Molly and The Bubble
“A glooming peace this morning with it brings,
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head…”
Those lines from Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” were among my first thoughts this morning. Honestly, I expected it, but I was still not prepared for it. My days will be emptier, and my life will be lonelier; there will be a deep sadness inside me for quite a while. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.
Where to begin? That’s the question. It doesn’t seem there was a beginning. It was one of those things that slowly grow invisibly and in silence so that when you finally realize it surrounds you, engulfs you, and becomes part of your life, you don’t know how it happened.
It was seven years ago this month that Corletta moved into the house next door. It if hadn’t been for the ruckus of the moving van and the guys hauling the furniture into the house, I may not have noticed that the old empty house next door was gaining a new occupant.
And I was gaining a new friend.
The Cape Cod next door had seen its better days. The dormers jutted out of the top story like sad eyes looking forlornly at the street below. The windows looked uneven and unpainted. And the wooden steps up to the front door looked rotted and unsafe. I never thought that house would find an occupant.
I first saw Corletta, when she got out of her old 2006 red Chevrolet Impala and stood on the sidewalk as the moving men moved quickly back and forth carrying large boxes from the moving van to the house.
She was a small, heavy-set, gray-haired lady wearing a rather unattractive long black and pink dress and black shoes. Her short gray hair was pulled back in a tight bun. She wore black, thick-rimmed glasses that looked too big for her face. And when she walked, she walked with a slight limp that seemed to beg for a cane.
It seems like ages ago when Corletta moved in. But it was only seven years ago.
It was several weeks from the time she moved in, to the time I first spoke with her. It was a Thursday – garbage day. I had taken my garbage cans to the curb the night before. I was just opening the garage door and getting ready to get an early start on yard work when I saw her lugging her garbage can to the curb. She started down the driveway, trying to drag that heavy load down the driveway. I walked over, introduced myself, and took her garbage can to the curb. From that day on, it became a weekly task for me and one that often ended with a piece of coffee cake and a cup of coffee.
She told me her name was Corletta, but, in no uncertain terms, she wanted me to call her Molly. And, to this day, she never explained why she chose the name “Molly”. She said all her friends called her Molly and that’s what she wanted to call her. I was happy to oblige. Molly is much easier to say than Corletta.
She was eighty-two years old. Molly was a widow who had two children: a daughter named Laura, who died of cancer at the early age of thirty-six, and a son, Perry who just turned forty. Perry lived “somewhere in Europe” and Molly had not heard from him since two Christmases ago. She faithfully wrote to Perry each week, but he never wrote back. I could tell that it broke her heart, but she didn’t want anyone to know.
Her husband, Frank, died of a heart attack, three years ago. Until the day he died, they were in love. Molly carried around the sadness of losing a daughter for a good part of her life, and for three years now she carried the bitter sadness of losing the love of her life – and her best friend.
Molly was a strong woman with a big heart and a woman of faith and conviction, and it didn’t take me long to figure that out. If Molly believed something, no one was ever going to change.
Molly would not want me to say this, and she would abhor it if she knew anyone felt sorry for her – she was too strong for that. But it was not hard to see she was isolating herself, hiding in that big house, and living in her past as many older folks do.
Over the last seven years, Molly and I became friends. I would not say we were best friends, but more friends of circumstance and convenience.
She hired a contractor to repair the house. The windows and the stairs were replaced, and the house was painted. I did the little things for her – mowed her small yard, trimmed the bushes and hedges that surrounded her house, and other small chores that needed to be done.
One summer Sunday afternoon, I saw Molly sitting on her shaded porch enjoying the soft summer breeze. I walked over to visit when the subject of “The Bubble” came up. Not being from Mapleview, she had no idea what “The Bubble” was. That was the first Sunday that I took Molly to Mac’s Ice Cream for “The Bubble”. But it wouldn’t be the last.
Mapleview is lucky to have an old-fashioned ice cream store called Mac’s Ice Cream. When you visit Mac’s Ice Cream in Mapleview you step back to a time when ice cream was homemade. Mac’s special feature is their ice cream sundae called “The Bubble” The Bubble is served in a fluted sundae glass which is set on a plate to catch the overflow of marshmallow cream and Mac’s freshly roasted groundnuts. And Mac’s fresh homemade fresh chocolate sauce is not poured over the top it’s on the bottom so everyone who orders The Bubble has an excuse for really digging in.
Over the last seven years, I took Molly to Mac’s Ice Cream a couple of hundred times. While I often ordered other things, Molly always ordered The Bubble. And while she would not admit it, I know she looked forward to those Sundays and those sundaes.
Molly and I became good friends, and I did everything I could to help her. I took her to her doctor’s appointments and the hospital for tests many times. And no one knew her health was failing other than Molly and me.
But knowing of Molly’s failing health did not soften the blow when yesterday I was going to take Molly to Mac’s Ice Cream for The Bubble. I rang her doorbell. She didn’t answer. I knocked on her door – nothing. I called her on my cellphone while standing on her porch. No answer. I rang her doorbell again. I knocked again. I called again. No answer. I called the rescue squad and the police. It was only a few minutes before the ambulance and police arrived, but it seems like it took hours. Time was frozen.
The police opened the front door, and the paramedics went in. I stood helpless in Molly’s front yard watching. It seemed like hours later the paramedics came out of the house pushing a gurney carrying the body of my friend and my neighbor. One of the paramedics told me she had been dead for at least several hours but didn’t speculate on the cause of her death. And it really didn’t matter how she died.
I lost a good friend and a good neighbor yesterday. And somehow, I think, I lost a bit of my purpose in life.
This morning I woke up to a lonelier and emptier world. I know I will never forget Molly.
Sometimes, it’s the littlest and least important things that we remember the most. I know that I will never forget how much Molly loved going to Mac’s Ice Cream on Sunday afternoon for “The Bubble”.