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Archives for : June1955

Another Bad Thing Happened That Wasn’t All Bad

The phone rang about 4:00 AM. No good news is ever delivered at 4 AM. Steve grabbed for the phone on his bedside table and I heard his sleepy hello. There was some silence and he sat up in bed talking to the caller. It was Mrs. Morgan. I immediately thought that Mr. Morgan may have wandered away again and she needed some help finding him. There was a similar call about two months ago and we found him sitting on a neighbor’s porch that morning petting their cat. I turned on the lamp on my side table. Steve was still listening and making noises of acknowledgment but made hand gestures for me to stay when I got up to dress. He ended the call letting Mrs. Morgan know that he would be right down.

Sadly, Mr. Morgan had passed away in his sleep and Mrs. Morgan had already alerted the police and they were at the house with her and an ambulance to carry Mr. Morgan to the mortuary. Steve dressed and I made a pot of strong coffee. He went down to sit with Mrs. Morgan as she dealt with the details.

I alternated sitting on the back steps smoking and watching out the front blinds until the police and the ambulance left. When Steve returned mid-morning, he filled me in on what we could do for Mrs. Morgan. Steve remarked that she was calm and seemed a little relieved in a way. Mr. Morgan had been a lot to keep up with as his dementia worsened. After last summer’s block party event, we had started to check up on them more often and had them over to dinner a couple of time. Mr. Morgan loved playing toy soldiers with Stevie Junior and Mrs. Morgan needed a break from time to time and she went grocery shopping with me a couple of times while the men hung out on the porch. Mr. Morgan would sometimes know who we all were and sometimes not.

I went down to see Mrs. Morgan and brought some lunch. We talked for awhile and she let me know that her sister was on the way to town also. Boldly and smartly, the details of Mr. Morgan’s funeral had already been decided so Mrs. Morgan only had to call the funeral home to discuss the scheduling details.

We had some tea and she remarked on how different her life would be without her husband. The Morgan house was one of the larger homes on the block with multiple bedrooms and an extra full bathroom. She had kept it clean by herself but she thought it held a lot of mixed recent memories. She confidentially told me that she hoped to sell it and move closer to her sister. They had been close earlier in life and she wanted to enjoy what time she had left with family nearby. Since the Morgans had no children, she had kept up with her nieces and nephews who were now having their own children.

I knew that I would now miss her. She had been kind to my children and made them more thoughtful and comfortable with older people. Seeing her expertly handle Mr. Morgan was inspiring. It would be nice for her to move forward for her own life.

A lovely memorial on a beautiful morning fitted the gentle way the Morgans spent their last years. The quiet distance that crept up between Mr. Morgan and his world never brought him to anger and Mrs. Morgan was patient throughout her time as caregiver. I knew he became frustrated sometimes, but she was always his friend and brought him back to center.

Mrs. Morgan contacted an estate dealer to take away most of their furniture and a week later, she had a moving van pick up her cherished items for a move to an apartment near her sister. She was looking forward to spending time with them and their lively family. I admired her ability to look forward and enjoy her life and told her so. She leaned closer to me and told me that she had plenty of time to think about this move.

She asked me to oversee the painters that would repaint inside the house before she sold it and I gladly accepted the responsibility. The house would sell quickly due to its good size. When she called to let me know that there was an interested party, I didn’t want to know about them. I realized how large the hole was that she left in my life when she moved.

Getting To Know You

Another summer, another block party. It’s always a great chance for all of us to come together and over the last couple of years, we’ve organized an event that brought all of us together with food and fun. Every year, each of us try to outdo what we created last year in the food category. I had been tinkering with a brownie recipe. So far, the recipe had come out right the last few times and Steve had eaten dozens of them at this point for testing purposes. I’m glad it’s summer so he can work off that extra weight in the annual lawn competition. I’m sure that Zettie Lousie probably expended the most effort cutting her grass with that push-mower, but Steve was meticulous about edging and he sweats the small stuff. There was no errant watermelon growing on the lawn this year, but the kids had a small patch on the side yard with tomato plants and carrots. My hope is always that the family will eat more vegetables if we grow them. Everyone loves corn on the cob but we never grow that at home. There must be a system of lucky vegetables.

The kids zone this year would be expanded. Some of the little ones are riding bigger bikes this year and needed a larger course to test their skills. We also added a little roller-skating area. Some of the dads had built a small corral that would let the little ones use the railings to help cruise around while the big kids could show off their spins and backward skating in the center. I made a mental note to find the skate key to place in my pocket so I wouldn’t have to search for it on the big day.

The newest neighbors, the Woodwards, would be experiencing their first block party. Some information had been shared with Edie and we all hoped that Artie could be off of work that day so that we could get a better look at him. Artie had been seen cutting the grass at his new house and even installed new numerals next to his front door.

Edie had planted some flowers in the bed around the front porch and new furniture was put out front also. The porch itself looked like an outside room with the small side tables and pots of flowers decorating it.

It never seemed hard to get to know anybody before who moved onto the block. But the mysterious Woodwards were a challenge. I decided that I would give Edie a call to see if I could answer any questions she had about the big block party.

Spying vs Snooping

“Steven” had received an unusual assignment from Zettie Louise. From time to time, Zettie took short trips, maybe vacations, that left her home empty. She left lamps on in some rooms but it is fairly easy to notice when someone hasn’t been seen in our neighborhood for a few days. I never felt close enough to her to ask about these excursions and frankly, I was frightened of what the answer might be. With Zettie Louise possibly being a former spy, she could still work for the government from time to time. That would explain why she didn’t have a regular job or a visible means of income.

Stevie Junior had been enjoying going to Zettie Louise’s once a week to perform some little tasks and he seemed to enjoy her company. She baked him cookies with wheat germ and he raved about them. His regularity improved also. Maybe I should be sneaking wheat germ into everything.

During Zettie Louise’s next absence, Stevie would use a key to her house to enter it and water her plants every three days. She showed him the location of the watering can, the location and name of each plant and how much water to use on them. Stevie seemed excited about being responsible for Zettie Louise’s plants and wrote down some notes about the assignment. Zettie Louise told him that she should be back in about 10 days. She didn’t tell him anything about the trip and he was focused on the instructions, so he didn’t ask.

On Stevie’s first visit to Zettie Louise’s after she left, he had some trouble with the key and returned home. I asked Steve to watch Daisy and walked down to unlock the door for Stevie. I had not been inside of the house for years and felt a little awkward entering without her being home. I stood in the center of the front room and took it all in while Stevie filed the watering can. It was small, so it looked like it was going to take multiple trips just to water the plants in this room. There was a philodendron that was draped over two door jambs around the top and was snaking its way down the side of another. By the window, a cart held five more plants and there were a couple on side tables. Stevie went about his business, watering carefully. There was a hat rack on the wall that held a mix of men’s things; maybe they belonged to her departed spouse.

I crept over to the doorway and checked out the dining room table. It was covered with fabric and a pattern but I couldn’t tell what Zettie Louise was sewing. A single push pedal machine was in the corner. I slowly moved toward the kitchen and peeked inside. It was spectacular. The paint was turquoise, the counters were a mix of coral and blue outlined rectangles all tangled together. The sink was a stainless dual and the cooktop was shiny and spotless. There were small shelves with a collection of sets of salt and peppers. In the center was a beautiful figurine that I picked up to examine. It was stamped “Made in occupied Japan.” Zettie Louise was quite a collector. By the back door sat Zettie Louise’s army boots, slightly caked with dry mud. Zettie Louise had a table with two small stools on the opposite side of the kitchen. The table was set for one but there was a large ashtray on it with a pipe. A small canister of “Mixture 79” tobacco, some matchbooks and pipe cleaners laid next to the ashtray. Is it possible that Zetie Louise smoked a pipe? Zettie Louise was so mysterious. Stevie called out to me that he was done with the watering. He replaced the watering can in the sink and we left. I let him try the lock a couple of times before we left to see if he could unlock it by himself next time. I might need to have a good reason to come back and help him open the door again.