Saturday, February 11, 2017
I pulled off the freeway a little before 10am but I wasn’t expected until 10:30.
The 85-mile drive was peppered with gentle rain & pockets of light poking through the clouds, reminding me of the inescapable fact that the sun will always shine again. I enjoyed the stretches with sun more than the rain.
Instead of showing up early, I found a strip mall right next to the freeway. The string of businesses was anchored by, what was once, a major grocery store. The parking lot in front of the, now vacant, outlet was all but empty.
Perpendicular to the marked spaces, therefore occupying about 3 spots, I positioned my vehicle in the center of the lot, so that I had a clear view of the empty building.
The engine settled to a quiet still and the motor oil crept its way back down into the pan; I sat and pondered what I saw before me.
No doubt a once thriving business, conveniently located to a large number of residents; I’m sure there was no shortage of people complaining about the long lines during peak hours.
Travelers, teenagers, mothers, fathers, clergy, construction workers, salesmen, hosts and CEOs alike traversed the same parking lot, into the store to purchase meat, milk, eggs, candy bars, bottled water, chewing gum and paper towels. People need places like this to survive. It is a part of life.
Change is a part of life.
For whatever reason, the corporates decided to make a change. The company didn’t go away. Major stores close certain outlets all the time, but they are always opening new ones in other places. Yet the people to whom that store was important and convenient, had to find other places to buy their bread. Those who depended on that business for a paycheck needed to look elsewhere for employment.
An empty shell now sits as a reminder of what was important to others.
If you’re lucky enough to know me J, you know that I like to crack jokes. Sometimes (especially while alone in my car) I will think of a great punch line, and wait for someone, somewhere to set me up. If the timing is right, I deliver the line and people smile and laugh (…better than melted butter).
Sometimes I have to wait years.
Once in a while, as all great comedians do ;), I will hear someone else’s joke & appropriate it (giving credit where appropriate, of course) for my own use.
Several years ago, we had a birthday party for one of our kids at the house, family and friends all in attendance. When the party was winding down, my aunt Mary was packing up to leave. I remember my mom out on the front porch saying goodbye to her sister and telling her to “drive safely.”
My aunt Mary replied quickly and as a matter of fact, “I will do no such thing!” …As if you would have to remind her to be safe.
I thought that was a hilarious and perfect response to that request.
Over the years I have used that anytime someone tells me to drive safe(ly). If you’ve heard me say it, you now know where I got it.
She has always had a great sense of humor, and more importantly (to me anyway), a sense of humor that is akin to my own. Her laugh is unique and unmistakable. A laugh that would not let you forget she was nearby, and a pleasant addition to any family get together.
When I was young, I remember her being around a lot. A tight family bond brought us together often.
-People will repeat good stories. I know I do.
Well into my adult years, Mary would tell a story about me when I was just barely a toddler.
She can probably provide more detail since I absolutely do not remember this:
‘I asked him if he could bring [some object] to me. He went over and tried to pick it up. He couldn’t & he turned to me & put his hands out and said, “Cank, heffy!”’ (Can’t, heavy)
She thought that was the funniest thing & I enjoyed hearing it even if I don’t remember.
A life lesson; sometimes things are heavy. Sometimes there is rain.
It was time to go, so I started my car & drove out of the grocery store parking lot & headed up the street, not much more than a mile.
My parents, along with aunt Anita and uncle Ed were getting out of their car when I arrived at the house.
We were greeted at the door by another uncle. Richard.
“Come on in.”
It had been a couple years since I had been inside this house, but it looked familiar and sparked nostalgia.
Quiet and cool.
Pleasantries were exchanged and Richard disappeared into the back of the house.
“She is ready for you.”
We made our way back.
She lay on a hospital bed positioned at the foot of what was once her normal bed. Bottles of prescription medicine and a plastic cup filled with water (complete with a straw) on the overbed table used to serve patients meals, beside her cradle. A petite dog lies curled by her side.
A body preparing to evict it’s resident, and left to exist as an empty shell.
Frail but happy; eyes big like a cat’s, as to soak up as much visual information she could.
She was happy to see us, but especially me because this was my first visit since hearing the news.
I had seen her on Thanksgiving before the diagnosis and she was as spry and happy as always.
I was not shocked (at least that’s what I was selling). I’ve seen it before. I knew what to expect.
She told stories.
We teared up & she admonished us (“no crying!”).
Her energy waned and she sent us home.
“I will see you again soon.”
[An invitation to come back next weekend?]
She paused a moment.
“But not TOO soon!”
We knew what she meant.
A wonderful woman with a heart of gold; she experienced and LIVED life, pushing through the rain and dancing in the sun. She tended to her children, nourishing them in body and mind and protected them as a lioness watches over her cubs.
She gave to those in need and never wandered from her faith.
Mary, they know who you are because you loved.
It was 1947:
She was born a Norwegian girl to Pastor Norman O. and Veda Dversdall in Portland, Oregon.
We are your family and we love you.
We will see you again where nothing is heffy, there is no rain, and the Son always shines.
-Christopher Geach (Nephew)