Category: Family – JoAnn
When I was a little girl, my mama would tell me to either play outside or sit quietly, while she watched her “stories” on TV. Those stories were, of course, daytime soap operas. Mama only watched the CBS soaps. To my best recollection they were: As the World Turns, Guiding Light, The Edge of Night, and Search for Tomorrow. I know, very dramatic titles, right? They usually ran 30 minutes each.
Mama was a very early riser and worked hard as a stay-at-home mother and wife. So, by mid-day, when the soap operas came on, she needed a pleasant break. She would sit in her favorite chair, often with her lunch and a cold drink, and enjoy her stories. It didn’t take long for me to realize these stories, as she called them, were pretty interesting. I took after my mama and learned to appreciate the entertainment soap operas offered.
By the time I was a teenager in the early 70s, I added a new soap opera to the CBS lineup: The Young & The Restless. They took a more modern approach to their characters and storylines. I was hooked! So was my mama and my older sister, Jeanie. We all three watched the new soap whenever we had the chance. If my sister and I had to miss it, our mama would fill us in later. Jeannie even bought the soap opera magazines that were published just for the people who couldn’t watch the episodes daily but wanted to keep up.
Later on, when my sister and I were both married and raising families, we would talk on the phone often to each other and our mother. It never failed that the topic of our favorite soap opera would come up somewhere in the conversation; what character was doing what with whom, and where and why! I was even a pen pal to my favorite aunt who also loved the soap, and we would often write about the latest goings on in our letters! We were all loyal fans. Heck, I still am.
We may sound a little crazy, or rather misguided with our love for Y&R, as fans refer to it, but the statistics don’t lie. Young & Restless has been successful for over 53 years! It has held the spot as the #1 watched daytime soap opera for many of those years.
I’m not sure if my sister Jeanie still watches Y&R, as it has been a very long time since the topic came up in one of our conversations. She works full time still, and I doubt she is home to watch, but with the wonderful technology we have today, if you miss an episode of any television show when it’s broadcast, you can be sure to catch it online. I often catch up with my favorite characters of Y&R just that way.
The show’s original theme song “Nadia’s Theme” still plays at the end of every episode, and with every note I am reminded of the enjoyment I shared all those years ago with my mother, sister, and aunt. Lots of times we would be busy somewhere in the house and hear that theme song start to play. We would drop what we were doing and run to the television set before we missed something important. There was no rewinding a scene or recording an episode as televisions can do today.
My mother has been gone for 20 years, and my aunt for ten. I truly miss the little things with both of them, even something as silly as watching a “story”. I’m happy Y&R is still on after all these years. It’s a sweet reminder of two women I love.
For as long as I can remember, I have not made friends easily. I’m sure it has a lot to do with the fact that I’m an introvert by nature. But the few friends that I made in my lifetime have been good ones. I consider myself blessed to remain friends with girls whom I went to elementary school. There were five of us and we all met in first grade. Memories of our little gang huddled up at recess, gossiping about the cutest boy in class, or comparing our newest outfits, remain cherished in my heart. To this day, I stay in touch with each of them through social media. If there is one good thing that has come from Facebook, it is finding old friends to reminisce about the good old days.
Many people will walk through our lives. Few will make a lasting impression, even fewer will become a loyal friend. But even more rare is someone who will be the friend that changes your life forever. I believe most of us never find someone so unique. I can proudly say that I did, and her name was Kathy Sue.
An older cousin of mine introduced me to his friend Kathy when I was around 15, and she was 19. We instantly hit it off as friends. She was intrigued about my life in another state, and I was in awe of her for many reasons. Kathy stood a mere 4’10” and was pretty as a doll with crystal blue eyes and long brown hair. Every guy would turn his head when she entered a room. She had a dazzling smile and the personality to match. She was also very intelligent, attended college, and had a good job. She was everything that I hoped to be someday. The maturity difference between us seemed invisible. We got along great and had a lot of fun together.
As I got older, we became closer. Our maturity levels eventually matched up and we were the best of friends. I lived in Virginia, and she in Tennessee. I visited TN several times a year, as that was where I spent my childhood. Kathy would drop everything, take vacation days from work, and spend every moment with me when I visited. She would make me feel like I was having a red carpet rolled out for me. Everything we did, she would let it be my choice because I was her guest. I never had a family member treat me so well, much less a friend. She was the definition of a true friend.
Years went by and I got married and had children. Kathy had bad luck in relationships and remained single. But no matter when I visited Tennessee, she would be there, rolling out that red carpet, now for me and my kids. She never wavered in her friendship, showing love and support to me and my family no matter how different our life paths had become. We still had so much fun when we were together.
Over the years, I nicknamed Kathy Sue “my little angel”. No matter where my life took me, she was always waiting in the wings with a smile and positive attitude, always there to listen, and offer loving words of advice. She had the patience of a saint and a heart of pure gold. She is the only person I have ever known in my 58 years, that never made me feel a negative emotion. Not once!
Mother’s Day 1999, I took a trip to TN and spent most of my long weekend with Kathy. We celebrated my upcoming birthday and had a wonderful time. We laughed, had long talks catching up on each other’s lives, stayed out till way past our bedtimes, and soaked in as much friendship as we could. The last night we visited, I remember Kathy saying to me she didn’t want to say goodbye. That she didn’t want me to leave, and that it would be too long before she could see me again. I too felt sad and wished that I could take my precious friend back to Virginia with me. We promised to write each other letters, as we had been doing for over 20 years. Little did I realize, that would be the last time I would see my angelic friend.
Two weeks later, after running errands all day, I returned home and found my oldest daughter Robin waiting for me. She had a strange look on her face and I immediately knew something was wrong. She told me to call her dad, that it was very important. She also said, don’t listen to the answering machine. What in the world was going on? She wouldn’t tell me, just kept saying “call dad”. When I called my husband at work, he told me to sit down. He began explaining that someone had left a message on our home answering machine and my friend Kathy was killed that morning in a head on collision on her way to work (the same route she had taken every morning for over 10 years).
It couldn’t be true. I kept asking him, are you sure it’s “My Kathy”? Unfortunately, there was no mistake.
I will always be grateful for that last trip to visit my dear Kathy. I remember her often with great fondness and gratitude. When I think of Kathy Sue, I can’t help but think of how special it was that God picked me to be her friend. She was a priceless gem, and it was an honor to have known her.
It’s been 21 years since my friend Kathy left this earth. I still think of her often, as she was a once in a lifetime kind of friend. I know I will never find another friend like her. They are much too rare. I believe the two of us will be reunited some day and the thought of that makes me smile.
If you happen to have a friend as special to you as my Kathy was to me, my hopes are you appreciate them and never take them for granted. Let them know often how important they are to you. It really is true that we are not guaranteed tomorrow. . . . JoAnn
I guess the most appropriate title for the jobs I have done in recent years is Home Healthcare Worker. That seems a little too proper for me though, as I am not formerly trained in this field. I fell into these jobs just by being at the right place at the right time someone was in need. And there seems to be an overwhelming need for people just like me!
My first “little lady”, as I like to call them, was Lucile. Lucy was in her early 90s and had Alzheimer’s in its later stages. Being in the situation where I not only needed a job but also a place to live, I had agreed to move into Lucile’s home to offer 24/7 care.
Lucile’s well-being had been in the hands of her two loving nieces for years. They took excellent care of their aunt! There was nothing that Lucy needed or wanted that she didn’t get. They adored her immensely. I was instantly welcomed into the family. I never felt like just an employee. They took good care of me too. They made sure I was well paid and had a comfortable place to live. They provided everything and more that I needed to care for their beloved aunt.
What a hoot Lucile was! She had story after story of her very colorful life to share with me and anyone else who was genuinely interested. And she always could tell who was genuine and who was not. She was an accomplished artist, and her home was sprinkled with her paintings. She could tell you a story for each one. She was one smart cookie, and I loved being around her.
For the majority, Lucile had no concept of place or time. What year, month, day, hour, all changed on the flip of a dime for her. When I realized this, I began to ask her each morning how old she was that day. Some days it would be 42, some 37, and others 16. The days she was 16, she also took on the personality of 16. She would ask me if she had overslept and was going to be late for school. I would assure her that she had the day off and could enjoy it in any way she pleased. This made her incredibly happy, as it would any kid. I would usually have a more difficult time keeping up with Lucile on her teenage days. She not only thought she was young but expected her body to react as such. This meant her trying to get out of bed without assistance. And that usually ended with a fall. Her legs were extraordinarily strong, but her brain could not convince them to react the way they should.
Lucy never learned my name. Her family and friends would tell her I was JoAnn. She would agree in the moment but refer to me later as “the woman who lives here”. But whenever she needed me, she would call out her best friend’s name, which was Kathy.
I would be stirred from a deep sleep early each morning to the sound of Lucy screaming, “Kathy, I’m awake!”. It was a rough way to wake up at 6 a.m. but it sure gives me a laugh now. It never bothered me that Lucile couldn’t learn my name. I knew she cared for and appreciated me. She told me so, and I knew it was heartfelt. Anyway, she thought I was her best friend, and that was an honor.
There were fleeting moments when Lucile would know exactly how old she was, and where her life was headed. She would become very solemn. Depressed actually. Things that she had spent years enjoying, she no longer wanted to partake. Her family had shared that Lucile enjoyed sitting in the front room of her home, where the front wall was all glass. She lived on a mountain top, and her view was beautiful. She would watch the many different birds fly all around her collection of bird feeders. Feeders, which I promptly kept filled in hopes to entertain Lucy.
But much to her family’s disappointment, and mine, she no longer wanted to sit in the front room. We even had a hospital bed delivered and placed in her sunroom facing the view. I would talk her into it, get her wheeled in there, and she would quickly depress. It was like watching a light slowly growing dim. I believe she remembered that room better than any other. It had been her favorite room. A place she admired the beautiful view, and the woods where she had taken long daily walks for years. Now it was a bold reminder of the things she could no longer do. It reminded her she was 90 years old. Sadly, she would always ask to go back to her bedroom.
I spent almost every 24-hour period with Lucy for around 4 months. I wonder how many years of friendship that would measure out to be. I felt as though Lucile was my friend, and I felt blessed and honored to have had the opportunity to share the last months of her life on earth. It was hard, for her, and for me. I guess the end of a life always is, no matter what the circumstances. You can never be fully prepared. It is impossible. But for the last months of her life, I hope that I made some sort of positive difference in Lucy’s world. We laughed a lot, the two of us alone in that big house on the hill. And we struggled on days that were difficult for obvious reasons. But I would not have changed a thing. Lucile taught me important lessons about life that I will hold dear forever. Lessons that only being in her presence could I have learned. What an amazing human being she was. Love and miss you Lucy. Until we meet again…. JoAnn