Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The winter of all our discontents

The dark silhouette of leaf less branches outside my windows could be beautiful... if they were seen against a bright blue sky.  But this is Ohio, and the sky is grey, and the wind is strong. If a last leaf might still have been clinging to the limb, it is far, far away now.

I have been thinking about last leaves for a long time. My friend, Lucile Kirk, once told me, over lunch, that she didn't want to be the last leaf on the tree. That was a few years ago, and now she has left us and, as in winter's past, so have Lois and Harry and Bob and Artie and Leonard and Evelyn. If you are ninety as I am, you can substitute your own list of missing friends.

We were once part of a group of seven couples, who met regularly on Saturday night. Now there are two of us, Artie's widow, Jackie, and I.

Not so long ago, I was a class mate of five or six local members of the CSG class of 1937, who met regularly for lunch. Now, there is Caroline Davis and I. We talk on the phone, and we share many intimacies because we have the trust that comes with an eighty year friendship.

At Wellesley, we were a compatible group of young women, who ate at the same table together for three years. (Yes, we had round tables, and table cloths and waitresses!) Now, Alice and I reach out to each other from Boston to Columbus, and she will say, when we have the "last leaf" conversation, "You remember my friend Muriel, from kindergarten" and I do, even though we have never met. I just know she is still on Alice's branch.

It was just a year ago that I saw my wonderful brother, Al, for the last time. That is hard to bear.

It happens, this time and change. I write this, today, not because I am mourning those who are gone, because, of course, I am. But I am celebrating those who remain, and the newer, younger people who have become dear to me.

 And sometime, sometime, spring will come.


  1. Phyllis
    I am so touched by your blog today.
    I am approaching the 5 year anniversary of Jack's death-hard to believe.
    It has always been such a sad reminder of the years that have passed without Jack's physical presence. Your comment about that it is okay to mourn those that are gone but it is important to celebrate those who remain-especially the younger people in my life, makes so much sense to me. Thanks for putting that into words and giving me the strength to keep on going and bringing more "leaves" into my life.

  2. wede wede..
    you will always be such a special leaf on my tree.
    and to know just a short 12 months ago, dah was still clinging to a limb.....i love you so. xox

  3. Part of the power of your books, Phyllis, is that you help us to pause and live in our losses and mourning rather than rushing ourselves to be better or done with that. Our losses are continuing aches, not as debilitating but always just beneath the skin of our lives. And it is okay because it is a measure of the meaning and consequence of those lives. They continue in our love and that is a good thing, just also always a missing.

  4. If I can call you so, wede, your words are so powerful because you touch each of us in so many ways. I'm not so young but I hope to be a part of your spring. Thank you for the gift of your words.