I met Sheila at the library. She always told me - where all good people are. Somehow she ended up in my car one day. And my life has been forever changed and fulfilled. There are so many instances and days and memories that keep flooding back to me – so I have a few I would like to share, some of my favorites.
Sheila was a storyteller and mostly she talked about her sons and their wives and their children and their children all the time. As you know, she loved all of you. And her stories made us know you too. She knew how to have a whole life – friends, family, interests. And mostly she told stories of Larry and because of that, we all love him so. Sheila loved being a deacon at Brighton Presbyterian. She liked visiting and talking to people. They just need a story and to laugh she would tell me. And she loved the children and the babies. Always the babies.
It was not long after we met that Sheila and I discovered that we both like to read and write and drink lots of coffee. I had never met anyone so well read in my life. We would talk about books and pass them back and forth. When I talked about starting a writers group, she told me she was the 1st on board. And she definitely was. She added the sparkle, the focus and the needed distractions. We decided on venues for everything by where the coffee was best. If there was not any coffee, she threatened to leave. Someone always seemed to find a cup after that.
She loved this city and everything that was happening. She always encouraged others to come to the library and hang out and to go to the events. We went to many together. We watched movies, learned things and laughed always laughed.
One day Sheila heard of an injustice on the women's side of the county jail. She asked me to take her there. We had barely walked in and people already knew her and came up to talk. One officer came up. She shmoozed him. Sheila asked him about, his wife, his kids, laughed, told a funny story from the past and then he asked what brought her there. Sheila mentioned the problem. When she got done the officer started to explain, and said, - You don't understand..and Sheila answered with, - no I don't and either will the people that read the newspaper article. The problem was solved by that evening.
Then there was the declining bus schedule. That was not the “type” the city was trying to draw, she was told. The Type, answered Sheila, and she explained how her life and the life of her children were enriched by being able to use the bus system. The gentleman listened and answered with – I am ashamed, Mrs. Rice. She quickly retorted with – I do not want you to be ashamed, I want you to fix the bus schedule. That's how Sheila was – to the point, but making you smile. The bus schedule never properly got changed and I was blessed with becoming a regular driver for Sheila.
Some days when Sheila and I were together everything we said and heard were song cues. We sang often and loud. We became like a well rehearsed Vaudeville act. We sang and told jokes at Tai Chi and in restaurants and in the car and at the library. She knew how to make a celebration out of anything. If the day was boring, she told the waitress it was her birthday and we got desert and sang. It was forever before I figured out when her birthday really was.
I have a big hole in my heart – but it is so filled with memories. And I am more of a person because Sheila loved me and I love her. Not often do you find someone who will sing with you in a restaurant well after the waitress has kind of asked you not to. But I was blessed enough to be a part of her life to the end. A gift beyond measure. So if you see me singing loudly in a restaurant, as I am drinking coffee – please join in the chorus with Sheila and me.
June 27, 1936 - October 5, 2010