Beulah

I’m living in an apartment these days in a quiet neighborhood here in Quincy, Illinois. I like the place and I’ve been getting to know my neighbors in this four-unit flat-roofed brick apartment building.

The day I rented the apartment my landlord, a Unitarian pastor and also a philosophy professor at Quincy University, introduced me to the tenant in the downstairs apartment — she’s in the downstairs apartment towards the left while I’m in the upstairs apartment towards the right. She’s an 87-year-old woman who lives by herself and still drives.

Beulah has shoulder-length white hair, combed but not styled or “set”. She could be cast well as one of the three witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. My landlord thinks she may be becoming a bit demented; evidently she suspects that a rogue plumber comes into her apartment at night and does stuff to the plumbing. A suspicion difficult to disprove!

I have always gotten along well with old ladies unless they are bitter, nasty, and vindictive. Beulah is a sweetie and I enjoy talking with her.

A couple of days ago I encountered Beulah out on the porch.

“Hi, Beulah! How are you doin’?”

“Oh, hi, young man! What’s your name again?”

I told her, and she said:

“It’s so nice that spring is here! Isn’t that pink dogwood across the street beautiful?”

“Yeah, it’s been a good spring for flowers. We’ve avoided a late frost so far.”

A brief aside: a week or so ago I came out of the street door and saw Beulah standing on her porch peering fixedly through the spiraea bush at something in the side yard. She seemed like she was in a trance. I said, “Hi, Beulah!” and she started. “Oh, hi! I was watching some little birds out in the yard. I think they’re building a nest!”

“Well, it’s that time of year!”

Beulah has moist eyes surrounded by a network of wrinkles. My landlord says that she is half-deaf and I have a less-than-penetrating voice, so I have to force myself to speak loudly in order for her to hear me. Back to the conversation:

“Beulah, I enjoy cooking — what do you like to eat? I’ll cook you a meal one of these days. Do you like Chinese food, stir-fries and such?”

“Oh, no, Larry, I can’t tolerate Chinese foods!”

“How about Mexican?”

“Nope, I’ve never liked that stuff.”

“Well, what do you eat, then?”

“I’m a German girl, and I pretty much stick to pork chops and potatoes.”

I’ve never cooked a pork chop before, but I’m good with potatoes. I said:

“Well, I’ll cook you some pork chops one of these days. Now, Beulah, if you ever need help with anything, just knock on my door; I’m upstairs on the right.”

“Why, thank you, Larry! It’s nice to have someone to talk with!”

Evidently a lonely old woman…

I asked her, “Beulah, could I take a photo of you?”

“Oh, no, no, I don’t have my teeth in. Maybe another time!”

The next day I was walking down the street about a block from here. I got to talking with a sixty-ish woman who was doing spring yard-work. I introduced myself and told her about talking with Beulah. She laughed when I said that Beulah told me of being a “German girl”.

“I know Beulah, known her for years! She’s no more German than I am –she’s English!”

It doesn’t matter to me one way or another, but I thought it odd that this woman would have strong views on the matter.

Larry

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