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Column: My Atlanta angel

Posted: April 12, 2018 3:42 p.m.
Updated: April 13, 2018 1:00 a.m.

Writing amounts to solitary confinement. The hours alone reward you though when a book comes out: meeting folks who love books. When book events conclude, people linger to talk. More than one will say, “I’ve got this idea for a book …” Nearly everyone has a story to tell, but some people are a story waiting to be told. That is the case with a lady I met not once, but twice, courtesy of the writing life.

Over the last three years I’ve presented my work at more than 200 events in Georgia and South Carolina. The places range from restaurants to churches, libraries, museums, civic clubs, schools, colleges, and centers where silver-haired folks gather. Remembering all who cross my path isn’t possible but now and then a Reader’s Digest “most unforgettable character” comes along. Among the unforgettable walks Miss Jean Rinehardt Bridges.

Miss Jean and I met at a book event. She tarried a bit until most folks had wandered off and then she came up and gave me her card. On the back she had jotted down her website where I could read her stories. On the back in parentheses, she had written (novice). Time went by and I lost touch with Miss Jean.

I would learn that she lived in Atlanta from 1978 to 2002. There she made life-long friends who referred to her as their “Atlanta Angel.” With her luxuriant blonde hair she did, indeed, resemble an angel, but what earned her that angelic nickname was how she treated people, as I would see.

Well, Miss Jean’s been in South Carolina a while now and she brought her Atlanta Angel ways with her. Thanks to a talk I gave at one of the Shepherd Centers, our paths crossed again. This time we stayed in touch and Miss Jean had me over for lunch last May. I read some of her writing (a novice she’s not), and when I left she gave me a solar-powered bobble head doll. “Keep this nearby,” she said. “It’s your Atlanta Angel and it will look over you.” She also gave me a pineapple, a gift that signifies friendship.

The pineapple is long gone but not Atlanta Angel. We start each day with a “cyber” chat over coffee and generally bid each other good evening around 6. Some days we chat off and on. We hardly miss a day without talking. If we do, it’s because I’m on the road or in the field, literally in a field some days.

Back in my studio, I email her previews of select columns, complete with photographs. She makes a good editor and I value her opinion. She’s a great life coach, too. We share our views on life and give thanks that we’re in good circumstances. Hers is a gentle soul.

I lost my mother three years ago this month and the stars sent Miss Jean, my Atlanta Angel, to help fill the void. She gives me motherly advice, always apologizing (“I know I’m not your mother but …). The apology isn’t necessary because her advice is heartfelt and sound. AA, as I call her, sees the best in each day and counts her blessings. I try to follow her lead. To say she is a good influence is an understatement.

Outside of junk mail, ads, and con artists, the internet is wonderful. It gives friends great ways to share things, and AA and I do just that. Writing is a solitary enterprise and the golden years can be lonely too. Sharing our day helps.

And that little bobble-head doll? Well, it’s a few feet away watching over me as it dances beneath a lamp. I have her business card here on my desk. When I need advice or a moment to talk, I can turn to the Atlanta Angel, she of the blonde halo, and I know she will be there.

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