Riding Life!

Riding Life!
Life is like a wild horse--Unless you ride it, it will ride you! (from the movie: "Princess of Thieves.")

Thursday, June 24, 2010

V: Wal-Mart Friends & Wonder Woman #1




Earlier I was checking in on Debbie at www.dcwisdom.wordpress.com.and enjoyed her funny post about an experience in Wal-Mart. I "commented" to Debbie about how I've become friends with a woman, who works the evening shift as a clerk at Wal-Mart. Her day job is in an office at a hospital nearby, and she works the second job to help take care of her aged (Alzheimer victim) mother and often has one of her adult kids and grandkids living with her. When I was taking an evening class a while back, I got into the habit of stopping by Wal-Mart to pick something up on my way home. I always park near the garden center because I like to check out the stuff and it's not nearly so congested as the rest of the store! She would often be working there alone in the not so busy garden center area, so she usually was the one who checked me out. Often we'd get into a little conversation if no one was waiting, and that's how I learned that she also had a mother with this terrible disease, and we would commiserate over prodigal children and helping to raise grandchildren. Our oldest daughters even have the same name!



I'm convinced that women bear the brunt of all the family responsibilities-
always have. Among women, there are those who bear more than the normal burdens of life, and "C" aptly refers to these women as Wonder Women. They may be accomplished by being a pioneer in a field not open to women in the past, such as her octogenarian law partner. But we can never forget the many ordinary women, who held families together and sacrificed to raise their kids right. And by the way, is anyone really ordinary? Considering that made me think of Rita. Rita was our neighbor who lived across the street from "C" and I when we were kids. Rita was a registered nurse, and the only mom who worked in our neighborhood. She had to! Her no-good, alcoholic husband couldn't keep a job to support their three kids, and so it was up to Rita to be the main breadwinner. I still remember the black lady, Essie, who stayed in the summers and helped raise Rita's kids. There were no day camps or daycare centers back then for working mothers! When Rita was a nurse in the 50's and 60's, they dressed like this.


Rita was a larger than life personality! She was tall, thin and lanky with a broad smile and the loveliest chestnut hair. Her hairstyle reminded me of the old star, Veronica Lake. Sometimes she'd come over for my mom to help fix her hair. My mom was not a beautician, but she had a knack for fixing hair and we had a couple of neighbors who would come over for coffee and she would put their hair in curlers or help with a perm. Rita had a loud guffaw laugh and I can still see her in my mind's eye, standing in our living room, sharing her newest joke (sometimes off color) with my parents, throwing her head back laughing while slapping her knee with the ever present cigarette dangling between her fingers. Sometimes she brought over a jar of jelly or something she had canned from her family's old farm place. She loved that farm, and considered moving there, but it was too remote to find work there. She was loyal and never complained about her mean husband, but we kids knew. Sometimes her husband came home drunk and in a bad mood and beat them all. My sister was closer in age to Rita's kids and she spent lots of time at their house. The kids told--and it's hard to keep secrets in a little neighborhood. Finally after over 20 years of putting up with him, she decided to end it. He left and we never saw him again. For a while she rented out her house and moved to a town about an hour and half away, but eventually they moved back. In the ensuing years, while raising teenagers alone, Rita underwent two mastectomies and then suffered from a benign brain tumer that was pressing on the optic nerve. Surgery saved her life, and prevented the blindness that had begun to affect her, but she was left with seizures to deal with after that. Do some people just never get a break? Through it all, Rita, never lost her zest for life or her outrageous sense of humor. She married again to a younger fella, and raised his daughter as her own. Her children never approved of the new man and they were estranged for a while. She helped send her stepdaughter to Georgetown University and paid for a lot of it! Then one afternoon she came home and found hubby in bed with a new lady! I don't recall how it came to be, but he stayed in the house and she moved into a rent house. Everyone thought she had really been taken to the cleaners by this jerk! He stayed in the house and drove the new truck that she had bought him? How did that happen?



I do know that one of the ways that Rita dealt with all that life had given her, was her strong faith. Not the usual "church lady; Rita was no shrinking violet of a woman. Her language was often peppered with expletives which was just a normal way of talking to her, and she smoked like a chimney! I've often wondered about all the conservative, country Baptist pastors who dealt with Rita through the years. I'm sure she didn't change her style of talking for them! Although he was known to use a curse word or two, my dad disapproved of cussing women and phonies. A little double standard for sure! But he did like Rita. She was fun and she was real and we all knew that her life was hard. My dad was naturally reserved, but Rita could always get a laugh out of him!

Rita came to my wedding and it was her house I ran to for help when my dad suffered a fatal heart attack in the wee hours of the morning. She was at the funeral. But a few years after that was when she left her unfaithful husband and we lost touch with her. That still makes me sad. "C"'s mom called her a few months ago when she saw the obituary in the newspaper for Rita. She had married a third time which was a shock to me, but was a widow. She passed away in a nursing home in a nearby town. The funeral had been several days before I learned of her death. If I had known, I would have gone to the service. Anyway, I sure wish I had a photo of Rita - or of all the neighborhood moms I grew up with. Life is different now and I miss a lot of it.


So when hubby and I go to Wal-Mart together and I speak to my friend there, he asks "so how do you know her?" "Oh, we talk in the evenings when I go in to buy milk or whatever", I reply. He's a little bewildered and amused that I know so much about her personal life. And there is a little something about her that reminds me of Rita. It may be her chestnut hair. Sometimes, we find our new neighborhood in other places--even Wal-Mart!

So does a particular neighborhood character stand out in your memories? I'd love to hear!

14 comments:

Ayak said...

I do love these stories...you make them so real.
I remember our next door neighbour when I was a child, who was a good friend of my mother's. She was a little jolly Irish lady, married to a very mean man. I remember my mother sharing her packet of 5 cigarettes with this lady because she was always short of money. She confided in my Mum that she would sometimes steal money from her husband's pockets when he was asleep...not enough to be noticed..but just a little every day. She always remained cheerful and brought up her three children with money she earned from cleaning other peoples' houses and taking in their laundry.
Lovely lady.

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

How well I remember Rita. She was the "go to" person for injuries, and she would give me immunizations at home--she was my pediatrician's nurse. She had a hard, hard life that she did not deserve. She was a wonder women who loved her kids and cared for all of us in the neighborhood. But, she had a "broke picker" and just could not find healthy men. Thank you for writing about her. C

Happyone :-) said...

Always enjoy your posts. The lady I remember as a kid lived in the last house on the street by the woods I used to play in. All the kids used to say she was a witch because she lived by the woods in a really run down old house and were afraid of her. I started talking to her one day and we became friends. I would spend hours there, with her telling me all sorts of things. She had a well in her back yard and would always give me drinks of water from it. One day she just wasn't there anymore. I missed her. I haven't thought of her in years. Thanks for helping me remember her.

Farmchick said...

I love your stories as well. Rita sounds like a strong, strong woman. And, you are right, women do bear the brunt of so many things in life.

Queenmothermamaw said...

That was a great story V. Yes I knew a woman like that. My own mother. Left at 33 by an alcoholic husband with 3 children to move back home with her parents who still had 4 grown sons at home. Oh man, life is stranger than fiction. My mom was very quiet and ladylike though but maybe too passive. Blessings
QMM

Vee said...

Yes, I know her well, but I'd not be able to bring her to life as you brought Rita to us. Beautifully written!

Vickie said...

These people are everywhere, V, aren't they? We pass by them every day on our way to ?, and most we never know. Some people just can't seem to get out of bad situations, and bad things keep happening to the same people - when do they get a break? It's hard to understand...

Milton said...

Oooh, lovely tale. And one with a wee reminder of what's really important in life. Have you ever read any Elizabeth Berg? Rita would have been a much-loved character in one of your books. DO read her, I just know you'd love her.

Milt x

Paul C said...

Yes, your story telling is most delightful. Rita had her share of trials. I admire one of my aunts who has had to put up with a lot within her family. She always has a positive personality.

jan said...

I remember a neighbor lady who had a son who was very injured at birth. He took so much care, but she never seemed phazed by it, even though she had three other children and her husband had a business that she also helped with. As a child, I really didn't understand the grace that she demonstrated, but looking back, I admire her greatly.
I really admire your story telling!

Debbie said...

Aw, V, that was a wonderful story! So happy that your Wal-Mart escapades triggered this story from you! :) Our family moved so many times that I don't have many memories like that. But I do remember one neighbor that loved us girls. In the summer, we would be at her house more than ours. We would lie on the kitchen floor and look up her dress, and she made us mayonnaise sandwiches. Great memory! :)

Linda Lou Rogers Averitt said...

loved your post:)

Sandra said...

What a wonderful story, V. I feel like I know Rita now. And what an inspiration she is. I have had happen to me several times what happened to you -- I would see someone's obit and think "Oh, if only I had known they were still in the area, I would have visited them!" But, they're never totally gone, as long as we (and others) have great memories of them -- and write about them on our blogs so others will hear the memories too!

KathySue said...

I am glad you decided to write about Rita...she was such a "character". I had forgotten how she used to make Daddy laugh with her jokes! I recall she and C's mom were my "neighborhood mothers"---which did not necessarily make our own mother very happy! I did spend a lot of time with Rita and her family. She was such a hard worker and had such a bright personality. Enduring hardships and rising above one's circumstances are the strongest threads in the "fabric of our lives". That is where we get strength. Some folks really do seem to get more than a fair share of hardships....but I guess another way to look at it is "strength training"! (This is where we all flex our muscles:)

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