One of the regrets I have about my 98 year-old mother was her request several years back to go to Mexico to see a dear friend of hers, Martha Gottfried. Martha passed away before we could get Mom a passport so they could get back to share a last few moments together.
Both had been American ex-pats together, married to Mexicans and bringing up four children each at regular intervals. They were neighbors in Coyoacan, the beautiful southern suburb of Mexico City. There, they met regularly for coffee, or bridge, or painting, or Junior League, or for those wonderful Halloween parties.
They were the best of friends and remained so even after Daddy died and Mom brought us to the U.S. They continued to correspond by snail mail and Mom’s last wish before Martha passed was to go to Mexico to see her friend. Perhaps they will see each other again, someday.
Many years ago, I had a student with whom I became very well acquainted. A brilliant, genial older man, big, heavy set, white haired and grizzled, he had decided to come back to school to work on a Masters’ Degree. He had retired from a very successful career as an engineer and architect but decided to complete a “bucket-list” wish to study history. We became good friends over the next two years as he worked through his studies.
I also got to meet his wife, a delightful, creative artist who carved wonderful, whimsical but practical pieces in wood—book shelves, benches, tables, chairs and picture frames. I particularly remember a set of brilliantly colored Mexican style dining room chairs on the backs of which she had carved the animals of the ark. I bought several of her works, including a tray/table “in the style of Matisse.”
I helped my student to complete his Masters’s degree and attended the party for his graduation. Shortly thereafter I learned, to my dismay, that he had developed pancreatic cancer. When his wife let me know about his illness, for once, I made the time to go down to visit with him.
As I sat by his bedside, we laughed over his friends and fellow students. We shared the many funny, painful, pathetic, entertaining stories that are so often associated with gaining a degree. He passed away five days later. I was never so thankful of anything in my life as to have been able to be with him that day.
Recently, one of the ladies at the Retirement Facility approached me and asked if I remembered his wife. Of course, I did. I still have her table sitting in Mom’s trailer. We use it to hold jars of jelly. Those six-degrees of separation always amaze me. We exchanged phone numbers and a few weeks later I drove down to Houston to visit her.
His wife lives in a lovely retirement complex right in the center of Houston. She still drives, and is wealthy enough to go out to all the most elegant restaurants with friends. Although she doesn’t work in wood any more, she still has several of her pieces displayed in her apartment. I asked particularly about the chairs and learned that her daughter has the dining room set of animal-carved chairs. We had a delightful time at one of the swankiest restaurants in Houston. I felt very much like a country mouse in the big city.
I returned to report to Lady Y. She was thrilled and wanted to hear all about her friend. Lady Y’s husband is not well but she takes good care of him, driving him to doctor’s appointments and out to occasional meals or to Walmart. She is certainly not able to drive into the horrors of Houston traffic. But I am.
Remembering Mom, I asked Lady Y if she wanted to go visit her dear friend. I think the old expression was “Over the moon” with excitement. And Lady Y was. They have not had a chance to be together in many, many years and the thought of seeing her friend again nearly had her in tears.
Lady Y decided on lunch at Brennan’s. Her treat. Her friend made the reservations. So, willy-nilly, today we will adventure our way down into Houston for lunch at one of the best restaurants in town. It is bound to be a lengthy afternoon, but I know I will enjoy listening to their stories and memories from so many years ago.
Which means I need to go clean out the car. It will take some doing to get it washed and waxed and vacuumed and remove the layers of dog snacks and tracked-in sand and mud off the seats. I lifted the back seats and was horrified at the accumulation of detritus from hauling four dogs around. But it will be clean and neat for the visit.
Even if I couldn’t do it for Mom, what a wonderful chance to bring two friends together again.