My cousin, Dee Ann, passed away suddenly in October. We grew up in the same small town in Indiana. I had no brothers or sisters, so my cousins meant everything to me. This was half a century ago in rural Indiana, in the 50’s and 60’s. The front yard was the baseball field and the sand box was in the back. Grandma Neva lived in the house trailer beyond that. Dad taught us how to tie a lure to our fishing line and he taught us how to cast. We had a merry-go-round and rope swings and a teeter-totter and a tree house or two. Our moms wanted us out of the house. So the cousins played outside a lot.
After Dee moved to California, I lost track of her. We fell out of touch. Life got in the way. It wasn’t until this year that I figured out how to find her. I contacted her son through Facebook and he told me Dee’s phone number. Dee and I started texting. A couple times after her death, I’ve reread those texts. They stop in April, because we started calling and that was better. Still, having more texts to reread would be nice right now. On the phone, we talked about her son, mostly. He was her everything.
In one of our phone calls, Dee reminded me of a time I was baby-sitting her. I’d forgotten this ever happened, but Dee remembered.
I was eight years older than Dee Ann. This made me prime baby-sitter material. I was sitting for Dee and a friend of hers. They were maybe 7 or 8 at the time. That night, one of those huge Midwestern thunderstorms came rolling in. The kind where lightening strikes, and you can see it out over the prairie. Then you count how many seconds until you hear the thunder. That tells you how many miles away the storm is. Then the skies open up and water just pours.
The little girls were scared, screaming and running around, crawling under the bed. So I invited them to come out on the front porch with me. I don’t know how I knew to do that. Perhaps from my own dad. Out on the porch, we could see the lightning. Count the seconds. Reach our hands out from under the roof and get wet. Sit on the porch step and stick our bare legs out into the rain.
Pretty soon, they weren’t afraid any more. We’d seen the rain and thunder for what it is: the beauty in those bolts of lightening, the water that will wash us clean.
Dee reminded me, earlier this year, of our night on the porch so long ago.
This October, Dee died sitting in her favorite chair on her front porch. I’d say that’s a good thing. Out on the porch, you can face down any fears you might have. No hiding under covers. Out on the porch, you see the beauty in those bolts of the lightning. Then count the seconds, without fear, as the sky opens up and the splendor surrounds you.