Some memories are a lasting blessing.
She pulled up in front of the three story building where my family had moved only a year earlier. She stepped out of a black Ford Escort, walked around to the back and lifted the hatchback. She looked at me over her glasses with green eyes and smiled as she put a leash on her beast size Debarment Pincher. I watched as she walked him to the front porch, and loved her fire red hair burning in the sun. I thought it was strange that her dog had been so large and she was so short. At eight years old I was tall but she was the same height as me.
I ran inside the house to tell my younger sister about the lady that moved in upstairs, and I told her to watch out for the vicious dog. Being eight years old I could really extend the truth and I could get her to believe anything I told her. So, I went on about how the dog chased me for several blocks before I chased it away with a big stick. My mother screamed at me for that, it didn’t help, my sister didn’t even want to go to school anymore until she saw for herself, the lady’s car was not out front. I had to have a little fun with it because I was never going to admit that I was scared as a cat of that dog.
I watched as the days went and there wasn’t ever one that she would not come home at six in the evening with the dog. Rainy days were not exceptions, as I sat inside and watched from the front window. I wondered how such a small woman could handle such a big dog and I also wondered where they went everyday. I wanted to ask almost like I really needed to ask. It was the fear of that great big dog which stopped me from speaking my mind and even saying hello to her.
Some time went right on bye, when one day I must have been into playing with the other kids and lost track of time. I ran out to the front of the house, most likely playing tag or something, and there she was with her taped up chain and on the other end? The dog. My heart raced harder than it had while I was running and sweat broke through my palms. She looked at me over her glasses and it seemed her eyes smiled as she spoke to me. “You can say hello. Can’t you?”
I just put my head down and looked away. “Hi”
She stood with her back arched in and her pelvic bone out with some sense of pride I could not have possibly understood at that age. “You should look at people when they speak to you girl. What is your name?”
“Loretta” I answered and felt bad but I didn’t know exactly what I did wrong. “I am sorry.”
She pulled her dog and ordered him to sit, and he did. “This here is Striker.” She smiled at me again and continued. “Would you like to pat him?”
She some how made me feel like it would be rude to say no. I reached out slowly and extremely softly touched him on his head. “He is nice.”
“ Yes of course he is. My name is Jane.” She pulled him near her and begin to walk away. “Now that we have all met, don’t be so afraid to say hello to us instead of just watching alright.”
I nodded yes and smiled hard. I recall that day so clearly, because I felt a special something that evening, warming me inside. It was a feeling I never knew before and it was an emotion that was long over due in a little girls life. There was something I was not getting at home was in that woman’s eyes and I could not wait to see her again.
From that day on, I would run outside and wait for her to come home, but I told my sister that the dog would still bite her because he had not known her. I wanted Jane to be mine. My little sister was the favored youngest by almost everyone related and not related. She was the pretty little girl with the long curls and perfect Irish eyes which she received from her father. He was not even mine and I felt it everyday either at the end of his belt or in his words as he screamed in my face nose to nose. My mother was never an emotion maternal type and would never waist time pampering us over anything, so when I found Jane she became as important to me as Ziggy. He had had been my best friend since we met in school and we bonded over the stories we could share about being brought up in the broken family. We will save him for another story.
I think my meetings with her out front of the building lasted a year before she invited me to go with them. I remember running in to ask my mother hoping real hard that my mother would let me go. I was real surprised when she came outside, spoke to Jane, and than told me to go. I was so happy I never even asked her where we were going. I just sat in the passenger seat with a smile on my face as Striker panted and drooled all over me. She drove into a cemetery and around a circle and she parked her car in front of a tall stone that read: MURPHY. She directed me to get out of the car follow her. I did without questions, and I was so happy I didn’t even seem to care that we were at a cemetery.
She than unleashed Striker and said, “Go!”
“Will he be alright?” I asked true to my concern.
“Well he has been every day so far. We come here and he runs free until he gets hungry than he returns to me. I go for a short walk myself while I wait.” She nodded her head as she began to walk to again direct me to follow.
It was a short walk and I enjoyed it. When we came back to where her car was, she pulled two large bowls out of the back and poured water from a gallon in one of them, than filled the other with food. Striker came running like jet on four pours and lapped up some water spilling more than he consumed. He sat for a moment and caught his breath than ate all the food in the bowl. When he finished she put the bowls back in the car with the empty gallon and he jumped right in the car. We drove home.
About two years grew into a special tradition for me, and I was never happier in all my life. Going with her saved me on few occasions such as the time my step father had to work for our landlord. We would normally have to tag along, and we either waited in the back of his frozen capped Ford pick up truck or we had to help him do jobs. Going with Jane got me out of going, and even n the day I had to do my home work while we waited for Striker to return to her car, it was worth it for me. On a few occasions I had gotten into some kind of trouble, and being grounded I could not go. I actually passed up more trouble than my parents will ever know because I wanted to be with Jane.
There was one day that Jane wanted to walk with Striker so I walked around reading names on the stones. I strayed to far away and they had waited for me to come back. When I returned Jane told me that I was now a part of Strikers life and he expected me to be there. When I asked her what she meant she told me that he refused to eat until he saw me coming. Again I felt special.
A little more time passed and one day she had not come home. I waited and again I waited on the next evening. I waited for a few more nights. I stared at the ceiling in my bedroom at night wondering why Jane was angry at me. I hated myself for doing whatever it was I did.
Finally her other half, Timothy, knocked at the door and asked my step father if he could have a word with me. I had met him before but I never really spoke with him much. I knew very little about him and only from Jane speaking to me about him. I knew that he worked at the yogurt plant and was mostly gone at night so he slept most days away.
He informed me of Jane being in the hospital. She had walked Striker down by the water works and another dog attacked. She tried to split them but the other dog bit her muscle in the calf. We spent a lot of time with her in the hospital than. I visited her even when she came home to recover. Irony of the Irish woman. She found a four leaf clover that morning before the accident.
Things never went back to the same after that, because soon she was able to drive again, and a man walked into her car down on Broadway. The trouble was stress and soon after that, Striker had to be put down over a tumor, and she too underwent surgery for a tumor in her head. She later had a stroke and became paralyzed on the entire left side of her body. She fought hard, exercising everyday and used her cane to walk up and down the stairs hoping with every step that she could retrain her body to work.
Timothy still had to work the night shifts, so I would spend the night with her helping her bathe and wash dishes. She would still manage most meals with one hand and her stubbornness would never let her forget to make Timothy’s cookies for work. She insisted, at times to be alone but one day she severely burnt her legs with the coffee pot and from that point Timothy would never leave her alone again.
It bothered her to be so dependent on someone else. She had only slept three hours a night and she went off to clean houses and walk her dog. She would shop and exercised on her bike always burning energy that just never seemed to run out on her. Now she could run out of energy crawling from her bed to her wheel chair. She was still the warm hearted person she had always been but it was her soul that disappeared during the stroke that took away her freedom.
Jane was a woman of philosophies. She always had a phrase to use against you , or to help you. She always knew what to say and when to say it. She angered as the Irish blood boiled in her and stood up against the world if she needed to. She spoke a lot of her father and all the hard lessons she had learned from his hands and his words. Her days in that wheel chair seemed to have taken something from her but she just continued to give, as she still cooked and cleaned and still made sure to teach me a life lesson or two a day. We read to one another and she encouraged me to write and dared me never to give up on me.
Even the time I spent with Timothy home became lessons to help me along, and it began to feel like they were trying to leave behind the words that were missing in my life. The older I got the more my freedom was touched and the more I touched it the more I wanted. They would not allow me to enslave myself to their needs but I always felt guilty when I went away. Timothy used to tell me that I would get older and forget about them old people. I swore to him I never would. Eventually life took me far away from them, and as I was messing up my life, quitting school, getting married just to have a child and separate from the man I married to raise my boy alone, they passed.
In the last seventeen years of my life, I have been evicted again and again trying to stay healthy enough to go to work. I have been homeless, living on camp grounds and in hotel rooms. I have had to have my son sleep in my car and I lost my daughter at her birth. I have been broke for a month at a time starving for nearly a week before I dared to eat because I feared my son would not have enough.
I have been lied to, cheated on, stolen from, and used like an old car. And in these times I have been walked on, I see my siblings all sleeping warmly and fed at night. I see them happy in their family lives, as they drive new cars and wear new close while sending their children off to camps and vacations. My sister is depressed and collecting disability and my brother is all confused and is also collecting for depression.
Now that I have turned my life into a livable and much healthier lifestyle, I know what Timothy meant when he told me to always take care of your mind. “Without your mind, you have nothing.”
He would say this to me so often that I actually lived every single day by those words. Life can kick me all the way to the bottom again and tomorrow it can do it again. I will stand up and move forward because Jane loved me and Timothy guided me in the right direction. I know that all the words Jane said like “tears do not erase mistakes, you need to fix them yourself and than if you please you may cry.”
I held on to all of it. So as right as they were about everything they ever taught me, they were wrong when they said I would forget them. I became a combination of the two and never picking up a four leave clover as I struggle through my guilt of not being there in the end, I work nights and am writing my way through life with them as my angels. I love you both very much and still have not forgotten.