August 25, 2009

The Friendship Pin

Not too long ago, I cleaned out my jewelry box. Tucked in amongst my pins, I found an almost forgotten gift from an almost forgotten friend.

Years ago, when I was working at the grocery store, one of our baggers was a retired gentleman we called Rudy. He was from Switzerland and had spent his working life as a janitor at a local high school. When age forced his retirement, he came to our store to pack bags. Rudy was a character. His English was barely intelligible. His accent thick German. We could understand "Ya Ya" and "Okey Dokey" from Rudy. Everything else was gibberish.

His wife was a little bird of a woman and she would ride the bus to meet him at the end of his shift. She would shop for groceries and then check out while he packed them, punched the time clock, and they caught the bus home. Rudy and Mrs. Rudy, as we called her, were the sweetest lovebirds. I would struggle to understand them every time they came in the store because I was sure their story was interesting. The only details I ever learned was that they immigrated from Switzerland and had no children. The two of them came to this country alone and lived a modest life with their love binding them together.

Once, Mrs. Rudy couldn't come to meet Rudy at the store and called me to give him the message. Her and Rudy became my friends. I gave Rudy a ride home from work, and they lived in a tidy little house walking distance from the school where he had worked. I often wondered why their English never improved, but how much opportunity does a janitor get to socialize with people? They were their own little circle of love, so as long as they understood each other, I suppose it never mattered if anyone else did.

I remember one day, one of the people working at our store for the day spoke German, and Rudy's face lit up as he engaged in animated conversation with her. He really enjoyed speaking his native tongue and finally sharing his stories. The temp was the person who told me he and Mrs. Rudy had no children and were from Switzerland. When Mrs. Rudy would come in the store, she would always come to the office and visit with me. Most of the conversation was smiles and nods, as I wonder how much of what I said she understood, as I only understood about 50% of what she said.

After some time, Rudy began to call off sick from work. His health was failing. Nobody ever knew how old Rudy was, but he was much older than we ever imagined. Rudy finally quit one day, though he and Mrs. Rudy would still take the bus to our store to shop. They always would stop and visit for a few minutes. After a while, we didn't even see them shopping. I called their house once to check in, but then I felt like I was being invasive. One day, I answered the phone at the store to Mrs. Rudy's hysteria. Rudy had died.

I wish I could say I had gone to the funeral but all I did was gather money and arrange to have flowers sent. It didn't seem like it was that important at the time. About a month after Rudy died, Mrs. Rudy came in the store to shop. She came looking for me. I came out of my office and asked her to join me for a cup of coffee. As we sat sipping our coffee on a bench, she reached into her pocketbook. Wrapped in about 3 layers of tissues, she handed me something. She told me that Rudy gave her this when they were first married and I was always so nice the both of them that she wanted me to have it.

As I gingerly unwrapped the tissues, inside was a lovely gold and green floral pin. I insisted that I couldn't accept her gift, and she insisted that I must. She went on how I was the one of the only people who ever tried to understand her funny English. I took the pin and pinned it to my blouse that instant, and said, I would be proud to have such a lovely gift from such a dear friend. My eyes welled up with tears as my young smooth hand clutched Mrs. Rudy's wrinkled spotted hand.

I learned that the easiest language to understand is a genuine smile and honest concern. That overcomes any accent or barrier. When I found the pin from my friend, the story came rushing back. The pin that allowed me for the first and last time to understand Mrs. Rudy perfectly.

I wish I knew what happened to Mrs. Rudy. I never saw her much after that. I would like to say I did so much more for her, but I didn't. However, she taught me the importance of listening to everyone. You never know the stories they have to tell. You never know the opportunity that may be facing you. I may have missed some, but at least I caught some others

August 19, 2009

If Life were like a DVR

...(this is rerun of something I wrote about a year ago, but feels timeless)...

This morning, my daughter and I viewed a show we had recorded on the DVR. We were too tired to watch it the other night, but it was there for our convenience this morning. The DVR is a pretty amazing feature. You can rewind when you miss something, your own personal instant replay. Or you can fast forward past commercials or pause it. You can set the speed of life as you wish.

There are a few things in my life I would watch over and over. Pieces I really like. I would pause at the moment I first kissed my future husband. We were so young and naive. That kiss... I would pause there.

I would pause at the day I held both our babies for the first time. Squirming, puffy little bundles. Putting my finger against their foot and discovering their foot was the same length. I only need to look at my finger today to see how much they have grown.

I would pause the last time I saw my grandfather or grandmother alive. I would smell them. Hug them, and not assume I would see them again soon. I would cherish what was our last moment. They were my heroes. And even almost 95 years of life from each of them wasn't enough for me.

I would pause at the day we moved away from our hometown. Wait, I did pause that day. I walked around an empty house hearing my footsteps echo. I was alone, the kids safely at grandma's, my husband had already moved. Our worldly goods in the truck outside the house. I walked around kissing the walls, thanking the house for the memories. Promising to make good ones in the new home. Yes, I kissed the walls. I hugged the fireplace and I did pretend snow angels on the carpet. Wait. Where is that fast forward? This is getting embarrassing.

Are there any moments in your life you would pause, if you could?

August 12, 2009

Latex Allergy Awareness

My daughter has a severe latex allergy. I am posting this blog today because for the 4th time this summer, she was unable to eat at an event due to the food being handled with latex gloves. She completed two separate 5Ks and couldn't eat at the buffet after, she couldn't eat at a clubhouse barbeque party, and today couldn't eat the sandwiches at her band luncheon. That is just this summer.

Her allergy causes her to swell horribly, like a beesting sort of reaction. We prefer not to have that happen to her throat after she ate something handled with latex. She gets hives when she wears clothing with certain kinds of elastic, she spent an evening after Trick or Treating not eating candy but popping Benedryl. Someone had handed out candy with gloves on.

She went to a Red Cross babysitting class and her station had a pair of latex gloves. Even though they removed the gloves after she told them of her allergy, the powder still was in the area. Her eyes swelled shut when she touched them after handling the practice doll.

She has to avoid balloon parties and be careful what sort of bandages she uses on a cut. She had a visitor to the school bring balloons in a secret grab bag for the kids, it resulted in an afternoon in the nurse's office, just from touching it.

I am not trying to be a drama queen, but rather bring a level of awareness to my readers and hopefully pass this post along. Allergies like this are often progressive so we do what we can to avoid contact, but it seems to be everywhere. Many many common items contain latex and most people think it's just an itchy reaction. For my daughter and many others, it is much more serious.

In short, very few people are aware of this allergy and often times, think they are being germ conscious, when in fact they could trigger a life threatening (thank goodness not yet, her breathing has never been affected) allergy.


August 11, 2009

Wildest Horses

This summer, like the past 10+, our family and another (completely compatible best friend) family loaded our respective family hauling vehicles to the hilt and drove East. We even remembered the children, because this was the first year the oldest was old enough to babysit so the adults could go to a nice dinner alone.

It's the ultimate in suburban escape. Take everything we can haul 500 miles away and bend the environment to meet our needs. Crank up the air conditioning and carry that everything we hauled to the beach. In the past, we owned SUVs and would drive up to the 4 wheel drive beach towards the Virginia line. We ate picnics and shared our space with the wild horses. They flaunted their freedom in the most nonchalant way.

I wrote this tribute to them about 10 years ago.

Wild Horses

Wind blown manes, eyes wild with passion
They gallop.
Waves churn as they walk along the ocean.
The sand, their road.
The dunes, their home.
This is their domain.

Sea meets the land,
Sun meets the earth.
Horses, wild and free,
Without the sad look
In their eyes
Of a domesticated horse.

The legend states,
A man once tried to tame a wild horse.
He lassoed her and took her to his stable.
She missed her sea and sand.
The hay was not the dunes.
The air was dank and stale in his stable.
She couldn't breathe.

Homesick, she missed her friends
who galloped with her.
The horses here didn't understand,
For they had never known.
Never seen the sunrise on the ocean,
Or a starlit night on the beach.

She tried to tell them,
But they only knew of bridles and
Walking in circles.
Saddles on their backs,
Blinders on their eyes.
They don't know.

The wild horse tried to fit in,
But each night,when the day was done,
She would sleep and dream.
Dream of her home by the sea.
One morning the man came to his stable,
His wild horse didn't wake up.

She was smiling in her sleep.

The past few years, development has encroached on the Wild Horse Area. We work harder and harder to find them. Last year, we rented Jeeps for way too much money with a guaranteed map to find the Wild Horses. We found one who looked like he may have been part of a scam to fool the stupid tourists. "TAKE YOUR PICTURE OF A WILD HORSE" sorta thing.

This year, we never even drove up there. We admitted defeat. We admitted that the wild horses were no more likely to find us than we them. We drove them further inland, we stole their beach, their sea, their dunes.

But I remember, I remember the day a wild horse walked up to me at the side of my SUV and whispered, "Does that thing really have more horse power than me?"

I winked at her and whispered back, "Never."


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