Thursday, January 20, 2011

"The Girls"

My mother is 93 years old and lives in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Three times a week—on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays—she goes out to lunch with “the girls.”  These are her friends of many years who are now in their late 70's and 80's.  Still, they are “the girls.”

Mom used to have a very active social life.  She’d meet up with friends for exercise class, shopping, or meals, and when she wasn’t with them physically, she’d be with them on the phone.  Mom rarely makes a phone call to her friends.  They all call her.  She’d also go dancing at least twice a week with her ex–husband (her second husband), Ed.  They would go to one of the many organizations in and around St. Pete dedicated to former service members.  The American Legion Posts were their favorite.  Both Mom and Ed were known as good dancers and they were always complimented on their dancing.

Now Ed is no longer with us and Mom is much less strong than she used to be.  She believes, though, that it is essential for her to get out and spend time with the girls.  I agree with her.  I think one of the main reasons she has lived so well for so long is her love of her friends.

Mom always has had a gift for friendship.  When I was a kid, her friends were women with whom she worked, and she would almost always take her lunch break with one of them.  When I was in the seminary, her friends kept me supplied with towels and candy and cookies, not because they liked or even knew me, but because they were so fond of Mom.

My Dad had a strange relationship throughout my youth with a dentist.  Their activities—whatever they were—kept Dad away from home almost every weekend.  Mom, of course, didn’t like this arrangement one bit.  When she had the opportunity, though, she became great friends with the dentist’s wife, and Mom and the wife stayed friends until just a few years ago when the wife died at the age of 103.  Mom was and is friends with all kind of people.  She enjoys knowing people from all backgrounds and with all kinds of life experiences.  She told me that she was able to understand my being gay because a son of one of her friends had been out to his mother, my Mom’s friend, and so to Mom for many years.  She loved that gay man: “He is so good to his mother,” she told me!

I envy Mom all her friendships.  They feed her soul.  They keep her healthy and alive.  My brother inherited from her this gift of making friends easily, and he and his wife have friends all over the country.  My friendships have been harder for me to come by, and harder to maintain.  I don ‘t know why exactly, but I know that my Mom and my brother have a much easier time with their friendships than I do.

I wish Mom and the girls well.  Her buddies have closed ranks around her these past months as she has undergone chemo for her mesothelioma.  They monitor her progress at their trice–weekly lunches, by keeping touch on the phone, and by visits to Mom’s condo.  Mom stays up with all the gossip, and is aware of just about everything that happens in the lives of these women.  The girls help heal her by giving her a lot of joy.  I wish all of them many more years together.

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