On the Street Where You Live

It’s unpopular to admit, but I had a happy childhood. I had a loving family, I liked school, and a big influence in the early years was my neighborhood.

My parents moved into North Point Subdivision in 1972, and they’ve been there ever since.
We were lucky to grow up in a neighborhood with tons of kids our age and whose parents were all friends with one another. This is a neighborhood where we could go out on Halloween without parents, and there was never a second thought about safety.

When I got married, some of the mothers of the neighborhood threw me a shower, and many of the daughters were there to party with me. The same was true the day of the wedding.

When Dad got sick, everyone rallied – sending cards, helping Mom, visiting Dad...getting Matt to the hospital when Dad’s car wouldn’t start the night his heart stopped (twice). I know I shouldn’t be surprised at the goodness and kindness of human nature, and I'm generally not, but people went consistently above and beyond.

A testament to the power of the ‘hood? There’s a group on Facebook devoted to the kids who grew up there, and there are roughly 100 of us who are members.

Now, many of the kids I grew up with have kids of their own. Most of us are married, living our own lives and are for all intents and purposes, grown-ups.

Being grown up is great, but it means you have to deal with grown-up things – like losing a parent.

One of my favorite mothers, Nancy – whose two sons (Brad and Curt) are one year older and maybe eight years younger than me respectively –died after a year-long battle with cancer on Sunday.

She was diagnosed last Christmas, and did about everything she could have done.

My mother has known her for 45 years - since Nursing School. She was one class behind my mother. I can’t remember a time that I didn’t know her. They moved away for awhile in the late 80’s, then moved back when I was in my mid-twenties. It was as though they’d never left.

Nancy once made me promise that if at age 35, Brad and I weren’t married to anyone else, we’d get hitched to each other. That said, at my wedding, she was still perfectly happy for me. Laura broke out in hives once while Mom and Dad were traveling and she came over to check on her (and Brad and I went into the backyard and threw rocks over the fence until the neighbor yelled at us). Once, she was giving me a ride home, and I called Brad’s hobby (HAM radio, if memory serves) either nerdy or geeky, and she called me out on it (Brad wasn’t in the car – I do have some social skills). Since she was important to me, I felt ashamed then, and I still do.

But the thing I remember most is that Nancy introduced me to chunky peanut butter. One day, when I was about 4, for reasons I don’t recall, and which don’t matter, Nancy was looking after me. I think she picked me up from Kindergarten, but like I said, my memory’s a little vague on that. What I can tell you is that she took me to her house and made me a sandwich with chunky peanut butter. When I mentioned that I’d never had that before, she was a little taken aback. What can I say – my family eats smooth. They still do. I married a man who likes chunky, though – so Nancy got me ready for that.

And now Nancy’s gone. I sent a sympathy card to her husband and sons this morning. I told them an abbreviated version of the peanut butter story, which I hope doesn’t come off as flip.

The last time I saw Nancy was over the summer when Dad was sick. We were outside on the street talking with a handful of people and she and her husband were driving by and stopped. We couldn’t talk long – she was on chemo at the time and hypersensitive to the sun.

Mom visited with her last week, and though I offered to go with her, Mom declined. Which is probably for the better.

But it feels completely wrong that she’s gone. I have associative survivor’s guilt. By all counts, Dad cheated death last spring. But I haven’t had to memorialize a parent. Why Brad and Curt? To say nothing of her husband.

I could offer trite bromides – she’s in a better place, she’s not suffering, it was her time, blah, blah, blah. No disrespect meant, but come on. Nobody wants their loved one to die. And 64 seems way, way too young.

What I can tell you for certain is that I, like a lot of other people, will miss her.


Unknown said…
I'm sorry she's gone. Thoughtful, funny, warm tribute to her.