RAIN AND SUNSHINE

Editor’s Note:  Following is a page from my spiritual notebook.

 

RAIN AND SUNSHINE

Swish-swish! Wipers cleared my view as rain pelted my CR-V. Five miles into the fifteen-mile drive to my night class, suddenly the sun shone.   Changeable Florida weather! My tires hummed on dry pavement as I rolled on west to Bronson Speedway.

  Recently, Monday nights meant attending my Adult Ed class.  For our fifth meeting, instructor Suzette invited us on a field trip to the eighth-mile banked track.  An open gate welcomed me, but the raceway’s bleachers and concession stand stood as empty as a school yard in July.  No racing today.

Dust rose behind me as I rolled past a silent pole barn and turned up a sandy drive, stopping at the edge of a yard. Two other vehicles stood under shady oaks in front of the tidy mobile home that Suzette and her husband, Aaron, were house-sitting.

As I gathered my laptop, notebook and bottled Lipton’s, I noticed our slender, auburn-haired instructor carrying molded plastic chairs into the front yard.  After two trips, she created a semicircle under a heavy-limbed live oak, hung thickly with gray-green Spanish moss that swayed in a breeze.

As Suzette hello-ed me, her husband walked up from the pole barn. Reminding me of a Coke vender in the stands at a ball game, he held a wide black plastic tray in front of him.  He grinned, “Hands full! Radios from the track.” He moved on explaining, “Gotta’ put these away.”

I scuffled through dry brown oak leaves toward Suzette who now stood with a young man wearing a light blue t-shirt and dark pants. I didn’t recognize him and she explained, “This is Matt. He’s my new newspaper intern.”

Just then, another car pulled up into the yard and a tall blond woman leaned out of her black sedan.  Our class was small and we’d gotten to know each other pretty well. I felt like being a little silly.

“Hey!” I called, “Buffalo Betty!”  The stately lady stood   and walked over with her usual dignity.   I smiled. Betty, Betty! A savvy business lady. Not ten miles from the track, Betty raised water buffalo. Their meat and milk products were sold around the world.

As we exchanged nothings, a silver convertible joined other parked vehicles.  Renee?! Wearing mulberry-colored medical garb, she’d pulled her hair into a spiky black pony tail. Though she spent her days as an anesthesiologist in a teaching hospital, she usually met us in her Sunday-best. I called, “Renee?! Love those scrubs!”

“I just got off work.”

Betty turned to Renee?, “You

look tired.”

“I am. Started this morning at 7:00. Been a long day.”

 

A cool breeze rustled loose leaves and I glanced at the sky where dark clouds gathered to the east where my drive had started.  Will rain follow me?

Once we were all gathered in the circle, Suzette looked at her watch. “It’s quarter to seven.  Let’s begin.” She gave us our onsite writing assignment. Already jotting on a notepad, Betty announced, “I’m staying here.”

Suzette, Renee?, Matt, and I ambled toward the track to get acquainted with the speedway.  Being an outlier, I turned away from the racing oval and its build-ings to explore edge-spaces. I followed a path that led to an asphalt flat, marked with faded white lines.  Only my slow foot-steps punctuated the silence. A breeze crooned in my ears and lifted my hair. Looking up, I saw the previous dark clouds had vanished.

Glancing across the parking area into the orange sun, I noticed round flat items, glittering. Could that be money someone lost on the weekend? Maybe.   I leaned closer. Three washers, and … a coin!

Though blackened, as I turned it in the sun a Lincoln head appeared. Looking for a date, I squinted and read, “2004.”

A habitual “found penny” collector, I always consider their dates, recalling memories of that year to mind. What happened in 2004?Lots.   Fiancé, JK, and I planned a February 20 wedding.  That’s the happy memory. But, there was tragedy, too.  On February 4, I got a call from my Indiana cousin, Julie.

“Fritzie!” she gasped.

 Something’s wrong. “Julie!  What’s happened?”

Sniffles then silence filled the long-distance line. I thought of Julie’s mother. She was not well and into her late eighties. Maybe she died.

“Julie! Just tell me!”

Brokenly my cousin gasped, “Mark! … It’s Mark!”  She choked.

 Her brother? I asked, What?”  An accident? Heart attack?  (Next.)

“He killed himself.” She broke into sobs.

Killed himself? He’s so successful!  Wordless, I waited a beat and asked in a low voice, “What happened?”

“He shot himself ….” Her cries turned to whimpers and silence stretched between us.  I’m the oldest cousin. If Mother were alive, she would go back to Indiana“I’m flying up. I’ll help.”

            “No, you’re getting married!” 

“Not this week! I’ll catch the first plane. I’ll call back when I have the details.”

            “Fritzie ….”

“It’ll be OK, Julie. Times like this, families need to be together.”

 

 Ten days after I returned from sharing agony and despair of Cousin Mark’s passing, I married JK who loves and cherishes me.

Found pennies remind me that–like the weather–life holds both rain and sunshine.

I am blessed.

 people relaxing outside

 

  Photo courtesy of Aaron Mankins.

Frances Fritzie

 

 

 

 

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