This is a picture of two of my kids (years ago obviously) with someone who was very special to them, to me, and to our entire family. This is my son Zach and my daughter Anna with our next door neighbor, Connie and her adorable, little black dog, Trixie.
Connie was not your normal next door neighbor. When we first moved into that house, I’m sure we were the last family she wanted to see living next door. We had four young and very noisy kids. Anna wasn’t even school age yet. Connie, on the other hand, had no kids at home–her daughter Jodi was grown and living on her own. She had Ron–her best friend and, according to her, soul mate. Ron had just retired and even though Connie wasn’t quite fifty years old yet, she was planning on retiring as well. They had plans to travel and do all sorts of fun things together. They didn’t seem interested in getting to know their new neighbors and, being the introvert I am, I didn’t make any attempt to do so either.
I don’t recall how long we had been living there before we realized we hadn’t seen Ron in a while. Also, there suddenly appeared this adorable little black poodle-looking dog at the fence. We wondered what had happened but still did not make any effort to ask. That changed one day during the summer. Maybe I was in a good mood that day or maybe I had lost my mind. Whichever the case, I did something I seldom do. I saw her van come down the alley and I walked over to her driveway. I really wanted to meet the puppy. We did not have pets at the time and I love dogs. (As long as they are someone else’s dog) As she got out holding the puppy, I simply said Hi and asked what the puppy’s name was. Expecting an I’ll-tell-you-but-I-really-want-you-to-go-away answer, I was surprised when Connie not only told me the dog’s name but invited me inside to see her new carpet. I had not seen the old one! Politely I followed her in, trailed by my two girls, both who were already in love with the dog. Connie asked them if they would like to take the dog, named Trixie, for a walk. They readily said yes. As she put a leash on Trixie and sent them out the front door, she offered me some pop and asked me to sit down for a while. In that conversation I learned that her brother bought her the dog because her beloved Ron had passed away.
That day began a friendship that was such a blessing in my life. My youngest, who was often left out by her older siblings, quickly made Connie her best friend. Connie nicknamed her “Muffin” and everyday, it was in Connie’s living room that I would find Anna. Whether playing with the dog, watching TV, or simply talking Connie’s ear off, there was a special bond between the two of them. If I ever wanted to find Anna, I knew the first place to look was Connie’s. I, too, found myself over there quite often. She was a friend who didn’t mind you knocking on her door at 9:00AM even though she was still in her robe eating breakfast. When Anna needed her first eye surgery at age four, it was Connie who took her shopping for a special teddy bear and pajamas that didn’t pull over her head (as the doctor recommended). It was Connie who one time bought us groceries because we didn’t have money to do so. (Four year olds sometimes say things you wish they wouldn’t) We soon met the rest of her family–her daughter Jodi, her brother Leon (and his dog Alex), her brother Butch, her mom Louise, and many others. Connie and Leon had a special brother/sister relationship that I was somewhat jealous of. They truly loved each other and looked out for each other.
To be clear–this wasn’t a take-what-you-can-get relationship. I would do anything for Connie. We balanced things out that way. We became the only non-family members trusted with Trixie’s care. She spent a lot of time at our house–along with Alex–since Connie and her family did so many things together. We would make sure her grass was cut if she was gone. One time, Connie and her mom came home to find one of my kids and myself out shoveling her driveway and my husband inside changing a shower head she needed to have replaced. Her mom couldn’t stop thanking us for all we did for Connie. The thing is, Connie did so much more for us–for me especially–than I could have ever done for her.
You see, Connie was a friend who didn’t care that her house wasn’t perfectly clean. It didn’t bother her to have visitors before she was even dressed for the day. She didn’t mind that I needed someone to talk to at dinner time. She didn’t mind that a five year old bugged her every day. When my husband and I separated and he took our only vehicle, without any hesitation, she let me use her beautiful conversion van to get groceries or take the kids somewhere they needed to be. I didn’t have to call or set up a time to get together with her–if she was home, she welcomed me in. No disrespect to any one reading this, but I haven’t found another friend like her. True, she didn’t have kids to care for or run to and from activities. Still, there was something about her that isn’t found much anymore. I can’t think of anyone in my life right now who I would feel comfortable just dropping by without calling first.
When we left Hopkins to move to Buffalo, Connie decided it was time for her to move as well. She went back to the small town where she grew up so she could live with her mom as her mom’s health was failing. None of us knew then that her mom would actually out-live her. Connie was a cancer survivor, but not long after returning to that small town, the cancer returned with a vengeance. She knew she would not survive. Her brother put together a “going away” get together so people could love on her before she passed away. When we walked into that room, Leon was shocked that we made the three hour drive. There was never a doubt in our minds that we were going. We knew it would be the last time any of us would see her alive. It wasn’t too long after that, while I was with my two middle kids in Colorado on a marching band trip, that my husband called my cell phone. It was July 2, 2007 and my dear friend and the best neighbor anyone could ask for had passed away. I held back the tears until that night. I didn’t tell the kids–I didn’t want to ruin their trip. Instead, I went to one of the other chaperone’s rooms–a friend of mine–and sat and cried. I would miss her so much.
Countless times since those years I have longed for just one more time to go to Connie’s living room and sit and talk. Or to go sit on her deck in the summer and have some of my homemade apple pie that she and Leon loved so much. I have many wonderful memories of times we spent together.
Sometimes memories are bittersweet–sweet because I was fortunate enough to know such a wonderful lady but bitter because I wish so much that she was still a part of my life. I don’t think I’ll ever find someone like her again.
I miss you, Connie, and I will always love you and be forever grateful that you showed such kindness to a young mom going through some tough times…and that you loved my kids as though they were your own grandchildren. All of our lives are better because of you.