Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Hydrangeas, Clocks and Piano Lessons

Think about one person who has been a constant source of value and encouragement in your life, even if from a distance.  Can you recall how that person became important to you?  I am thinking about one of those people right now, and I have been for some time.  I can’t remember the first time I met Nellie Rose, the mother of my Oldest Friend and Traveling Partner; even her name suggests the sweetness she endeared to me.  But I can almost remember the first time I stepped inside her home, up the steps to the back door, beyond the laundry room on the back of the house.  

The first impressions I had of her, though, were made by her flowers and her clocks. No one I knew had hydrangeas so I was in awe of the many bushes of the giant heads of blue, pink, and purples blossoms that grew effortlessly in her yard. And as far as clocks go, my father revered time pieces, so I was impressed she did as well.  I remember their asynchronous chiming, some weak, some strong.  I used to watch her pad around her cavernous house, starting in the ever-dark dining room, to wind them and adjust their hands to the correct time, each one just a few seconds off from the other.

My OFTP took piano lessons in those early days of our friendship so if I happened to go home with her on those days I would be alone with her mother until the lesson was over. It was awkward for me at first because I was always wary of adults, especially those who were not related to me, but she never gave me the option of timidity.

My friend was a late riser, and I an early one, like Nellie Rose.  We also shared a need for coffee in the morning, so when I slept over she and I spent some time alone in the early hours as well.  She sipped her coffee from a dainty china cup as she began preparations for lunch, the main meal of the day for her family. She was a talker and I was a listener, so our relationship was symbiotic in that respect.  Maybe our connection was born out of those few private hours over coffee and waiting on piano lessons.  Regardless, it wasn’t long before she was like a second mother to me. It was only fair since my mother considered my OFTP her fifth daughter.  I spent so much time in that gray house on Hall Avenue with a family that wasn’t mine that I seeped in somehow, slowly and tenaciously.  Like it or not, there I was, claiming them all as my own.  

Nellie Rose had a very open way of communicating and no subject was off limits.  To be honest I learned more about the ways of the world and the birds and the bees from her then I did from my own mother.  So, it isn’t surprising that in some ways I felt more open with her than I did my own, shy mother.  She was the one I knew I could turn to in times of emotional need without fear of reproach.  When my sister died, I called her, and at the sound of my voice she took over the conversation with soothing words of sympathy and comfort as I sat in my childhood room holding the receiver and listened and sobbed.

Now, as her time on this earth is winding down like her beloved clocks, I can’t help but remember her in this way; my comforter.  I’ve spent some time by her bed the past few days and looked into her half-closed eyes trying to find her. I teased her because that’s the way we were with each other.  I don’t allow myself to express sadness through my words, even though I feel it to my bones, because I think she can hear me even though she looks through me.  I can’t help but feel regret for all the years I could have made more effort to spend time with her, but I let the trivialities of life get in the way. I hate that about myself.

I know the pain her children are going to feel when she takes her last breath, and I feel for them. But I also know the bittersweet joy they will feel knowing she is released from her worn out body and Home with her Savior and reunited with the Love of Her Life.  I felt this same, albeit guilt-tinged, joy when my own mother passed because I knew she was tired and ready. Nellie Rose is tired, too.  I know because I’ve watched her struggle for sleep.

Godspeed, I prayed for my own mother years ago. Godspeed, I pray now for my other mother.  God, bless her tired soul.