“True friends are never apart, maybe in distance, but never in heart.”— Helen Keller, 1880 – 1968 American author, disability rights advocate
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I don’t know what day it was when my mother, Indianola “Inky” Aldridge, and Betty Rust met. I do remember that it was a day in March when the Aldridges settled in Mount Pleasant. Maneuvering from was then a lazy narrow Jefferson Street onto Redbud Lane, Mom extended her arm out the window of her ’54 Chevy signaling her intention to turn. That was what drivers did in 1959 before turn signals were commonplace on automobiles.
Arriving at 206, mom guided her car into the driveway of a house she was seeing for the first time. That was the end of a 280-mile road trip from the West Texas community of Seymour with three kids ages 5 to 11 and my pet bird in a cage that filled half the back seat. That was a day before Interstate highways covered any of that route. And that was also a day before air conditioning was common in cars.
Dad had arrived some weeks before as the newest manager of the downtown Perry Brothers variety store and purchased the Redbud residence for his family. Perry Brothers moved managers more often than the Methodist Church moved ministers in those days. Therefore, we relocated a lot before arriving in Mount Pleasant, where my sisters and I would ultimately graduate from high school, and my parents would live out the rest of their lives.
The day I never learned about was how they became friends. Maybe it was Mrs. Rust’s gesture as a neighbor welcoming a newcomer. It was a day when neighbors did that. Maybe it was Mom attending services at Southside Church of Christ, and the two discovered they were neighbors.
However it began, the friendship they forged would last 51 years as they started by sharing life in the late 50s and 60s over lots of coffee at each other’s house and laughing about things which only they will ever know.
Those days on Redbud were during an era now all but lost to time. Seemingly, every house on Redbud then was filled with the activity of children. Kids riding bicycles from one end of the street to the other. Sometimes congregating at one home to play and others for summertime games after supper. Games like hide-and-seek, red rover, and dodge ball until dark. Days of knowing when the porch light came on at home was the signal to come inside. Knowing the consequences of not following Mom and Dad’s rules.
It was a day when kids from the Aldridge and Rust households joined in those neighborhood rites of passage with kids from the Halls, the Jones, the Clays, the Fishers, the Campbells, the Chadwells, the Skeltons and others whose names have slipped my mind 50 years later.
During the days when the J.B. Hall family across the street from us owned the skating rink, Mom and Mrs. Rust were Tuesday night regulars where they had as much fun skating as the kids.
As days and years went by, Mom and Dad moved a few blocks over to Delafield Street, and the Rusts moved to the country. But Mom and Mrs. Rust stayed in touch through the church and over coffee cups.
It was a day in April of 2007 when dad passed away suddenly at home, leaving mom, by then with severe dementia, alone. A call from a Mount Pleasant Police officer at Mom and Dad’s house delivered the bad news. And he was concerned about mom being alone.
More than two hours away, who could I contact? “Let me make a phone call and I will call you right back,” I told the officer. Within minutes, Mrs. Rust was there to stay with her friend until I could make the drive.
And it was a day in September, just last week, when my sister, Sylvia, sent me a message that Betty Rust had passed away. We gathered the following Wednesday to celebrate her life, where we talked about the long friendship she and Mom enjoyed.
The Bible is not clear as to what degree we will know each other in heaven, just implications that to some degree, we will recognize those we knew here on earth.
I would like to think of it as timeless days where Mom and Betty Rust have coffee again.
And where they once again reflect on life on Redbud Lane, their years at Southside Church of Christ, and when they laugh about things which only they will ever know.
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Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune, the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, and the Alpine Avalanche.
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