Mr. SKILES embroidered

`“Don’t take my picture!” Mr. Aaron Skiles said, as I photographed his wife, Elizabeth Skiles while she sat working on a quilt in the quilting frame.
I nodded that I understood. I hid my disappointment. I really wanted a photo of the trim, 78 year-old man with his white beard and hair, black suspenders over his white long-sleeved shirt and homemade breeches. I wanted one of him sitting by the window with the sun reflecting off his hair as he plied a needle embroidering a pillowcase.
Mr. Skiles spent his life as a farmer, hauling hay, milking cows and harvesting grain. He sold the farm to his son, retired and moved into the nearby village with his wife. We met him after we bought the house next door. Our house so badly needed repairs that we often joked, “we should have dug a hole and pushed it in.”
The water steadily dripping into the house during any rain dictated our repairs would begin with a new roof. Hubby bought bundles of shingles, leaned the ladder against the house, climbed to the steep roof on our two story house and began working. Mr. Skiles (as I always called him) could not just watch; he grabbed his hammer and climbed up to join him and began slapping shingles into place and hammering.
At supper hubby said, “He laid shingles twice as fast as me, and I am half his age.”
When I visited Mrs. Skiles, she proudly showed me her 50th wedding anniversary quilt. Her family had embroidered individual squares of fabric with decorations and each loved one’s name. They sewed them together, quilted them and presented it to them.
Halfway through the 10 years we lived next door, a blizzard dumped a couple feet of snow. No one left their homes that week as we waited for the snowplows to clear our street. We had a houseful of boys eager to play in the snow. At the Skiles house, Mr. Skiles had nothing to do. He could not help with the early morning chores at the farm. With the snow still drifting, he could not clear the walk. He paced the floor restlessly.
Across the room, Mrs. Skiles, in her usual long dark dress, apron and sensible shoes, bent her bonnet covered head over the pillowcase she was embroidering. The clock ticked. Mr. Skiles paced. He looked out the window at the deep snow. He looked at his wife, and hesitantly asked, “do you suppose I could do something like that?”
Not exactly farm chores, but the man needed to do something.
“Well, yes, I think I have another pillowcase,” she said, keeping her tone low to cover her surprise at him asking to do ‘women’s work.’
She went to the bedroom and pulled out a pair of stamped pillowcases, an embroidery needle, hoop, thimble and floss for the project. She showed him how to thread the needle and make a simple chain stitch. “Just follow the lines with the needle,” she concluded.
Mr. Skiles sat down beside the window, picked up the embroidery hoop and began stitching. He continued long after the snow melted.
Over the years he embroidered quilt blocks that his wife sewed together into quilts. Eventually they stitched a quilt for each grandchild.
When I worked for a local newspaper, I interviewed them about their hobbies. Elizabeth talked. Mr. Skiles listened, proud to have his work recognized but insisted, “no pictures of me.” He left the picture posing to his wife.
I did not get a photo of him for the newspaper, but nothing can erase the one I have imprinted in my memories.