Thoughts on life from Pat Oaks
My dear friend of over 54 years died this week.
The last time I saw her she didn’t know me. Then the shut downs happened because of the virus, so I haven’t seen her since March.
I met Ramona at the first church Tommy and I served in Meadowview, Virginia. We started going there when Tommy was in college. It was about 3 and a half hours from the college, and every weekend we drove up to preach. When he graduated we moved there.
Ramona loved children but didn’t have any of her own. Finally, in April, 1969 she adopted Andrea. In November, 1968, John Thomas was born. Once when Andrea and John boy were about a year old, I made them matching outfits and we took them to one of those photograph places you used to see everywhere…the mall, grocery stores, K Mart…you name it. John thomas, of course, threw a fit, but we finally got the picture. I think I threatened him with severe punishment if he didn’t smile! So he did! ( John boy called Andrea, Annea and to this day that’s what we call our sweet girl!)
I had always heard that you couldn’t have “best friends” if you served in a church. I had one. Ramona. We could talk about anything, and we did. Even after we left Meadowview, I could call Ramona and it was as if we had just seen each other the day before.
I have so many funny stories about her. She used to say she was going to end up in a mental facility because her Mother had some problems and she just knew that’s how she would end up. She did. However, we laughed about it at the time. I told her I would probably have the room beside her.
She called me once and told me she wanted to tear down the outhouse (privy) at her Mother’s house and she couldn’t get anyone to help. Would I come? Of course! So the boys and I drove to Meadowview and she and Annea and Christopher, whom she also adopted and was about the age of my Jason, met us at her Mother’s house to tear down the infamous outhouse! What fun we had! It wasn’t as easy as we had thought, but we did it. At one point the kids all came running out from inside the outhouse yelling “there are dirty words written all over the walls in here!”
Of course there were! Ramona had 3 brothers!
Ramona was a wonderful cook. We often ate at each other’s house and when we ate at her house, it was always special. Once they came to eat at the parsonage with us and I had spaghetti…out of a box and out of a jar. I also had bought garlic bread, not homemade like she would have had. Her husband’s name was J.R. She and I called him Jamie. Jamie went on and on about how delicious my spaghetti was. Finally Ramona said, “Jamie, if you say one more word about her spaghetti out of a box and a jar, you won’t get banana pudding for a year." He hushed.
Ramona was the organist at the church in Meadowview and one Sunday a man sang a solo who couldn’t sing. Everyone in the church knew he couldn’t sing, but he didn’t and he loved to sing! About half way through his solo, I looked up at Ramona and had to get up and take John boy out, pretending he was disturbing.
Another time, we had a quartet in to sing a special. They were from another church and were really awful. This time Ramona was sitting in the back with Andrea, and I was also back there with John boy. He started to “disturb” again, so I got up and left. About 2 minutes later, here came Ramona with Andrea. She was almost crying she was laughing so hard. She said “I thought I was going to have to pinch Andrea to get out of there!” We just walked on down to the parsonage with our” misbehaving" children and hung out there till church was over!
She also got me into writing. She had several stories published and she encouraged me to do the same, so I did.
Right now, looking back, I am wishing I had kept a journal through the years about our friendship. Ours was a friendship that when you try to write about it and share it with someone else, it just doesn’t come to life like it does in your mind. MY mind is like an old slide show of slides from 50 plus years.
—the night Tommy was performing a marriage ceremony in Ramona’s living room for one of her wild and crazy brothers (and they were!) and the doorbell rang right in the middle. I was closest to the door so went to get it before the person on the other side rang it again. It was the paper boy and in a loud voice he said “COLLECT!” That same night, Ramona was in charge of hitting the record button on the tape recorder and instead hit “play”. All of a sudden, loud, blaring music started, that was NOT wedding music!
-the time I went by her house because her Mother had died, and her brother David yelled at me as I was driving away. He was behind the hedge waving his pants in the air!
-the time her brother Joe took me on a wild ride on the back of his huge motor cycle. I was terrified and we only went around the block.
-all the phone calls through the years when one of us would call and the other would invariably say..”I was just thinking of you!”…and we were.
-all the stories of our children we shared. She wanted children so badly and no one loved their children more than she did. She tried to be such a good Mother and was. She was almost too good, because they got away with a lot! She cherished each and every moment with them.
Once, when Christopher was very small, she was up on a ladder in the living room painting. Someone started ringing the door bell. When she finally climbed down off the ladder, sat the paint down and went to the door, it was Christopher. She was SO angry, she just “lit” into him. “Christopher, I was up on a ladder. I was painting. You can open the door. Why are you standing here ringing the doorbell."
Christopher’s eyes filled up with tears and from behind his back he pulled a pitiful little bouquet of flowers he had picked for her. Immediately Ramona said, “Oh Christopher! I am so sorry. That was very mean and hateful of me. Can we do this over?”
Immediately little Christopher smiled a huge smile and nodded. Ramona, shut the door, went back inside and actually picked up her paint can and climbed back onto the ladder. When the doorbell rang, she climbed down, sat the can down, opened the door and with a huge smile said ,”why Christopher! What a surprise! What are YOU doing here!”
Tommy uses that story in sermons. He says he wishes we could all get a do over like that.
I could keep going, but I think you get the picture. When I called Ramona I always said the same thing…”Romina, Romina, my sweet Romina!” (from Andy Griffith)
When I heard she died I said “oh Romina Romina, my sweet Romina.” Then I asked the Lord to receive my wonderful friend unto Himself. I love you Romina, Romina, my sweet Romina.
P.S. As I was sitting in the room where they had Ramona’s body, her youngest nephew came in with a blanket. Ramona had made him promise to wrap her feet when she died so that her “piggies” wouldn’t get cold. I watched while the funeral director took the flowers off and raised the lid at the bottom of the casket. Then this sweet nephew carefully wrapped her feet. It was a tender moment.
The lighting of the tree
Many years ago I got this cute little Charlie Brown tree. I don’t even
remember where I got it. It has about 6 branches sticking out and came with one red bulb. I have always thought it was so cute, so I put it out every year.
Last night when we went under the bridge, Tommy asked if I could take the tree and a string of battery powered lights, so I did. We are only serving sack lunches until after Christmas, so we are in and out pretty quickly.
We got there last night before the food truck so it was pitch black. I noticed that some of the people were back, who had been camping down there when the city demolished their camps. No one had a campfire (yet) but I saw several flashes of flash lights every now and then. It looked so sad and lonely.
After the truck pulled in and we got the lunches, blankets, sox, candles, matches and toiletries unloaded, everyone got into line to wait. We didn’t have a sound system since we would be in and out quickly, so Tommy yelled that we were going to have the official “UNDER THE BRIDGE LIGHTING OF THE TREE 2020.” He had everyone count down from 10 and I pushed the button on my little string of lights. Then we sang “Joy To The World.”
I wish all of you could have been there to see the change on everyone’s faces when we lit that pitiful little Charlie Brown Tree! Even with the pole lights we take down there, when you are in line, it gets darker the further you go down the line. When I hit the button, it seemed to light up everyone’s faces. Where there had been sad looks before, everyone was smiling and even laughing out loud. They all participated in the singing and several wanted a hug from me. (Yes, I still hug people.)
After the lighting I sat the tree on the food table so that everyone could enjoy it as they got their food. One guy looked at me with a big smile and said “I love Charlie Brown!”
What a night! When I walked back into my warm, cozy house to all the Christmas lights and decorations I thought, this is pretty, but I wouldn’t have missed the official “UNDER THE BRIDGE LIGHTING OF THE TREE 2020” for all the fancy decorations in all of the fancy houses in the world.
I had so much food left from the trailer tear down that I haven’t had to go to the grocery store for quite a while. Yesterday we went. Our friend Awesome Audrey, as we call her, sent us a Food City gift card! It’s so much fun to go grocery shopping when you don’t feel like you are spending money, even though SOMEONE had to spend money! (Thank you Awesome!)
I couldn’t believe all the parking lots at the stores! They were so full we had to drive around a bit to find a parking spot! I went into a couple of stores and ended up putting my items back because the lines were so long and I didn’t want to stand in them.
We knew the interstate would be crowded so we took a back road to West Town. It’s the road that goes by the old mental institution that we called Lyons View when I was a girl. It’s on Lyons View Pike. Now that property is a beautiful park. We pulled off and drove around the grounds. It has several walking trails so we are going back soon and walk it. The drive out was relaxing so I wasn’t prepared for all the crowds in the stores!
My question is, are we more susceptible to COVID when we are in church? I pray for our preacher Paul and his wife Charity, every day. I am so afraid they are going to get discouraged. We only had about 20 in church Sunday and for prayer meeting Sunday night, only 4.
Tommy is currently working on a sermon about being careful about distancing ourselves from others. I am not saying be stupid, but I guess my question comes back to “why should we stay away from church gatherings, but not be one bit afraid to go into a crowded store where no one is social distancing?”
They say you have to stay 6 feet apart, but no one does. They have lines on the floor at the checkout where you are supposed to stand, but no one does. I see clerks working with masks around their chins, and customers walking around the same way.
None of this bothers me, because I don’t wear a mask and haven’t from the beginning. What bothers me is the church building sits empty while Walmart and Kroger and Food City and Hobby Lobby and Home Depot and Lowe’s, look like a bee hive in the middle of summer.
Just some food for thought.
The Crooked Politicians
The place was doomed. Not only had crooked politicians taken over, but evil politicians. Politicians who cared only for themselves. They cared not one iota for all of the people they swore to protect. Yet, some of those same people were rallying around these evil politicians bantering signs that read….”WE WILL BE GREAT AGAIN.” and “LET’S MAKE A LEADER. “ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL.” You’ve seen the signs. You’ve heard the speeches. Speeches that say that the people now in office have ruined everything and how only the people you see before you can make it right again.
All the while those speeches were being given and as those signs waved in the air, there was burning and pillaging and destruction going on. Pure chaos reigned only blocks away.
What am I talking about? Oh! I thought you knew. We watched the Christmas Batman and Penguin and Catwoman last night. Filmed in the 1980’s. (The title is Batman Returns in case you are interested.) After Penguin accepted the nomination for mayor, he walked away muttering…”It’s not about power. It’s about reaching out to people. Touching people. Groping people!”
Later Penguin tells Batman, “just relax. I’ll take care of the squealing, wretched pinhead puppets of Gotham. You gotta admit, I played this stinkin’ city like a harp from hell."