...a friend of my family died Sunday. She was a salty, lonesome sad person, but one I liked very much for her determination to live life on her own terms. My folks were probably the only genuine friends she ever had. She was roughly late 60s , early 70s, not old, but was a heavy drinker in years past, and a lifetime chain smoker, and those habits coupled with poor diet are what I am sure were the cause of her early demise. She looked much older than she should have. Apparently one of her kidneys stopped functioning some time ago and was absorbed into her body, leaving no evidence it ever had been there.
She never married, never had children, and I don't know of her ever having had a romantic relationship. She was like a 70 year old tomboy, tougher than a pine knot and a formidable foe, if the situation demanded. I think her father was violent and abusive, and that she never recovered from the cruelty of that meanness. She insulated herself from people by keeping her distance with a ready arsenal of the quills that are the stock in trade of emotional porcupines the world over.
She would come to my dad's shop and sit around for hours and talk to dad or folks who came in for car repair. Sometimes I'd call dad there and she'd answer the phone. I know she used to be a pilot, possibly a stunt pilot. She was a hard person to know, perhaps because she learned being vulnerable to other people was a dangerous thing to do. I'm just glad that at the end of the day she had in my parents and particularly my dad, a friend who was loving and supportive rather than dealing out judgment - someone to take her at face value and simply respect her as a human being, expecting nothing in return.
I find myself wishing I had taken more time to get to know her, to find out what exactly she did with airplanes-- just to know what she did in all the stages of her life. I know she struggled, but I think hearing about her journey would have been very interesting. I'm sad for her isolation, for her aloneness, but I'm glad that I had a chance to know her at least a little. Like I said, I have a great admiration for the people who set out in a new direction and blaze their own trail.
There won't be a funeral service for her. Her body won't be buried because she donated it to a local medical research facility. No family would come and the only friends being my folks, my siblings and me, there won't be a funeral. Mom suggested we could get together for dinner and just remember her that way. I think that's a lovely idea.
So, in some small way, this is my tribute to her, with respect, admiration, and yes, a little sadness for the pain life afforded her. God bless Rita Tittle.