Tuesday April 23rd 2024, 9:33 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Our parents were three thousand miles away, her kids were off at college, and Alma became our kids’ surrogate grandma when we moved in.

When our youngest was born a year later, she was insistent that she was going to come take care of the kids whatever time of day or night it might be while we went to the hospital, so at 10:30 pm that Sunday when I said I was two minutes apart she came right on over.

As I told her daughter today, we have been grateful all these years that we so lucked out on who we got to have as neighbors.

Richard hurried home around 2:30 a.m. to thank her and relieve her, bearing the news that we now had two girls and two boys.

About 8:00 a.m. she was ringing the doorbell to come take care of the kids again so he could go off to work.

Going to work that day had not occurred to him. Nor his boss. He had been going to sleep in a bit but who was he to argue with someone being so kind–and he could see that from her generation, that’s just what you do, and so he dutifully got out the door and went off to work for a few hours.

He never told her he went and found a cot there and snoozed under his desk for a bit.

Alma and Jim had a big, old plum tree and freely shared of their harvest. (My kids would later plant me my own Santa Rosa tree as a Mother’s Day surprise.)

One year there was enough that I made a batch of jam and gave them two jars.

Jim thought this was great!

And so I ended up coming back to their door with I think it was four more jars, which is how Alma found out that his eyes had lit up at the first two and he’d gone back out to the tree and when she wasn’t looking he’d shown up on my doorstep with forty more pounds of plums. Forty. He’d slightly staggered coming up my walkway with that big bag. And you know they had to be processed quickly because the ones on the bottom all nice and ripe like that were definitely going squish under there.

Not that I said any of that out loud but she instantly knew.


The two of us laughed and then she did too but somehow they never gave me quite that many again even if it was fine with me.

The last few pounds were pureed with lemon juice and thrown in the freezer, but I did it, I got them all done.

There was the time I walked next door a moment with toddler #2 in tow, and when Alma opened the door he promptly chatterboxed her ear off.

She listened in amazement, and then turned to me and said, He really does talk when his big sister isn’t there!

Jim’s beekeeping. The hive that swarmed and were every bit as peaceful as I’d heard described. They were in a cloud just above and next to my mango tree by the fence line. I surprised myself at suddenly wanting to inspect its flowers just then and they all but invited me to come join them in their life dance in the air. I suddenly understood why people would keep bees, and I will forever be grateful for an experience I can only describe as glorious. I would never have known.

So many years of good memories.

Jim passed a few years ago at 86.

Last night, just after I posted here, I got a note from their daughter: her mother had quietly passed away. She had been so fortunate to be there with her when she did. She knew I would want to know.

I knew the day was coming but the reality is that I cannot fathom not having Alma and all her love and shared memories right next door.

We exchanged messages and love and then by light of day today threw our arms around each other.

She travels home tomorrow and I will so much miss her, too. She and her brother are so much like their mom and dad. The best.

3 Comments so far
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A beautiful tribute to wonderful family-neighbors. May those happy thoughts help ease the sorrow.

Comment by DebbieR 04.24.24 @ 6:57 am

Oh, the way people become part of one’s life! You had very special neighbors. And that 40-pounds-of-plums story, whoa. Jim!

Comment by ccr in MA 04.24.24 @ 11:15 am

It speaks volumes that you appreciate just how fortunate you were/are. Alma and Jim were lucky as well.

Comment by Jayleen Hatmaker 04.24.24 @ 2:32 pm

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