A friend of mine died today. She was old and very sick. Even so, I'm stunned she's no longer here. I cannot count how many times this evening I've made a mental note to tell her something next time I see her.
Tell me, when will I stop doing that? How long will it take to get over a habit more than a decade in the making?
To an outsider, perhaps, she didn't seem too remarkable. A widow in her 80's, living in the house where she raised her children...ill for the past 2 years, to boot. Before that? An active senior citizen, busy with the local gardening club and her friends and her grandchildren...
But to me? She was the neighbor who took the time to talk to me all the years - those long, isolated, pre-blogging years - I was home with my babies. At the beginning, I'll confess, I'd manufacture a request - a cup of sugar, say - any excuse to knock on her door and make some human contact. I was that
lonely. And she made herself available. I'll never know why. After all, she had her friends and her daughters and her grandchildren, all fixtures in her life before I came on the scene. She didn't need me.
|Thanks to my friend, I know this is a magnolia.|
She didn't need me. But eventually I could stop by just to chat and we'd sit on her stoop in the sunshine and talk, while sizing up any new neighbors from a discreet distance and watching the kids ride by on their scooters. Or she'd walk with me around the neighborhood - me carrying a baby, she reciting names and characteristics of any vegetation I cared to ask about. She took the time to teach me
- a Black Belt black thumb - everything I know about our local flora. She even (rather foolishly) shared with me her extra tomato seedlings, cucumber seeds, etc. - all items which flourished under her loving care and which inevitably met a dismal end under mine.
Never underestimate small acts of generosity - particularly generosity of time, in a society where people pride themselves on being busy, busy, busy. Who has time to reach out to a pathetically lonely mom with no car, no real friends, and nowhere to go? This woman did. She knew it mattered.
|Useful parenting tool|
My friend was no rocket scientist. She made no earth-changing scientific discoveries, she orchestrated no sweeping changes of public policy. But she knew how to raise children to adulthood, in that no-nonsense, commonsensical way that her generation possessed. "They're bored?" she said, when I complained of whining children. "I used to have mine vacuum the stairs when they were bored. Let me tell you," she added with a laugh, "they didn't get bored too often." And when I ran into truly heavy parenting weather? She was there for me, if only to shrug her shoulders and say, "All you can do is your best. You can't fix everything. They have to figure it out."
Never underestimate your personal store of knowledge and experience. Someone can use it.
We weren't expecting her to die just yet. I had planned to visit with her Easter morning, tell her all that had been happening over the past week. Maybe then I would have decided to thank her for all she'd done for me; or more likely, to save us both embarrassment, I would have written her a note, a little Easter present of thanks, to give her before it was too late.
[Magnolia tree: The Daily Muse]