As I drive through North Platte, NE, I always think of Janene. I didn’t know her well, but she intrigued me. She was a strong woman who knew what she wanted and flaunted what she had. She was brash, with style. She had amazing clothes as well as shoes, jewelry, and handbags. She drove a big Lincoln, and her brick home was fit for entertaining royalty.
Her bedroom was huge. Literally. The cream colored bedroom set was gilded French Provincial with filigree hardware, and the adjoining bathroom and closet could have housed two of her Lincoln’s.
Her eyes were sharp and penetrating. Her words were kind with an edge of patronizing and caution.
She was wealthy and proud of it. Her money defined her, but it didn’t keep her healthy. She had smoked for fifty years, and, as a rancher’s wife, spent a lot of time riding and wrestling horses and tack.
The first time I met her, she was shopping and full of energy. The second time I saw her, she had gained a lot of weight, and I felt pangs of sympathy as I saw her sitting in a wheelchair with an oxygen tube trailing from the hallway through the kitchen and tangled around her head and shoulders. She had COPD, was taking steroids, and resembled nothing of the woman I had previously met. Except, of course, she still had piercing eyes.
I learned from Janene that being a strong, independent woman is to be admired, but soft compassion is also vital. I envied her confidence and poise, but she was a prime example of the limitations of money. Her medical care was always from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, she never wanted for any material luxury, but she was ill, and dying – alone. She had power, and control of everything and everyone, but seemed to lack connection.
She taught me the value of balancing who you are with what you know and own. The role she created for herself, because of her wealth, did not contribute to healthy life choices, and I felt she didn’t know herself or who she could trust.
After her death, I received one of her long skirts. It is soft periwinkle blue with pink and green flowers. When I wear it, I feel important and extravagant, just like Janene.
This is written from my limited perspective and memory. To have authentic stories, we need to write them ourselves.