When I was little, our next door neighbors had a dog, a boxer named Bambi. I loved Bambi, and Uncle Sid and Aunt Tedi always welcomed me when I came over to play with her. I'd walk in and Bambi would jump up and put her front paws on my shoulders. Aunt Tedi would tell her to get down while I laughed and laughed and Bambi would get down and race to get her -- our-- favorite toy, a rubber pull thing-a-ma-bob. Bambi would hold one end and I'd hold the other and we'd pull.
I was a something of a loner as a child, but Bambi was my friend. I think of myself in their front hall, with that rubber toy between me and Bambi, and I think I was happy.
When Uncle Sid and Aunt Tedi had to put her down, I was devastated. Tedi was, too. Bambi had been their third boxer, but she was to be their last. I don't know why they decided not to get another one, but I always assumed it was because Bambi was so spectacular any other dog would pale by comparison.
Even without their dog, Sid and Tedi's door was always open to me and there was always ice cream in their fridge. Tedi, who didn't waste a penny, always drove a Saab, a standard, it was a kind of silver-mauve. It was always in their driveway, unless Tedi was at work, or playing golf.
Sid and Tedi were like family, and the first floor of their house was as strangely familiar to me as my grandmother's apartment. It's not that I was there so often, it's just that I knew what exactly it felt like to be there. When I went upstairs to visit with Sid when he was dying it was only the second time I'd been on their second floor in the 35 years I'd been visiting that house. I can't remember why I went up the first time. And now, Tedi's died. Tomorrow is her funeral, and, as I did with Sid, I'll go to Providence for it.
When I went to Sid's funeral, I did it partly for me but also for Tedi, because that's what you do, you go to be with the family. This time, though, there's no family who will see me standing at the service. Sid and Tedi had a son, but he lives in California and was grown and gone when I was a child. He'll be there, but it won't really matter to him that I'm there. Instead of going to "be there" for someone who's still living, I'm going tomorrow simply to say good-bye to Tedi.
I've never had a birthday or anniversary when I didn't get a card from them (always in green ink because their last name was, you know, Green). I never went home with my kids without Tedi running over with a truck and a doll and a word or two about how I should be raising them. I've never gone to my parents' house and not looked for Tedi's car in the driveway. So tomorrow I'll go and I'll say goodbye. Her car will still be in the driveway, the picture of her and Sid will still be hanging in the front hall, the "Oriental" knick-knacks will still be carefully placed on the side tables just like they were when Bambi was alive. But this is the last time their particular set from my childhood will still be there. The season will pass and the election will be held and someone else will move in next door and maybe they'll keep Tedi's beautiful hastas in the garden or maybe not. That's how it goes. But that's why now I have to stop and stand still and say good bye.