by Peggy Goldtrap
Another week and yet another friend has passed away. Too familiar these days, too sad, too many hours reminiscing.
We met when we were ‘all’ young. Like us, and most young families, she and her husband had four tow-headed babies and not much money; we worshipped together, and attended garage sales.
We’d try to eat or cook out, or picnic, once a week. That meant a baby-sitter, dressing up, no burp-stained garments, sitting at a real table, and talking to adults instead of the up/down adventure of a child yelling, ‘Potty.’
Our families lived on opposite sides of a canal exiting onto the Caloosahatchee River. A boat for kid-entertainment was an investment, but not a luxury… a flat-bottom boat that ran solid on water, perfect for shallow fishing but with plenty of power. The kids could literally run from bow to stern safely, but, with life jackets.
Our friends had a fancier boat, a real speed queen. We water-skied most weekends. With two boats, everyone got plenty of ski time. The Caloosahatchee was wide, glassy, and shallow. If you fell out, just walk home. Our wide bottom boat could lift almost anyone, especially the kids. It strained to lift an adult on a slalom… too many potato chips. The more powerful boat towed the adults.
Their oldest and our oldest son got into an argument one day over who was the most irresponsible. While fishing off our dock, one laid down the baited hook… near our dog. Without a thought the beagle chomped down on the hook. The howling pain brought me to the dock finding two little boys hot in an argument, while a pup had barbs in his cheek. “I shouldn’t have left the bait on the dock,” said one. “I should have pushed the dog out of the way, said the other.” “No, I’m the oldest, it was my responsibility.” “Yes, but I should have held the dog.” I couldn’t believe what I was seeing or hearing!
My friend and I were always dieting… and always cooking. We faithfully went to ‘Y’ exercises then rewarded ourselves with a brownie from the bakery. (Laughing at your own foibles burns calories you know.)
We took children to swim lessons to- gether. We taught Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and knocked on doors spreading the Gospel. We antiqued dressers so our homes could look ‘upscale’ or at least something other than Better Gnomes and Gargoyles. We had fun without elaborate or expensive tricks.
The two families shared some great days, the kind you enjoy for a lifetime. Our boys played Little League while moms worked the concession stands, a nightmare for moms whose sons dreamed big.
Our friends built a new home, complete with swimming pool, upping the entertainment ante.
We had a behemoth Plymouth station wagon. We hauled children, toys, games, books, sports equipment, girly clothes, garden manure, dogs, guinea pigs, even a basketball goal that came crashing through our windshield. Poor air conditioning, no luxury, just a well-worn, well-loved kid-mobile for rug-rats crammed in the back, hanging out the windows like The Clampet’s Come To Florida.
My friend and I made regular trips to the dump. Ft. Myers was a mid-size city in the 60s. Dump management culled the good stuff: tables, chairs, knickknacks; wonderful things for repurposing. It was like Goodwill on county land. Once we discovered a virtual garden of glads from nearby world- famous soil rich gladiolas farms. The best glads near peak maturity, were shipped to points world-wide. Culls were dumped.
Our families were so close in age and number of children, interests, etc., we decided to take a trip together. Thankfully, we were in two separate wagons. After several days on the road, it became apparent that our travel styles were not in sync. We are ramblers, spontaneous, prone to sudden change. Our friends were more structured, so midway in the three week trip, we split routes and planned to meet again.
Days later we converged in Yellowstone Park, within minutes of each other and without GPS. We had CB radios, but we’ve always been technically challenged. (Apol- ogies to world-wide communications). Friends and kids reunited in this most beautiful part of the west, where Florida native- born munchkins saw snow for the very first time. Joy unspeakable!
Time twists friendships and we were the first to move away to a new job. Communications remained over the years with notes on graduations, marriages, new jobs, mission trips, etc. The glory days of sweaty kids and messy houses and sharing spaghetti went their natural ways. Grandchildren and great- grandchildren gave new energy to old goals of family first.
When we were young and hopeful, our friends wore the public monikers of Polly and Laurence. Success arrived, age brought new seriousness about responsibility, civic and personal. Our friends, Laurence and Polly, became Pauline and Larry. Larry was ex- tremely successful in his business. Pauline was a rock in the church and neighborhood. They had loving children, a bunch of grandchildren, and a passel of great-grands.
Our friend died of leukemia, the same disease that took one of her adult sons. To-gether, Larry and Pauline survived the chal- lenges, compromises, and complexities of 57 years of marriage. Rich in life and love, our friend passed in her 76th year of life.
A loving obituary appeared in The Ft. Myers News-Press; a beautiful tribute to our friend Pauline Coblentz. To us, she will be forever Polly.