Decisions Decisions

If I could have dinner with one person who has already died, who would I choose? That would be a hard decision since I miss all the friends who have already passed on. The first to go was my friend since first grade, Mary. We sat next to each other in a church pew, on the left side of the church where our first grade class met, second grade was on the other side of the church.

Mary had the most amazing collection of toys and she would let me pick one and borrow it for a week.

We went to different high schools but stayed in touch.

 Old Friend

My thoughts drift back to you

old friend, though you’ve gone on long ago.

Gone ahead of me,

the year we were going to be thirty-nine.

Your sons, all grown I’ve heard;

were so small when you passed on.

The last time I saw you, our children

were happily eating together in your kitchen.

Not ever did the thought cross my mind that we’d

never meet again, in this dimension.

So many of the happier memories from my childhood

include times shared with you.

Like a flower in its season, you were here, did your job,

touched our lives;

Then like a flower picked, you were gone.

Next was my friend, Marge from the General Stefanik Dramatic Society, the Slovak dancing and singing group I got involved with after I graduated from high school. Marge was probably twenty years my senior, but we got along quite well and we participated in the club’s singing and dancing events and after meetings she’d drop me off at my grandparents’ home which was a couple of blocks away from her own family home in Parma.

She died shortly after my daughter was born.

Frank was a Jesuit priest my old roommate, Carol and I befriended in Washington, D.C. He was absolutely family to us. I remember him walking with me in silent empathy when I was so heartbroken I don’t know how I got out of bed every day.

Later he went to Kyoto, Japan to meet the family I would marry into, before I did. He was best man in our wedding and he baptized Mika at St. Lawrence Church in Sunnyvale, California. When Carol sent me a letter saying Frank, then in his early fifties had succumbed to Dementia, I sat down and sobbed.

Edna and I met at Ohio State University in the Strollers Dramatic group where I learned how to paint and repair scenery, did props for Oh Dad Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feeling so Sad. Edna was studying marine biology but got a job as a programmer for the Department of Labor in Washington, D.C. When I moved there, largely after her encouragement, we sat together in her apartment and drank two full pots of coffee just talking.

Goodbye Edna Mae

It had been years since

your last Christmas card,

never mind any other news.

Among our mutual friends

one asked the other, have

you any word from her?

There was no feedback

so periodically your name

came up and with the advance

of technology I searched on-line for you.

Although there were no exact matches

I sent a letters off to people with your

first initial and same Germanic last name.

There was never an answer.

Then one day in the mail a short letter arrived

from a friend who said she thought

she had told me, that you were killed instantly

in a head on collision nearly two years ago

while driving in Arizona on vacation.

To say that you touched my life would be

an understatement on the grandest scale;

It was more like, you painted pages of my life.

I shall miss you more terribly knowing that

you are gone from this world and I shall

never again receive a call from you saying “Let’s

meet in Kathmandu!”

That you will not appear on my doorstep

having just blown into town from the great somewhere.

Or that if you do it will be in spirit only, not to sit

down to drink pot after pot of coffee catching up

as we did so many years ago.

Caroline finished her Masters’ Degree at the Catholic University of America and got a job teaching at the University of Tulsa. When I decided to move to California, I rode as far west as Golden, Colorado with Caroline and her dad who came to D.C. to collect her. Caroline was of Lithuanian heritage and was a great cook. I went to Tulsa to visit her and she came to California to visit Carol and me and our mutual friend, Ellen. Caroline did not make it much past sixty.

Ruth and I rode the bus together downtown and back to Parma while we both worked at the insurance company – she got an early retirement package and took advantage of it, so seeing her was less frequent after that, but we talked on the phone frequently. She was about twelve years older than I was and I could not recount the frequency with which I sought her wisdom. She got sick rather suddenly and went to the hospital where I visited her. In less than a month she was gone. The only way I learned of her death was when I found her in the paid death notices online. I was devastated and I still miss her.

Have ya got a minute?

A couple of times a week the phone rang,

“Have ya got a minute?” Ruth would say

to my hello.

Sometimes it was just before I went walking,

or just as I was about to eat dinner,

sometimes it was when I was acutely aware of

my aloneness.

Listening to her words of wisdom,

I calmed down, felt reinforced.

Sometimes just the cadence of her voice over the

phone eased my depression.

I can still conjure up the cheerful voice,

see her smiling face.

I learned last week of her death.

I already miss the friend who called a couple of times

a week or responded anytime I needed to hear from her.

Hey, Ruth, “Have ya got a minute?”

Judy and I met when she was running the bookstore at the small college we both worked at downtown. When she was younger she taught art to the kindergarten and early elementary school children before the art program was deemed an extravagance. She had been married and though she had no children herself, she did raise the six children her husband brought into the union. Judy grew up with music in the family home as her father had been the conductor of the Schenectady Light Opera.

She was an avid reader and would pull a book out of her vast collection, which she accumulated in stacks around her apartment, so one had to walk around them to find a place to sit, and suggest that I read it. Thus she introduced me to Kathleen Norris via The Cloister Walk and many other fine reads. She invited me a couple of times to join her in the second row from the stage at Severance Hall to hear The Cleveland Orchestra. One time during a particularly dramatic rendition of a Tchaikovsky piece, she dozed off and when I nudged her she said she wasn’t sleeping. However, the snoring did draw the looks from a few nearby folks.

We went to the Akron Museum of Art to see a show of the work of Dale Chihuly which totally thrilled me. She would always be a teacher first and foremost.

She knew she was dying and she hounded her brother and his wife about having a party for her rather than a funeral and she presented him with a list of people and reminded him regularly about those she wanted included. I did get an invitation and our mutual friend, Ramona and I did attend the celebration at the Italian Club on Mayfield Hill in Little Italy in Cleveland.

June and I worked together in Palo Alto, California. She was about fifteen years my senior and had a grown son. She had a great sense of humor and once called me “goody two shoes!” She kept in touch with cards and notes after they moved to southern California where her husband worked in the drapery business, until without warning, he died of a massive heart attack at age 49.

Devastated, she rebuilt her life in Myrtle Beach. By this time I was re-situated in Ohio and mailing out my family and friends news and views letters, which she loved. Her son died by about age 35 from epilepsy related events. She continued working in the clerical field in the prison system and eventually stenosis of the spine forced her into a nursing home. MetLife informed me of her passing with a letter of condolence and a check for about $850. I should have known. The clock stopped at 3:00 p.m. for no reason.

June in July

Were we soul sisters, she and I?

June was a Cancer,

I a Scorpio, we talked heart to heart,

poured our lives out to each other through the mail.

Friends for over forty years,

we wrote letters, sent e-mails

sometimes called.

Late in the month of July the old

pendulum clock in the front room stopped

at three in the afternoon.

I thought it odd, wound it up a little more,

it stopped again two hours later. It was still tightly wound.

No reason it should stop.

I thought of the family lore about clocks ringing

when someone died. No one called with news of death.

No shiver ran up my spine. I shrugged it off until one day

in September when a letter came, condolences, June was gone.

Barbara came into my life when we were eighteen, working girls finished with high school and looking forward to our futures. We often double dated, triple dated, went with friends to the 21-28 dances at local hotels, took horseback riding lessons, went to dinner, the theatre and then for coffee and cheese cake at Corky and Lenny’s, went with 2 other friends to the World’s Fair in New York, or sat around the table in my parents’ kitchen eating my mother’s pastries, washing them down with coffee.

The year we were all 67 she buckled under to terrible pain and endured rounds of radiation and chemo therapy only to join her late husband that Easter morning.

Camilla and I met in Washington, D.C. through Edna and others in the C.Y.O. at St. Matthew’s Church. There was very little time spent on small talk with Camilla. We’d delve into the depths of the spiritual within minutes.

She was woven into the fabric of my life, driving almost every weekend to Sunnyvale from her apartment on Jones Street in San Francisco once I was divorced. She loved my children and believed that if Mika had not chosen me as her mother, she would have chosen Camilla. Her last fourteen years were dedicated to the service of her mother in the large Mass Ave home in Cathedral Heights in Washington, D.C.

Nettie was 76 when I met her. She lived across the street from us in Parma and we walked together in the good weather. She was very energetic and wise. Her children lived locally and were very solicitous and good to her. When I moved from Parma, we kept in touch by phone. She always knew it was me calling when to her Y’ello I would say Purple! On some of my many trips to Parma for medical appointments or a dash to Parmatown for some shopping, I would stop and have a short visit with Nettie.

The last time I called her the phone was disconnected and when I stopped at her home, no one answered and her dog was not barking. Things were piled up on the curb and my heart sank. As I was heading back to my car the voice of her daughter called out to me and she told me with red eyes and trembling voice that Nettie aged 90, had passed away. I told Mary Ellen that I would really miss her mom.

All of these people played important roles in my life. They were all intense and lively, colorful characters, which would I choose to dine with if I could pick only one? Only in the Twilight Zone  might I be able to make that decision.

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