Place of Refuge

Place of Refuge

06 July 2011

Old Friends

My mother has a friend  she has known since she was nine.
Both are in their eighties now.

I had lunch with them today.

My Aunt, as we call her,
Though there is no blood shared,
Was always the stronger –
Or so it seemed.  Vibrant,
Provocative, absolutely gorgeous,
With Betty Boop curves
And unafraid to speak her mind,
She lorded over my mother,
Who was the meeker, the less
Confident, the demure
(though notably, my mother drove –
she forced herself to learn after two years
of post-partum agoraphobia;
and my Aunt never learned how.)

Their spouses, my father and my Uncle,
Both now long gone, having now been fully secured
To mythic status for their respective clans
Were also best friends – our families
would camp together,
Boat together,
Holiday together,
Everything together –
We were closer to them than kin,
If that’s at all possible.  Indeed
It is: my sister
Nearly married their son; their elder
Daughter was our babysitter, and knows a few
Of my most painful youthful secrets.

In the meager amount of time I’ve shared with my Aunt’s family
(a half a century or so)
I’ve witnessed her friendship with my mother change –
From buddies
To jealousies
To rivalries
To trivialities
But always, somehow they remained

Today they sat together at table,
My Aunt now shriveled and bruised –
A brittle post-bypass diabetic,
Nearly blind.  My mother, the stronger,
Though slowed by arthritis and aided
by six cardiac stints, had made the meal –
A simple chicken salad with melon and iced tea.

The attitude between the two
old friends
is one of constant surprise
-- that they are still together --
and grim acceptance
-- that they are still together --
and gratitude.

We spoke of old times; we spoke
Of new times; or we did not speak
At all.  My former babysitter, too,
My “Cousin,” was in attendance, and we spoke
Of her grandchildren.
For four hours, I was blessed
With the comfort of the company of
People who have known me all my life  -
Who have loved me despite my distant
wanderings, who have applauded my accomplishments,
Though from afar.

The sentiment is trite,
I know,
but triteness often comes
from truth: 
How far must one travel to know
Old Friends. are perhaps
one of the few great comforts
In human existence.

1 comment:

Debra She Who Seeks said...

A beautiful post. Best wishes to your Mom and Auntie. Old age is tough, tough, tough.