(8 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile or so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River. It was a redneck sort of place, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.
I never write about living people except with their express permission, and Joyce is very, very long gone. She was probably my best friend when I was little, and she is the sole exception for a little kid like me calling an adult, especially a very old person, by the first name.
That might sound strange, but considering her background it makes perfect sense. Please join me in remembering a very dear woman whom I loved, and who loved me.
Joyce was a bit older than my grandmother (Ma, that moniker to be explained soon). I guess when I was around eight that Joyce was around 67, give or take a year or two. She lived in the house next, just to the north, of Ma, and Ma trusted her with my care completely. Ma was not wrong in doing that. Joyce took good care of me and was a wonderful woman.
Except for blood relatives, I think that I loved Joyce more than anyone when I was little. She was kind, funny, sort of energetic for her age, and almost blind. She had cataracts, and did not want any treatment. At the time, the treatment was not very good, and to be honest, it helped her by augmenting her old age pension with a disability. But she could see better than she let on about it.
I am not breaking any new research by saying that visually impaired people learn to compensate. Joyce did pretty well in places where the light level was high, so did not need to use a cane, but in her house it was dark and she would feel for her chair, but knew exactly how many steps it took from her kitchen to her chair and so forth.
We were best buddies, and here is why I called a much older, unrelated person by her first name. Joyce had the maiden name of Matthis, but had been married to a man named Long. The details are obscure to me, because I kept trying to call her Ms. Long, but I guess that the relationship had been bad, and she finally said, “Don’t worry about what to call me, Honey, I’m just Joyce”.
That did the trick. She was always just Joyce from then.
Joyce had some old coins, and if you follow my interests you will see that I am quite the numismatist now. I think that her influence tilted me towards it. She had storage jars of old cents, dimes, and quarters that she kept in her refrigerator. It was not a huge stash, but was interesting for a young child. She called it her “cold cash” since it was in the refrigerator door.
We would look through them day in and day out, for several summers when there was no school. I never tired at looking at her coins, but her near vision was not good, so I had to tell her the date and mint mark for each coin. We would stack them on her kitchen table and just converse about them. She always told me that I would get them after her demise, but her relatives had no truck with that, but that is not part of this story.
She and I both had a taste for Dr. Pepper, and she always kept a cold supply close at hand. Every afternoon I would take ice from her ice cube trays, put it in glasses, and open one of the old 10 ounce bottles with the round label, the “10 2 4” one, and pour us each a glass. Then we would sit down and sip it whilst listening to Houseparty with Art Linkletter ON THE RADIO! Yes, I am old enough to remember the dying days of radio variety shows. Soap operas were still being broadcast then on the radio, long before the soap opera that is Rush Limbaugh came to be.
Lots of times we would sit on the porch swing it her house. It faced the west, so it was cooler after the sun found its way behind the trees across the street. We would count cars, going one way or another. We would use the old hands method to determine who would get the north to south ones, and who would get the south to north ones. You were lucky to get the north to south ones, because at that time of day people were returning from work from Fort Smith, the the north. We did keep score, but only for fun. Neither of us cared about winning, just visiting.
Most of you that read my pieces know that I was born a scientist. Sometimes I would sit with Joyce and watch the cars get too close for comfort to each other. I had watched TeeVee shows that had submarines in them that used sonar, and aeroplanes that used radar. I asked Joyce if the time might come that cars might have similar technology to keep them from colliding. She laughed and said that I was just dreaming.
Well, I still dream. Now high end automobiles have exactly that technology, and I thought it up when I was eight years old! Unfortunately, my parents did not think that it was a good idea, so never tried to take a patent for it, but they should have.
She could see better than she let on about it. Any time that a car would drive up in Ma’s driveway, you could see the curtains move just a bit so that she could see who was there. It was a family joke about her being blind but seeing so much, but we all loved her as family. She was the greatest.
Joyce was, as I said, old. She had a singular chin, very long, that I can not forget. Her blue eyes, with the cataracts, still are strong in my mind. Her reddish hair, never tinted, haunts me. I wish that she were still with us.
Joyce lived for a long time there, but she had a bad heart condition. When I was about 13, give or take, she had an infarct and she died. I lost a real friend then, and that started to desensitize me about death. Even with her disability, Joyce was a wonderful person.
If you have memories about your youth, please let us know in the comments. I love to read about my fellows’ experiences.
By the way, Friday evening Popular Culture will examine the troubling trend of advertising prescription drugs, and Sunday evening Pique the Geek will have an in depth look at the process of curing meat.