Sunday, July 22, 2007

Banana Pudding for Joan

When I was a kid, I would sometimes come home from school and my mom would have just made a banana pudding. It was one of my favorite desserts/snacks and she always made two. One for us and one for a family two doors down. They were the kind of family that always had their door open to everyone. The mom, Joan, was a mom to the entire neighborhood of kids and the dad, Don, was the kind of guy who would come to the assistance of everyone. He knew everything about everything. His lawn was always greener than all the others. His trees and shrubs were sculpted to perfection. His flowers blossomed bigger and more vibrantly than anyone elses. And, of course, his garden never had weeds. He could fix the furnace, the plumbing, and anything else that might break. Their son, Billy, was a friend of Dave's. Having neighbors like them really was the true meaning of "it takes a village."

They were good friends of ours, especially once Mom went back to work after she and my dad got divorced. Joan was also a huge sports fan, and she and Billy had season tickets to the Bears and never missed a game. In fact, Joan took Billy, Dave, and me to the Cubs game the night they turned the lights on at Wrigley. No matter where I've gone in life, Joan has always at least been in the background. She was such a presence in Dave's formative years, that he sends her Mother's Day cards.

The last ten years have not been good ones for Joan. She's survived breast cancer twice, mourned the sudden death of her granddaughter-in-law, had a heart attack at her retirement party and was brought back to life twice, and earlier this year learned that the cancer had returned, but this time to her liver. She's lost 55 pounds over the last few months and is now a mere shadow of her former self. She's been hospitalized twice since the beginning of July and the doctors say there's nothing they can do that will improve things much.

And then this weekend, there's been all kinds of commotion at her house. All the out-of-town family has gathered. Joan's in the hospital again. Other than that, everyone is pretty tight lipped, but sad.

So tonight, I thought I'd make a banana pudding and walk it down in the morning, just to let her family know how much my family and I love her and her family. I'll miss her when she's no longer with us, but am grateful and blessed for all that she's meant to me and my family. I believe there are angels who walk among us and if I'm right, then Joan is definitely one of God's finest.

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