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Monday, July 18, 2011

Deep and Plain

I had an unexpected visit from my neighbor, Addie, yesterday morning. Addie is a spry ninety one year old, who’s as thin as Olive Oyl, and can still move like a warmed up yoga instructor. Her tanned face has been stamped by time, like a well traveled passport, and when she speaks she’s a study in animation, using all available facial expressions to make her point. Addie laughs easily, with her mouth wide open, oblivious to onlookers and divinely confident. I always feel honored when Addie fits me into her day, and yesterday morning was no exception.

We sat, face to face, chatting about how she planned on using up her day. The hours seem to be more of an endurance test to Addie since her husband John died a few short weeks ago. She used to spend her days getting John his meals, driving him to appointments, and chatting with him about what ever seemed important at the time. You know how couples who have shared a long road of years together are; one starts a sentence and the other one finishes it, one has an idea, and the other was just thinking the same thing.

Now Addie answers each morning as though there were an unexpected stranger standing at her door. Foggy with sleep, she searches for John’s familiar features, and then she remembers…

Yesterday morning she was explaining how she needed to keep the same routine, do the same things that she and John had done together. She spoke, emphatically, as though she were lecturing herself on being tough, and sticking with the program. Finished with her spontaneous soliloquy, she settled back down into the loveseat, looking deflated and fragile, like a home-sewn rag doll.

I stayed silent, figuring that Addie would notice that she was visiting me, which was unusual, something she had never done when John was alive. My husband and I had always made the short trek to their house for visits because John, being 95, and sick, was too weak to visit us. I wanted to tell her to be easy on herself and that she was already finding her new path. But I remained silent.

Addie, adjusted herself in her seat, straightened her cotton blouse and then she looked over at me as if just remembering my presence. “We all have to die.” She said, in her rich Norwegian accent, “But nobody has ever come back and said, “This is how it is!” She then stood, collected her oversized pocketbook, and announced that she had to go buy some chlorine for her pool.

I love Addie. I love her stubborn strength and her little girl vulnerability. I love how she says deep things in a plain way, cutting through the pretenses and niceties. I walked her to the door, and my heart sagged a bit, as I watched Addie disappear behind the wheel of her large American car and drive bravely away into her day…without John.


Cheryl P. said...

Pretty impressive that Addie is still driving. I have given a lot a thought to how that must feel to lose your spouse after a lifetime together. My husband and I have been together in some form since we were 15 year olds. Now celebrating 40 years of being married, I think how difficult it would be without the other. That is really sad that she is left behind for now.

Leah Griffith said...

I know Cheryl. She not only drives, but lives alone and takes care of a good sized house. She's amazing, and when I see her struggle it breaks my heart. I can't imagine losing my husband after thirty three years married.

Jayne said...

Leah- I love your neighbors and friends. I'm so glad you brought Addie to us after hearing about John. You drew such a clear picture of her--just as you did with John. So beautiful.

I can't imagine how difficult it is for her right now, yet she clearly has abundant fortitude. And she's lucky to have you next door.

What a couple they must have made!

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