Sunday, December 10, 2006

FRIENDS - kind, generous, surprising

When the unusual happens, when one is hurt, needy, experiencing the unexpected, fiends' don their true colors unconsciously and spontaneously. That is the effect of unusual events -- as novelists a playwrights know welll.. When one is the recipient of those attentions, unless truly unable to res[ond to the circumstances, we ought to pay attention to the little things, the marks of character that arise spontaneously. -- That's an awful abstract sentence. I mean, in Linda Loman's words, "attention must be paid."
I've already written about my daughters. The poinsettia above is from Leslie who thought it would be a bright touch and it is. I'm pretty good at killing plants but this one, I think, wiill make it through the Christmas season, cheering my table at every meal.
My first friend to the rescue was Maggie who immediately came to the hospital with what I needed most, tooth brush and tooth paste. She even thought of floss. And flowers. She's extremely busy with a super hectic life right now but she calls regularly. We've shared a lot in more than twenty years.
Eli, my neightbor, brought much needed chocolate, from my refrigerator and his own additions. Brought the newspaper and some magazines which helped save my sanity. He's nearby and often asks what I need -- yesterday is was for him dig into the highest shelf of the closet and find my winter hats behind bath mats and mattress covers. Then he made a special trip to the store for a couple of bagels because it had been so cold I didn't venture out all day.


Lynn, my long, long, long time friend, now in Boca Raton, called with an immediate invitation to come and recuperate at her lovely [tho' under reconstruction] home. A few days later an email said to expect four envelopes. I knew that meant she was emptying her quilt stash. She has done this at irregular intervals; the arrival of fabrics she has decided she will never use or cuttings from quilts she has made, is always a special time because I LOVE being given fabric. She knows this and took the time to send me the above collection -- practically all of the Laurel Burch collection! Wow -- Christmas indeed!!! What fun, opening one envelope after another! Immediately images of quilts-to-be began to dance like the Sugar Plum Fairy through my head. All the more reason to keep plugging away at appliqueing the butterflies. What a feast of colors! Some are flannels -- wonderful to the touch. Plus there's a complex Hoffman fabric. YUM! Just the thing to lift spirits on a cold winter day. Lynn's generosity always stuns me. Plus she knows my past as no other friend does, we share things I share with no one else.">der="0" alt="" />

The surprise that I've been mulling the last 24 hours but really since late summer: a phenomenon either of aging or Midwestern-ness or of the internet era. I don't yet understand it. I attended my 50th [yes!] high school reunion in June. We were only 56 graduates, nearly half showed up for one or more of the reunion events, only three had passed away at the time although a couple were seriously ill -- a couple still are. Versailles, Indiana is a tiny, very rural town; at least a third of us began first grade together and continued together for twelve years. Others joined us in the 5th grade when a one-room school was amalgamated with ours. Many of us were part of each others' lives for a long time. I cannot say we knew each other well -- children, adolescents, teens are necessarily so self-involved we can see those around us only through our myhopic eyes. I lived three or four miles from town and was never a part of the in-town cliques. It didn't matter, I had my place in the class from first grade on -- the teachers' pet, the one who got A's, the one who played the piano and was somehow a little apart.
We had earlier reunions, starting about twenty years ago, which were held every five years. I attended most. I was the one who had "ambitions". The writer. The one who went to live in New York. I found at reunions that others had excelled beyond the seeming promise at our graduation. Changing times opened opportunities for both men and women. Many remained near Versailles, but many spread out across the US. Previous to the 50th reunion, I had much email correspondence with Bill S. who had undertaken to put together a memory book. He did a superb job with a little help from others who did home town research and by nearly all the class who submitted bios - summaries, long or, usually, short, and photos.
We talked a little at the reunion about how lucky we were to have lost so few. But we were very aware of infirmities; many had stories of knee or hip replacements, this or that chronic illness. Most are on polypharmacy, as one would expect. Our vulnerability was evident even as we looked surprisingly good -- if thicker in the middle. Several weeks after the reunion, Marilyn, who had seemed radiant and healthy suddenly was in the hospital with a partial leg amputation, that, over weeks became a radical amputation. The emails began to flow. Enormous support was mustered from members of the class, the news was regular. There was mass rejoicing when she was able to go home for Thanksgiving.


Linda -- now Lin -- one of my first grade best friends and always a friend [another teacher's pet] is now a retired teacher living in L.A., has become email central. She returns to Versailles every summer and keeps in touch with as many classmates as possible, she is the ideal contact person and had willingly taken over the role. She has a couple of assistants as well who sometimes forward the same info ... this redudancy is a welcome example of caring as I see it. Lin even phones the non-email users occasionally to keep them in the loop.
So it happened that Kenny heard about my hip and called yesterday to ask how I'm doing. This is absolutely amazing and I have been thinking about it 24 hours now. Kenny's grandparents lived across the road from our house, I saw him and his two cousins who were also in our class, often. At about age 12 or 13 Kenny decided I was the best thing that had happened in the world since the invention of Rice Krispies. He was shy and I was not interested; his dad was a farmer, and now he is a farmer. Kenny named heifers after me; I was mortified. He wasn't exactly shy but I hid my own shyness behind a facade of unapproachability. He never dared ask me for a date -- nor did anyone else, for that matter.
I'm told by Janet, who was my high school best friend and who also returns to Versailles every summer from her home in Arizona, that Ken [no longer Kenny, of course] always asks about me. Somehow, when Lin told him of my fall and hip replacement, this Hoosier farmer, now at age 68, has acquired the gumption to act on his concern. He picked up the telephone and called to ask how I was. I was and am deeply touched.
I've given examples of friends acting generously and spontaneously; but this community of information and concern among my one-time classmates makes me consider the small town values, the '40s & '50s ethos that shaped this small group of people. Simply, they are good people. They have lived simple but honest and mostly, as far as I can tell from their bios, meaningful lives. And as we grow older and more vulnerable a caring is surfacing that is warm and really quite wonderful.

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