Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Never, No More


I miss my friend, Lora. If she had been able to hold on for one more summer, weather just one more winter, she would have celebrated her 104th birthday this April. I would be making plans now to visit her (she liked to plan things ahead so she had something to look forward to). I’d bring a cupcake with a candle stuck in the frosting and a wrapped roll of toilet paper as a present—a joke gift we’d perpetuated since her 100th birthday when she declared that from then on she wanted only practical gifts.

I’d be packing my winter woolies, as April in the Northeast Kingdom follows its own calendar and there still would be traces of snow. Lora would be waiting at the door when I arrived, a huge smile creasing her face, her arms ready for a fierce hug. We’d begin talking the moment we set each other free and we would not stop until I left a week later.

The back deck would be frosted in the early mornings. Sunlight streaming over the mountains would turn the breath of the neighboring farm’s great workhorses to gold streamers as they pranced in the field. Smoke would be rising from chimneys in town, the first houses just visible across the silvered meadow grasses.

Lora and I would sit at the breakfast table eating oatmeal laced with maple syrup and strawberries put by from last year’s harvest, or eggs fried in butter, or doughnuts she’d made herself, and plan our day to the very last minute, then change those plans as we went along, depending on what struck our fancy. Often we’d set off for one place only to be distracted by something else—an unexpected tag sale, a sudden yen for something to eat, a quickened memory of some other place that would detour us from our original destination.

When we returned in the late afternoon, Lora would retire to her bedroom for a nap and I would take a walk, letting the fresh air soak into my very bones. I wouldn’t remember until I was there, walking the tree-studded hillsides or wandering the dirt roads, how much I missed Vermont and how glad I was to be back where towering spruce trees scratched the underbellies of the clouds and green hillsides rolled up the very flanks of the mountains.

This year there will be no Lora, no hugs, or all-encompassing conversations, no new adventures to savor on the long ride back home. I will pack my winter woolies all the same, and head north come spring. I will visit the places where I knew Lora best—the old farmhouse in Greensboro, the house overlooking the lake in Glover, the little condo in Newport, and the house in Barton where I last saw her. I will get lost on the back roads, laugh at remembered stories and bid farewell, finally, to the friend who used to live in the Northeast Kingdom but now resides only in my memory, and my heart.

18 comments:

Tabor said...

Tears here but so happy you had those years and now have the memories.

Brian Miller said...

hugs...i am sorry you wont have your friend with you as you visit those places but i bet you feel her near...

June said...

The Never-ness of it is just awful, isn't it...?
I think you're wise to have another trip to remember her and to say goodbye on her territory.

deb colarossi said...

How beautifully you honoured your friendship , her heart written forever on yours.

Kerry said...

I realize, now, that I also miss Lora. How exquisite this is.

Hilary said...

I remember your touching farewell post and this one is equally tender. I'm sorry you're hurting. But thrilled that this lovely lady had so many years on the planet. I'm sure your trip will be bittersweet.

steven said...

the echoes of a life well-lived are the most powerful and sweet and pognant and heart-breaking and loving and tender and whole aren't they pauline . . . . . . lucky you to have shared even one small part of your life with her . . . . . . . steven

Barbara Shallue said...

What a wonderful friendship you two shared! Just hearing about it brought both tears and a smile. I'm so glad you'll still be able to make your trip and I'm sure she'll be tagging along in those places, if only in your heart.

Judith said...

You've just completed that journey, as real as real. And will have another one in the spring ---

Star said...

Aaah very sweet! It is a year since a friend of mine died also. She was 102. These 'old' friends have been around for so much of our lives. How can we help but miss them! I remember when my friend came to dinner once. It was her 82nd birthday and I thought at the time that there might not be many more times we could celebrate together. Then she lived another 20 years. Just amazing.
Lora will of course live on forever in your thoughts (smile).

Out on the prairie said...

a beautiful share, very warm

Pranavam Ravikumar a.k.a. Kochuravi said...

friendship means sharing... sharing in turn a way of caring.. prayers

Pauline said...

Tabor - tears here, too but happiness in the memories

Brian - I will miss her even more when in VT but it seems fitting somehow, to make a last trip

June, yes, the never-ness is the worst part

Deb - yes, she is written there, and our stories together :)

Kerry - we had such fun together. I may post some stories about her here

Hilary - yes, it will be a bittersweet trip and I will miss going to VT in the years to come

Steven - it's interesting that the story of Lora and I is over but will be unending and whole, just as you say

Barbara - I think of Lora often, with both happiness and longing

Judith - it will hut but that can't be helped. I want to visit one more time...

Star - I used to think that very thing about Lora once she turned 90 or so. By then I'd known her for almost 30 years!

thanks, OOTP

Pranavam - yes, sharing is surely a part of caring. Lora and I had a surfeit of both. Thanks for stopping by to comment

Marion said...

Lovely! I love how you plan to say goodbye to such a well-loved friend...so fitting.

You've turned on my tears here, my friend. Take care of yourself. xx

Sky said...

Such a beautiful tribute, Pauline. Those memories carry so much meaning, like a journal of your special friendship keeping her close always. Living 103 years is such an accomplishment - she must have taken very good care of herself and started that journey with some powerfully healthy genes!

I have been going through reflections recently, also, with the death of a friend of many years. She was a part of my life from my mid 20s forward. We ate lunch together every day for almost 20 years. We worked side by side, sharing more waking hours than we did with anyone else during those years. We are planting a shrub in our gardens in her memory. Beneath the roots I will place a letter I am writing her about my reflections of those years. Later my husband and I will scatter wildflower seeds at the foothills of the Cascades, and I will see her colors come alive again in summer.

Loss is hard on the heart, and our memories do their best to infuse us with old joys we miss.

Molly said...

Sad that Lora's gone but it sounds like you have a rich store of memories to keep you warm!

herhimnbryn said...

She is still with you though, isn't she? Your words honour her.

Flea said...

I wish she could've read this, but I'm sure she knew you so well she know you will say all these lovely words. AD X