Fabric of Friendships

Viola after Perry

The fabric of friendships is a cotton broadcloth. Common, everyday, down to earth folks that you can sip a cup of coffee or iced tea with and forget what hour you started. But when the carafe runs empty it might be a clue to go back home.

The reason I think of cotton broadcloth as the fabric of friendships is that is so common. Common like the fabric of a chair cushion. One of my coffee friends made this cushion for me “to order.” Useful, practical and easy to wash if I should spill my coffee on it. No chair cushion is made of silk, or wool dress-pant material. While some soft fleeze might be nice, it’s just not practical. Coffee friendships are the every day type. People that help us see the usual as wothy, healthy, and we walk away with value in them and in ourselves.

Coffee cup cozy friends are hard to come by. This day and age people do such different types of lifestyles that finding the next door neighbor that becomes a life long friend is rare. When I think of this couple across the alley from us as we grew up, I wonder at the different viewpoints each of us as a family had of them.

All those years it was always ‘Perry and Vi.’ They never had any children. Viola suffered a cow kick as a youngster and that injury with it’s lasting scar tissue left her barren. They loved in a “boundaries” sort of way. The whole town seemed to understand them as salt of the earth, steady, loyal and honest people.

My mom always had the deepest respect for them. And she taught us that just because the couple demanded respect of their property by the neighborhood children, did not mean we should fear this couple. Perry’s lawn was immaculately clean. While this signaled the lack of children in their home, we were always welcome to sip lemonade on the back swing with them.

Fear was not part of my memory of this couple. Their love for each other seemed to radiate out ward to all of the “coffee” drop ins that were welcomed at their home. Many of these guests came from the church fellowship. this church ws on the corner across the street from their house.

Perry was the church custodian. I remember all of the boards that Perry was on besides church, with his work at the local farmers coop elevator also. And the funniest thing about his return home from all of his work was the way he cut the engine before coasting into the alley beside his back door. It was like a ball player sliding into home base. That sound still echoes in my head as the tires make the pebbles of gravel crackle underneath a silent engine.

Knowing that Viola was her name never stopped us from calling her just Vi. We knew tha they both came from rather large families, because the story time over lemonade, tea, or just a glass of water was endless. I always felt like I could not get enough of the past with them. From the humor to the sad, everything always had the same conclusion.

“The Lord has bee so good to us.”

Sometimes I remember questioning how they could say that with all the losses that they experienced.

Late after Perry’s death, I convinced my husband to stop by Vi’s house and see if she was home. Her face was radiant with recognition and her lips were full with God’s praise. She shared things like their favorite chairs in the living room. Their spot for Bible reading. Their times of prayer for those in the basket of Christmas cards. There was never a complaining tone or a hint of sadness as she praised God for all the good years she and Perry had together. The last Christmas letters that were hand written from her still had the same conclusion…

“The Lord has been so good to us.”

There is a verse in Psalms that seems to fit Vi and Perry’s confession of faith the most. I think of the Psalms as natural as breathing to them. Psalm 34 seems to me the one that I saw them live. “…The Lord’s praise shall be continually in my mouth…let us praise His name together… (8) Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him.”

While we wait for winter to finish it’s fury, maybe my complaining can take a vacation for the expectation of spring. The Lord has been good to us, we have jsut enough. The hot chocolate with marsh-mellows tastes good. I will trust Him as I continue to remember these beautiful people God has put in my path since childhood.


The Framework of friendships

This third doorway of the series on “After” involves a phone call that I had with a good friend just the other day. She has asked me to keep her anonymous for her own security. Of course in today’s world, security is important so I have changed her name to Anne.

Friendships have many different shapes and forms in today’s world. Recently another friend of the family was discussing how he had to explain to his 13 year old son that just because you follow someone on a social media account, that does not make that someone your friend. We “be-friend,” we follow, we like and so forth, but it’s the old fashioned friendships that are real and true.

The frame work of a friendship takes many different shapes. Some are work relationships, some church, some school, some family and some are unexplainable. We have to dig around a bit to find the beginning of that connection. And after awhile, we realize all of the things that we have in common with one person or another are the slides that hinge our friendships. As if one is the door jamb and the other the door, the bond is built on these common experiences.

My husband decided to begin glueing my little writing table together for me. Of course the temperature outside made it a bit sketchy on the glue bonding. So he brought the drawer in the house to finish it. The idea that some construction project or machine part might be gracing my kitchen table has never really bothered me. He’s a bit like his dad in that respectt, and sometimes 72 degrees and some newspaper is the best atmosphere to detail some project. Eating with bar clamps and wood glue just has to be overlooked. The result will be worth it.

The framework of the drawer was in need of some help to be more sturdy. Weakness on the corners had made pulling the drawer out or pushing it back in quite a job for the strong. It reminded me of some things that Anne and I talked about on the phone the other day.

When I asked Anne if I could share her story with my readers, her first reaction was no. I understand, most elderly people have a desire to remain private. They do not want others to see them in their vulnerable state.

Age has a way of defining one’s weaknesses in a way that is much too real. My grandmother also suffered from the aging effects of osteoporosis and her physical weakness left her in debilitating pain. Anne has osteoporosis also. There are times when i see her that I worry about hugging her. What if, like a fragile rose or beautiful vase, just a hug is like a crushing grip. But we hug none-the-less. She is so loving and caring and I know that she needs that hug as much as I do.

Anne told me about her memory. How she wished there were things that she could forget. One of the things was the rattle snakes from the ranching years. We talked about strong minds. Ignoring the topic of the weak body. Her recollection of those years is both humorous and vivd. I asked her if the memories ever keep her away with nightmares. No, she said, thank goodness.

I never thought of Anne as “like my grandma” to me. She has always been a good friend even though there are many things she does not know about me. I know there are others that she is closer in thought with. These people that she sees each week at church or in Bible study. It has never bothered me that she has other friends that have suited her needs in other areas. I simply find the phone calls very refreshing. From the talk about the early years, to all of her boasting about the kids, and grandkids, I am just glad to visit with her once in a while.

Years ago, we knew Anne best in the “couple” format. Her love of her spouse and the way that they connected to our family through the many shared experiences makes me want to stay in tough. The framework of all those memories are like numbers in a dot-to-dot color book. Yet the dots continue on into the next page.

Not too long ago I realized that another couple who came along side Anne during the year or so before her husband’s passing,some how just faded out of her life. Anger seized me at their lack of “stick-to-it” -tiveness. I even held a grudge towards then for some time. I don’t understand how friends are so seasonal and disappear like an early spring snowfall. How could they just abandon her need fro friendships after his death. Their connection to him had been stronger than seeing her need after.


My heart ached for her during those days. So many days were so alone. And to have friends that did not stick by after…. She never told me what happened. But I was happy that another couple from her church stepped in to fill the gap.

Doorways and frameworks that need repair rarely happen today. Friends come and go. But the one that sticks closer than a brother… I just hope that I never shut the door on my friendship with Anne. Even if she does not want me to share her stories about the long years of their happily married life. Anne is one of those strong minded, solid, gorilla-glue friends.

Another name for the door’s threshold piece is saddle. Many of our friendships are like that. We saddle the fence and try to ride out the differences that we have, never really taking the true tests of real relationships. Sometimes we have to actually pull the saddle out and put in on the horse and go for a long trail ride just to find out what really makes someone stick. I hope that my sharing won’t put a stop to our long talks. Each time we visit is a passage into another door panel that is like adding a lock rail to our friendship.

Memories. Written by myself in December of 1986, my senior year of high school

…Oh the memories

I could write all day

I could talk until dawn

But what is their use

If only to one day loose

…Oh, the memories


I do not forget

They will not be

Forgotten these


That I have

Of you…

Mrs. Rust

Florence after Wilfred, maybe?

Just when I thought I had it all figured out, Mrs. Rust came to my mind. All through the years there was always some neighbor lady that taught us respect, honor, and good behavior. This neighbor lady was one of them.

Here is the story of the stout little neighbor lady whose first name we never knew. Was it Florence (the nightingale)? Or maybe it was Freda or Minnie? And what was her husband’s name? Mr. Rust of course, though we never knew him, even if his name was Wilfred or Albert.

At the age of ten, our family moved from one end of the state to ther other. From the cold Siberian northland to the southern spring prairie lands. It did not take us long to get acquainted with our new neighbors. From learning about the school, to the 4-H leaders, to the local dairy supplier we soon had the new sand hills learned well.

The most difficult part was that sand involves sand burs. And sand burs means a lot of flat tires. Thank goodness for our father, their was still a local filling station at the time. But I am sure he patched a fair share of tubes during those days. Bike tires were not the durable mountain bike options that we have today. I remember well the banana seat, two girls, one gallon milk jars and someone always walking one or the other bicycle.

During those days my little brother was not in school yet. So my mother had her hands full with three daughters, stomachs to fill, my little brother, and in the winter a wood stove to fill. During the summer the garden was a top priority along with about fifty chickens to butcher.

And across the dirt expanse we called a street, lived Mrs. Rust. For some reason my mind thinks of her as the bird lady. I don’t know if she fed the birds or not. My memory fails me on that one. But knowing how much our family all looks forward to the return of the Robin Redbreast, putting her in the framework of that spring search seems appropriate. The bird with is rusty shirt would be a great symbol of who Mrs. Rust was for me.

We all have the memory of looking for my brother Wade during those days. One of us girls would search the sandbox, the toy box, the bedrooms, or the strawberry patch. The winner was the one who went over to Mrs. Rust’s house to find him sleeping on her sofa after sharing a snack with her. “Well, that was easy,” my mother would say after Mrs. Rust would say, “Yes, he’s here.” I wonder if he found her house an escape from three older sisters that were all too bossy.

In those days, we did not have a television. My mother and father were both avid readers. And there was the radio of course. Who needed to watch tv when you could read it in a book. I remember getting lost in books. We read books or we found some way to entertain ourselves with real live play!

All of my growing up years, we had to find a neighbor to go to if some school assignment was to watch some television show. While we lived across the street from Mrs. Rust, I was too young for such homework assignments. Though we also had friends homes to attend to such television viewing, it was easiest to just walk over to Florence’s house after school for a little tv time.

Mrs. Rust always accommodated our need for a little screen time. Those days of watching Flipper and Gilligan’s Island were good memories for me. I do not remember any other thing about her house. I do not even remember the snacks or what the house smelled like. I remember our home well, and the view of her house from our porch swing.

Wade’s memories of Mrs. Rust are vague. At age six going towards eight, memories are not as strong. My mother had few memories also. Except that in the seventies, no first name was necessary.

We never knew her first name. While today children are taught to preclude a first name with Ms. or Mister, back then it was always Mister or Misses followed by the surname. Out of respect and honor, we always answered with a “Yes, ma’am” or “no, sir.”

We only lived across from Mrs. Rust for two years. It never occurred to me at my tender age that she may have been lonely. Considering the absence of her Mister was not a thought of mine either. Today my heart is more in tune to such thoughts.

Why would I think of her as a bird lady? So many older people take to watching the birds. I think it’s because the birds come and go alot like visitors, family, or the sunshine. While they look forward to family time and coffee with others, the birds are there at the feeders almost year round. Except for the robins.

Robin redbreast is somewhat of a common bird. In our area it signals the season change quite pleasantly. Our family has an unspoken challenge of who sees the robin first. It seems the volley is between my mother and my second daughter most. It is the pride of the observation that prompts the phone call “I saw a Robin today!”

Many elderly couples take to going south like the robins through the winter. While I was contemplating our families remembrances of Mrs. Rust, how we had moved from north to south to become her neighbor, Robin Redbreast would not leave my mind.

So many elderly women live alone, watching the birds feed at their tubes filled with seed. One time a bird in the nest outside our window cooed for days to get the male to come back to the nest. That lonely call, made me think of the widow who has lost her love of many years.

Then I found this song. It really does speak for itself. Hopefully this is the saddest story I have to tell. Many of the other women on my list, led fulfilled lives in their days alone. And some were quite funny.

Song by Sonya Kitchell. “Robin in the Snow.”


The last word of that so common phrase “Happily Ever After” receives so very little attention. Few people seek to hear the romance in the heart of a widow. Yt she is the “Same Girl” that she once was, just filled with memories and heart ache. Twila Paris put this poem into song years ago.

“She’s still the same girl running down that hill

“She’s still the same girl with her shining smile

“Listen to her story, and your heart will glow

“She’s still the same girl, and she needs you so.”

Link to the video and song is found below. I discovered this song on Mother’s Day years ago shortly after my grandfather passed away.

On Valentine’s Day this year while the world was feeling sorry for the singles, I spent my lonely hours of the day in prayer for the lonely hearts of the aged. All through the years my connection to widows has taught me more than I could tell in one writing. These are the stories of all those whom I found friendships and kinships with through the years. Today I share the beginning to the tales.

When we got married nearly 28 years ago I was truly a princess bride. I believed in Happily Ever After. Once upon a time I thought my role as a wife, mother and teacher-mom, and church pianist was all that there was to my life and calling. I nevert really considered that one day there would be an After.

I was one of those Happily married women. I am still a happily married woman. I also believe that we are one of those Ever couples. You know, the kind that’s married 59 years and no one ever sees them alone, they go everywhere together. We also are not one of those couples with the secret closet that once opened buries all future hopes of love, joy, and peace. Happily Ever After describes me and my dear loved one.

I am also one of those moms that is once a mother always, ever a mother. And now happily I am in the Happily After Grandmother days. My parents are again, and time marches on. Now what?

What about this After thing? After those days of mothering, of trying to straighten wrinkles, smooth out the gray lines and put on the new hoodies, now what? After those days of constant busy and happily fussing ever rushing about, is there really an After?

What am I to do in this ever silent hallway that my children, now happily married, once called home? How do I continue on in the emptimess waiting for the love of my lifeto come home from his long day? How do I fill these ever long, forever boring hours waiting for the After to begin?

As I wait for the days to burst anew with some grand vision or scheme, it finally came to me. Suddenly, I remembered… While I was once waiting for my Happily Ever After I met women in their After. First there was one woman adn then another through the years that came to my mind. Women in the “After ” of life whose friendships filled me with kinship and a sisterly, motherly, grandmotherly bond that could not be met by anyone else.

After. These are their stories.

James 1:27 “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” NLT.

Maybe all these years I did not really understand what my true calling in this world was until now. All through the years I have had a lonely heart connection with many widows. I hope to convey their silent years into the words that will help others understand their hearts the way that I have. When I spent time with a widow woman or man, I always felt so blessed. Some never knew anything about me. But listening to her stories filled me with such contentment. Hearing about his wounds always brought about humor somehow. The strength that they shared with me is undeniable. And now their strength to carry on can be yours. Just listen…