THE WOMAN IN THIS PICTURE...
...is Cindy. Cindy Gardner. She lives up the street and around the corner. These are her lucky grand kids, and her husband Reed. Her house, Gram’s house, and ours make a triangle. There’s something about the energy of that holy triangle that is eternal. We’ve known and loved Cindy and Reed for decades now. It’s a love that’s stood the test of time, heartache, devastating illness, belly-aching laughter and unspeakable joy. They are not the only people in our lives to have shared these things. But their lives have intersected with ours so much now that we have become woven into a fabric of friendship. Family, really. Before my computer could group names from my contact list, I put the letters “FAM’ before our family names, so I could access them in a cluster. Reed and Cindy still have FAM before their names. Her kids are my kids and my kids are hers.
Cindy is compassion and determination and devotion and faith personified. She is as loving a person as you will ever meet, though you’d have to find that out yourself because she will not give you any self serving words of evidence. You’d also have to know her pretty well to know the trials placed before her. She will not tell you those, either. She is dignified and humble.
Once a young unwed mother was taken under Cindy’s wing (this happened many times. ) The small son of the girl was named Anthony, and he had the habit of calling Cindy “Cinny”. So we now call her Cinny. She cringes when people call her “Cin”.
“No one wants to be referred to as Sin,” she’ll say.
Cinny knows us inside and out. She is very devoted to my sisters and mom and more often than not when we stop in at Gram’s house there is some sort of deliciousness on their counter from Cinny. And she is loving and loyal to me, understanding my weaknesses and loving me regardless. We’ve been through births and deaths, marriages and brokenness; BBQs and birthday bashes and baby blessings. Our family gathered quietly on the Gardner's back porch while Reed lovingly shaved Cinny’s head when chemotherapy robbed her of her golden locks. Then he handed her the razor so she could shave his own head. Her tears rolled sweetly down the smoothe sympathetic skin of his head. Time worked with God and months later we were rubbing the palms of our hands over her scalp as the hair grew back, all soft and Fuzzy Wuzzy Bear-ish. We prayed mighty prayers of supplication when she lost herself in weariness, dragging her aching legs through the valley of the shadow of death. She walked through and back up to the summit where she stands victorious and grateful.
In 2001 Cinny travelled with us to England where we were performing an oratorio I had helped write, called Saints on the Seas. Dave and our two youngest daughters, Kate and Annie, joined me for two weeks, We visited friends and performed solo concerts in Wales before the big shows in the British port cities of Liverpool, Hull and Portsmouth. Cinny flew over to England with my sisters Libby and Sherry and my mom, whom everyone calls Gram. We’ll call them the Ladies. Gram is in a wheel chair and Libby is her amazing caregiver. They came a week later than we did and rented a van. We connected in London. Our paths wove in and out with each other, my professional obligations making our path slightly limited. Apparently whenever the Ladies had a situation that required someone to run down the hall and get something, or to carry some bags from the van, Cinny volunteered. She is, after all, fit and willing. Sherry or Libby commented to her that she was a darn good schlepper. Cinny had not heard that word before, but she liked it, and they teasingly called her a schlep whenever they needed something.
“Uh, Schlep, would you please run down to the ice machine and get us some ice?” Or, “Excuse me Schlep, could you please run in and buy half a dozen scones?” (Cinny says they lived on scones and apples all week. She thought they’d starve. You have to know Cinny’s trim physique to find that funny.)
One afternoon they were driving through the British hillsides and the car was quiet. All of a sudden Cinny broke the silence with a question from the back seat:
“What am I? A Schmuck?”
So now we call Cinny a Schmuck.
Our beloved Schmuck.
If you hear us calling her names and think us rude, you would be wrong.
It’s just the way love speaks.