Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Way Cindy Did

Once upon a time there was a girl named Cindy. She was my double first cousin. Our dads were brothers. Our moms were sisters. Hence, double first cousins. There may be a more technical term as in “once removed”, etc. I know not of such things. I just know what we called each other.

She was younger than me by three months. And I loved her very much. I admired her very much. I loved everything about her. Very much. Mom said when I was very young, I would say, “I wish I had long legs the way Cindy did.”

I remember coming home from school one afternoon and going to Cindy’s house. She picked up a wash cloth that was draped on the side of the lavatory, wet it, and began washing her face. My aunt came in and asked why she was using that cloth and told her she had just used it to scrub the sink. I will never forget the look on Cindy’s face. I wished I could make a funny face - the way Cindy did.

If there were a gathering of the aunts and uncles, and there were plenty of them, Cindy would always greet each of them with a hug that didn’t hold anything back. I was always a little reserved in my affection but admired her for her outgoing personality. I tried hugging those sweet relatives a little more freely – the way Cindy did.

We played together, went to school together, worked together at a little restaurant that served burgers and was the hang out for the local teens. We didn’t always work the same nights but it was a barrel of monkeys when we did. I tried to be a friendly, hard working, smiling waitress – the way Cindy did.

I wanted to have perfect teeth – the way Cindy did. I wanted to have the long straight hair that was so in style in the 60’s – the way Cindy did. I wanted to be able to drive a straight shift – the way Cindy did.

Yes, we grew older and as most always the case, grew apart. Not apart in a sense we never spoke or saw each other, but in the way life has of putting distance between cousins because of new family dynamics. We both married the same year we graduated from high school. Our first children were born 5 weeks apart. I had two sons. She had two daughters. I had four grandsons and one granddaughter. She had four granddaughters. We always lived within 20 miles of each other.

While we were still in our 20’s, Cindy was diagnosed with Hodgkins disease. She beat it, fighting for all she was worth. I hoped I would never have something like that happen to me – the way Cindy did.

Later in life, when things were moving along and we would see each other maybe once a year at a family reunion – Cindy began developing some health problems. I’m not sure of all the different things that began happening to her, but suffice it to say, they were not common things that could be easily diagnosed. I began to see a toughness, a determination, an “I’m gritting my teeth and digging in my heels – you’re not gonna beat me” attitude. I knew she wasn’t going to give in or give up. I prayed if it ever turned out to be me in the same situation that I could have that attitude – the way Cindy did.

I watched her bury her Daddy and cried with her. That was one thing I did not want to have to do – the way Cindy did. But a few short years later, she watched me bury my Daddy and cried with me.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I fought with all my might – the way Cindy did. Family reunion rolled around while I was in the midst of chemotherapy. The family was surprised when I was able to attend but nobody was happier to see me than Cindy. She didn’t even speak – just broke into tears and we hugged for a long, long time. I don’t think we wandered over 50 feet from each other that day. Nobody could make you feel loved – the way Cindy did.

Cindy’s illnesses kept getting worse and more complicated. She kept fighting and pushing on – nobody showed more Crouse stubbornness – the way Cindy did. But she got tired. She got weary. She got home sick. She just knew it was time. She set her “house” in order, kissed her husband good night, and closed her eyes one last time. She said good bye to all of us and hello to Jesus. I just know no one greeted Him (and our Daddies) – the way Cindy did.

I pray when my time comes, I have that “knowing” – the way Cindy did. I pray I can face it unafraid – the way Cindy did. I pray I can just close my eyes on this side of Heaven and open them on the other side – the way Cindy did.

Of all the loved ones I’ll meet again on the other side – no one will greet me – like Cindy will.