The other night my elderly neighbor called to let me know that she
had fallen, and couldn't get up. For the past fifteen years, Liz has
been an unconventional friend of mine. When my first daughter was born,
Liz bought her an outfit that came with a matching hat and blanket. It
was a throwback outfit, sprinkled with purple violets. Neither of my
children wore it much, they were small, and the weather warmed up before
they had a chance to show it off. But the blanket was the perfect size,
so I used that quite a bit.
Sometimes, I wish I would have written more about my crazy neighbor,
that's how Liz referred to herself when she left messages for me. I'll
never forget the time we went to the cemetery to pick up firewood. The
trailer slipped off the side of the road, we were freezing, the day was
cold, damp, and raw. These strange guys that Liz knew ended up helping
us out, and after our ordeal, Liz treated me to a sandwich at McDonalds.
Another time we almost got stuck going out to her son's house. I
can't remember what we had to do out there, but I had to sit in between
Liz and an overgrown man that smelled like dogs, and hunting. Before we
moved in next door, Liz lost a son to cancer. She had many health
problems over the years, family trouble too. Her children have never
been very nice to her. She shared stories with me over the years about
lending them money that they didn't repay, them taking things without
asking, the gambling problems of one, the drinking problem of another.
Once the Jefferson County Sherriff stopped by after Liz and her
youngest son were involved in a fight. He married a woman that had
issues, as we all do, but she made her issues into his issues which
affected Liz's ability to see her grandchildren. Several years ago I was
unable to do much of anything because I had the flu. Liz picked up a
bag full of groceries for me, which at the time was one of the nicest
things anyone could have done.
Liz struggled with her weight throughout her life. She was diabetic,
and I always wanted her to get better shoes, but she told me she didn't
have money for them. The truth is, she didn't take care of herself,
respect herself, or love herself enough to set some limits that her
children needed. I sent the girls back home after we got Liz up off the
floor and into bed.
She said she felt nauseated so I made sure that she had her ice cream
bucket handy. I put a cool washcloth on her forehead, and told her that
I would come over the next morning to check on her. She didn't want
breakfast the next time I visited, she drank a cup of hot water while I
went through the hall closet with her. I don't know why I felt as if we
needed to get that straightened out, but she felt as if she had enough
energy to tackle that.
When I was cleaning, I found several sets of brand new sheets that
were still in their wrappers. There were towels that had never been
washed, and I think I had to clean that closet out to give her
permission to use those bath towels, dish cloths, and unopened sheets. I
carried several loads of laundry back to my place, and I wanted to make
the bed for her, but the mattress pad her husband had washed was still
damp when I spread it out.
Liz liked giving people treats and presents. She tried to make me
take a set of dish towels, my girls thought they were pretty. They were
the old fashioned kind of flour sack towels that had the days of the
week embroidered on them. My intention was to wash the new sheets,
towels, and bedding so we could get rid of the rags she used on a daily
basis because what is the point of saving nice things when the things
you have are worn through?
I don't like being sick, I hate the idea of handing candy out to
children at Halloween, and I pray that my children will be able to break
free from the marketing campaigns designed to destroy health instead of
restoring or preserving it. Last night I was too cold to keep walking
with the girls and my niece. I went back to my mom's house, and I don't
have the greatest relationship with her, but she said I could help
myself to whatever was in her fridge which was nice since we hadn't had
time for supper.
Last night, my mom showed me how to knit. I learned a few things from
her, but more importantly, I realized the value of spending time with
the only mother I have. I don't agree with the way that most of the
people I know feed people that they love. I have a need to share
knowledge that I have, and I'm thankful that E2 gives me a free place to
share the things I've learned, and explore the ideas that I have.
Across the way, I can see vehicles parked in Liz's circular drive. My
home is on the corner of Circle Drive, and Green Tree Lane. Our
subdivision was formerly farmland purchased from a man whose last name
was Oostenburg. People who drive by laugh at some of the street names
like Oosty, but to those of us who know the story behind the name, it
makes sense that people would want to honor the man who was willing to
sell land so others could build homes.
Circle Drive was named so because Liz had a horseshoe shaped drive,
and I hope that I'm able to pass on stories that she told me about
various people, the homes in our neighborhood, and the remember the good
times that we had driving in her truck or paneled station wagon. I want
to remember Liz out working in her garden, the times she made meals or
shared food with my family, and the bizarre things we did together in
the name of friendship, and a 'someone has to do this shit, so we better
get to it' attitude.
Having a divided family was hard on Liz. Being unwell was a different
sort of challenge, and it's made me realize that I can no longer afford
to be selfish and indulge my weaknesses for candy and junk food if I
want to become a healthier person. The parenting class I've been taking
has really taught me a lot about how to interact with other people. I've
been listening to the CD I rented, and for whatever this is worth, I'm
highly recommending the Love and Logic series as a humorous way to
learn more about things such as power struggles, how to handle homework,
and how to take care of yourself by setting limits for others.
I told a son of Liz's that has been unpleasant in the past to let me
know if they need help with anything. They probably won't ask, and
that's fine, as I don't have a lot of respect for any of them. It makes
me sad to see the cars crowding the driveway, but I can only hope that
through her death, Liz was able to unite the people she loved most, and
maybe their futures will be better after they get through this time of
My family is getting together this Sunday, I have some anxiety about
going, but glad for the opportunity to see my aunt and uncle who live in
California. There are many things I'd like to say to erase the hurts of
the past, but it won't be that type of a gathering. I'm going to go
visit my grandfather which is something I've been putting off for a
while because I loathe nursing homes.
Before Liz died, she told me that she loved me, she also told me to
tell the girls that she loved them as well. I felt as if her end was
near these past few days, although I'm sure that some will point out
that she lived with a proverbial foot in the grave. When I see my
grandfather on Sunday, I'm going to give him a big hug, and tell him
that I love him, because when he's gone, I
won't be able to add any more new memories to the ones I cherish now.