She left yesterday at 6 a.m. while it was still dark. I stood in the driveway in the oozing, saturated night and thought bleakly how lonesome it was going to be without her. Since she sold her father’s house, may he rest in peace, she has stayed with me while she sorted his possessions and his affairs. Though we’ve known each other close to fifty years, this is the most time we’ve ever spent together.
You could make the case that my early friendship with her determined the course of my life. If she hadn’t befriended me when I was the gauche girl from Ireland that summer long ago, I would never have met her father, the Carpathian Prince, who would not then have been inspired to set his son up to accompany me to a party one night, after the last flight for Ireland had departed; and said Prince would never have landed, late one evening on my startled parents’ Irish doorstep to check my pedigree. Finding my parents, not only startled, but respectable, and without criminal records, he still railed against our plans, his next argument being that we were too young. Which we undoubtedly were. But his son was as stubborn as he and calmly proceeded with his plans.
When the Prince saw that he was losing the battle, he insisted that, if we must get married, it should be on his turf, in New York. As far as I knew that was for the bride to decide, and this bride accordingly dug in her heels. Ireland or nowhere.
He threatened that he would not come.
But in the end he could not stay away, and furthermore would have had World War Three on his hands had he tried to keep his wife from attending, even though it meant she would have to worry forever more that her pride and joy would starve to death.
And so it came to pass that, because I had become friends with his daughter, the Prince found himself in Ireland one summer, attending his son’s wedding, complaining about warm beer and the fact that a wake-up call in his Irish hotel meant that a maid came into his room and shook him!
He was not a man who liked to be thwarted. He registered his displeasure by not allowing his daughter, my friend, to attend her only brother’s wedding. I wonder how he explained that at the Pearly Gates.....
She and I started out as a couple of innocents, full of the excitement and possibilities of being almost twenty and on the threshold of whatever life might hold. We're less excited now. Older, wiser, scarred. We've weathered it all, the good, the bad and the horrible.
And we’re still friends.
It was so nice to have her company over our morning coffee; so nice to have company at dinner, and someone to sit around with afterwards. Every day we made progress, advancing a little further in sorting all the dangling threads of a life that is over. The furniture, the linens, the china, the crystal, the figurines, the chess sets, the cutlery, the paintings, the appliances, the beautiful, hand-crocheted doilies, the suitcases, the tools, the gardening equipment, the barbeque. Everything clean and spotless. Everything needing a home. We learned to negotiate our way through Craigslist and to place ads in the newspaper without ever leaving the couch. We learned that, mostly, people want something for nothing. We donated bags and bags and bags of beautiful things to charity and churches. And it became easier, as time went on, to let it go. We lost all interest in shopping. Who needs more stuff? Too much stuff just clutters up your house and your life. Life should be about more than the care and feeding of STUFF.
The care and nurturing of people who matter to us, for instance. I’m glad we had the time together that we did. She's still getting her head around the fact that the Prince is gone. My own father died thirty eight years ago and I’m still not used to it. I’m sure when she gets home she’ll miss his daily phone calls checking that she is safe and well, and giving her the lowdown on his day. She might even miss the oft-told Threadbare Tales. I wonder where he is and who he’s telling them to now?
Miss Oriss arrived home safely early this afternoon. All the boxes and "stuff" she had mailed from here were there, waiting for her. It almost made her want to get in the car and come back.
All I have to say about that is "I'll have the coffee ready when you get here!"