Friday, July 31, 2009

A Most Important Thing

I've been very derelict here for several weeks now and behind in posting things as a result for blogger Shelley Tucker's "Only the Good Friday". If you aren't familiar with this, click on the above link to her place and learn how you too can participate in this event.

Yesterday, was the day for the monthly lunch I share with four, sometimes five, girlfriends from my long-ago school days. Once in a while, we get a couple more school friends who come back to the area to visit and join us for this relaxed time for those of us regulars.

And, yesterday there were five of us from our class plus, one member brought her older sister along too since it just happened to be her birthday and also, because she was only two years ahead of us in school so we all know her quite well too.

I know I've mentioned on numerous other occasions here about those of us who always try to attend this lunch but for today -bear with me as I go down that list again.

Three of us in this group grew up side by side and still live fairly close to each other. Kate -who is my "oldest" friend, having been my first non-family friend and peer -lived two doors from me as children and today, she still lives two doors down from me except she is on the other side of our street now. She and I have been friends for at least 62 years, maybe even 63 -not quite sure exactly how old we were when we first met. And Rose and her family moved into the house between Kate's home and mine the summer between first and second grade so we three then have been best of friends for 58 years now. Rose and her husband -also a classmate of ours -live about two miles from Kate and me today. Linda and Carol -the other two of our base group, became friends with us when we entered 7th grade so that means the five of us then have been good friends for 52 years now. Linda lives about 12 miles from us and Carol lives over on the other side of the mountain -about 37 miles away in State College. But that's still not very far away from home.

And Carol's husband grew up two doors up the street from my home so Kate and I have known him too for virtually all our lives as well -although he is two years older than us. Eddie has always been a great guy -a fun kid when we were youngsters and he's still the same today in so many ways too as he was way back then.

One of the nicest things too about growing up in a small area like this is, attending small schools too like we did, is that quite often these people who were friends for so many years also become somewhat entangled via a marriage here and there and some of us now share relatives too. Rose's great-niece for example was married to my ex-brother-in-law so my nieces and nephew (and great-nieces and nephews too then) are her nieces and nephews as well. That, plus the fact that my kids were also very close when they grew up to Rose's parents as well as to Kate's parents -calling them Grammy and Pap Little or "LIttle Grandma: and "Little Grandpa" with respect to Kate's parents too. And then through Carol being married to our former neighbor and good friend, Ed, whose late cousin was married to Rose's youngest sister -well, in many ways, we are kind of like one big old family, of sorts, I guess.

As always happens at these gatherings, we talk about our families and events -big and small -within our lives. Today, we got on the topic of pets and if we have dogs, cats or both now and if we had pets as kids too. Which then led to talking about how those pets we had as children or adults or still have -affected us when we lost a pet.

I commented then about how when we were growing up the norm around here if something happened to an animal you had, that very rarely would anyone take that animal to the vet but instead either some strong, stalwart family member or neighbor would merely take the animal and shoot it. I know that sounds extremely callous to get rid of an injured or sick pet to many but 50 years ago here, that was generally the way these things were handled.

Except for me -with my pets -and this I think now probably was much to my Mom's chagrin as the dog I had when I was in high school may very possibly have been the only dog on our street ever to have seen the inside of the vet's office. When I think back on those days and when things happened to old Duffy -the mutt I had -if he got hurt or sick and it was something my Mom -who was after all a registered nurse -couldn't handle on her own to patch him up, I would insist we had to take him to the vet and I think I can see her in my mind's eye as she cringed each time this happened too.

And, I know why she reacted that way too today but back then, I had no concept at all of the economic factors that really were present in my life, in her life then. There was no way I would consider having a neighbor take care of the dog and shoot him and in good conscience, my Mom couldn't refuse either then to take him to the vet for treatment.

One comment led to another and then it came to burial or cremation of pets and such and I told about a kitten my kids had 20 years ago and that kitten had the misfortune of escaping the house, running out onto the street and was hit by a car. As my son carried the kitten into the house and gently laid it on the sofa, sobbing over it all the while, as was younger daughter, Mandy, too (and truth be told, so was I) I knew that they would expect me to take the kitten to the vet to see if anything could be done for it. Which we did.

Unfortunately, the vet determined the kitten's spine was broken and it was paralyzed so his recommendation was that it be put down. And so, we cried some more over the kitten, said our goodbyes to "Jellybean" and left. The vet also said his office would have the kitten cremated so we needn't worry about having to bury it then.

The receptionist gave me the bill for the services rendered and I was charged $63.00 for this. Now, $63 may not seem like much to many people reading this I suppose, but for me -just as the vet bills had been for my Mom when things happened to my beloved dog, Duffy, that was a lot of money to shell out at the time but I managed to cover the check.

However, about a month or so later, I received a letter in the mail from some pet organization or other thanking me for the donation of $30 I had made in memory of our kitten, Jellybean.

What the heck? I couldn't figure this out at all initially until, after reading the letter a bit further, it seems that of the $63 I was charged to have the kitten put out of it's misery and all, that the vet then donated $30 of that to this organization as being from us in memory of that kitten.

And you know as I read that letter, I was really angry -ok, I was livid! Not that I objected to doing something like that if I'd actually had the funds available to do that but because it was something that was actually forced on me and that $30 at that time with my budget had lots of other places that it could have been used!

As we talked about how we'd dealt with pets back then and stuff like that, I had mentioned too that back then, I was considered the oddball of the neighborhood because of my insistence on making my Mom take our dog to the vet -among other things too.

To which, friend Rose quipped to me, "So, you recognized way back then that you were the odd one of the neighborhood, huh?" Yeah, that I did!

And in many respects, I was truly the odd man out back then.

I was the one who was an only child whereas Rose was one of 13 children; Kate, one of five. They envied me not having to share clothes, toys, getting all the attention in the house from my Mom, from my grandparents and they both thought my life was the gravy train they had dreams about. Meanwhile, I thought their lives were absolutely perfect as they each had that commodity I not just dreamed about but prayed for on a daily basis and asked Santa for every year for Christmas (until I finally figured out that was never gonna happen) and that was for the brother or sister I never had that they had in abundance!

We laugh over that now -about how lucky they felt I was and how I felt they were the lucky ones but today, they all know and realize too that they were indeed the lucky ones back then.

I was also the wallflower friend while the rest of those I ran around with were much more the social butterflys -going to dances and actually being asked to dance while I stood by or sat and watched. Or they dated and I stayed home and read, book after book after book. That part of the socialization process was one that never fully came to visit me and be part of my experiences.

And, I wonder and worry today -with Maya and Kurtis especially -if they too will have problems as they grow up with things like that -dances, dating, acceptance? I hope things -groundwork, you could say maybe -will have been laid for them by those of us who care for them, who are trying to nurture them today that they will have the opportunity to know and learn and grow by being able to be accepted and experience and enjoy those things that I missed.

We talked, joked -Mandy called the restaurant to see if I was still there and to request that I stop on the way home and pick up a plunger for the bathroom as the commode was plugged again and the plunger we had was broken, she said. "How's that for a topic of conversation you can take back to the table to your friends, Mom? And you can tell them it was your granddaughter who plugged it -again -too!" And from that phone call and my telling the others what Mandy had wanted, it turns out that some of them -or a family member of some there today -had gone through similar problems with a child same as we have now, frequently, with Maya as she regularly plugs the commode but not with toilet paper or some other unlikely object! I'll say no more on that subject, Okay?

And as the time passed and soon enough, it was time for us to part company again, we did what has become second nature now when we leave -we hug each other -long, strong and hard too! The kind of hugs my older daughter, Carrie, says are the kind that are worthwhile giving and getting; the kind where you know you've been hugged and you feel the warmth and yes, the love, that exists there between friends.

Carol's husband had come with her today and while she was lunching, he had gone to visit a cousin of us but when we were saying goodbye, he was there, standing behind us and watching.

I turned to Eddie and said if others in that place were watching us say our goodbyes, they probably think we're all relatives, come together and figure maybe we all live a couple hundred miles apart by the way we say goodbye.

Ed's comment to that was "That's because as we age, we realize more and more the value in the friendships we've had all our lives and the hugs mean that much more now than ever."

And yes, Eddie -I do believe you are so right there!

We come back together on the last Thursday of each month to share not just a meal and a little conversation but also, the love we have for one another.

Old friends, good friends, best of friends.

There's very little in life better than that, is there?


RuneE said...

One of the most important things about old friends is that you share the same memories. As you have shown here.

Sandi McBride said...

I love these get togethers you have Jeni...that's the greatest thing about having friends from an early age...I look forward to the time when you have so many at your table that you have to draw in extra chairs!!
Hugs and happy weekend...

Marguerite said...

Sounds like such a nice luncheon. Old friends are the best, but new ones are fun, too. Have a great weekend, Jeni!

... Paige said...

always nice to hear of the gathering.

my uncle would bring his sick/injured dogs to our house in the middle of the night for my daddy to take care of. my dad would fix it for him and uncle would leave clear conscience in hand for not having killed them. my uncle is an a$$!

Carol said...

Oh, Jeni...this was beautiful. You have so many blessings in your life. Nothing at all 'odd' about you, dearheart!! xoxoxox Carol

terri said...

Don't worry about Kurt and Maya and dances and such. Kids have it figured out so much better these days. Dances don't require a date. Kids go in groups, as friends; not always with a date. Even among my own kids, one is very social and went to dances with dates all through high school. One was never interested much in school dances or even hanging out with big groups of friends, much less dating. And the other is a social butterfly, but not much on dating either. And that's ok with me. Kids should have fun in high school and not worry about finding a boyfriend or girlfriend at such a young age.