Sunday, October 6, 2013
If ever you've read THE HELP then you'd pretty much know Juanita. Except of course that my Mother would NEVER tell her not to eat from our dishes, use our silverware or to not use a bathroom inside our house.
Juanita worked for my mother for what? 35 years maybe?? Five days a week she'd come to our home and when she first became a part of our family I'd say I was about 13 years old. First there was Ada, then there was Hazel and then there was Rosalie and then finally there was Juanita. I remember Rosalie mostly because she'd always say to me while I was in the family room watching TV: UNFOOT THE TABLE. Meaning: get my dirty feet off the cocktail table that she probably just cleaned. I also remember she cooked the alltime best fried chicken you'd ever want to eat. And while I always liked Rosalie...
I loved Juanita. We all did. As did all our children, too. She was a part of three generations in our family: my parents, then my siblings and then all of our children. In fact maybe four because she also knew Laura's children. Juanita was simply the kindest housekeeper you could ever ask for. Except when she told my Mother I swore like a sailor, but whatever. She was so loved in fact, that way back when, when my parents moved from Miami, they gave Juanita a bonus of about $10,000 for all her years of working for them.
In the meantime I loved Juanita so much that when Hurricane Andrew struck and Juanita's house was left practically in smithereens, I had her move in with my family and myself for about six months and Bob, Claudia and I helped her to get the house rebuilt. I will never forget the work Claudia and I did filling out all the insurance papers, following up with contractors, etc. etc. so we could be sure no one scammed a single, uneducated black woman. I just wished to hell I had a picture of Juanita that I could show you but I wouldn't even know where to begin to look for one. I will tell you however that Juanita is now 85 years old.
And... I spoke to her this morning. I couldn't beLIEVE how strong her voice sounded. Nor how absolutely thrilled she was that I had called. I was equally thrilled, too. I speak to her maybe every 10 months or so. She loves hearing all about the family, our kids, and now the kids of our kids. From Laura to my son... and every child in between, Juanita was there.
In fact, after I finish writing this, I have to scan a zillion pictures to send to her so she can see an updated version of us all. BTW... when Juanita first asked how everyone was I of course had to tell her: FORGET ABOUT THEM. THE BIGGEST NEWS IS THAT CLAUDIA AND I HAD A FACE LIFT!! So naturally, that's the first picture I'll have to scan. I know... priorities, right??
I keep telling Juanita I'll pay for her ticket to come up and see me but I just know she won't. Even if I went down there to get her, I bet she still wouldn't come. Damnit. I guess I'll just have to get my ass back down to South Florida and visit her myself. Besides... I remember taking Juanita out to dinner and she was always self conscious, not realizing race relations in the 90s were not those of the 50s. She'd never tell me that but I pretty much sensed it anyway.
I have no clue how much longer Juanita will be alive but I can tell you one thing... whenever she does pass away, I'll be sadder than you'd ever think. I've lost my brother, my Mother, my Father and even my best friend for 45 years, Linda. Who by the way Juanita surely knew. But... when I lose Juanita then that'll sadly, pretty much clear out a huge portion of my life.
I miss so many people who have left me that it makes me cry. And I just so don't want to cry yet again whenever Juanita is gone. On the other hand... I'll bet Juanita herself won't be all that broken up given she truly believes she'll be back with her Maker. Man... talk about a silver lining. Well... for her... certainly not for me.