by Brenda Looney
Sweat was beading up on my forehead and slowly falling down my face. I brushed it away and felt the sting of the salty sweat in my eyes. It was such a hot day in August of 1977. There wasn't even a breeze to temporarily give relief. I picked up the baby to comfort his crying. He was so cranky in this heat. Even though the day was hot and humid I was elated as this was one of the most important events of my life. We were finally moving out of the rented duplex and into our own home. "Our own home"! That had such a nice ring to it. I kept saying it over and over to myself. I couldn't believe we were finally going to have our own little space on this earth to call our very own.
We had been renting for four years and saving up every dime we could. We made a lot of personal sacrifices just to put extra money towards our goal of buying a house. We had searched diligently for a house that we could afford that was nice and met our needs. We finally found one that was for sale by owner. Herman and Dottie had bought this house back in 1953 brand new and had raised 5 children there. They were building a new home and moving on. The home was well taken care of and we were lucky that it didn't need a lot of work, as it was taking our last dime to just get in and pay the closing costs. It was a ranch style house typical of the 50's located in a subdivision of middle class, working people. After a little bargaining, they had finally accepted our purchase offer. For months I'd dreamed of our house and packed away our belongings. Moving day was finally here.
I drove our truck loaded down with boxes. My husband drove the rented moving van full to the brim with everything that we had accumulated in the last four years. We arrived just as Dottie and Herman were leaving with their moving van. We met briefly and Herman hugged us and wished us well in our new home. He had tears in his eyes and I think he was feeling a bit sentimental about leaving. After we exchanged best wishes we began the task of unloading and settling in.
A few friends had kindly offered to help with the move and as I looked around I saw a face that I was not familiar with. It was the man who lived next door, Eddie. He saw that we needed help and just jumped in and was lifting and carrying things in for us. A while later, his wife came over and introduced herself and welcomed us. Jean was a petite woman in her 50's with graying brown hair and a big smile. Eddie was short of stature with thick, curly gray hair. Both of them were originally from Scotland and spoke with a distinct and delightful Scottish accent.
Everyone was hot and tired after the last of the boxes were unloaded. We took a break with some cold drinks and hamburgers from McDonalds. The baby was crying and crying. I noticed that Jean and Eddie couldn't take their eyes off of him and they asked what was wrong. I told them that it was time to feed him and that I was nursing. They said to go ahead and nurse him. I admit that I was a bit shy about nursing in front of people....especially around people I didn't know. My mother's instinct won out and I nursed him as discretely as I could. They were fascinated and got right up close to watch and ooed and ahhhed watching David eat. They told me firmly to never be ashamed of feeding my baby and I relaxed knowing that they were right. I asked if they had children and they replied that their twin boys had died shortly after birth and Jean had never gotten pregnant again. Eddie asked about our families and when he found out that little David didn't have a grandfather, as both our fathers were dead, he pronounced, "I'll be his papa." From that day forth, Eddie was Papa and Jean was Grandma. It was a role they took to heart and David couldn't have asked for better grandparents. They shared so much of their Scottish culture and Jean would cook wonderful ethnic foods and would always send some over for us to sample. We all learned so much from them.
My husband was away from home a lot on his job. I wasn't working and the days were long and lonely. Jean and Eddie were always there for me. They would invite me over to eat or just to chat. Many evenings we would sit out in the yard just talking. Eddie was always strongly opinionated with a twinkle in his eyes, and Jean would quietly smile in agreement. I was so happy to have them for neighbors. I knew I could count on them for help whenever I needed it.
One evening I heard the mousetrap go off and I was terrified to look. I called and Eddie came right over and took care of it for me. When I had a bout of the 24 hour flu I called and they came and took the baby home with them for the day and kept him while I slept. They never refused any pleas for help. David stayed with them when my little nephew was dying in the hospital and I knew he was in good hands all through the crisis and up until the funeral was over. They always had words of comfort and wisdom for me. After my kidney operation they were there to help carry in groceries and do those things I was restricted from doing. I don't know what I would have done without them.
Holidays were spent with Jean and Eddie. They were now part of the family. Jean knitted David some of the most beautiful sweaters. They always remembered to give Easter baskets, birthday gifts, and on Halloween a giant sized chocolate bar was set aside just for David. He loved them so much. Eddie proudly announced that he had taught David to tie his shoes. He even taught him to stand up to the potty chair and not sit like a girl. :-) I thought that was pretty funny, but I was grateful for any help with the potty training. Eddie always planted a garden and would let David search through the soil to find the little potatoes and carrots. He would then carry the vegetables in to Grandma Jean for her to make for supper. David even had his own little special dinner plate at their house. He and Papa would catch worms and examined them. They loved to make me run from the wiggly earthworms and they would laugh with delight. In the fall they would rake up big piles of leaves and jump in them together. Eddie would hoist David up on the tractor with him and round and round the yard they'd go cutting the grass. Papa would allow David to use the garden hose to water the yard with. I warned him that might not be a good idea, but he went ahead and let him anyway. Once when they were gone, David slipped over there and turned on the hose and managed to soak their kitchen right through the screen windows. I helped clean up the mess and didn't even say, "I told you so." Eddie used to love to go to the local pub and take little David with him. He'd put him up on the bar stool and all the older customers would fuss over him. He'd get chips and pop and Papa would brag about the latest achievements of his grandson. It's funny now to think of it that David was going to the pub when he was just 3 years old. Once Papa gave David his medals he'd won in the war. He told the stories of his military career and what each metal was for. I was touched that he would give something so precious to David.
As the years passed by, Jean and Eddie began to suffer from health problems. They took turns going in and out of the hospital. They were the ones who needed help now, and my husband and I did what we could to pay them back and helped them. The time came when Eddie could no longer work and they sold their house and prepared to move to Florida. I was heartsick to see them leave, but happy for them that they had an opportunity to live in the sunshine state and get out of the cold, Michigan winters. They always came back in the summer to visit and would send David presents often. They were our family.....not by blood, but by love which is a tie that binds just as strong.
We got a phone call from Jean that Eddie had died. I felt a lump in my throat, but managed to choke out my condolences. I passed the phone on to David who was 10 at the time. Grandma Jean explained to him the best she could that Papa was gone. David started to cry and I took the phone back and said my good-byes. I went into David's room and sat on the bed and we talked. The death of a loved one is never easy, but it's even harder to explain to a little boy. I told him he could go with me to the florist shop and pick out some beautiful flowers for Papa, which we did. I let him sign the card. That night as I went in to check on him after he was sleeping, I noticed that he had Papa's metals clutched in his hand.....as if he wanted to have something of him to hold onto.
A few years later I got the call that Jean has passed away also in a hotel in Vegas where she had gone on a trip with some seniors. They were both gone now.....our friends that had become family. I will always be grateful for knowing them and for all that they gave to us. They were the best neighbors that became a part of our family and loved so much. Through my son they were able to enjoy having a child. Through them, I had a support system and my son had wonderful grandparents that taught him so much. They will always live in our hearts and never be forgotten.
Life is a circle that goes around. Now we're the older neighbors with younger couples moving in with small children. I try to extend to the young families the friendship and help that was given to me decades ago by Jean and Eddie. The cycle continues and I hope someday when I'm gone that there will be those who will remember me with love.
There are so many opportunities in our lives to reach out and touch those around us and give of ourselves. By sharing and caring we can enlarge our families and be most abundantly blessed.
by Brenda Looney
You came into our lives and became more than a friend
We came to love you like family right through to the end.
You were always there for us to lead the way
I can only hope to honor you by my actions and what I say
There are only a few lives so close to me that I have the power to touch
My service to you is to try in my most casual encounters
To make life seem better.... and for your example,
I thank you so much
I will try to treat others with good will and kindness
And have others see my humor and integrity
I will have a respect for them by my manner
and by doing so, hope to bring about unity.
I wish to bring less sadness and more joy
Chasing away despair and offering hope.
I strive to bring more of life's warmth and kindness
And helping those in need to be able to cope
For it was you who taught me best by your ways,
that you don't have to be of the same clan and have common blood
We can reach out and touch someone with praise
And open up friendships like a fresh flower bud
To be cherished and loved with those we love the best
For all these things the greatest is to be
A neighbor who with friends is most abundantly blessed
A beacon of light for all to see.
Memories of an Abundant Life * Family Ties * Flowers & Friends
Grandpas' Picture * In Rememberance * Letter to My Father
The Time of My Life * My Father * To My Husband
Sweetheart Overseas * My Dove * My Favorite Places
My Garden in Bloom * My Animal Children * No More
New Pages !!!
Christmas Gift * Pumpkin * Empty Nest * Beyond Tears * The Red Rose * Annie's Story of Great Depression *
Garden Pictures * Coming Into Manhood * I Love How You Love Me *
Time To Give Thanks * Autumn Memories * Sunset *My First Mothers' Day *
The Gift * Neighbors * Seasons of Life
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