“And by and by Christopher Robin came to an end of things,
and he was silent, and he sat there, looking out over the
world just wishing it wouldn’t stop.” — A.A. Milne
Much time has passed since I visited the mother of my lifelong friend. I marvel at the diminutive woman across from me. At eighty-four, her eyes shine brighter than mine and her laughter is a violin lightly plucking the strings of my heart.
“I remember the first time we saw you,” she says with a mischievous glint. Thus begins a story told and retold, yet one I’ve never tired of hearing.
“Y’all were new neighbors.” She grins. “My chirren were playing in the backyard when Dickie started screaming. Like to scared me to death. He said, ‘Huh hit me wit’ th’ cat!’ ”
Contrite even after all these years, the color of embarrassment crawls up my face.
“When I asked where you had come from, the kids said you just wandered up.”
She purses her lips into a tight smile. “Then your mama came looking for you.”
I was three-years-old, and it wasn’t the last time I wandered away. “Why did I hit Dickie with that mechanical cat I’ve heard about for years?”
She shakes her head. “You had it. He wanted it. That was that. You and Peggy began your life-long friendship that day. And your mama, bless her heart, and I became friends for life, too.”
This beautiful lady sighs and shifts slightly in her straight-back chair, a necessity since lumbar surgery. The almost imperceptible movement is the closest she comes to a complaint.
We talk about our families, speak of grandchildren, her grands and great-grands. She digs out a shoebox of babies born to people I have never met. She says she’s happy here at The Home with a screen door she can open for cross-breezes.
We don’t mention Peggy, my first friend, gone now for a decade. The pain is too raw. My gaze drifts to Peg’s picture identical to one of my own. I ask about Peggy’s son.
She laughs. “That boy’ll never change. He will pee on your foot and make you believe it’s raining. But he’ll give you the shirt off his back if you say you like it, and hug till you’re begging for mercy.”
Like his mother, I think, and catch my breath. “That boy was so worried about Peggy. We all were.”
My other mother looks down quickly and I fear I’ve opened a wound not yet healed. She looks back up and for a moment, we share the depth of our sorrow, our need for closure.
“My daughter was a brave girl and hated giving up. She taught us a lot about courage, didn’t she?”
I catch my breath again. I don’t want to cry in front of this woman who buried a son, a daughter, a husband; a cancer survivor who smiles through her pain. I know where Peggy got her courage.
I stand and hug her awkwardly. “I’ll come back real soon.”
Only after her door is closed do I allow my reservoir of tears to bathe my sad soul.
I believe courage wears many faces.
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