood, age 96, passed away peacefully two days later, with Caryl holding her hand.

The day before, passing in and out of consciousness, she told Caryl, “I’m going to kick your (let’s say caboose).”

That was my mother-in-law.

Feisty to the end.

We wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson

Political, Wyoming Life Columnist

Dave has written a weekly column about a wide variety of topics for 39 years, winning top columnist awards in Wyoming, Colorado, Illinois and Nebraska.