Glennis Toole was the coolest person I’d ever met. As I was seven years old at the time, I hadn’t really considered other people ‘cool’ or ‘uncool’, but I was instantly smitten with her. She and her family had moved into a house on our street and as there weren’t many kids in our neighbourhood at the time, I was delighted to make her acquaintance.
The first thing you need to know about Glennis is that she was exceptionally kind. Even though she was a full three years older than I was, she always had time for me. We played with Barbies, visited the local playground and took occasional walks in the woods together. Glennis had a beautiful smile and shared it with everyone who looked her way. I never saw her angry, upset, or out of sorts, which is incredible considering what happened later.
The second thing you need to know about Glennis is that she was brave. One sunny afternoon, as I sat at the bottom of our driveway to watch her flying down our street on her roller skates, she lost her balance and landed right on her backside. I braced for a wail or a scream but none came. Instead, she looked me dead in the eye, threw her head back and belly laughed. I couldn’t believe it! Who fell down on pavement and didn’t cry about it? Glennis Toole – that’s who.
In the summer, my family and I were visiting the Florida panhandle for the summer. My mom and I were sitting in the shallow water where the ocean met the shore when I saw my dad approaching, carrying a lanky-looking girl towards us. Glennis! He gently placed her in the water beside me. I didn’t know it, but there had been an accident. Glennis was injured. She could no longer walk unassisted. My eyes immediately welled up as I looked at her, and in true Glennis-fashion, she grinned at me, gently swaying in the water and seemingly unfazed by her predicament.
Over the next two weeks, my dad and I worked with Glennis. We spent a lot of time in the ocean, and we helped her take steps using furniture to skim round the room. And then one afternoon, she yelled ‘Beth!’ and I looked up from my book to see her standing out in the open, between the dinner table and couch. Her feet were slightly apart and she was bent forward at her waist. She’d walked unaided. Her eyes were wide in astonishment, but that smile was there. I called for my dad so he could witness her take the last two steps before reaching the couch. Glennis could walk. We were all over the moon.
I can’t remember exactly when we lost touch, but I’ve thought about Glennis so many times over the years and wondered where she ended up. I hope it’s someplace good. And I hope life has been as kind to Glennis as she was to me.