I’ve known Geneva since before I can remember – at least thirty years. And today, she passed away. I am happy for her; she was nearly 105 years old, much longer than I have any desire to live. But I am sad for me; all night visions have been dancing through my head.
Running down the block to get to Geneva’s house. Sitting on the porch, drinking lemonade. Putting on a circus in her backyard. Peering through her basement windows, wondering what was in the mysterious cavern. Venturing into the attic to retrieve something Geneva needed, wishing for time to go through all the treasures that surely existed. Eating the soft peppermints with Christmas trees painted on them. Flipping throughNational Geographic. Wishing her cat, Kitty, would come out and play instead of hissing as she fled the room.
Later, in college, I would ride my bike to her house once a week to do light cleaning, go to the grocery, and stop by the bank. It was then that I got to spend more time with her, not competing with my brother and sister for time and attention. Then that I got to know who she really was.
Justin and I stopped in to visit her at the nursing home (she spent the last twelve years of her life there) right before our wedding. She looked at him very seriously and said, “You need to think about what you’re doing. Erin was a real brat when she was little. We’re all a little surprised she turned out as well as she did.”
Never one to mince words, Geneva also let me know when I had put on too much weight. And, later, when I lost most of it, she refused to believe that I was myself, telling me, “Erin is too fat to be you.” Not mean. Just honest and observant.
One of my favorite (and I hesitate to call it this) memories happened in recent years. I stopped by to visit, and Geneva was resting in her bed. She wanted to move to her armchair and asked me for help. I figured it wouldn’t be a problem, so I helped her get to the chair. Just as she got there and started to sit, Robbie started to cry. I turned my attention to him and, when I turned around, saw that Geneva had missed the chair.
Instead of sitting on the chair, she was sliding down it, dangerously close to the floor. I had my arms under her and was unable to move myself. I knew I couldn’t get her back into the chair. I knew I couldn’t just leave her there to go for help. And I also knew I was probably going to get yelled at for dropping a 103-year-old woman on the floor.
Eventually, I fled to the nurses’ station and told them that Geneva was on the floor. That was all it took for them to spring into action. In a matter of moments, Geneva (unharmed) was off the floor and back in her chair. Every time I visited, though, she asked me to please just leave her where she was sitting.
I will miss my friend and our visits. But, for her sake, I am glad that she was able to go peacefully. She told me well over a decade ago that she had stopped reading the obituaries because everyone she knew was already dead. I’m just glad she can finally be with them again.