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OTHER FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS
Katie’s stepson Larry lived in Houston. He was an attorney, and he took pretty good care of her. If her house needed a roof, he paid for it. If her washing machine broke, he bought her a new one. When her TV didn’t work, he replaced it. He took care of the necessities. She liked her house just fine, and she was independent. But she didn’t argue when he gave her something she needed.
I never met Larry, never even saw him. I know he came on holidays for a mid-day dinner. He would stay the afternoon and drive back to Houston.
Three college kids next door to us made friends with Katie, too, and although they didn’t visit regularly the way I did, they liked to cook, and when they did, they took a plate to Mrs. Gray.
A well known local musician lived next door to Katie on one side. He and his girlfriend both were also Katie’s friends. On the other side, her neighbor was an even older woman named Carla, or maybe Karla. The two did not like each other much and carried on miscellaneous fence-line feuds until Carla-Karla moved to a nursing home. We later heard she’d died.
Old Mr. Perez down the street took care of Katie’s lawn for a nominal fee. And when Katie needed a car, she talked to a man she knew who owned a nearby garage. It was one of his mechanics, a good-looking, nice young man, who found her a yellow 1966 Mustang and kept it running like a top. Katie’s car was the envy of the guys in the neighborhood.
In the first few years we knew her, Katie still worked. She had a part-time job keeping books for an old man and his uppity rich wife. She didn’t envy them.
“There’s a lot worse things than being lonesome,” Katie told me more than once. “And one of them is being saddled with a fussy old man.”
A useful thought for any woman facing old age alone.
She finished up with some general reflections on old age and death.
Back then, she had old-lady friends, too. They went out for barbeque now and then, or drove up to the candle factory in Georgetown.
But as time went on, her arthritis got worse. She gave up her job, and Larry kindly made up the difference in her income. He bought her a new heater and air conditioner and had a new roof put on the house. She went out less.
Then of course we moved away.
After that, I saw Katie much less frequently. It was a 15-mile drive across town, so naturally this was not conducive to my going over there and kicking back and drinking wine until all hours. Craig didn’t travel quite as much either. Still, I visited from time to time, and when we did, we always picked up where we’d left off, with her reflections on old age and death. Katie wasn’t keen on the former, but she didn’t fear the latter.