I thought for a long time about what this title should be. Casual friends? No, that's not what this was, this friendship. Un-casual? What does that mean? Ships that pass in the night? Completely wrong description.
So let me tell you about Mary Collins and maybe you could help me with just the right words to describe what she meant to me, and, I think, what I meant to her.
A Texas reader did just that. She commented that it was a beautiful friendship, begun in a beauty parlor and it was, indeed, beautiful. That adjective does it for me.
Mary lived in the same little community as I, but in this neighborhood, older ladies who don't walk too well never meet each other. Mary was my age exactly, and we went to the same beauty parlor with back to back appointments with the same excellent beautician.
We met there every week for years. We chatted, mostly inconsequential things. Her son took care of her, he did the grocery shopping and the cooking and the driving, and she lived with him. In the beginning of our friendship, I was still driving, but he dropped her off and then picked her up.
As time went on, Mary had more and more difficulty walking, and so Jan, the son, bought her a transport wheel chair. I was still walking, but no longer driving, and so I needed to be driven to my appointment. Most of the time, the duty fell to my daughter; once or twice, I had a visiting son drive me.
Mary seemed to be on a kind of plateau; I started to slip downward. My last visit to the beauty parlor, my back pain was intense. By then, I had a caregiver to help with my meals and my dressing and showering. Eventually, in 2008 I was in Hospice care, and then gradually, miraculously, almost recovered. Or as recovered as you get at 89. It took much longer to get mortally sick than it did to get amazingly better.
Mary died last week, just after her ninety-eth birthday. Jan called to tell me, which was so exceptionally kind of him. He said he didn't want me to read it in the paper. I knew she had fallen and things weren't good. The obituary was long and lovely, and she had had a family devoted to her. The picture was a recent one ( which I think obit pictures should be), but once, a few years ago she had brought a picture of herself as a beautiful young woman. That is the picture I like to remember.
Would we have been friends if our paths had crossed seventy years ago? Probably not; different interests on different paths.
But she was truly my friend, as our paths converged, and I cried with Jan when he called. I will miss her weekly smile, and her good humor.
Rest in Peace, Mary. And I know your hair will look lovely forever.