Archive for February, 2012

The Right Thing

February 18, 2012

Yesterday, which started out wet and gloomy, I was faced with a dilemma. Go to see old friends, as planned, for a nice luncheon and creative chatter, or head to a memorial service. The service was for a woman, W., who was one week shy of 96. We knew each other because she lived next door to me when I had my first home in RI, in a sort of run down shabby neighborhood populated with pit bulls, children, and broken cars. She lived in the house next door with her daughter, J., and J.’s children, and many stray cats.
W. was home a lot and I lived alone in this big Victorian house with renters who occupied the first floor. I knew from the day I moved in the J. and W. would keep an eye out for me. W. was quiet but not weak, not a stereo-typical elderly woman. I have actually never met a stereo- typical elderly woman. Usually when you live a long time you have seen a lot, done a lot, lived a lot. If you scratch the surface you will almost always find something underneath, and underneath that. I didn’t scratch much but I was happy to know W. was there, happy to share cups of tea and cat stories.
I knew I could have gone to see my old friends and enjoy my nice lunch and not be missed at W.’s service. But I decided to go to the cemetery. At first I went more because it seemed like the right thing to do, but as I was hugged by J. and surrounded by the now grown children and grandchildren I felt glad to be at the chapel. A few people got up to speak and soon enough all of us were quietly crying.
Later in the afternoon I visited J. and looked at my old house, which is falling apart. That tiny dead end street always had potential but aside from J. and maybe one other homeowner the people who have moved in and out haven’t been the sort to be able to take care of property, and in some cases they just didn’t care. But J. is a trooper and I talked to her for a long time. She gave me coffee in a styrofoam cup and shared more W. stories and I felt again that I had made the right choice. It wasn’t that it was the right thing. Either choice would have been right in their own way. But I just felt like I needed a dose of W., a dose of someone who was feisty, funny, kind, smart, strong, and generous.
I am so beaten down every day by politics. The G.O.P. seems to have been taken over by a particularly nasty group of cruel zealots who can’t imagine being hungry, being overwhelmed with life, needing to make difficult choices, or even just wanting to marry someone that their peers may not approve of. This crop of ultra right men seem to have taken the worst of history as their role models, and left out all the stuff that was meant to balance the need for austerity against the need to give people a helping hand. There is no yin and yang. So, I guess I needed to be reminded of someone like W., who I really can never remember raising her voice, but who somehow managed to raise a family as a single parent, and then care for generations of children whose parents had to work. She had a desk with crayons in the drawers, and coloring books. She had an old car named Betsey which she used to haul her children and grandchildren to Red Sox games. She was an inspiration who would have been mortified to have been thought of as inspiring. But she inspired me and I am so glad I had the chance to remember her.
I missed seeing my friends, but I can make a plan to visit them another time. I needed that last shot of W. to balance my insides, because I have also gotten kind of mean and one sided. After spending time with W.’s family, I felt a little more upright. The sun came out and warmed the air, and it was a beautiful day.