Saturday, June 11, 2011

Journal of a Living Lady #399

Nancy White Kelly

Buddy and I always welcome the sight of our home when we return from a vacation. As usual, our house was still standing. Fire didn’t burn it down. Tornadoes didn’t blow it away. Thieves didn’t break in and steal. We continue to have a bed to sleep in plus all our worldly goods. Thank you, Lord.

Unfortunately, the grass took advantage and grew excessively in our absence. Buddy immediately brought in the luggage, donned his yard clothes, and headed for the lawn mower. I could hear the drone of the engine in the background while listening to the back-log of voice mail. I always hope there is no bad news to hear. This day there was. Advanced forward:

This morning I attended the graveside service of a little lady I met almost four years ago. She and her husband, a retired colonel, dropped by the coin shop one cold afternoon. He was 93. She was 87. They drove an old van with slick tires. For whatever reason, it was obvious they needed money.

The old couple won my heart immediately. He clutched a small brown paper sack hoping to sell its meager contents. Their naivety and lack of numismatic knowledge would have made them a prime target for an unscrupulous coin dealer. Buddy can confirm that I have many faults, but preying on the elderly isn’t one of them.

The wife patted her husband’s cold hand while I went through the paper sacks. Unfortunately their cache didn’t have much value. It contained several foreign coins as well as modern replicas of U.S. coinage. Most of these copies are highly advertised, thinly plated, seriously over-priced, pretty pieces of junk.

The couple was of more interest to me than their two sacks of nearly worthless coins. They lived alone, far from relatives, on top of a near-by mountain. Their main source of heat was firewood which they usually cut themselves. A single space heater warmed the bedroom. I wondered how they managed. He was on a walker and she on a cane. Neither could walk appreciably well. The wife had just begun driving again after recuperating from a broken hip.

While the three of us were inside the shop talking, Buddy was outside washing their van windows making sure the old tires had enough air. We both could see the situation for what it was: two old people trying to survive in an awful economy. I made them an overly generous offer for the contents of their two sacks which they quickly accepted.

Afterwards, the wife lovingly assisted her husband into the van. I held my breath, fearful that they might fall. They had their routine down pat. The wife shoved the man’s uncooperative right leg inside the van. Then, with all the heave she could muster, she slammed the heavy door shut. The wife reclaimed her cane, gave me a grateful smile, and asked for a hug. I gave her the biggest one I had.

She called me a time or two, just wanting to chat. She finally agreed that her husband needed to be in a 24/7 care home. After the transition, I called her often.
Once, after several unsuccessful attempts to reach her by phone, I contacted the nursing home seeking information. It was then that I learned the husband had passed and that the Mrs. was now a patient there.

With no family anywhere near and the state in charge of her care, I unofficially adopted her and introduced her to the Sunday School class I was teaching. Last October we threw her a big 91st birthday party at a local restaurant. The picture I took of her smiling broadly was displayed at the burial today.

Her mind was exceptionally sharp. Her hearing too. She enjoyed talking about current events as well as old times. On my last visit, just before Buddy and I left for vacation, we talked at length about heaven. This was a continuation of our on-going conversation about life and death. She was ready for the journey that we all must take someday. Death takes no holiday, but holds no prisoners.

Good-bye for now, sweet Alma. I am as diminished by your passing as I was enriched by your presence