A single rose can be my garden... a single friend, my world.
One week before her birthday, Helen died. Our friendship began when I became her supervisor at Target. I was impressed by her dedication, her hard work, and her upbeat attitude. It was the start of a profound friendship.
At the time, I was battling severe depression. I had surrounded myself with friends, but the worse the depression got, I took stock of my "friends" and realized that most of them were broken in some way and waiting for me to fix them. I couldn't even fix myself! It sounds brutal (and probably was to them), but I divested myself of those people, and with No-Fix Helen by my side, my outlook began to change.
Helen and I did a lot more than go to dinner and a movie or sit around watching TV, and we seldom went shopping. Sometimes I think the major things we did were talk and laugh. No subject was left undiscussed. When Denis came into my life, Helen was there to check him out when he came for visits, and yes, she gave him her seal of approval. When he immigrated in December 2001, the pace picked up.
She and her daughter were witnesses at our wedding. They were among our dearest friends at our wedding dinner-- when the restaurant patrons sitting close to our extended table stayed much longer than they'd intended because they were enjoying how much fun we were having. Helen was with us when Denis went through the Oath Ceremony to become a U.S. citizen. When another dear friend from Illinois came for a visit, Helen was there when I took Jeanie to a casino to play bingo.
And no one could have a better friend to help with home renovations. Whenever I see all the white trim in the living room and hallway, I think, "Helen painted all that." When I see those six white doors in the hallway, I remember the assembly line we set up to get them all painted. Helen was there when I took a chisel to those bricks on the kitchen walls and then smoothed the walls down with a sander. I can still see her paint-speckled butt sticking out of a bottom cupboard as we hurried to finish painting them before the new countertops arrived.
|Leading the way to another adventure.|
Helen was so much fun when we went out on trails. She loved going off the beaten path every bit as much as Denis and I. Once, the three of us saved some ill-prepared teenagers from tragedy in the desert outside Wickenburg. When one trail got so bumpy that Helen's head kept banging the top of the Jeep, from there on out I made a point of yelling, "You okay back there?" every time I heard an "Oomph!" She always had a smart-alecky reply.
She'd watch me photograph wildflower after wildflower and then look for more. She didn't want me to miss any-- and she always wanted to know the names of every single one. She and Denis are the major reasons why I have a shelf of wildlife and wildflower reference books right above my head.
One of the things I appreciated about her most was that she wasn't a city girl. We could be out in the middle of nowhere-- often literally-- and she absorbed it all. No stopping at holes and being afraid that snakes would pop out. No being afraid that we were lost. Of course that last bit probably has a lot to do with her horrible sense of direction. She put herself in our hands and trusted us to get back home, and we always did.
In later years, life got in the way. Issues arose. Helen's family demanded more and more of her time. I saw her less and less. But she's part of my heart and always will be. Now I think of her as she often was-- walking up ahead on a rugged trail out in our beloved Sonoran Desert, leading the way to a new adventure.
I love you, Helen. One of these days, we'll be hitting the trail together again.
►Books & Other Interesting Tidbits◄
- A rare first edition Harry Potter book with two typos sold for $34,500 at auction.
- How World War II changed the meaning of "barbaric."
- The rise and fall and restoration of Anna Katharine Green's The Leavenworth Case.
- A brief history of fingerprints in the 19th century.
- On the gleefully indecent poems of Gwerful Mechain, a medieval Welsh feminist poet.
- This Nantucket apartment is a live-in library.
- A lost book of exquisite scientific drawings has been rediscovered after 190 years.
- What were people reading in the summer of '69?
►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄
- Discovered on a college site in Wales, astonishing finds dating back more than 1,600 years have been revealed to the public by a top international archaeologist.
- Naked cooks, excrement, rats: the secretly disgusting history of royal palaces.
- Researchers concocted an ancient Egyptian perfume perhaps worn by Cleopatra.
- This bread was made using 4,500-year-old Egyptian yeast.
- Laser mapping reveals new finds on the lifestyle and rituals of the Mayans.
- The bizarre story of Vasa, the ship that keeps on giving.
►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
- Researchers have documented the first known case of a female dolphin adopting a whale calf. More from the India Times.
- An artificially conceived southern white rhino offers hope for its critically endangered cousin.
- Bats use leaves as mirrors to locate and catch their prey.
- Turtle embryos may be able to influence their sex by moving around inside the egg.
- How mosquitoes helped shape the course of human history.
- Eating even one piece of plastic has health consequences for baby seabirds.
- Toxic pesticides are driving an insect apocalypse in the U.S. (They aren't doing humans much good either.)
- The Trump administration has re-authorized "cyanide bombs" to kill wildlife. These things also kill humans. Thankfully, someone with some sense prevailed.
- How one determined FDA scientist-- Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey-- saved American children from a birth defect catastrophe.
- Maria Mitchell, the pioneering feminist astronomer who fought for women in science.
- Kauser Razvi, the woman who turns vacant lots in Cleveland into Literary Lots-- real-life constructions of popular children's book scenes.
- "The greatest menace to the writer is the reader" and other advice from Shirley Jackson.
- Priscilla Royal on "Why write medieval mysteries?"
- Sylvia Arthur, the founder of Ghana's wondrous one-woman library.
►The Happy Wanderer◄
- San Francisco is getting a monument to Maya Angelou.
- Searching for crime fiction in Mumbai's beloved English-language bookstore.
►I ♥ Lists & Quizzes◄
- The best books about doppelgangers.
- What would The Golden Girls read?
- 31 of the world's most alluring lighthouses.
- Quirk Books on how to find your literary BFF.
- Eleven famous writers on the genius and influence of Shirley Jackson.
- Fourteen fun facts about giant pandas.
- Six cozy mystery titles with truly magnificent puns.
- The best book about the great outdoors.
That's it for this week! Don't forget to stop by next Friday when I'll be sharing a freshly selected batch of links for your surfing pleasure.
Have a great weekend, and read something fabulous!