Suddenly it’s cooler, though they say September will still be hot – needed a warmer comforter on the bed last night. Just had supper (cucumber based) on the deck, marvelling, once more, in the extraordinary quiet – no neighbours out jabbering for once, nothing except an occasional plane and lots of birds. I can’t even hear traffic. The gardenia has produced a new bloom and the lavender abounds, wafting scent into the air; the Rose of Sharon is exploding with bloom and bees – well, you’ve heard it all before. Plus cucumbers.
Another of the blessings of my life, besides my own personal very small park, is having friends of many different ages. Last week, I had lunch with two dear friends and writing students, Ruth and Merrijoy, one 80 and the other nearly 91, both recently widowed. How lively and beautiful they both are, Merrijoy just back from a trip to Croatia, Ruth just back from an evening of experimental opera in the Globe and Mail building. Between them they know just about everybody who’s anybody in this country. May we all age with such eager curiosity, dignity, wit, and sagesse.
So then I called my father’s cousin Lola in New York, exactly the age he would have been if he hadn’t died long ago – nearly 97. Though her body isn’t doing what she wants, her mind is as sharp as ever and her sense of humour acute. I asked her about my parents; she knew my father as a small boy and connected with my parents and New York grandparents throughout their lives. What treasure. I took notes. But mostly, we gossiped about family and laughed a lot.
The good news is – my back is better. I think the pain came from the way I was sitting, endlessly; am trying to stand more and sit straighter, and it’s helping. The bad news is – that my body is still disintegrating. I went for a jogette today and was appalled at how little I could do. I used to be able to go at least a few blocks before stopping for breath; today, half a block. Everything hurts. NEED TO UP MY GAME. Or I will not be marching about Croatia in a few years.
Still reading my parents’ letters when I can get to them and have found someone who’s coming to transcribe, which will speed up the process. Found a vicious letter from my American grandmother Nettie to my mother in 1951; Nettie came to visit us in Halifax while my father was in hospital recovering from polio and complains that my mother was not friendly and did not have on hand white bread and eggs, which apparently was all she could eat. My mother, of course, dealing with a desperately ill husband and an adorable one-year old – moi – who my grandmother describes as “a cute trick.”
She writes about the day in New York, shortly after my birth, she “came to see to see the baby with your permission. I came laden like a truck horse with a completely cooked dinner. I stopped at Schraffts for cake for you etc. Your reception of us was something I’ve never seen in my life. No welcome, no pretense of friendliness … I think you’re very fortunate and very rich in having my Gordin for your husband. His warmth and good cheer is surely enough for you both!”
Can you imagine writing this to a daughter-in-law, on and on? It’s 10 handwritten pages long!
“Oh, Nettie was prepared to be negative about your mother before they even met,” Lola told me. “Can you imagine – her Gordie bringing home a great big shiksa?”