Friends: My Saving Grace

Today is my fiftieth blog post. 50! I am having a little party for myself on my office chair with my old man of a dog, Piccolo. It’s making me reflective. It’s making me think of all the friends, enemies, and frienemies I have made through my blog. I still find it fun, I can’t imagine that I would ever stop doing something that is so much fun.

Piccolo has been my best friend for eleven and a half years and plenty of people will, do, and have made fun of me for loving a dog so much, and yet sometimes I am a bad best friend leaving him home alone too much, taking him to the vet a few months late for his annual check up and making him have an expensive and painful dentistry, but never mind, I do my best and at least I have stopped dressing him up in ridiculous costumes. I do my best with Piccolo, at my blog, at raising Eva, at life and sometimes that’s not good enough but I have an outlet of course.

It’s fun to watch Eva grow up and make friends, and negotiate her own relationships. She loves older girl friends, a girl named Maeve and Matilda, and Sienna and Scarlet who live next door. Eva is a favorite with the boys and she mucks right in with their rough and tumble play. Caelen’s mother and I have already discussed china patterns, and a wedding date, impatient to see what happens. Occasionally I see glimpses of more adult emotions like sadness and jealousy.

Eva said to me last weekend, “I want to get a kitty cat, I want two kitty cats, because they don’t bark like dogs.” And then later on she said, “Sometimes I like Piccolo.”

“What do you mean, sometimes?”

“Mommy, he is your best friend.”

“He can be your best friend too, I can share.”

“I don’t like it when he licks me.”

“Eva that’s a kiss.”

I leaned over and kissed her on the forehead, which she promptly wiped away, convincing me she is two going on sixteen and those moments parents dread when their teenager makes them drop them off at school around the corner, were already happening to me. When she is sixteen I will remind her about the bracelet she gave me when she told me I was her best friend, and how I changed all her diapers and took care of her when she was sick and all the wonderful horrible details of being a mother that a child will never know, remember, or appreciate.

On Monday morning she said when she woke up, “I wish every day was Sunday,” and I told her I wished the same thing, but big girls have to go to school and mommies and daddies have to go to work. Later in the week, two friends came over and Daddy had to put her to bed and she said to him, “Daddy, I don’t like it when mommy’s friends come over, it makes me feel shy.” But I know Eva does warm up but it takes some time, sometimes three years, and most of the time chocolate works.

Eva has finally accepted my friend Reza, and when we arrive at her house every Saturday morning she screams and yells until I unclip her car seat.

“Mommy, Mommy, I want to come in.”

“We are only picking up Piglet. I’ll be right back.”

“No mommy, I am coming in to see Reza.”

“Okay, fine”

Our visit delays our regular and inevitable trip to the playground, but I am secretly happy that Eva has finally warmed up to Reza.

Reza is my dog walker and we met probably five years ago, when my dogs Piccolo and Piglet were fighting horribly and we needed the intervention of a dog trainer and his pack walking service. Enter Reza. The first time I met her, it felt like taking earplugs out of my ears and hearing the world for the first time, she was loud, a bit crazy and utterly charming.

She drove way too fast down the drive way in an old jeep beeping her car horn wildly, windows down with about seven dogs hanging out of the sides drooling. There was a fluffy medium sized red haired dog, a grey Weimaraner, a Rhodesian ridgeback, a Rottweiler, and a Labrordoodle and a couple of mutts. I had second thoughts about putting my little babies in the back seat with this motley crew of canines, but I did and she sped out of the drive way in an equally manic way which made me concerned for their well being but I felt I had no choice. If I left them at home they might kill each other. As the jeep teetered on its axel speeding around the corner, I noticed the back bumper hanging off and sparking as it dragged behind, like an unwilling accomplice.

Reza could never fade into the background, I am sure everyone knows who she is, if they don’t know her personally. To say she has presence is not enough, meeting her is like getting run over by her car, which is equally an extremely possible way of making her acquaintance.

I always love a character, so in a quiet unsure way I was besotted with Reza from the very beginning. She might be the only person I know who doesn’t have an email address, but there is something appealing, simple and ahead of her time on that front. Reza keeps it simple, and she is also loving, generous and believes that God will always take care of whatever problems arise. She has faith, more faith than I do.

The dogs soon started to hide when they heard her car horn honking her arrival outside the front door. I was a bit worried about this, so in the typical behavior of someone who does not have human children (at the time) and possibly too much time on her hands, I consulted my animal psychic. I put it to her this way, the dog walking seems to be working but I am worried that the boys are frightened of Reza as she is quite different to me, and our general quiet environment (this is pre Eva). The psychic said that they loved Reza, they might not want to go on the walk but they feel much better after they come back, kind of like the way we all feel about exercise. She also added that if our walks stopped for some reason it would cause a real problem, and specifically if Reza stopped walking them they would be upset. It was this moment that I began to realize that Reza was not just a friend she was part of the family.

Much like I get a notebook account every evening of what Eva has been up to at nursery, if she successfully negotiated a fight, who won the argument over the yellow swing, how long she napped and if she did a poo or not, Reza would appear back at front door with the dogs with a report on their behavior.

“They both did their business. That piglet is a character.”

“He sure is.”

“He doesn’t take any messing. Portia ( the Rottweiler) tried to get in his way, and boy Piggy he put her right in her place, snapped at her with all his teeth bared.”

“That sounds like Piglet.”

“He is a real so and so.”

I laughed, a so and so might be how I would describe Reza.

A year or so in Reza confessed to me something I had long expected,

“Piglet is my favorite. He is my little man. Such a So and So.”

As we got used to Reza as part of the family, we grew accustomed to expect the unexpected. Usually in the form of something odd strapped to the car, or someone odd in the car. Reza has a heart bigger than anyone I have ever met and it is often her downfall.

She lives on a budget, but she has a car which she knows is a privilege that not everyone enjoys, and she is always giving lifts to people, no matter how shady or down trodden they might appear. Personally I have never given a lift to anyone I didn’t know out of fear, yet fear doesn’t seem to sway Reza but she does get hurt from time to time. Once someone stole her phone, a blackberry my father had handed down to her, and because she never locks her door other things sometimes disappear. There will always be someone out there who will take advantage of a generous person.

Reza fills up her car in fifteen dollar increments, and the other day when she went to the station to get her regular she met a man who could not buy his kids dinner, so of course she gave him the fifteen dollars. It was a normal day for her, but probably not for the man that happened to come across her loud screeching vehicle full of dogs.

Every Sunday she bakes for the neighborhood kids and takes care of them after church. And Yes she goes to church every Sunday. I can’t remember the last time I went to church.

A month or so ago when she picked up Piccolo for his walk she tried to give me a flyer and invite me to her church’s prayer picnic that following Sunday.

“Oh I have to work on Sunday.”

She took the flyer back and could probably tell I was lying. When she brought Piccolo back from his walk, she handed me something else, a small pamphlet.

“Read it and think very hard about the message.”

I looked down and something about the cheaply printed comic book made me think it was a Jehovah Witness mini watchtower booklet.

“Reza, I thought you were an African Methodist Episcopalian (AME), not a Jehovah Witness.”

“Of course I am a Christian, hun.” She said looking offended. “Promise me you will read it.”

“Okay I promise.”

I went inside and read it. This was the jist, an elderly couple who are missionaries happen to sit next to a convicted murderer who just got out of prison on a plane flight. The plane catches on fire and is about to crash and incinerate everyone, and the murderer asks the couple to take this opportunity to trust Jesus Christ. They respond by saying that they have been good people all of their lives spending fifty years in Africa building schools and hospitals for lepers and “fed and clothed thousands of dear natives.” (that is a quote) “doing good works for God.” The Murderer tells them that good works are only fine but that they have to save sinners to get to heaven. They disagree. The Plane incinerates, and then the sweet good charitable elderly couple burn for eternity in hell but the murderer goes to heaven. The message: save a sinner or burn for eternity in hell.

I still don’t go to church so I suppose the scaremongering pamphlet didn’t work on me. I wonder if it works on anyone? Was Reza trying to SAVE me? Does she think I am a sinner?

Reza is so charitable she takes in people who have no place to stay, even sinners, and lives with complete strangers in order to give them a helping hand. She is the kind of person who would give away her last dollar knowing it would come back to her. I would never be so confident.

My husband, who makes fun of everyone, calls her a Magpie, because in addition to at least seven dogs, she usually has a car full of bags of clothes, toys, candy, chips (all bulk size), anything she has found on the side of the road and once an inflatable boat. I would not blink twice if on my way down the driveway I found her digging through the trash. She has always brought me bags of second hand clothes when she finds something in my size, but the other day she ended up bringing me an entire suitcase of clothes, shoes and of course negligees and took the time to draw my attention to the sexy bathing suit which she instructed me I should be wearing when Chris comes home from work. I still have the swim suit, its on my dressing table, more as a hilarious ornament, rather than anything I would actually wear or even be able to fit into but I couldn’t bear give it to anyone else, maybe in another lifetime I will be that thin and do as Reza instructed.

I stopped buying clothes for myself after Eva was born, and Chris just buys me the same t-shirt in a different colour every time it’s my birthday, Mothers Day or Christmas. I have had to put a moratorium on t-shirts but not the designer second hand outfits Reza finds. Its like having my own personal shopper, just not at Saks Fifth Avenue – at Thrift city or as we call it The Barn. I do occasionally wonder if the new additions to my wardrobe were out of a dead person’s closet.

I get compliments too.

“Where did you get that?”

“From my dog walker.” I used to say and people looked at me funny like we swapped shirts or something, so now I just say, “From my friend Reza.”

Reza keeps it real too. In a moment of trying to economize Chris suggested we cut back on our expenses and cut the dog walks back from three times a week to twice, so when I told Reza she was really disappointed.

“But you can afford it.” She didn’t mess around. “Look at the size of your diamond ring, its HUGE.”

“It’s not HUGE Reza.”

“Yes it is.”

Well its not, but I guess everything is relative especially when you don’t have a diamond ring and if you did you would probably pawn it. Still, she had a point to make and so did the dogs, because within a week of missing their third dog walk they went bizerk and began warring with each other again, forcing us as the psychic predicted to reinstate the third dog walk.

Reza never married but her love life was long and varied as I came to find out about a year after she began walking the dogs. One Friday afternoon in December I was all dressed up and wearing makeup, no one would recognize me, who knows me now, and I was waiting at the bus stop to catch the number 11 into town when she saw me and stopped.

“What happened to your car?”

“Nothing, I am just taking the bus so I don’t have to drive.”

She looked at me like I was crazy.

“Why?”

“ Because I am going to have a few glasses of wine, and I don’t want to drive my car home.”

“Get in the car, I will drive you.” She looked at me sternly.

I obeyed.

“Drinking will do you no good, you shouldn’t drink, I don’t drink, not one drop.”

“Okay”

I wondered whether I should try and convince her that I was actually doing the responsible thing by taking the bus, but I figured that it would be a pointless argument and of course she was probably right.

It took thirty minutes to get to town and I think she talked the whole time, somehow she ended up telling me the story in detail of how she lost her virginity. I think I just responded with the simple yet articulate, “Oh really, that is ummm nice.”

My extra large glass of red wine when I finally arrived tasted especially good.

When Eva was born Reza showered her with gifts, unnecessary but very very kind. Eva who like her father is very sensitive to sounds was completely afraid of Reza and we had to have a talk to Reza about trying to control herself and to stop beeping the car horn wildly when she arrived. She remembered some of the time.

When Eva grew into a toddler, she ran and hid from Reza when she arrived, and then broke into a high pitched wail when Reza tried to approach her, speak or look at her.

“She is shy” I would say embarrassed, but I knew she was also intimidated by Reza’s loud, kind of crazy energy.

As Piccolo and Piglet racked up a decade of years each, their relationship began to sour as they grew more and more grumpy and there was not much three dog walks a week could do to change that. We rigged the house with a series of gates and a strict protocol of behavior for the humans that we were hoping would rub off on the dogs. It didn’t. For once Reza could not help.
Finally one day Chris had enough, the dogs tried to kill each other again, Eva had to be locked in a closet and there was so much blood, it looked like someone had been murdered on the stairs. He said to me, “Enough is enough, one of the dogs is leaving the house and not coming back.” Of course I knew he was right, but I would never have reached that point myself without someone losing a finger or the tip of their nose, and god I would never forgive myself if it had been Eva.

We put Piccolo because he is the nicer of the two dogs with my parents for two months, while I tried to work out a solution. I hoped Chris would mellow but he didn’t, and I was forced to find a home for Piglet. I think I cried myself to sleep for a month before I could even cross that bridge but I did. I did something I never thought I would do, rehome my dog. I found a candidate but at the last moment I backed out, it wasn’t right, something wasn’t right about it. I begged my parents to adopt Piglet but their answer was a certain No.

Around the time my entire family came down on me for stalling in finding Piglet a home, Reza was wrestling with her own tough decision. Her dog Sergeant was old and had lost the ability to walk, so in January she had to have him put to sleep. And after a few weeks of grieving she suggested a timely solution to my own problem.

“Why don’t I adopt Piglet.”

“You would do that?”

“Yes, and he would still be your baby.”

“When I pick up Piccolo for a walk I will drop off Piglet for a visit.”

And so we came to a co-parenting agreement. Reza would become Piglet’s mother and I would become more like a god mother. I would pay the vet bills, and visit him every Saturday and take him on an outing and Reza would drop him off to see me a few days a week. This solution had in many ways been under my nose the whole time, ever since she first called him, “Her boy,” he had always been her favorite charge.

It’s been almost a year since Piglet relocated, and almost three years since Eva was born. Eva became smitten with Reza when she discovered that she has a bowl of candy in her house that she doles out to the neighborhood kids. Eva is now first in line on Saturday mornings when we pick up Piglet for an outing. Although I make her, her own organic raw cacao chocolate at home, I am not a stickler for anything so every Saturday before lunch she has a mouthful of chocolate courtesy of Reza, who she now calls “Auntie Reza.” And on occasion Reza sneaks her a packet of potato chips, which she happily scoffs and then erupts in an allergic reaction to the processed MSG. I try to say no but it’s hard to disappoint them both as they have discovered what they have in common, a love of chocolate and chips and a new friendship has been born.

Reza calls the house now quite often when she needs to talk something over. After the hurricane when she was sitting in her house ten days without power, she had obviously had too much time to think, so she called me.

“I am thinking about becoming a bone marrow donor. I give blood but I want to do something more.”

“You know you have to go away for that, and it’s a dangerous operation.”

“Yes but I want to help people.”

“Do you know anyone who needs bone marrow?”

“No but someone might need my bone marrow and I would happily give it away.”

“But you would be risking your own life, it’s a complicated operation.”

“Its just something I have to do like a calling.”

“Would you give it to a Jehovah Witness?”

“Yes I would give it to anyone.”

“Okay well don’t rush into anything we need to research it first.”

“Can you look it up on your computer.”

“Yes.”

Click

Now I am thinking she has really gone insane, but that is from the viewpoint of someone who has never even given blood, forget a kidney or my own marrow. But you got to love her; she adds sparkle to my life.

Reza really solved a terrible situation by adopting Piglet, and we will be friends forever not only because she did for me something my own parents flatly refused to do but also because she just can’t help being herself. She has a loving heart of gold even if she does think I am a wine guzzling heathen with an ostentatious diamond who needs to be SAVED. I know who I will ask if I need a bone marrow transplant and it won’t be my parents it will be Reza of course!

I am considering letting Reza save me, just to see what happens.

Xx Derelict Mom

Reza and EvaFlight 144001Piccolo on his walk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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