Feb 26th, 2012 | By | Category: Senior Moments Blog

Seniors Cherish Friendships

The following is an account of a dear friend and relationship that developed in my budding 20’s, during the early 60’s. I was attending graduate school and lived next door to a dear person I would come to refer to as one of the saints I have known and loved.

The tribute was written a few years past her death.  I have kept it in my files over all these years.  I am now as old as she was then.

“On nights like this I remember her best.  The warm golden glow from her shutters burned the whole night through.  There, leaning on that worn and familiar coffee table, a converted bridge table, would be her shawl-wrapped arms.  Near at hand, packages of cigarettes, a plastic ashtray, I thought terribly incongruous, matches, a stained coffee cup, a kerchief or Kleenex, and an odd assortment of fiction.

“I suppose she had read everything one might read.  And now in the early hours of every morning, in mid-afternoon or early evening she could be found breezing through one of the most recent mystery paperbacks.

“The walls were lined with all the classics, which she knew and could converse over with studied erudition.  Many productive moments were so spent on afternoons I might have been about my own ecclesiastical chores or delving into the mysteries of scripture, assigned me by one or another boring seminary professor.

“Her health was miserably poor.  Seldom did she complain.  She was always there, anxious to listen and share from her abundant and rich past.  Almost locked in a prison now, she did not despair of her condition.  She only made joy for one who would spend the day or part of it with her.

“Her hair, yellow, either with smoke of age or both, was beautiful.  Her hands, busy with a cigarette or a match, wrote me a few lines now and again and I cherish those lines scribbled in a book or penned on a notepad.  They were usually quotes she thought I would like and I always did.

“She seldom moved from that armed, padded chair in which she sat hour after hour. I always wondered if she ever really went to bed or to sleep.  She was always there.  It was such pain for her to move about.  Her arthritic limbs and emphysema handicapped her miserably and the latter took her last breath away one day and I was not there.

“As I remember her now, I recall no misunderstandings or tense moments between us, of the joy that comes from exploring , of venturing together along intellectual paths toward no particular goal, save the delight of the experience.

“I never really knew her age, even then she was well past 70.  She had collected so many experiences, watched so much history, felt so much pain.  Sitting with her must have been like making love to the mistress of knowledge.

“Her husband and she were opposites in so many respects.  Yet her love and loyalty to him was evident.  She missed him on the many nights he did not come home.  She fretted over his condition, knowing that he was a desperate alcoholic.  She feared that he might be in an accident or brawl.  She cared and cared deeply.  It was a beautiful, non possessive caring, evidencing  itself in quiet vigils as she sat night after night waiting at home, as a pet watches at the door for his master.

“Now, after so many years, it is difficult to recall any specific conversations, to remember any particular gems of wisdom we polished together.  I only remember how her countenance gleamed so brightly when I was there to listen and share some  moments with her.  She probably thought how foolish of a young man to spend his time sitting with a sick old woman.  And I thought how she must be bored with the impulsive, unknowing gropings of a naive young man.

“Whatever we might have thought of the other, the desire to be in the other’s world was there and we captured it for fleeting, but now precious, memorable moments.

“She died a few years ago, almost five or six I suppose, on a weekend when I was visiting other friends.  It took a couple of days for me to get the message and when I did part of me died too.”

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