Saved By the Belle
Our friend, author, and Care2 member Janet Garey passed away on Dec. 31, 2009. This is her final post, submitted during the holidays. I’ve been holding on to this post – in a way to hold on to Janet – but now it is time to give the world, and her loyal friends and readers, her final post for Care2. You can also read the tribute here, a celebration of her life.
Robyn H., Editor-in-Chief, Care2.com
Saved By the Belle, by Janet Garey.
Miss Anna is the portrait of a Southern lady of a certain age.
Of average height, healthy in body and spirit, somewhat traditional by choice, she has never worn a tee shirt or trousers; her dresses are demure and simple, always adorned with the single strand of pearls her daddy gave her when she turned 16. Though wispy and milk white, not a single strand of her hair is ever out of place. Her steps are sometimes a little wobbly and she tends to tilt her head to one side as if she just can’t quite make out exactly the last word you said. Her teeth “DO NOT go into a glass by the bed, little missie,” she’ll have you know, but she’s taken to thinning down her dear mama’s recipe for milk gravy and crumbling the biscuits a tad smaller when she fixes Sunday supper. Quiet spoken, short in speech, she laughs loudly and often. The old preacher used to scold her; Samuel fell in love the first time he heard it, she recollects with a chuckle and a peach-pink blush.
That preacher is long gone now; folks always come and go. Samuel and Anna had 60 years together, most of them quite happy, some sad, filled with love and laughter, his work as a banker and hers as a nursery school teacher until their own babies and then the grand babies came. Lots to do back then. Always something or someone to look after. That was the best part for Anna; having someone to care about.
Over time, life changed, just like natural, Anna says. The children and their little ones moved on with lives of their own, coming home for big Sunday suppers when they were able, but always leaving again. After a spell, the huge meals Anna so enjoyed fixing for her kin became little more than a tiny pan of her famous mac n’cheese, some greens, those biscuits and a slice of country ham shared by two.
And then came the day when there was no one but herself.
Graciously, but firmly refusing all invitations to relocate to the homes of her relatives, Anna took up residence in a small community of families where she enjoys her privacy and chooses her own companions. But then along came Rhett Butler and Anna’s world went topsy turvy when he flew into her life and knocked the wind out of her. Literally.
The black and white cat had been on the prowl for weeks, Anna says, just hanging around hoping for a handout. Not very handsome, certainly not friendly, living like he did. He never bothered her and what were a few scraps of chicken now and then to help the poor thing. What DID bother Anna were the children who chased the cat, throwing stones at him, forcing him to race madly for cover.
Cat and lady collided one afternoon in the midst of such an event. Surprised breathless, Anna dropped, unintentionally pinning the spitting, furiously frightened animal to the ground with her knees. The children ran for help. Neighbors appeared; Anna knew she was fine, no need to call paramedics, “Thank you so much, but could someone please get this poor cat before it runs away again?” A woman, her daughter and grandchild from down the street showed up with a pet carrier and thick gloves; before the cat could more than mumble an objection, it was unceremoniously captured.
Assured that it would not be destroyed, Anna extracted a promise from the woman that the animal would be seen to by a veterinarian, neutered and, if at all possible, adopted to a permanent home. In the meantime, the woman and her girls would foster the feline. Anna had heard about the family, trusted they’d give the cat at least a chance for something better than nothing. And they did say she could stop by to visit any time she wanted.
A week went by before Anna decided to accept the invitation; she kept thinking about that old cat and wanted to see for herself how he was getting along, maybe give the woman a few dollars toward whatever it cost to take him to the vet or feed him. Pan of warm biscuits in hand, she took the four-block stroll to the family’s little house.
Seems like all he needed was a few days, Anna recalls, ’cause what she found was almost a completely different cat. Oh, he still was no standard beauty, but now in his shiny tuxedo, he was almost handsome. By no means cute or cuddly, he was kind of stand-offish and aloof, not an ankle-winder or noisy purrball like some of the other cats she met at the foster home. But he was mysterious and sort of charming as he sat and looked her over, “The same way Rhett Butler stared at Scarlett O’Hara comin’ down the stairs in Gone With the Wind,” Anna laughs, “like he knew what she looked like in her shimmy, but didn’t really give a damn.”
Lucky for that old cat, Anna decided to give a damn. Rhett’s has himself a forever home, only goes outside wearing his harness and leash, the handle looped around the hand of one or another of his former tormentors – Miss Anna isn’t above using biscuit bribes for cat or kids. Doesn’t like it much, but Rhett puts up with it in exchange for the peace and quiet, warmth and security. That, and the Sunday suppers that once again are fixed by the Southern belle who has someone to care about.