Sustaining relationships satisfy life
Near twilight, I sit outdoors behind my home, totally content as I listen to the sounds of summer.
The tree frogs are serenading and a bird that sounds more like a goose with a cold is making itself heard.
Then I hear a discordant sound that it is out of place at this hour trucks with big engines. When I go to check it out, I see a fire truck, two emergency response trucks and two police cars, all idling in front of my friend Kay's house.
One look is all it takes for me to run to Kay's as fast as I can. She was just at my house complaining about not feeling well and all those emergency vehicles means there's a big problem.
As I run across the street as fast as I can my next-door neighbor Nikki is racing along side me. If our friend is in trouble, we are going to help.
Then Kay comes to her door. Everyone in her house is OK, she says. All the emergency crews are there, she says, because a little boy who just moved to the neighborhood is stuck in a drainage pipe that connects a series of ponds.
It's a frightening situation because the pond is home to an alligator or two, and it's feeding time. Everyone is tense knowing the alligators often hang out in the drainage pipes. Those of us who live along the canal know better than to walk close to the pipe, especially after a harrowing story that was just in the newspaper.
A woman in a nearby Florida town was walking along the canal at dusk when she was suddenly attacked by an alligator. Neighbors responded to her cries for help and managed to beat off the alligator. But not before the woman lost her leg.
The EMTs know they have to get the little boy out of there in a hurry. With the help of two firemen, they do exactly that.
With all that commotion going on, a woman identified as the boy's mother walks over to make sure he's OK. We're surprised when she goes home and leaves him there. You can bet the neighborhood will watch over that youngster.
When it's all over and the neighbors stand there talking, Kay mentions how we ran to her place because we thought she needed help.
"This is the kind of neighborhood where people will always be there for each other," she says.
She mentions how neighbors responded with bringing meals to her family when she was in the hospital. When another neighbor needed cancer surgery, residents along the street supplied meals and had yard sales to raise money to help the family.
But it's more than just being there when someone is sick or in trouble. We don't have the kind of neighborhood where we all visit and have coffee. But we respond to each other's needs.
When one guy lost his job and couldn't afford to replace his broken lawn mower, another neighbor brought one to his door for him to use, even though they didn't know each other well.
We have one neighbor I call Robin Hood because he is always bringing bags of fruit and groceries to those down on their luck.
There are some neighborhoods in our development with one gorgeous home after the other. That's not the case in our section. The homes are all what I call humble. But the word "neighbor" has special meaning here.
Pisan is another word that has a special meaning for me. Growing up in my Italian family, cousin had a meaning that went far beyond being related. I tried to explain that meaning to my husband, but he just didn't get it.
When my cousin Emily called me to say she was going to be at an art show two hours away, we made plans for me to drive there so we could spend some time together.
David asked me why I was canceling my other plans. "Are you close to Emily?" he asked.
"Close? We're cousins," I told him, thinking that explained it all.
In our family, the cousins were closer than siblings. Siblings love each other but sometimes they fight. Our cousins never did.
Even now, 50 years after the fact, I'm still amazed at how my cousin Marie walked home each lunchtime to make lunch for me, a younger cousin who had no one else to do it.
When my parents divorced and I went through some tough times, my cousins were there, every day in every way. They showered me in love and helped build my self-esteem at a critical time in life.
You know that old expression, "All for one and one for all?" That describes my cousins. I remember when popular cousin Marie declined an invitation to "the party of the year" because her cousin, Ronnie, wasn't invited.
"He gets on everyone's nerves. Why do you like him so much?" inquired the party giver.
Her simple answer: "Because he's my cousin." In our family, that counted for everything.
Sometimes relationships are bigger than words. For that I am grateful.
I'm grateful for every warm relationship in my life for cousins, for nice neighbors, for family, and for friends.
Those warm relationships are what make up the richness of life.