Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Meeting Jack In The Rain

This was one of those rare mornings when I was up, awake, showered, dressed, dropped a kid at designated location, and managing to run errands....all before 10:00.  These kinds of mornings don't generally happen very often when you're a "non-morning" person, and quite honestly, it amuses me when I find myself being that productive.

On this rare productive morning, I stopped at a local grocery store to pick up a few things.  It wasn't even my "normal" store, but one that I drive by frequently.  While I was standing in the check-out lane, I noticed that it was exceptionally dark outside...and raining.

Is there anything more frustrating than trying to load groceries in your car when it's raining?  How about when it's pouring rain?  Having to walk out into the rain with your shopping cart and dodge the drivers who don't see you but are only focused on the empty parking spot straight ahead.  Or attempting to avoid the small lakes that are forming in the parking lot, or shielding yourself from the raindrops - which is just physically impossible.

I stood just inside the automatic doors contemplating getting stupidly wet or waiting it out.  Knowing that my other two monkey children were waiting for me at home, however, made my decision for me.  I pulled up the hood on my jacket and got ready for shower #2 of the day (If only I had brought my body wash and shower poof with me.)

"I picked the wrong time to walk to the store."

I looked to my left and there was an older, distinguished-looking gentleman, in shorts and a t-shirt without a jacket.  I smiled at his attempt at levity and we both rolled our eyes at the wall of water falling outside.

I don't know what caused me to react instantly, but I did.

"Sir, where did you walk from? Can I give you a ride there?"

This gentleman looked at me in disbelief.  Yep.  I had just offered a stranger a ride.  (My poor mother  is probably reading this in horror thinking she failed at giving me the "stranger danger" talk.)

"Would you mind? Really?"

No, I didn't mind.  It was pouring rain and there was some minor flooding going on in the streets.  We could have rolled our eyes together at the weather and I could have walked out with my groceries, and not have had another thought about this stranger.

But I didn't.  The ride was basically just across the street and down the block a bit, but far enough that anyone walking would have been completely soaked and their bag of groceries water-logged.  And for that short 5 minutes, I got to meet Jack, and learn just a little bit about him (he used to work for the post office downtown for 30 years until he retired 8 years ago).  We exchanged a short pleasant conversation this morning at a time of day when I'm normally not even functioning.

As I drove home I thought about this chance encounter with Jack, and I said a quick thank-you for the opportunity I had been given to meet this gentleman.  May we never become so self-absorbed in our own little smart-phone worlds, or fearful of the evils of the world, that we miss the chance to help a stranger truly in need.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Hug Good-Bye

When you are moved in such a way to write about an individual, their life and their character, it's a telling way to remember them when they're so important to you.  It speaks volumes, however, when more than one person will find a way to express themselves, writing in such a way that you desperately want the world to know the importance of these people in your world.  My brother already penned his tribute to this special couple and he wrote the words that I couldn't find myself at first within those early hours.  Today my heart is sad because I will miss this woman's smile, but the memories of her are sweet....

Yesterday morning, I received a phone call from my mom (ashamedly before I had even managed to get out of bed on a lazy Wednesday morning) and her words echoed in my still-foggy brain.

"June's gone.  She passed away last night."

Sweet June.

When I think of June, immediately I remember her husband, Jiggs.  (Because the names "Jiggs & June" always rolled off the tongue together naturally.) He passed away some time ago, and ever since then, it just seemed that a piece was missing.

I remember as a little girl, our family would spend time at their home - and I remember thinking it was such a great house that was set back deep in a wooded area, with a driveway that twisted and turned and seemed to go on forever.  My brother remembers our family visiting while the men would discuss church business, but I just remember visiting because we would be in the area, "Hey! Let's stop in and visit Jiggs & June!" (See, I told you the names together just flowed naturally off of the tongue.) Whatever the reason for the visit, my family was always welcomed into their home as friends.  Jiggs would greet you with an enormous smile, a strong handshake and a slap on the shoulder, and June would greet us with open arms and would always hug and kiss us goodbye.  Much like my very own grandmother, whom she happened to be best friends with.

I remember my birthday parties, kindergarten graduation, extended family Christmas, high school graduation celebrations, and my own wedding....all of them included June and Jiggs as part of our family just as they had included us in their home.

It was a natural fit.

June also played a fierce piano.  On more than one occasion we would hear her practicing for Sunday's service - the sound of her fingernails clicking on the ivory keyboard and the music flowing almost effortlessly as she perfected the choruses that would be sung that weekend.  She had a gift.

It was not all that long ago when my mom received a phone call while living in Texas that would eventually lead her back to June.  A short time later, I had my own reunion with June and was able to introduce my children to this special woman.  I had moved out of state almost 20 years ago, but I wanted my children to know what she meant to me, and to be able to meet her for themselves.  Time and illness had caught up to us, and to June I was now merely "Shirley's daughter."  She no longer remembered me, but yet she still welcomed me into her home with a smile.

We recently returned "home" for a visit to mom during our Spring Break, and I was able to stop and have a quick visit with June in the facility where she had been staying. It was a mere 10 minutes, and she no longer remembered me even as "Shirley's daughter."  But those few minutes I was able to sit with her, and hold her hand while I visited with her were a treasure.

And in typical June fashion, she hugged me as I said goodbye to her.