Bonnie and Grant have been out of town a couple weeks, attending graduations up north. I miss them, but have taken advantage of the time to clean up the office. Today I am going through my files. Most folks wouldn’t guess it, but I’m sentimental about certain things, which dovetails nicely into my OCD traits. I keep just about every Christmas card, birthday card, any sort of card anyone sends me. In going through those cards today, I came upon a card I received in response to my high school graduation announcement. It had been sent to the old lady who watched me for several years when we lived down in Daytona, and Mom and Dad were both working. With one brief exception, I didn’t go to day care, and I didn’t attend kindergarten. I started school in the first grade when we moved to St. Augustine.
Mrs. Stones was a nice old lady. Her husband was either working, or sleeping, as apparently he worked odd hours. He went duck hunting once, and brought home several ducks. He photographed me holding them, sitting on their gas tank. There were no other kids, just me and her. I spent my time playing outside, or poring through their collection of National Geographics. An odd pastime for a 4-5 year old, but I taught myself a lot of stuff in those magazines, and developed a lifelong love for them. I have an almost complete collection from about 1940, and many of the older issues. The rest of the time we went about her daily shopping. Quite often she would leave me in the car while she ran into the shops. I’d pretend I was driving, play, or nap. Remember, this was the 60’s, a different time. I’d never ever dream of doing the same thing with Grant. One time, I grew tired of waiting for her and went into the store, which required me to cross mainline railroad tracks because the parking lot was on one side, the store on the other. When she realized what I had done, I thought the poor old lady was going to have a heart attack. She was sure my Mom would hit the ceiling, but she didn’t, and I kept going to Mrs. Stone. I also recall that one of her kids was overseas, possibly doing missionary work. I would ask her where they were, and she would point to the east, presumably towards Africa, and say they were “across the water.” In my childish naivete, I thought she meant they were on the other side of the inland waterway, at the beach.
I re-read the card she had sent me in 1978, and saw something I had missed in the intervening 34 years. She invited me to stop by and visit her.
I never did. I looked her up tonight, and learned she had died in 1981, just three years later. I lived 50 miles away, had a car, and had free time. I could have gone to see her. It made me sad today to think of my thoughtlessness. As if to accentuate that feeling, Loreena McKennitt’s “Dante’s Prayer” began to play on Pandora, with its plaintive refrain of, “Please remember me.”
I remember Mrs. Stones. I also now know, after reading her obituary from 1981, that the “old lady” I remember was in her mid-fifties when she watched me.
About the same age I am now.