Loretta, My Best Friend

Today would have been Lo’s  74th birthday. I was one year and eight months older than she was. From the time we were small, where you saw one of us, you saw the other. We loved each other so much and always had such a strong bond.

For some reason, I felt more like her second mama than anything else. I always looked after her. But of course, as we grew up and older, we sort of went  our separate ways. I got married. She and our older sister Dot, or “Sis” as we all called her, moved in together.  After six years my marriage was over and I moved in with them, along with my 5 yr. old son, Kevin.  We all worked at a little restaurant called Piedmont Lunch.

We were never allowed to dance, since our Dad was a very strict Baptist minister.  Lo, Sis, Billie Hoyle ( a lifelong friend) had been going to Charlotte, N.C. to dances at some of the nicer lounges. They talked me into going with them and I was carried away by the music and watching people dance. I loved it, although I couldn’t dance myself.  Every time the music started, here would come a guy asking Lo to dance.  I would never have believed that girl could dance like that. Sis could dance real good too! Slowly but surely I got up the nerve to try it. I learned to slow dance but would never have had the nerve to try that fast music.

Then a year later, I married Jim Childers.  He was a customer who came in the restaurant where we three worked. His wife had died, leaving him with two children to finish raising (That’s my story, THAT I will tackle at another time). Loretta, Sis and Billie had all married.  Somehow we all seemed to choose the wrong men. Sis went to Georgia to live with her daughter, Teresa. Billie had a thriving beauty shop. Loretta lived with her husband Bill about a block from us ( me & Jim). Jim had bought Piedmont Lunch and changed the name to Peggy’s Restaurant. He wouldn’t allow me to work, so I suggested that he sell it to Lo.  He did so and  she later moved it about a block down the street.  She had a booming business there, with a lot of family members working for her. Our cousin, Rene Smith, was the cook, Lo helped on the grill when she was needed, and Sherry, our youngest sister was one of the waitresses along with Sis.

After a few years, Kevin was about 11 yrs. old, Sis had to go to Georgia to spend some time and Lo called and asked me to fill in for Sis. I did and Lo came to me one day and said “you seem so happy working, why don’t you try it for a while?” Terry, my step daughter, was married. Chip ( my stepson) was 16, so I decided to take the job. I just didn’t have enough to do at home.  It was a hard job but we had a ball!  Our customers were like family. They would get up from their tables and pour coffee, clean tables, all kinds of things.

Well, the way my luck with men went, I found out that my husband Jim was being unfaithful  to me with his secretary, Pat!    So, another divorce was in the works.

I worked at the restaurant and cooked (after Rene died) until I retired 23 years later.  I could sit here all night talking about Lo and how much I loved her. Kevin and I moved back in with her again after my divorce . We were as content as two sisters could be together. Again, just as it was in the beginning we were inseparable. She would be in her room at night, and I in mine watching television. Or going shopping, running back and forth to one of our sister’s houses. Working in the backyard in our flowers, me digging and Lo picking up the weeds and cleaning up after me.

Sis learned that she had lung cancer and I made the choice to go to Georgia to take care of her. Lo came down to stay with us for a week .  She was thin and very pale. My sister Sue, who was also there, said to me “If I had to say which one would go first, by the way they look , I would have to say Loretta”. I will never forget the day she left to go back home. I stood in the door and she turned back and was staring at me, with the saddest look I have ever seen. Like she was saying “I want you to go with me”.  I couldn’t because Sis was nearing death. Sis died a few weeks later. We brought her back to Kings Mountain to bury her beside Mama and Daddy.

The day we drove up the drive way, Loretta came running out the door and she said, “I have been lying here all day waiting for you to get home”.

Then two months Later, Lo and I had been piddling in the back yard, trying to get things back in shape.  We came in for a little while and decided to go to McDonalds to get a sandwich. Lo was behind me and we were laughing at Stripe, one of our cats, who was laying in a concrete basket asleep. I opened the door to get in the van and looked around to the passenger seat and didn’t see Lo. I looked back and saw her sitting on the sidewalk crying with her leg. She said  I hit her with the door as I opened it, but I felt no contact as I opened the door. I ran in the house and called the paramedics. While they were taking her to the hospital, they had to give her oxygen because her oxygen reading was just 40. The doctor came out and told us they would like to keep Lo overnight because she had broken her leg pretty bad.

The next morning I went to the Hospital early, expecting that they would set her leg and we would be on our way home.  But the Dr. came in and told us that he had no good news; that Loretta had an enlarged heart, very little circulation in her legs and a very large aneurysm on the tube going in to her stomach. He said they were afraid to set her leg because they were afraid of a blood clot. Lo and I just said there wide eyed and didn’t know what to say.  The next day they gave her a drug induced stress test and her heart stopped.  They worked on her until her heart began beating again, but she had to spend two days in ICU.  Dr. Boyette (the heart specialist) came in and talked to us the next day. He told us he didn’t want to send her home with that leg not in a cast because she would have to stay in bed and be in pain the rest of her life. He told us he would take care of the aneurysm when she got over the rest.

She did well and the next Tuesday morning we brought her home. On the fifth day at home, she told me she was having chest pains. I called the paramedics and she made them believe that she  had a Hiatal hernia and hadn’t chewed her food well at breakfast.  They left and at the same time Kevin told me someone wanted me on the telephone. I was on the phone no more than 10 minutes and then I hurried back to Loretta.  I touched her on the foot and it felt funny. I looked at her and she was gone!!!!!  I screamed for Kevin and he ran in and tried to revive her but it was too late.  The  paramedics came flying back to our house, along with a nurse and two ambulances. Another man was walking around in the front yard talking on a walkie talkie. BUT my sister that I loved so much was dead.  I cried all night and begged the Lord to take me too!   My heart still gets heavy anytime I think of her but she made her peace with God when she was first in the hospital. She is with the rest of our family, our mama, daddy, three brothers, four sisters, counting Lo. One day I will join them in Heaven and nothing can ever separate me and Lo again.  That’s going to be some home coming isn’t it?  Keep looking Lo!  One of these days you are going to see me running through those gates with my arms wide open to hug you again. Thank you God for that promise.

About Peggy

Peggy Chaney was best known as cook and co-owner of Peggy's Restaurant in Kings Mountain, North Carolina (which she and her sister, Loretta, ran for over two decades). You can find her pages on Google+, Twitter and Facebook. One of eleven siblings, she was the daughter of a Baptist preacher, and was well remembered for her kind spirit and regard for others. Her genuine warmth and grace is sorely missed.

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