Monday, April 8, 2013

My first love

Annette Funicello Former Mouseketeer 1975.jpg

I was 9 years old and lived on a small farm in southern West Virginia. I attended elementary school in Union. The sum total of students in my school could not have been more than 150. Television had not been a part of my life for all that long when I discovered the Mickey Mouse Club. It was in black and white and came in fairly clearly on the affiliate broadcasting out of Roanoke, Virginia. I used to go to sleep at night thinking about Annette and would often dream of her. My infatuation puzzled me. It invoked in me yearnings and feelings that I had not beforehand experienced. As I think back on my borderline obsession with her I realize, in retrospect, all women that I was forevermore attracted to had her dark, dark eyes and her dark hair.

The theme for the MMC was well directed and entertaining. They knew just what they were doing with the music and the story lines and the dancing and just general happiness. For a poor West Virginia hillbilly, her life represented something that was so far out of my reach that she seemed like a representative from heaven, an angel of sorts. Such is the fancy of a nine year old boy.

I will celebrate 40 years of marriage to Nancy in 6 days. She had dark, dark eyes and dark hair when I first met her. I thought she was pretty and was attracted to her immediately. She passed the Annette test. Annette brought happiness to me as a nine year old boy. She was the older woman because she was twelve at the time. Nancy is now 65 and has given me 3 terrific children who have in turn given me 7 precious grand children. Nancy still has the dark, dark eyes but the hair is beautiful silver. She possesses my heart like no other ever has and ever will. Ah, but there was Annette.

I learned today that Annette Joanne Funicello has died. She was 70 years of age. She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1992 and rode a wheelchair into her last years of life. I feel a funny longing in my heart. I would love to see an episode of the Mickey Mouse Club and watch her dance and sing and flirt with Spin and Marty. Perhaps I will "You Tube" an episode. I wouldn't mind seeing myself at 9 years of age and reflect on how far I have come in life. Life changes us all over its winding course of serendipity. I hope Annette had a happy life. I see she was married twice for a total of 43 years. She had 3 chlidren the oldest would be approaching 47 years of age. I hope she had grand children to make her smile and cause those dark eyes to sparkle and dance.

I will have Nancy for eternity. Even though we might be separated for a brief period of time, our marriage was pronounced by one having authority in the temple of the most high God. That makes the yearning and sadness of anticipated loss easier. Much, much easier. For time and all of eternity were the words spoken by the man who sealed us as husband and wife.

Good bye Annette. This world is a little sadder and more dismal with your passing. However, the next world is a little brighter and happier with your arrival there. Surely there must be those there that hold you dear. Some famous and some just regular, normal people, like a little 9 year old hillbilly boy from southern West Virginia. I thank you for the respites and joy you brought to me amidst a life that was challenging and filled with disappoinments but has blossomed into one filled with joy, love and happiness. Those feelings that you invoked in me were indeed attainable and I thank you for helping me see the future.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Cab Ride

I arrived at the address and honked the horn.
After waiting a few minutes I walked to the door and knocked.

'Just a minute', answered a frail, elderly voice.
I could hear something being dragged across the floor..

After a long pause, the door opened.

A small woman in her 90's stood before me..
She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it,
Like somebody out of a 1940's movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase.

The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years.
All the furniture was covered with sheets.

There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters.

In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

'Would you carry my bag out to the car?' she said.

I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.

She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb..

She kept thanking me for my kindness.

'It's nothing', I told her..
'I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated'.

'Oh, you're such a good boy', she said.

When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked,
'Could you drive through downtown?'

'It's not the shortest way,' I answered quickly..

'Oh, I don't mind,' she said.

'I'm in no hurry.
I'm on my way to a hospice'.

I looked in the rear-view mirror.

Her eyes were glistening.
'I don't have any family left,' she continued in a soft voice..
'The doctor says I don't have very long.
'I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.

'What route would you like me to take?' I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city.

She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator.

We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived
When they were newlyweds.

She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once
Been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner

And would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing..

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said,

'I'm tired. Let's go now'.

We drove in silence to the address she had given me.

It was a low building, like a small convalescent home,
With a driveway that passed under a portico.

Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up..

They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move.
They must have been expecting her.

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door.

The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

'How much do I owe you?'
She asked, reaching into her purse.

'Nothing,' I said

'You have to make a living,' she answered.

'There are other passengers,' I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug.

She held onto me tightly.

'You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,' she said.
'Thank you.'

I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light.

Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift.

I drove aimlessly lost in thought.
For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk.
What if that woman had gotten an angry driver,
Or one who was impatient to end his shift?
What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once,

Then driven away?

On a quick review,

I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life.

We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments.

But great moments often catch us unaware - beautifully
Wrapped in what others may consider a small one.