“If you don’t have something nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all.” My grandmother sowed seeds of wisdom and in spite of the weeds choking my teenage heart, some have grown deep in the fertile soil that God has watered in my heart.
I teetered on my tiptoes as I peeked over my fence. “Hi neighbor” I waved at the tiny white-haired lady wearing a quilted housecoat and matted pink slippers. She was holding a fluffy ball of black and white fur she was brushing as she ran her fingers through his silky attire.
I gave her the cat, my children had named “Fatso.” Louise asked me one day if it was okay if she fed our cat because he always meowed on her doorstep. “My children live in San Diego and rarely come to visit. Too busy.” Her voice cracked but didn’t reveal the tears that were as fragile as spring ice that covered her pain.
“Would you like to come over and visit Kitty, (renamed).”
This began our relationship of “visiting Kitty” a few times a week after my children left for school. Her beige/pink house was sparsely decorated inside. Her grass was perpetually mowed flat outside. Her children smiled from gold-frame photos. Not a speck of dust danced in the golden sunbeams that slanted onto her beige rug through sheer curtains. The smell of mothballs and bleach hung faintly in the air. She knew I liked vegetables, so she would cook me a batch of frozen veggies as we played cards on her green formica kitchen table. She gave me apple pie or cookies with milk to prolong my visits.
“I’m allergic to cats” she told me one day, “that’s why I sit outside to brush Kitty”
One morning I was having a conversation with God in the hush before daily living could clatter loud against my thoughts. “I feel guilty because Louise always makes me something to eat. Shouldn’t I be making her food?” My answer came softly. I’m often surprised by the answers I get. My grandmother would have said it this way.
“You are giving a gift to her.”
“She is lonely and it gives her pleasure to have someone to serve food to the way she did when she nurtured her children into adulthood. Her husband died years ago. She has no one now. Let her use her flowered plates and dainty cups to nurture once again. Let her pull out her bent and worn box of cards. Listen intently as she tells her life stories over and over. This is giving.”
“Okay, I get it. Thank you.”
One day Louise said, “If you ever move away, I’m going to move away too.” And she did.
The “flowers” of kindness seeds I hope have grown wherever I’ve scattered them—especially among the rocks.