Mt Pleasant News
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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 17, 2018

My friend, Roberta

By Gretchen Teske, Mt. Pleasant News | Apr 20, 2018

Roberta and I were 70 years a part in age when we first hung out together. I’d never imagined I’d spend a warm June night with a 92-year-old lady from my church, but I decided to take the opportunity available to me anyway.

When I was in first grade, she was a volunteer and helped me learn to read, served me lunch and always wore a pantsuit in a different color every time I saw her. I saw her at church every Sunday and always stopped to say hello, compliment the pantsuit and then move on.

As I got into high school, I began participating in theater. At home in Peoria, we have an outdoor community theater: Corn Stock. It’s a giant tent that takes several hours to put up but it’s one of the most magical experiences you can have. Roberta told me she was a season-ticket holder for over 50 years, but her friends and husband passed away and she had no one to go with.

The beautiful thing about theater is that it doesn’t ask how old you are, what job you have or if you have someone to go with. Theater just takes you in as you are. So, we went together. She was waiting for me outside when I stopped at her apartment to pick her up. When we arrived at the tent, we found out our tickets were in the front row. She was very excited because she’d never sat that close to the stage before.

At Corn Stock, they perform in the round, which means the stage is a circle and the audience surrounds from all sides. We watched as a few of my friends danced and sang right in front of us. I tried not to laugh or make my friends laugh, and she smiled the whole time. At 92 years old, she was more aware and active than some college students. Before the show, she asked me to check my phone and tell her the score of the Laker’s game. Her daughter lived in L.A. so she was a big fan and was missing the game to come hang out with me. She told me if she was the coach they would win more games. I still believe it.

After the show, I drove her home again where she spent the entire time talking about how much she loved it and how talented everyone was. She couldn’t have been more impressed and told me it made her whole year. It made mine, too, and it was only June.

I learned a lot about Roberta that night. I learned she liked to sing and dance but in her own words, she wasn’t very good at it. She had some friends from church she went to concerts with and enjoyed listening to college choirs. I learned she worked as a secretary even though she wanted to be a teacher. She told me she loved to cook and promised me we would go out for dinner one night.

We never got to go to dinner.

Two days later, Roberta got into a serious car accident. She broke several bones, including re-breaking her wrist, which was healing from a fall the year before. Her daughter flew in from L.A. to be with her, but they only had a couple days to be together. The pain was too much for her to bear and she told her she wanted to go “home”.

When I went to the funeral, I met her daughter. She thanked me for being Roberta’s friend. She told me her mom called her when she got home from the theater that night to tell her all about the show and how much fun she had. She said she was glad someone was taking care of her mom because she lived too far to do it herself.

I stood there, confused and sad, but smiled and hugged her anyway. Just a few days ago I sat next to her at the theater and now I was at her funeral. And here her daughter stood saying thank you for being her friend.

I guess I didn’t realize that you never stop worrying about your parents. Even in her late 60s her daughter was worried about her mom and wanted to know she was okay and having fun. Here I was just trying to do something I liked with a person whose company I enjoyed and someone was thanking me for it. If I lived out of state and my mom lived alone, I would want someone to take care of her and take her to a musical or go to dinner. I was just doing what I would want to see someone do.

I don’t think we do enough nice things for other people. We tend to get caught up in everything we have happening and forget to step back and see what we can do for others.

Corn Stock just put up their tent on Wednesday and it will be one year ago this spring that we lost my friend, Roberta. In honor of both, I hope you do something for someone. You never know what it will take to make someone’s year.

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