Just call

“Just call,” the Cowboy and I told a friend of ours the other day. She was sad, lonely and wasn’t sure what she could do about it.

“If you want company, if you want to go somewhere, if you want to go visit your kids,” I asked her, “Do they know? You’ve got to let them or us or someone know. And, if you need anything, you need to call us, we’re happy to come by and we want to help.”

That was one of the days we had gone by with a home cooked meal over the holidays. This morning, we were thinking we should go check on her, wish her a happy new year and had planned to make her cookies. Ironically, she called before we even got the cookies in the oven today to check on us and just talk.

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This friend of ours.. she is 94-years-old and still lives alone. It’s where she wants to be – still living in the house where she was born in, that has been in her family for generations. But she is limited as to who she sees and what she is able to do, without the help of family or a friend. And few apparently came to visit with her or take her anywhere around the holidays. She was absolutely depressed about it.

She reminds me of one of my neighbors back in Madison. And of my grandmother a bit. And I hate more than anything that anyone ever feel alone and helpless to do anything about it. I know I certainly don’t want to be if I reach a ripe old age and still have my health and wits about me.

I may be off here – but based on the experiences I’ve had being very close to my own grandmother, making sure she and I did something every week when she was still alive and seeing some of the same sadness in her over the years as well as in countless neighbors, friends and even in my own family, some advice for those feeling alone:

  • If you’re lonely, call someone and tell them.
  • If you want to go somewhere, make plans to go.
  • If you need something, ask.
  • Don’t feel like a burden doing any of these things. Most likely you never are. But if you ever sincerely feel that way after being clear having others around would mean  a lot to you, chances are someone else who might like your company more than the person you’re seeking it from.
  • Enjoy public transit. Make plans to go somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. What are you waiting for?
  • Get yourself a laptop. Have someone tutor you in a few basics of something like Facebook and link up with your kids and grandkids who are miles and states away. They may want to talk with you but you have to be willing to learn their lingo as much as they need to remember how to use yours – picking up a phone, dialing and actually talking ‘in person’ isn’t as common anymore as one might think. Have someone tutor you as well in what online scams look like so that you don’t fall prey to anything that’ll hurt you financially or otherwise while you’re at it.
  • Take an art class.
  • Learn a foreign language and travel.
  • Plan a gathering at your home and invite your neighbors, allow them into your life, don’t just assume no one cares because they don’t automatically stop by.
  • Try and remember what it was like to have a young family. Everyone is always going somewhere and has something to do, someone to take care of. They’re busy. And they usually think of you late at night after the hustle and bustle has died down in their homes when it’s too late to call. While they may email, you don’t have a computer. Communication fails. But not because they’re not thinking of you.

If I’m totally off track on any of the above, forgive me. I’m not an expert. I just have a heart and hate to see you sit home alone talking to no one but a tv all day when someone would love to get your call.

Call. Get out. Ask. Enjoy life while you can and invite others along for the ride.

For the rest of us, perhaps we might all do a better job to think more often about our family and neighbors. I know I need to. I’m as guilty as anyone of letting too many days go by without a call to my dad or other family. (Dad and I are way better now that he’s got a cell phone and has learned to text!) There’s a lot to learn from spending time with someone who’s lived a long, good life. We should consider ourselves the lucky ones.

Off to deliver cookies.

Best Friends Mom …

I was five, I think when we moved into the house that I eventually grew up in..

I knew there were some other kids in the neighborhood .. and my brother and I were excited to explore.  The neighborhood.  New friends.  The woods behind our house.  The rope swing over the pond.  The sewer treatment plant (that at the time, didn’t have a fence around it).  Disgusting, I know.  But at that age, the dirtier, tougher and grosser we could be it seemed, the better.

We had a blast.  It was small town living at its best.

Growing up, I would almost always choose hanging out with the boys versus just about                                                                                                                                    any girls.  I don’t ever remember anything different.  In part, because there were just fewer girls.  But I wanted to play football or baseball, golf, run and jump and build forts and climb trees, bike everywhere I could and go into that one old house we all thought was haunted and our parents told us never to approach.  Not just walk by and wonder.  There was no playing dolls.  In fact I still remember having to apologize to a girl in the neighborhood we first lived in because I ripped the head off one of her dolls.  I’m not sure I meant to, it just happened.  I think.  I had little interest to sit around and watch tv.  Or be giggly and put on make up and talk about boys.  No thank you.  Not at that time.

And the one girl who lived just a few doors up the street, closest to my age, felt exactly the same.

In getting to be fast, best of friends with Amy ..

I also became very close to her family.

Even her brother who used to site me in the eye of his slingshot, chase me home, hide in the woods knowing I was heading home to scare the bajeezus out of me, lock me out of their house if he knew I was coming or once I got in, not let me leave.  And then find a way to put his underwear over my head.

Perhaps I got close to their mom, Peggy, because she felt terrible for me and it was out of pity over all of that.

But I’m pretty sure it wasn’t.  Peggy was just kind of, like some of the others I have mentioned the past couple days .. mom to all who knew her.  The door was always open.  Food or a meal to be shared.  Drinks in the cooler.  There was always time for a late night chat.  A hug.  A phone call.  A walk around the block.  An invitation to join whatever it was the family was doing.  Always.  I loved her and still do so much that at times, I believe my own mother felt very slighted.  Because Peggy was in many ways to me a resource I wasn’t sure how to completely find in my own mom.  Someone I could talk to about anything.  Not feel I was revealing too much or be judged.  Or who would ground me for any of it.  There was just always sage advice.  A kleenex.  Understanding.  Empathy.  Love.  Laughter.

And Cheetos.  There was always great junk food in the cupboard up the street .. stuff we rarely had at home.  (A tradition much to my daughter’s dismay I now carry on.  Very little junk food ever in house.)

I would usually stay to a point where – we knew the phone would ring.  And when it did, we would all look at each other and say, ‘my mom’, and chuckle.  Sure enough, my mother would be on the other end of the line, when she could have shouted up the street, saying .. “Ten minutes, honey.  You need to be home in ten minutes.”

I hated leaving, always.  And still do.

Peggy and her beautiful family have always made me feel at home and been home to me as much as I have a home anywhere.

And because my parents sold our home years ago .. when I get back to my hometown, which isn’t often enough ..

Main Street in our small town

I find myself mindlessly, always pulling into their drive.

………………..

So much has happened recently I want to write more about but I don’t want to say too much.  What I do want you to know is the difference you have made in my life.  My time here.  That I am reminded everyday of the importance of time together and family and good health and paying forward so many blessings like time together and laughter, a door always open and so much love to be shared..

I love you dearly.  So many do.

I think I may go today and buy Cheetos for the neighborhood …