Thursday, August 20, 2009

Forever Friends


8/12/09 Chatterbox
Best friends are forever treasures
Betty Kaiser

Some childhood relationships are transient and fleeting. Others are lifetime treasures. I was reminded of this when I received a phone call that Leota Daniel, my “other” mother had died. She was the beloved matriarch of a family from my childhood. Born in 1900, at her death she was 99 years old but in my heart she is forever young.

Her daughter Carol and I have been best friends for 65 years. Her sister Alaine and my sister Joanne were also best friends. We were neighbors in Los Angeles and schoolmates from grade school through high school. Over the years we cemented our budding friendships through shared secrets, laughter and tears. Friends do that.

We girls lived in the days of innocence. We carefully coordinated the simple little dresses or skirts and sweaters that we wore to school so that no two outfits were worn in the same week (no jeans or slacks). At night we slept with our hair in spongy rollers so that we would have ringlets the next day. No messy, bed-head looks for us.

After school, we came home, changed our clothes and ran outside to play. We rode bikes, giggled through countless games of hopscotch, jacks and jump rope. We nearly wore out our roller skates before we outgrew them. In those days the skates were metal and you used a key to loosen or tighten them. They were hard to wear out!

Carol was there the day that I was racing a neighbor boy down the street on our bikes. My bike hit a bump; I took a tumble and gasped at the pain. One look at my crumpled, broken arm and I turned gray. She ran to get my mom. I limped into the house where I laid down on the couch and Carol sat crying by my side. Friends do that.

During the summer, Mrs. Daniel would invite my sister and me over for lunch. She always wore a nice apron over her cotton dress and served us girls in the dining room. Canned tomato soup with a pat of butter on top and a grilled cheese sandwich never tasted so good.

In the evening the whole neighborhood turned out at dusk to play hide and seek. We hid in the shadows and played until our parents called us in with “Ollie Ollie Oxen Free.”

The thing that I remember most about Mrs. Daniel is that she always treated us girls with great respect. Her touch was sweet and gentle and her advice kindly given. She never put on airs or talked down to us. We always knew that she genuinely respected us. We were loved. Friends do that.

Together, Carol and I double-dated, got engaged, married and were bridesmaids at each other’s weddings. She worked as a dental assistant and put her husband through college while I started having babies. Her family moved to Glendora, Texas, Nevada and back to Calif. Ours moved to Ventura and then Ore.

Our friendship became long distance instead of next door. But we stayed in contact as best we could by burning up the phone lines and sharing snail mail letters. Fortunately, we were young, our children were our life and adventure was on the horizon.

Fortunately, one of the great blessings of youth is that none of us could foresee the tough times and heartaches that lay ahead.

Like the rest of the world, we had some bumps in the road: a few financial setbacks, the early death of Chuck’s mother, a near bankruptcy and some major health problems. But we were blessed to have each other and the joys certainly outweighed the sorrows.

Sadly, Carol and her first husband divorced, leaving her with two children to raise. Mr. Daniel died in a tragic one-car accident and they lost their house. Mrs. Daniel went back to work as an executive secretary at 60 years of age. She worked for 20 years and loved it. Never once did she complain or say, “Why me?”

In January 2004 I wrote about Alaine in a column on smoking. She had become a three pack a day cigarette smoker and an alcoholic. Her voice box and vocal chords were removed in a horrifying and disfiguring surgery. Ultimately, she was diagnosed with osteoporosis, bone cancer and lung cancer. Voiceless and bedridden, she depended on oxygen, medication tubes, a ventilator and nurses.

Alaine died in April. She had spent the last years of her life in the hospital. Ironically, her husband died of lung cancer the year before she did.

Along the way, Mrs. Daniel, in her mid-90s and living alone, began to exhibit signs of her age. She had to give up driving (!), going to the grocery store, fell often and needed a walker to get around her apartment. Did she complain? No. Instead, she encouraged her daughters.

For five years, my friend Carol drove 150-mile round-trips from her home (sometimes daily) to attend to the needs of her sister and mother. She was exhausted beyond belief. Family does that.

And last Monday, as her wonderful mother’s life ebbed, she was by her side. “It was such a gift,” she said, “to be able to hold her hand and kiss her goodbye.”

After my mother died, I found a most crumpled photograph at the bottom of a desk drawer. It shows our two families at a restaurant. It seems like yesterday. We were all so young and full of life. Once there were eight of us. Now, there are three: Carol, Joanne and me.

Special people come into your life for a reason and season. A few are forever treasures. Their physical presence may come and go but their spirits always have a home in your heart. The Daniel family forever lives in mine. Who lives in yours?

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. Contact her via email at bchatty@bettykaiser.net

8/12/09 Chatterbox
Best friends are forever treasures
Betty Kaiser

Some childhood relationships are transient and fleeting. Others are lifetime treasures. I was reminded of this when I received a phone call that Leota Daniel, my “other” mother had died. She was the beloved matriarch of a family from my childhood. Born in 1900, at her death she was 99 years old but in my heart she is forever young.

Her daughter Carol and I have been best friends for 65 years. Her sister Alaine and my sister Joanne were also best friends. We were neighbors in Los Angeles and schoolmates from grade school through high school. Over the years we cemented our budding friendships through shared secrets, laughter and tears. Friends do that.

We girls lived in the days of innocence. We carefully coordinated the simple little dresses or skirts and sweaters that we wore to school so that no two outfits were worn in the same week (no jeans or slacks). At night we slept with our hair in spongy rollers so that we would have ringlets the next day. No messy, bed-head looks for us.

After school, we came home, changed our clothes and ran outside to play. We rode bikes, giggled through countless games of hopscotch, jacks and jump rope. We nearly wore out our roller skates before we outgrew them. In those days the skates were metal and you used a key to loosen or tighten them. They were hard to wear out!

Carol was there the day that I was racing a neighbor boy down the street on our bikes. My bike hit a bump; I took a tumble and gasped at the pain. One look at my crumpled, broken arm and I turned gray. She ran to get my mom. I limped into the house where I laid down on the couch and Carol sat crying by my side. Friends do that.

During the summer, Mrs. Daniel would invite my sister and me over for lunch. She always wore a nice apron over her cotton dress and served us girls in the dining room. Canned tomato soup with a pat of butter on top and a grilled cheese sandwich never tasted so good.

In the evening the whole neighborhood turned out at dusk to play hide and seek. We hid in the shadows and played until our parents called us in with “Ollie Ollie Oxen Free.”

The thing that I remember most about Mrs. Daniel is that she always treated us girls with great respect. Her touch was sweet and gentle and her advice kindly given. She never put on airs or talked down to us. We always knew that she genuinely respected us. We were loved. Friends do that.

Together, Carol and I double-dated, got engaged, married and were bridesmaids at each other’s weddings. She worked as a dental assistant and put her husband through college while I started having babies. Her family moved to Glendora, Texas, Nevada and back to Calif. Ours moved to Ventura and then Ore.

Our friendship became long distance instead of next door. But we stayed in contact as best we could by burning up the phone lines and sharing snail mail letters. Fortunately, we were young, our children were our life and adventure was on the horizon.

Fortunately, one of the great blessings of youth is that none of us could foresee the tough times and heartaches that lay ahead.

Like the rest of the world, we had some bumps in the road: a few financial setbacks, the early death of Chuck’s mother, a near bankruptcy and some major health problems. But we were blessed to have each other and the joys certainly outweighed the sorrows.

Sadly, Carol and her first husband divorced, leaving her with two children to raise. Mr. Daniel died in a tragic one-car accident and they lost their house. Mrs. Daniel went back to work as an executive secretary at 60 years of age. She worked for 20 years and loved it. Never once did she complain or say, “Why me?”

In January 2004 I wrote about Alaine in a column on smoking. She had become a three pack a day cigarette smoker and an alcoholic. Her voice box and vocal chords were removed in a horrifying and disfiguring surgery. Ultimately, she was diagnosed with osteoporosis, bone cancer and lung cancer. Voiceless and bedridden, she depended on oxygen, medication tubes, a ventilator and nurses.

Alaine died in April. She had spent the last years of her life in the hospital. Ironically, her husband died of lung cancer the year before she did.

Along the way, Mrs. Daniel, in her mid-90s and living alone, began to exhibit signs of her age. She had to give up driving (!), going to the grocery store, fell often and needed a walker to get around her apartment. Did she complain? No. Instead, she encouraged her daughters.

For five years, my friend Carol drove 150-mile round-trips from her home (sometimes daily) to attend to the needs of her sister and mother. She was exhausted beyond belief. Family does that.

And last Monday, as her wonderful mother’s life ebbed, she was by her side. “It was such a gift,” she said, “to be able to hold her hand and kiss her goodbye.”

After my mother died, I found a most crumpled photograph at the bottom of a desk drawer. It shows our two families at a restaurant. It seems like yesterday. We were all so young and full of life. Once there were eight of us. Now, there are three: Carol, Joanne and me.

Special people come into your life for a reason and season. A few are forever treasures. Their physical presence may come and go but their spirits always have a home in your heart. The Daniel family forever lives in mine. Who lives in yours?

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. Contact her via email at bchatty@bettykaiser.net

1 comment:

kate said...

That was a beautiful and touching tribute to The Daniels and how they shaped your life. You are amazing and we always love you!