In the rush of cleaning house (usually right before someone is coming over--a great reason to invite guests in my book!) I sometimes forget to look at the things I have collected over the years. I forget that they are more than dust catchers and something to be attacked with a Swiffer. I forget that they hold memories.
I need to stop that. I need to stop and look at some of my things, and think about why I have them and whether or not I still love them and want to keep them.
With that in mind, I took a look at my white display cabinet, and stood and stared at the things I had put in it. And I liked them very much. All of them were still very beautiful to me.
Here's one little grouping:
This is an incomplete set of grass green dessert dishes that I inherited from my friend Fran. I also inherited a wooden plate, something that someone probably bought at one of those "look, here come the tourists, let's put out a bunch of tacky souveneirs and I bet they'll buy 'em" shops. It has a kind of Pennsylvania Dutch theme, and under the picture of the Dutch woman, it says: "A plump wife and a full barn never did any man harm."
She thought it fit me. And it does. And I love it.
Fran was an interesting character. She was raised rich. As in top Dallas school rich. As in debutante back in the day rich. Married a successful businessman, thought that life was going to be her world forever. Never learned to take care of herself. Never, ever learned to manage money.
But one year, it all came crashing down. First her oldest daughter died in a freak accident at home. Then her husband was diagnosed with lung cancer and died in only a few months. Fran was devastated, of course, but she said that Cursillo saved her life.
She found someone to trust with her husband's business. It should have taken care of her for the rest of her life.
The guy was a cheat and a thief. She was left with zero. Nada. Zilch.
When I met her, she was living with her daughter and son in law, but that wasn't going well. The parish took over caring for her. Got her into rent-assisted housing run by Catholic Charities. I wrote out her bill payments. Shay and I took her to doctors, Craig and Zack brought her to church and to church functions.
She had next to nothing left. A few bits and bobs. And she could be infuriatingly messy. And infuriatingly sure that someone was going to take care of her. And she was right about that.
She had COPD, just like my mom, and was on oxygen 24/7. She never let that stop her. If she could get a ride, she was going to whatever was on. And she knew we would fix her plate and get her some more iced tea. Oh, and stop by Jack in the Box to get TWO orders of fudge cake every Sunday.
Fran was a lot of work. But she was so worth it. I learned more from Fran, looking back, than I ever realized. She had amazing stories to tell about old Fort Worth. It was a glimpse into another world.
Only one time--ONE TIME--did I ever hear her say anything about being disappointed with how her life turned out. And that was mild. Just an innocent comment, "I never expected it to be like this" thrown away in a moment. And never mentioned again.
And I only saw Fran cry one time--and that was when my sisterfriend was diagnosed with MS. She bawled then. But never for herself, never for her circumstances, not even at the end of her life.
What did I learn from Fran? That you can roll with the punches. That life can still be good, even if it isn't what you expected. That friends can be infuriating and still be beloved friends. That everybody doesn't have to be the same to be worthy of love and attention.
Fran was diagnosed with lung cancer shortly after her 80th birthday. It was found on a routine pulmonary xray. Asymptomatic. Tiny.
The doctor really thought that she would let it go--live her remaining life as she had been, and enjoy what was left.
Nope. She wanted to be treated. So treat they did. And maybe that was a mistake on her part. The treatment, even "watered down" as they did it for this skinny 80 year old lady, was too much. Finally her lungs wore down. Standing in an ICU, with a (thankfully) Catholic pulmonologist, I made the decision NOT to put her on ventilator. Her two priest friends came and gave her absolution and viaticum.
And shortly after that, it was over.
I will never not miss Fran, in all her weirdness and glory. I still, all this time later, want to turn to pick her up when I pass her street on the way to church.
That's why I know there is a heaven. Because otherwise it doesn't make sense to keep on missing someone. If it were right that this is "all there is", seems to me we'd be built with an acceptance factor. People are gone, and we'd just go on.
But Fran was, is and will always be part of my life. And these green glasses remind me of that. Chipped and incomplete, they are still BEAUTIFUL.
Happy Thursday, ya'll!