My friend Joey passed away and I couldn’t even see her kids to hug them and offer my condolences.
That’s just the harsh reality of this pandemic. Human touch is something I think most of us are learning that we crave. I am somewhat of a hugger to begin with and thank goodness I am temporarily living at my daughter’s house because that means I still get to hug her.
I’m going to miss Joey. And I’m going to miss her big bear hugs. We were kind of a female version of Mutt and Jeff; since I am basically five feet tall and she probably had a good eight inches on me.
One of the first people I met outside of work all those years ago when I arrived in Oakdale, her passing was completely unexpected. My California surrogate mom Gloria (my daughter’s godmother) called to give me the news and it honestly put me into a little bit of shock; I had just seen her a few weeks ago. Her given name was Laura, but she will always be Joey to me. One of those larger than life personalities, she had a smile and laugh that could cheer you up no matter what was going on and she was somebody you could depend on in a tough spot. We were both born in December, a year apart, and hit it off from the first time we met.
We ended up having our share of misadventures together; all those memories came flooding back when I got the news. One time, she and I headed out for a beach day and I learned her sense of direction is just as bad as mine. We made our way to Monterey and enjoyed a tour of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, rented bicycles and pedaled our way around the community and then we went to Capitola to do some shopping and walk on the beach. I recall we also then ended up in Santa Cruz (my first time there) to eat dinner and had to take Highway 17 back home to cap off our long day. How we managed to drive over it one way and then turn right around and go back the other is beyond me. Maybe because it was getting dark? I just know the second or third time we passed the same business we figured we’d better stop and ask someone how to get off the merry-go-round. We were much later arriving back in Oakdale than we anticipated but eventually made it. I probably even got confused about which way to turn after coming off the freeway in Manteca. Considering there wasn’t a ton of traffic, though, it probably shouldn’t have taken us four-plus hours to get home …
Another trip, this one through the snow for a girls’ getaway weekend to Pinecrest, Gloria and I were in one car, Joey and some other friends in another. We had stopped to have chains installed and get some provisions at a convenience store before the last few miles of the drive. A moment of panic set in when it appeared as though Gloria’s car just wouldn’t start and was making a horrible noise. ‘Mother Joey’ – as we called her – gathered some of us at the front of the car and led us in prayer, laying her hands on the hood. Well, it was then she discovered that the car was actually already running and the noise it was making when I turned the key was the grinding of the engine. Go figure. It was snowing. I was a little stressed about the winter driving and neither Gloria nor I realized we left the car running in the parking lot. It’s a wonder we got to Pinecrest at all. We also had the map upside down and couldn’t find the right hand turn for the road to get to our cabin rental. It was a left turn.
Bad directions and lengthy car rides aside, Joey was one of those friends that was fiercely loyal. She would do anything for you and she had the kind of spirit that made you want to do the same for her.
Friends like that, true treasures, are hard to come by. And they make our lives immeasurably better for having known them. Rest in peace, Joey.
Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times, The Oakdale Leader and The Riverbank News. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.