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We Should

November 22, 2010

(This is a periodic collection of blogs about an 855-mile road trip I took with my 86-year-old mother to see her two dearest childhood friends in August 2007. First we drove to Central Connecticut and then to a beautiful little lake in Norwich, New York that looks like God’s country. This was a perfect summer weekend to catch up with close friends. I was just an observer.  The recent passing of one of the friends prompted me to post details of that  hysterically funny trip.)

(From left, Mary Danielsen, Meg Boucher Day Andrews, Helen Hooley Young and Nina Camuti Danielsen

Someday.

We’re always saying we should do “that” someday. We have a running list of our someday activities, as if we’re going to have more energy, more money, better health and the capabilities to get through that list when we’re all retired.

Someday doesn’t always come.

Sometimes you have to drop everything to make “someday” happen before you lose the chance

At the last minute my mother decided not to go to her 65th college reunion at Middlebury College in Vermont in May. It was the last organized reunion and she wanted to see her friends. Those who are still able to attend tried to get there. They know they are in the sunset of their life. This was a chance to catch up, share stories of their children and grandchildren, discuss their travels and politics, admire the growth of the college, and compare estate plans and medical issues. Mostly, however, it was a chance to say goodbye.

They’ve known each other for nearly seven decades. They were born in the early 1920’s. They have seen the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, Granada, Iran, Iraq, and 18 U.S. Presidents in office. They’ve buried spouses and ex-spouses and said goodbye already to most of their friends.

They’re in their late 80’s now. They still have ach other.

I promised Mom that I would take her to see her closest girlfriends.

“We should,” she said, “someday.”

“Let’s do it this summer, Mom. What are we waiting for? I’ll take a few days off from work.”

“I don’t want to take you away from your family.”

“Mom, I have teenagers and a baby. The first two won’t even know I’m gone.”

I looked at her eyes. Although glazed with age, she was filled with promise and hope that maybe she’d be able to hold Helen and Meg one more time.

Maybe they could catch up and retell old stories.

I looked at her body, hunched over like a question mark and dependent on a cane. Her skin is soft but thin now. Veins and arthritis controlling her.

My mother and her friends are all struggling with balance these days. They shuffle with the use of canes. Stairs are intimidating. Car rides are short so they can stretch their legs. They have medical issues and a daily routine to address them.

Their roles as women in society have triple jumped into the new millennium: some aspects of modern society they’d like to throw back, such as body piercings, tattoos, premarital sex, vulgarity and the poor use of the English language.

Funny thing is their roles as friends have never changed. Helen is still the short spunky Irish Catholic girl who says exactly what’s on her mind the moment she thinks it. A smoker with a Highball habit. Meg is still the tall and quiet, elegant beauty queen with great legs. A traveler. Although still naive, Nina is the party starter with a fun sense of humor. Her memory and her wit can fill a room. She has the gift of storytelling like her father, Dr. Louis J. Camuti.

They haven’t seen each other in at least five years. After 400 miles of driving it suddenly seemed like September 1938 and they were back in their roles, giggling into the night.

I spent four days with three childhood friends, who are now 86 and 87 years old, respectively. I may have been the driver and the shoulder to lean on, but I can’t help to think that I was the one who received a gift.

Time. We all want more of it, but it’s the last thing we tend to give.

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