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Rich: You never know who might hold purse strings

POSTED: December 9, 2008 5:00 a.m.

When Dixie Dew's beloved baby sitter up and went to heaven, I found myself in a quandary: What was I going to do about child care when I traveled?

Now, since I'm on the road almost constantly for speaking engagements and other business, this threatened to be a big problem.

Mama was so handy and so willing to keep Dew at any time.

Yes, she fed her too much, making Dew one of the fatter dachshunds in America. But she loved her and Dew, in turn, loved her mightily.

Of all the worries that drift in and out of my life, the one I never had when Mama was alive was Dew's well-being when I was on the road.

"How's Dixie Dew doing?" I'd ask when I called.

"She's sleepin' and eatin', just like usual," was Mama's typical answer.

My brother-in-law offered an unwelcome suggestion. "Kennel," he said firmly, raising an eyebrow in my direction.

"No," I replied firmer. "My child is not sleeping in a steel cage. I'll hire a nanny if I have to."

He rolled his eyes and shook his head.

I looked at my sister. "She adores you. Why can't she stay with you?"

Louise shook her head firmly (a lot of firmness was going on). "No. Absolutely not."

I turned my eyes toward my niece. She shook her head. "Don't look at me."

Several hours after Mama died, I was sitting on the hearth at my sister's house when Bruce, who, along with his wife Kathy, is in my Sunday school class, sat down beside me. He smiled kindly and then spoke his piece.

"I know your Mama always kept Dixie Dew for you, but I want you to know that she can come and stay with me and Kathy anytime she wants. We'll take good care of her."

It was one of the most thoughtful gifts, one that Bruce continues to offer weekly. Next, my godmother, Mary Nell, stepped up with her offer.

"You just bring Dixie Dew to my house and I'll keep her. I'll take good care of her."

Similar wonderful gestures came from my neighbors, Doug and Deborah, and my niece's mother-in-law, Dot, who all offered their homes and hearts. Nothing touched me more because it was the area of greatest concern, and these folks stepped forward to help.

But do you see anything interesting here? None of my family offered to take in my child. Not one person blood-related to me was willing to take in a baby that needs very little tending to. Just food, water, a little yard time through the course of the day and a nice warm bed with a down comforter. Yet, others on the periphery of my life were willing to oblige.

Like Blanche Dubois, the Southern heroine in "Streetcar Named Desire," I found myself dependent "on the kindness of strangers," not family.

But here's what no one knows: in my will, there is a clause that provides handsomely for the person who takes Dixie Dew in and gives her a nice home (inside not outside) should I predecease her. The executor is instructed to find the best home and then monitor her living conditions. In other words, Dixie Dew is an heir.

And heiresses should be treated better than Dew is being treated.

Of course, until now, no one who offered to keep Dixie Dew - nor anyone who didn't - knew that she's the heir to thousands.

Now that the word is out, though, Dixie Dew will not be accepting new friends or any revised offers for her to visit in their homes.

Mary Nell, who has graciously become Dew's new sitter, may herself be sitting pretty one day. There's a good chance that she might be Dixie Dew's heir.

So, be kind to everyone. You never know who might be an heiress.

Ronda Rich is the Gainesville-based author of "What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should)." Sign up for her newsletter


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