Things are not always as they seem. I was reminded of that ten years ago, when my son had just graduated from college. Something happened that solidified the importance of not jumping to conclusions.
The Time I Met An Unlikely Friend
It was in the spring of 2012. My husband and I pulled into the driveway in front of the beach house we had purchased with my parents the summer before. We were coming to help my son clean up from a spring break trip with a bunch of his friends.
As we got out of the car, a petite, elderly lady crossed the street and headed toward us. Oh, no. Here we go. I braced myself for the verbal onslaught that was surely about to come. A few hours before, my dad had called to tell me the rental agency for the little cottage next door had called he and my mom to complain about the rowdy group of young people next door. I called my son and chewed him out, not believing his response of “mom, it wasn’t us!”
I pasted a pleasant smile on my face and walked toward her. Her words hit me like a ton of bricks.
“I just wanted to tell you what a fine group of young people you had staying at your house. Every time we saw them, they were so polite and friendly and we just wanted you to know.”
After I got over the shock of her statement, I responded.
“Really?, my dad got a call from the rental agency saying they were very loud and were revving their car engines and such.”
My neighbor responded that it must have been someone else. They weren’t bothered by excessive noise at all. She remembered the noisy car engine but said it was someone else down the street, not my son’s friends.
I almost cried when she shared this with me. I told her how relieved I was to know my son and his friends had not been a nuisance.
This simple exchange was the beginning of a friendship that lasted several years.
Roger and Janet
Roger and Janet rented the tiny beach cottage across the street from us for three or four months every winter. They had rented this same little cottage for close to twenty years. They enjoyed spending the winter in this little slice of paradise, a contrast to cold and snowy Missouri.
When I say tiny, I mean tiny, probably only 600 square feet. The house had a front porch, a small living area, one bedroom and a bathroom. The bathtub was actually in the bedroom but they used it for closet space. They showered outdoors!
As we got to know them, we looked forward to their visits each winter. They would leave Missouri and drive to Texas to spend Thanksgiving with one of their kids. After Thanksgiving, they would drive to Florida and stay in the little house until mid-March. They even had friends on the island.
We learned that they would spend about the same amount of time in the summer living on a river in Montana where Roger enjoyed fly fishing.
Roger was in excellent physical shape. (He put us to shame.) He would do pull-ups on the tree outside the house and jogged on the beach daily. Janet was also very active, walking to the post office daily. She didn’t let her hands, gnarled by arthritis get in the way of life.
One of the things they shared with us was how happy they were to meet us. They remembered when our house was built — unfortunately obstructing their view of the gulf — I always felt bad about that. They were happy to meet us because the people who had built the house rarely used it. We purchased the home about six years after it was built and were told the owner only stayed in it the equivalent of about two weeks. Roger and Janet were happy to see it being enjoyed.
We would visit with them whenever we went down to the beach. Being huge basketball fans, they loved to talk about college sports with my husband. They read a lot too and we often shared book recommendations. They had us over for dinner and we reciprocated. One of the funniest experiences was when we invited “the little old couple” over, as my mom called them. As we visited over a meal, my mom, dad, Roger and Janet discovered they were all born the same year!
Roger and Janet didn’t come to Florida in 2019. The owner of the little cottage decided they wanted to rent it for six months instead of three months. That just didn’t work for them. Later that summer, Janet contacted us to say that the winter in Missouri was miserable and wanted to know if we knew of a place they could rent the following winter. They did NOT want to spend another winter in Missouri.
My sister-in-law and brother-in-law came to the rescue. They own a duplex on the next island over and said they would be happy to rent it to them. Roger and Janet were coming back!
A Sad Turn Of Events
In mid-January of 2020, before the world fell apart with COVID, we dropped by for a visit while we were at the beach. Right away, we noticed something was off. Janet was happy to see us again but Roger wasn’t his usual self. He looked disheveled and seemed a little angry. Something wasn’t right but we just chalked it up to aging.
We stopped by again in February but they were gone. We thought it was unusual because we knew that they were planning on staying until mid-March.
A few days later my sister-in-law called to tell us what happened. Roger and Janet’s son had contacted her. He told her that his dad had been showing signs of dementia. He had driven them to the beach and then flown home and was planning on reversing the process to get them back to Missouri. Before he was able to make the trip to Florida, Janet had a stroke and Roger put her in the car and decided to drive her home. Their son was able to track them through her new cell phone but she wasn’t able to answer his calls because of the stroke. We were so relieved when he let us know that his parents had made it back safely.
We lost touch with Roger and Janet. We knew that she was in assisted living due to the stroke and a few months later we learned that Roger had died. Such a sad turn of events.
Now, every time we see the little cottage at the beach, we think of Roger and Janet. I’m so thankful for that day she walked across the street to compliment my son and his friends. I’m thankful for the friendship we shared, even if only for a few years. We truly miss our unlikely friends.
How about you? Have you ever experienced having an unlikely friendship? I’d love to hear.
I’m reading a book right now that I’m really enjoying — Looking For Lovely by Annie F. Downs. In the chapter I read last, she talked about how one of her closest friends was actually an unlikely friendship because they were so different. She shared how she felt having unlikely friendships with people who aren’t just like us is important. I think I agree with her. What do you think.