Posted in Whensday

Whensday

My son was telling me about one of the people he met during an online gaming session.  He said this kid was a friend of another kid he knew, which caused me to ask, “So, is this new kid like the old kid?  Because as I recall, the old kid is kind of a jerk, and you’re known by the company you keep … “

And that made me remember when I first heard that line.

I was perhaps eighteen.  I ran into my old boss one day while walking around the town I lived in, and we chatted and caught up a bit.  He told me he was surprised to see me as he’d read an article in the local paper about how a local girl had run off with the carnival and he figured it was me.  I was stunned.  “Me?!  Run off with the carnival?  Are you kidding?  You must be kidding!”

“Well, you’re known by the company you keep, and you were keeping company with carnies, as I recall.” 

“I was not!  I was keeping company with Mona, and Mona was keeping company with carnies!”

“As I was saying …”

I think it wasn’t until that moment that I finally understood the whole concept of that birds-of-a-feather thing.  I mean understood in my guts kind of way.  You can grasp concepts in your head, then eventually those concepts can settle the 18 inches down to your heart where you really feel them, but this one I felt in my gut, meaning I felt absolutely punched by it. 

I knew how people thought about Mona.  She was a rebel, a wild child, an out of control girl.  There are other, worse, words that people used.  But she was my friend (for some reason, but that’s another post) and I always stuck up for her because that’s what friends do.  I also had some misplaced sense that she needed me to look after her, to make sure she didn’t get herself into even worse trouble.  I’m not saying I was an angel or anything, but I wasn’t on Mona’s level of wild either. 

But people thought I was because I was her friend. 

Up until that day I ran into my boss, I assumed that people knew I wasn’t like Mona.  She’d lived in that town her whole life and people knew her.  I’d only lived there a couple years.  My boss was a Deputy Sheriff on his day job, he only owned the store were I worked as a secondary income.  His kids had gone to school with her most of their lives.  And he told me that if she’d applied for a job at his store, he wouldn’t have hired her.  He almost didn’t hire me because I was her friend. 

You’re known by the company you keep.

It had been some months between the time I left that job and the time I ran into my boss, and a lot had happened.  Namely, Mona and I had had a falling out, the kind that probably only seventeen year old girls can have.  She’d been living with me and my mother, step-father, and step-brother (sorry, can’t even try to say family anymore!) for a couple of years until our fallout and after that, I don’t know where she went.  I never renewed our friendship, although she and I did have one phone conversation a few years later.  I realized that whatever I thought there had been to our friendship, wasn’t.  We wouldn’t be friends if we met now, and we surely shouldn’t have been friends back then.  But, it’s hard to know that when you’re fourteen, the age I was when I met her. 

The age my son is now. 

I can only pass on the lessons I’ve learned, like my boss passed that one on to me.  It’s a good lesson!  I wish I’d learned it sooner! 

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Posted in Whensday

Whensday Weirdness

I don’t know why this memory popped into my head.  I guess I was trying to recall weird things that had happened to me.  Everyone’s had a weird thing, right?  Something strange, inexplicable. 

When I was in 6th grade, I attended a very small, private, Christian school in California.  It was the cheapest one my mother could find.  I’d been going there since 3rd grade, and because the school was so small, and I’d been there since the beginning, I knew almost everyone.  I loved my teachers, and my principal, and the ladies who worked in the office.  Even the handymen/janitors!  People were kind.

We had regular fire drills.  Well, I say regular, and they were to us, but they only happened like 2-3 times a school year.  The alarms would go off, and each class would march out single file to the edges of the parking lots that surrounded the building.  We’d wait a few minutes, talk with our friends, then go back in. 

One day though, we had a fire drill only a couple of weeks since the previous one.  We knew something was wrong as it was off schedule, and as we walked to our spots at the edge of the parking lot, we saw police cars and fire trucks also in the parking lot by the bathrooms, and also by the office.  We thought there was a real fire. 

My friends and I chattered.  What could have happened?  We were more than a little freaked out.  I went to our teacher and asked her if she knew what was happening, and of course she said she didn’t. 

Eventually we saw the fire trucks and police cars leave, and they let us go back to class, and the day went on.

At some point, my mother and I talked about the weirdness of that day.  I was not the kind of kid who shared things with my mother.  We were not close.  But somehow, that day came up in a conversation, and she asked me if I knew anyone who would call the school and play a prank.  I was more than a little confused!  Pretty much everyone I knew was in school with me, who would play a prank on the school?  What kind of prank?

She told me then that the principal had told her that someone had called the school and asked to speak to me.  The secretary, whose son was also in my class, told the person that I was in class and couldn’t be reached.  Then the person asked to speak to the principal, by name.  The principal happened to be in a meeting at the time, which the secretary told this person, at which point they asked again to speak to me.  Again the secretary told them I was in class and couldn’t be reached.  I know she offered to take their name and number so the principal could return their call when his meeting was finished.

Now that, in and of itself, is weird.  Who was the person?  The secretary said it was a male, but she couldn’t really tell how old they were.  Were they disguising their voice?  Why didn’t this person try to call me at home if they knew me?  Why would they call the school?  Bizarre.

But that’s not the weirdest part.

When the secretary told this person for the 2nd time that I could not be taken out of class, they told her that they’d placed bombs in the girls bathroom and would blow up the school if she didn’t get me to the phone. 

Hence the police cars and fire trucks.  But, of course, there weren’t any bombs, thank goodness!  Still, they had to have it checked out.

I still wonder who did that, and why.  I’ve always wondered if the person who did it would ever confess to me that it was them, if I still know them, if I ever knew them.  It could have been someone who found a copy of the school yearbook and just randomly picked me, for all I know. 

Weird.

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Posted in Whensday

Whensday

The signpost said “Guilt,” and even though I’d been down that road before, I went anyway.  I remembered when …

My husband asked, “How much do you think we should tip the moving guys?”

I blinked.  I gulped.  Guilt washed over me in waves.  “You’re supposed to tip moving guys?”4cbKy7Kpi

“Yeah, you didn’t know that?  Like pizza guys.”

More guilt, as a childhood memory slithered through my brain.  Suddenly, I had a fork-tipped tongue of memories sliming me, seemingly separate, yet connected at the tip.

“No, I didn’t know you were supposed to tip moving guys.  All my adult life I’ve always just had friends help with moving, except for once.  I had no idea you were supposed to tip people who did it professionally.”

I sent up silent apologies to the guys who helped me move after my divorce.  I had one day to get into the home I’d shared with my first husband, pack my stuff and get out.  I knew it was too big a job for my friend and me to handle alone and she suggested I call a moving company.  I called a few, got prices, and then scheduled one.  All day those guys helped me pack and then move.  I thought the price was the price – and it wasn’t cheap either.  More than $100 an hour for 3 guys seemed like a reasonable price to pay, though.  I had no idea moving men were supposed to get a tip, too.

I still blush with shame when I think about it, all these years later.

1344299231_waiter

I didn’t know about the tip.

Which caused me to remember …

When I was a little girl, I knew nearly every single neighbor on the street where my father lived.  Across the street from my bedroom window and two houses to the right, lived the Prims.  All the teenaged girls in the neighborhood, including my sister, couldn’t stand Mrs Prim.  Since I also knew all those teenaged girls – because most of them babysat me at one time or other – some of their distaste of her rubbed off on me.  The Prims were very fastidious.  They had matching cars.  Mrs Prim always wore her hair in a bun.  She had horn-rimmed glasses.  She had a short strand of pearls she wore around the base of her throat.  On Halloween, the Prims always made popcorn balls and brought the trick-or-treaters into their house for a spooky tour.  The Prims didn’t have children, but everyone knew they wanted kids because they had a nursery completely set up in anticipation.  I thought it was strange that they had twin beds in their bedroom.  Only kids had twin beds, not grown-ups!  And we knew they were grown-ups because when one of us kids asked, “How old are you?” Mrs Prim said with a smile, “I’m twenty-eight.”  So yeah, too old for kid beds.

The reason the teenaged girls didn’t like Mrs Prim was because she was nosey.  “Who was the boy that picked you up the other night? … Isn’t he a bit too old for you? … Aren’t you a bit young to be dating? … How many times have you gone out with him this week? … Are your parents okay with you dating that young man? … Do your parents know you’ve gone out with the same boy five times this month?”

You get the idea.

One of my babysitters, upon realizing that my bedroom window had a bird’s eye view to the Prim’s front door, had the idea to play a prank on them.  I listened in as she called and ordered a large pizza to be delivered, and then we waited with bated breath, watching from my darkened room for the delivery guy to appear.  When he showed up, the Prims stepped onto their porch, and we could see them shake their heads.  Then the delivery guy left, with the pizza.

k6574478My babysitter and I sat giggling and guffawing in my room over the whole thing.

I still blush with shame when I think about it, all these years later.

I didn’t know about the tip.

It was really more of a prank on the pizza delivery guy, and on the pizza restaurant, than it was a prank on the Prims.  The poor delivery guy, probably anticipating a big tip for a large pizza, only to be turned away.  I know my babysitter felt bad about it because months later she told me she felt guilty enough to go to the restaurant and give them the money they should have gotten, but I was still a kid and I had no idea pizza delivery guys got a tip.  My father always sent my sister to pick up a pizza at the restaurant, we never had one delivered.

Who knew tips could be so complicated?

Which reminds me, I need to get some cash to tip the UPS guy.

Have an awesome Wednesday!

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Posted in 2015 NaBloPoMo, 2015 Nano Poblano, Whensday

Whensday

I don’t remember his name.  I only met him once, before I went to his funeral.  He came into the store I managed, to apply for a job.  Most of his friends worked there, and they encouraged him to apply.  For reasons unknown to me, the owner didn’t hire him.  Many of his friends were also my friends.  At least, they were the kids I worked with on a daily basis and they felt like younger siblings in a lot of ways.  We often hung out in our off time, had parties, that sort of thing. 

So when their friend and classmate was killed in a motorcycle accident, they, as a group, asked me to go to the wake with them for moral support.  I was older, they said, and somehow that 2-3 year age difference translated – to them – into some kind of worldly wisdom I didn’t possess, not now and not at 19.  Heck, I’d never even been to a wake at a funeral home before.  But for them, I went. 

I realized later that I really wasn’t there for my friends at all.  They had other friends and classmates who were there as well for he was a popular young man, and they found support in their shared grief, a grief I didn’t share.  I was there for the woman who’d lost her husband and only child in less than 2 years, I just didn’t realize that at the time.  I watched her as I waited in the greeting line.  She’d shake hands with her son’s friends, weep, wipe her eyes, shake more hands, weep more, her shoulders quaking under the weight of her loss.  She had no one.  No loving and grieving husband with a shoulder to lean on.  No one even touched her, really, except for the handshakes.  She was trying so hard to be strong, to be a pillar, to not break down in front of her son’s friends, and not having a clue how to do that. 

When my turn came for a greeting, she looked at me questioningly.  “I didn’t know your son,” I began, “but I know many of his friends.”  She nodded and said, “Oh,” as though she understood.  “I’m so sorry,” I finished.  And then I hugged her. 

Something happened when I did that.  I don’t know what it was, but I know she felt it too, for she gasped, and I felt her body straighten as she hugged me back.  Then she gave me a squeeze and released me.  I felt it then, the unbearable heaviness of her grief, and I started to cy, while she had stopped.  She touched my cheek tenderly and said, “Thank you for that, for taking that.  I just need to get through this night, thank you.”  I nodded and then looked around for my friends, saw that they were all engaged in little groups, so I went back to my car where I sat weeping for at least an hour. 

A couple of my friends found me like that as they were leaving the wake.  They asked if I was okay and I told them I was.  I asked them how their friend’s mother was doing and they said she was okay, she’d somehow pulled herself together and was holding up all right.  I nodded, thanked them, and made the drive home.  I didn’t comprehend the how of it, but I did understand that somehow I had carried her grief for her, just for an evening, so she could get through it. 

I remembered that event because a few weeks ago a FaceBook friend shared a link to this article: Empath Traits: Signs Of A Highly Sensitive Person

Have you ever walked in a room and had a wave of negative energy wash over you?

Have you had a conversation with a stranger and could tell, without them saying a word about it, that they were deeply troubled or sad?

Do you ever feel so profoundly moved by something beautiful that you start to cry?

If any of these ring true for you, you might be an empath — a highly sensitive person who has a more heightened awareness to subtle stimuli.

If you are an empath, you’ve likely known for some time you are different from most people around you. You’ve probably been accused of being too sensitive or overly emotional your whole life. As a child, you may have had a hard time adjusting to new  situations. You may have cried easily, had unusually deep thoughts, or asked out-of-the-ordinary questions.

You may even believe there’s something wrong with you or that you have some kind of emotional disorder.

Empath Traits: Signs Of A Highly Sensitive Person

Yes.  Yes to all 22 statements in the article (and the intro too), except not so much on the last one – I don’t get bored very easily.  (And I’m only good at #9 when I don’t have an emotional investment in the person.)  The article helped a lot – especially in realizing that I’m really not that weird.   At least, not in regards to this.  Winking smile  I can’t control how I feel things, only how I react to them.  And at this point in my life, I have managed to learn how to control my responses to things a little better, just out of necessity.  Except for physical pain.  Pain practically requires the use of swear words, don’tcha know. 

The article also helped me understand why I’m so distant sometimes, or seem to wear masks sometimes.  I’m mentally creating buffer zones, as it were, to keep from feeling overwhelmed by situations, or people.  I’ve had a lot of criticism in the past for being too sensitive and I’ve learned to keep quiet about my feelings until I am comfortable with someone.  I used to wonder if being so sensitive was a blessing or a curse – often it seemed to be both.  Now I just think of it like … how some people can detect the scent of cyanide, and most cant.  It’s just a thing.  And it happens to be my thing, like the grey eyes or the formerly blonde hair.  I can feel people’s feelings. 

How about you?  Do you have some kind of ability that you didn’t understand before?

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Posted in Whensday

Whensday

I didn’t have time to write a post from scratch today as I had company over.  This post from my old blog popped in my head last night as I was drifting off to sleep, so I thought I’d re-post it here as a “Whensday” post.  It’s one of my favorite memories.  Smile

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Heart Alarm | The “Ness” in DarcNess 😉

 

image I’m awake.  I don’t know why.  No dream woke me, and I haven’t been asleep very long.

I listen, in the dark.  Husband sleeping peacefully beside me.  No sounds from the kid’s room.

No sounds from outside, like unruly neighbors or squealing tires.  Our place is pretty quiet and we generally don’t have anything like that here.  Besides, the windows are closed.

Nothing is running like the refrigerator or the air conditioner. 

“CRACK.”  Well, there’s the sound from the living room.  Don’t know what that is, still haven’t figured it out after months of hearing it, every night, around 4 or 5 in the morning.  Sounds almost like an angry leprechaun smacking the TV with his little shelaleigh.  Just a single sharp crack. 

Silence.

I wait, in the dark.  Should I get up?  I’m not groggy, but I’ve only had about 45 minutes of sleep.  And I don’t feel like getting up. 

So I wait.

And then it comes.  The boy, the one who has little concept of the meaning of “quietly” during the day, can walk on cat-feet at night.  I don’t even know he’s there until I feel the bed dip under his weight.

Then his head is snuggled on my shoulder, under my chin, as I wrap my arms around him like I did when he was a baby.

“I had a bad dream,” he whispered. 

“It’s okay now,” I whisper back.

“I know why God made the insects tiny,” he told me. 

“Why?”

“Because they’re a lot scarier when they’re huge,” he explained softly, so as not to wake up his dad.

Pearls of wisdom.

“I bet you’re right.  That makes perfect sense to me.”

He snuggled in tighter and I kissed his head.  My bundle of boy went back to sleep, safe in his mama’s arms.

And I knew what had woken me up. 

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Posted in Whensday

Whensday

A long long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, called The 70s, I once went to visit a friend from school.  It might have been one of those sleepover things that girls in my generation did so often, I can’t recall that part.  Other details of my visit have scarred my brain.

This friend, we’ll call her Laurie, was one of the richest kids in my class.  There were 2.  Kathy was the other, but Kathy lived further away so I didn’t go to her house as much.  Kathy’s father coincidentally owned the apartment complex I happened to live in, so, a bit of awkweird there.  Even more weird with Kathy was the day we both showed up to school wearing the same sweater.  I gotten it off the rack at the grocery store for $2, lol, so I knew where she’d gotten hers. 

Laurie wasn’t well liked in class because she was a … rhymes with rich.  Stuck up, arrogant, conceited, take your pick of adjectives.  Around 6th grade or so, a song called Rich Girl by Hall and Oates came out and we used to sing it to her.  I can’t say we were jealous – it was a private school and the other girls didn’t come from poor families.  I was the poorest one there, the only one living with a divorced parent, the only one living in an apartment, so if anyone was going to feel the sting of envy it would have been me.  But I didn’t feel anything like that.  No one did.  We just didn’t like her snotty behavior. 

Someone may have explained that to her, I don’t know, but she did seem to start making an effort to be nicer, and one of the ways she did that was to invite us to her house for sleepovers, one at a time.  She lived on a ranch on the outskirts of town, with chickens and roosters and other ranch-y animals, and horses.  She had horses!  Beautiful Arabian horses!  I was thrilled to be so close to the animals I loved so much.  Does any young girl not love horses?  I don’t think I’ve ever heard of one.

She wouldn’t let me ride her horse though.  It may have been a rule her parents laid out, I don’t know.  I do remember walking around the corral while she rode, waiting for a chance to pet her horse. 

All of a sudden something flew at me.  The rooster!  The one they called Big Red, because he stood about 3 feet high at his crown, which meant he was about waist high to me.  He started squawking and jumping on me, raking me with his claws  and trying to peck me to death.  He was a flurry of feathers and screeches and needless to say, I freaked out.

So, I did what any typical girl would do when freaked out.  I started screaming.  And I could scream in those days!  Movie scream queens had nothing on me! 

I was screaming at Laurie to do something, help me!  But all she did was sit there on her horse laughing at me.  I was being mauled by a chicken and she laughed.

Now fury mixed in with my terror, and I added something to my scream.  Something that had never crossed my lips before.

I cursed. 

I let loose with the worst curse word I knew.  I took the Lord’s name* in vain. 

I clapped my hand over my mouth in horror.  What had I done?  I went to a Christian school!  I wasn’t supposed to do anything like that!

Suddenly I had a bigger fear than the stupid rooster and I looked up to Heaven, waiting for the lightning to strike me dead where I stood.  It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the Living God!  I knew I was bound to die in a mass of horse manure and rooster feathers, a fitting end for a girl so horrible as to say that word.

Instead, what came flying at me at that point was a man.  Laurie’s father.  I thought he was going to kill me because of that awful word I’d said.  He was armed with a broom and I just knew he was going to beat me.  The Lord’s punishment.  I braced.

He hit the rooster.

Not my executioner.  My hero.

The rooster started doing backflips.  Over and over like some sort of colorful tumbleweed.  After about half a dozen of those, he started hobbling around like he was drunk, and I swear if a chicken could slur a cluck, that one did.  Apparently Laurie’s father had hit him in the head. 

After making sure I was okay, he went back inside.  If he’d heard me swear, he never mentioned it.

A few months later, when Laurie’s parents went on a month-long European vacation, they asked my mother to house sit for them, and watch over Laurie as well, who wasn’t going with them.  For that month, we were good friends. 

But not me and that rooster. When I went to get the mail, from their box at the end of a very long driveway, that stupid chicken would follow me.  I’d hear his little chicken feet clicking on the concrete.  If I stopped and turned to look at him, he’d stop, too, and look around, doing his best to look as nonchalant as a chicken could.  As soon as I’d start walking again, so did the rooster.  Clickclickclicketyclick.  I’d end up doing a run to the door, and he’d chase me.  I’d slam the door in his face and he’d wait there for a bit, seeing if I’d come back out again, before he’d give up and leave.

Stalked. 

By a rooster. 

Sometime after her parents came home, Laurie told me they’d given Big Red to a neighbor, and at some point his life ended.  I always hoped it was in a stewing pot.  Coq au vin!

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* As for the Lord’s name in vain thing, yes, I have a whole different view on that now.  Smile

 

Posted in Video, Whensday

Whensday

I am occasionally amazed at the way my mind jumps from one thing to another. 

A few days ago, My Beloved had a song go through his head, so he found it on YouTube and played it.  An oldie from our high school era.  We listened, sang along, had a little fun, the end. 

But not.

The song went through my head a couple days later and it brought to mind one of my old high school girlfriends.  We became friends because we lived a couple blocks apart and shared a bus route.  At one point, she had a boyfriend who was sort of a bad seed – well, pretty much all her boyfriends were a bad seed – she liked the bad boys.  Anyway, this particular boyfriend had gotten himself into trouble and was being sent to juvenile hall.  Before he left they played the song that My Beloved just played – hence the connection.

But thinking about my old high school friend and her attraction to the bad boys brought up another memory of her.  She was pretty, and tall, and looked MUCH older than she was.  Drinking age around these parts was 18 at the time and she never got carded at the local drinking establishments.  She easily passed for 19 or 20.  She was just 14, a couple months younger than me, actually.

She’d met a man the ripe old age of 27.  He believed her when she told him she was 19.  After a couple weeks of dating him, she decided she wasn’t interested anymore and figured the best way to break up with him was to tell him how old she really was.

And I was her designated witness.

I will never forget the look on his face when she told him.  At first, he didn’t believe her, he thought she was playing some kind of sick joke.  But there I was, confirming that no, we were freshmen in high school, not college, and she really was just half his age.

I used to be in track and I’d never seen a man run so fast in my life.  The poor guy was totally freaked out and I think he thought the cops were going to come pick him up any second.  She was “’bait” after all, and as we used to say, “15’ll get you 20.”** 

I felt bad for him then, even though at the time I found the whole thing a little on the comical side.  All these years later, and the memory has lost whatever humor it might have had and makes me wish I could have slapped both of them upside the head.  Her for her deceit and him for his lack of sense, but mostly her. 

All that from one song!   Crazy, huh?

MaySigSmall

 

** “’bait” as in “jailbait, and messing around with a minor girl who was only 15 would get you 20 years in jail.  I don’t even know now if that was really true, but that’s what we believed.  

Posted in 2018 NanoPoblano

#NanoPoblano2018 Day 25

Sunday Suspension of my Poblano Theme of “Personal Mottos” to do more of a free-write kind of thing.

It’s been a busy sort of week, what with the holiday, and my husband being home on vacation.  I was struggling to find something to post about.  I found this post on my old blog and I thought I’d share it here.  I used to do a sort of series I called “Whensday,” which were memory posts, and I only posted them on random Wednesdays, naturally.  😉  It might even be one of the first ones I did.  It felt appropriate to share it again, given the way I’ve been feeling the last several weeks.  🙂

Whensday

It must be the pool.  He wasn’t even in the dream, but pools and swimming always remind me of him, and I guess it only makes sense that a dream about a pool party would bring his memory sharply into focus. 

I still didn’t know how to swim, the summer I was 10.  Oh, I frolicked a lot in whatever swimming pool was available, and those weren’t hard to find in California in the 70s.  I was a water baby, you just couldn’t keep me away.  I had the chlorine-green blonde hair to prove it!

One place my mother and I lived, had a big rectangular pool right out front.  That blue door in the center on the 2nd floor was my apartment for a year.  It’s hard to see in the picture there, but just beyond that brick entry, was the pool.  That’s where I learned to swim.

image

Tucked away, in the last bottom apartment on the right, lived a man, his wife, and their 17 year old son.  The old man told everyone, even the kids, to call him Rick.  “No Mr for me!  I’m just old man Rick.”  He was the 1st grown-up I was permitted to call by his first name.  He spent his days sitting on a bench in front of his apartment, smoking and watching the kids swim.  He reminded me a lot of Jackie Gleason. 

imageI learned a lot about Rick that summer.  He loved water, he loved kids, he’d been a diver in the Navy during the war (WWII) and his eardrum had burst during one of his dives.  He’d worn one of those old diving suits with the big brass helmet.  I had visions of him dressed up like an astronaut, only exploring the bottom of the sea for treasure, not space. 

imageHe was kind and he smiled a lot.  He loved teaching the kids how to dive into the pool.  “Bend your knees just a little!  Keep your back straight!  Relax!”  Sometimes he’d throw the spare change from his pocket into the pool to encourage us to dive the 12’ in the unheated water to go get it.  Our reward was getting to keep it.  He taught me how to do the backstroke, and the butterfly, although I wasn’t very good.  I grew to love that old man, although in retrospect he probably wasn’t as old as I thought.  Not a gray hair on his head!  He was probably in his 50s. 

His son, Rick Jr,  would dazzle us kids by climbing up on the railing in front of my apartment and jumping into the pool.  Oh he made my little girl heart flutter with his daring and bravado! 

Even after school began that fall, I’d come home and see Rick on his bench, smoking.  I’d wave and he always waved back, ask how I was.  The weather turned cooler in November and one day his bench was gone.  Worried, I wanted to go check on him but my mother wouldn’t let me “bother” him.  “He probably just puts his bench away for the winter,” she said.

Could a man go that long without stepping outside to smoke?  I wondered.  My heart was scared and I didn’t know why.

One day in January, we ran into Mrs Rick coming out of the laundry room.  I grabbed my chance.  “How is Rick?  Is he alright?  Did he quit smoking or something?  I never see him anymore and his bench is gone!” 

Her eyes clouded and I knew before she could say it.  “Oh sweetie, I’m so sorry, I thought you knew … Rick died last November.” 

I don’t recall how I responded to her, if I said anything at all.  I do remember lying on my bed, weeping.  His wife was a widow, his son was fatherless, and I had lost a friend.  How was I supposed to get through this?  Rick was still teaching me, only now it was about death and sorrow.  Bend your knees a little!  Keep your back straight!  Relax!  If you think about it, if you keep that in mind, you can pretty much handle anything.  You can withstand the blows life will deliver, if you remember those things. 

The aquamarine shimmer of a swimming pool will always stir my memories of old man Rick.  So will the sunlit sparkle of coins under the water.  Those memories of him are my own under-sea treasure.

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