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Afternoon Visits with Clara and Queenie

August 29, 2009 , Posted by byu at 9:26 AM

By Cynthia Groopman

There are many events that occurred during my childhood that made an impression upon me and some of them are of the warm fuzzy variety. When I think of them now, they make me sigh with a smile of longing and nostalgia.

Right across the hall from us, there lived the manager of our cooperative housing development and his family, which included an elderly mother-in-law named Clara and a beautiful, sweet dog named queenie.

Clara became instant friends with our grandmother, who lived with us, since they were around the same age and shared common interests.

Many late autumn or winter afternoons, when Clara and Queenie felt lonely, they would ring our doorbell. I always energetically ran to the door, opened it and, with a big smile, hugged Clara and Queenie. Queenie headed straight into our kitchen and situate herself by the seat where I would be sitting and doing my fifth-grade homework. Clara and grandmother would hug, sit on the sofa and speak about senior citizen things, like their aches pains, show pictures of grandchildren or even watch television.

Since both of them were not hearing well, the television was louder than usual. Queenie would sit and watch me do my homework, and when I had a sad look on my face, as if to say that the math problem is so difficult to solve, she would wag her tail and lick me. Not to worry, was that lick, and I would pet her soft coat. Her tail danced and joy was in her tender eyes.

Clara and grandmother, although elderly, were of different cultural backgrounds. Clara was involved with child study as a younger woman college, educated and American born. Grandmother came to NYC form Russia at age 15, worked in factories as seamstress and, although a graduate of the college of common sense, had very little formal education in this nation. She was fluent in Yiddish and spoke some Russian and English well without any noticeable accent.

The afternoon would pass quickly with the joy of two senior citizens, talking, laughing and spending golden years together, embracing in warm friendship. Ten-year-old Cynthia, who was puzzled with fifth grade math or sometimes tired after a long school day, would hug Queenie, play with her and just share her companionship and warmth.

Snack time was great, and grandmother would have some tea and coffee cake that my grandmother baked. I would have cookies and milk, and Queenie would have his dog biscuit that Clara brought in with her for the doggie to enjoy while we were eating our people food. These visits were greatly appreciated, and we looked forward to them.

One day, at the appointed time, there was no joyful knock at the door. Waiting for a while, then not hearing from them, I decided to ring the doorbell of or friends, Clara and the doggie. Upon hearing the sound of the doorbell, Queenie began to whimper and her bark was sad, more of a howl.

I called the high school where Hazel, Clara's daughter was teaching and asked for her. When I told her the story, she told me to call the security guard, which I promptly did. The tall, uniformed man with lots of keys and a badge id on his jacket, rang my bell. He opened Clara's door and found her on the floor. She had fallen and was unable to get up. So, he immediately called the police department.

Queenie was sitting by Clara's side, licking her, and her tenderness, compassion and true empathy showed in her sad eyes. Meanwhile, Hazel did arrive home, and Clara was taken to the hospital. She had broken her hip. Queenie was crying, and that was the first time in my life that I heard a dog cry.

I began to pray and petted Queenie, telling her that Clara would return and visit us again. A few weeks later, my wish and prediction became true. Clara and Queenie did visit, and Clara was walking with a cane. She hugged me and grandmother, and told us that we saved her life, and that if it wasn't for Queenie's visits to us, she would have not been noticed and cared about.

Oh what joy it was to hug Clara and realize that Queenie was the one who truly was the hero. These lovely visits lasted until eighth grade, then Clara became feeble and went into a nursing home. Queenie took this so badly, became sick and had to be put down.

Although the years flew by so quickly, I still relish with great yearning those lovely afternoons filled with love, joy, caring and sharing when senior citizens, a sweet dog and a little girl all joined hands in the garden of deep friendship.

Now I am grown, hazel is with the angels, and Clara is in heaven. But these sweet, cherished memories are now savored like a delicious piece of cream cake.

--Cynthia Groopman

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