25 October , 2016
Today I lost a friend. Actually, I’d been losing her for two or three years but hoped that by metaphorically holding her hand she would wait until we could wander off together but she was always more nimble than me and has gone ahead into the dismal limbo of Alzheimer’s.
When I first met her, she was slender, and energetic – ballroom dancing was her love. She moved briskly without hesitation; always smart and well dressed she was much more fashion conscious than I have ever been. Over the years, she raised two daughters to be lovely, young women, contributing to society. She loved her grandchildren and was always sympathetic with their points of view. Her marriage did not last but her love did. In later years, she opened her immaculate home to overseas students and mothered them with meals and concern. She loved to read and watch television; she enjoyed cooking Christmas dinners for her family. She was godmother to my eldest daughter as was I to hers. Like any long-term friends, we shared a history of anecdotes, family stories, confidences and condolences; some of them funny in retrospect, some not so much.
I moved to another country while she remained at home. We exchanged letters, birthday cards and the occasional phone call. Slowly, I began to realize that she had ceased to initiate contact. She stopped answering letters, exchanging family news. We spoke only when I phoned her. As time passed, she began to relate worrying tales of late-night intrusions, of dishonest tradesmen taking advantage of her: we all know the stories. I tried to encourage her to go to the police but she was strangely reluctant to do so. Finally, I became so concerned, I telephoned her daughter.
That’s when I discovered that my friend’s life was unraveling. None of the stories were true – fortunately in some ways although now I wish there had been some basis in reality – that would have been preferable to realizing she was already moving ahead of me to fantasy land.
Sixty years of the life we had in common are shattered. The memories we shared are now mine alone. We didn’t always agree but we were always friends. She still lives but in a different universe from the rest of us.