Entirely too much time had passed since I visited the mother of my childhood friend. I looked at the diminutive woman seated across from me and marveled that at eighty-four years old, her unlined face showed not a trace of sorrow or sadness. Her smile was wide, her eyes brighter than mine, her laughter a violin lightly plucking the strings of my heart.
“I remember the day we first laid eyes on you,” she said, as a mischievous glint appeared in her old eyes. Thus began a story told and retold for most of my life, yet one I’ve never tired of hearing.
“Your family had just moved to town.” She grinned. “But we hadn’t met. My children were in the backyard playing when all of a sudden Dickie let out a terrible scream. Like to scared me to death.” She looked at me, shook her head and in a pretty good imitation of two-year-old Dickie said, “Huh hit me on my head wit’ the cat!”
Contrite even after so many years, I felt the color of embarrassment slowly crawl up my face. “Law, I looked up to where the child was pointing and saw you for the first time ever. When I asked who you were and where you had come from, you wouldn’t say. And the other kids said you just wandered up.”
She cocked her head to the side and pursed her lips into a tight smile. “I was trying to figure out what I should do with you when I saw a lady walking toward the house. It was your mama looking for you. Child, you were just a baby, but you crossed that big street all by yourself ‘cause you wanted some playmates.”
I was three-years-old at the time and independent to a fault. From what I’ve been told, it would not be the last time I wandered off from the home fires. “So how come I hit Dickie with that mechanical cat I’ve been hearing about all these years?”
She shook her head. “Who knows? You had hold of it. He wanted it but you weren’t about to give it to him. That was the day you and Peggy began your life-long friendship and your mama, bless her heart, became my dear friend that very same day.”
That beautiful lady sighed contentedly and shifted slightly in her straight-back chair, a necessity since her recent lumbar surgery. The almost imperceptible movement was as close as she would come to a complaint of any kind.
We spoke of family, both hers and mine. We talked of my grandchildren and hers and her great-grands. She dug out a shoebox full of wedding pictures and babies born to people I had yet to meet. She told me how happy she was living at The Home, where a screen door opened wide anytime there was a nice cross-breeze.
We didn’t talk about Peggy, my first friend, gone now over ten years. The pain was too raw for us both. My gaze drifted from time to time to Peggy’s picture, the very one that sits atop my desk at home, but still,
neither of us broached the subject. Instead, I asked about Peggy’s youngest son, the boy I had known since the day he was born.
She laughed. “That boy will never change. Why, he could tee-tee on your foot and make you believe it was raining.” She laughed again. “But if you say you like it, he’ll yank the shirt off his back and give it to
you. Then he’ll hug you so hard you’ll beg for mercy.”
So much like his mother, I thought as I drew in a breath. “He was in Seattle with Peggy and me when she went for the bone marrow transplant,” I said. “That boy was so concerned about his mother. We all were.”
My other mother looked down quickly and I feared I’d opened a wound not yet healed and was immediately remorseful. She looked up at me and for a moment, we shared the depth of our sorrow and our need for closure.
“My Peggy was such a brave girl. She so hated having to give up but she taught us all a thing or two about courage, didn’t we?”
I caught my breath again and held it inside. I didn’t want to cry in front of this stalwart woman who had buried a son, a daughter, a husband. Who only three years before had survived the incredibly invasive Whipple Procedure for pancreatic cancer, who smiled at and spoke to every person she met while pushing her walker down the narrow hallway of The Home. I knew precisely from whom Peggy had learned about courage.
Stooping down, I gave her an awkward hug and a light kiss on her rose-petal cheek. “I’ll come back to see you another time,” I said.
“Oh good. That will give us a chance to do some more catching up,” she replied.
I nodded but my heart said there would probably not be another time for the two of us.
Only after her door was closed behind me did I allow tears to bathe my sad, sad soul.
Editor's Note: Cappy Hall Rearick is a humor columnist for the Lowcountry Sun in Charleston, South Carolina. She is the author of seven published books. Visit her at www.simplysoutherncappy.com.