Jesse (the 12-pound apricot poodle) and I met her on the creek path. You could depend on her to be there, like clockwork. She was a walker. She usually had a friend with her, and they would usually be laughing.
Her name was Annie.
I would see her from far off and tell Jesse she was there. He would get excited and by the time we met her, he would be doing his “play with me” dance. Head down, on his front paws, his poodle pom pom butt up in the air—he’d try to engage her in chasing him from side to side. He’d bark, joining the conversation and laughter.
Annie was a gift from the Creek Goddess. She was a survivor. She talked about being the primary caregiver for her adult son with cancer. She talked about losing touch with another son due to his drug addiction. She talked about a third son dying too young. She shared that she was a native of Hawaii, and as a Haole, she understood racism. She shared that she was, even at eighty-something, still on the board of a medical clinic in Santa Rosa. Annie was upbeat. Every time we saw her, it felt like a breath of fresh air and a ray of sunshine.
Fresh air and sunshine are not easy to come by these days and when the Covid 19 shut down and masking up became the new norm, we saw Annie sitting on the park bench over in Draper Park—out there on Wilford. I wasn’t feeling great. The lack of human contact was weighing on me. The politicizing of Covid 19 and darn near everything else was dragging me into depression. I told Annie. She gave me a pep talk and her phone number. She told me to call her. She told me she was with me.
Then, the skies opened up and Mother Nature decided that Covid 19 wasn’t enough and we would have lightning and thunder on August 16. She started the fires and threw in extreme heat that would choke us and bake us all. Still, Jesse needed to walk, and we went out in it.
Day after day, through the smoke and ash, there was no Annie. I wanted to share my excitement for Laura Sparks, a near perfect Cotati City Council Candidate for this moment in time—one with 20/20 vision for the 2020 election. I called Annie. I left a message. I called again. I left another message. I called a third time.
My passion for the Sparks campaign got me (safely) talking to neighbors. I knew these folks also knew Annie. I asked them if they’d seen her lately and got the news. On or about the time I made that first call, Annie had died. In her sleep.
What a blow. I didn’t get the chance to know Annie well. I don’t even know her last name. All I know is, Cotati lost a good one the night Annie died. We lost someone who could understand every human and dog from all walks of life. We lost someone who would not judge or abandon folks in distress. We lost an advocate for kindness, humor and peace.
Next time you walk along the creek in Cotati, think of Annie—and all the other people we lost in this anonymous Covid 19 pandemic where we are not gathering to mourn our losses together. Think of her and remember her sense of humor. She’s laughing at us now, I think. Shaking her head in amazement because we think we have any control over any damn thing at all.
Her name was Annie. She lives on in my heart. Her laughter and generosity of spirit inspires me to walk on, especially in these precarious times, and above all, be kind.