I grew up on a in a small community called Etta Bend. Once a thriving community with a train stop, a lumber mill, a one room school house, and residents hunted in the tree-dense hills and fished along the river. Today, Etta Bend it a barely a dot on a rare map. The one-room school house burned at one point and the children went to other schools in nearby communities, there are no train tracks to speak of, I have no memory of the lumber mill and I do not know how it met it's end, but I like to think that the trees won the battle of territory. People still hunt and fish and the horse-shaped road is still dirt and rock. Supposedly, the county was going to pave it in 1970. Residents are still waiting.
I learned to drive on that dirt road. I even let my slightly younger best friend drive for the first time on a straight stretch of road. I like that dirt road, part of me hopes the county forgets to pave it for another forty years.
Etta Bend is home to one little church and as you might suspect, I grew up in that church. When I started driving I became Minnie's chauffeur. Minnie was a sweet old lady who was like a second grandmother to me. She had babysat me from time to time and was my Sunday School teacher more often than not. For all the years I knew her Minnie never drove. I don't know if she even owned a vehicle. I think I remember a rusted old car that sat near her home but I don't know the details. Minnie relied on people to bring her to and from church on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. When her family was close they performed the duty but as her family branched out my family picked up the slack.
I loved driving Minnie to church. Not only because I loved her but because I loved driving. It was a little thing to me, barely took an extra 10-15 minutes depending on road conditions.
But Minnie wasn't the only one I even played chauffeur to. Before I started driving a woman started attending our church. She too lived on Etta Bend, but this woman didn't smell very nice. She seemed to be forgetful and would say things over and over. I had not grown up with her and I am ashamed to say, I had little patience for her. Her name was Susie.
Susie would sometimes walk to church which was over two miles from her house up and down hills over this rock and dirt road with her cane. As a teenager with a sensitive nose I did not think too kindly of my mother offering rides to this woman. It was impossible to hold my breath all the way. But my mother did not complain once. She even smiled and talked to her which I knew required breathing.
I saw what my mother did.
By the time I was seventeen I got over myself and joined the ranks as one of Susie's chauffeurs when she felt up to attending church, which honestly became less and less over the years. Time gets us all.
Fast forward fifteen years and now I'm in my car with my teenage daughter after school. We're talking about homework assignments and the substitute teacher for the substitute teacher when I saw Mrs. Miller walking down the street.
Mrs. Miller lives a block over and I see her out walking almost ever single day of the year no matter the weather. But this was a cold and rainy spring day. I could see Mrs. Miller struggle with her umbrella, which is obviously broken, a cup of coffee, a small bag from Burger King, and her cane.
I had never actually met Mrs. Miller before though we have lived in the same neighborhood for ten years. I pulled over and rolled my daughter's window down, "Would you like a ride?" She only lives three blocks away but it's a nasty day and clearly she's struggling. She takes in the car and after a moment of deliberation she agrees to the ride. I talk her into handing the coffee and sack to Peanut hold while she maneuvers her umbrella and cane into the back seat. During the short trip she asks if Peanut goes to the same Jr. High her children and grandchildren went to once upon a time. We talk about the yucky weather we've had but are thankful for much needed rain. Small talk that didn't amount to much at all. At her house I hop out into the rain taking the coffee and sack and carry them along with the broken umbrella up the three steps to her house. I smiled and said goodbye.
My daughter saw what her mother did.