My mother and Generous Hyper Woman have been friends since the late 1950s. They were neighbors who rounded up their children to play in the wading pool on hot summer days or who sat in the kitchen with coffee on winter afternoons. And they stayed friends long after the kids grew up and had children of their own. Since Generous Hyper Woman and her husband Opera Singer spend their summers up on the river, they are frequently visitors to my parents’ camp.
A few weeks ago, Generous Hyper Woman went into the hospital for what she thought might be an ulcer. But then her husband, Opera Singer, called my parents with the news. It wasn't an ulcer. It was cancer. The surgeons opened her up and said the cancer had spread too far. They closed her up again and sent her home.
Their daughter Shiny Personality, who has inherited her mother's generous nature, immediately emptied a bedroom in her house, furnished it for her parents, and invited them to move in. And yesterday, she threw a party, inviting family and friends, all of us who have known her parents for years. An anniversary party, she called it, to celebrate the fact that her parents have been married for 47 years.
But we all knew too, that the time for enjoying parties is running out for her Mom.
Yesterday, Shiny Personality’s house was filled with people and food, with talk and laughter. Little children ran around, grabbing cookies from overloaded trays. Elderly aunts kept making everyone eat more meatballs. Everyone who came brought photographs, which we pinned on a big white board. We joked about all the old stories: for their honeymoon, 47 years ago, Generous Hyper Woman and Opera Singer went to Faraway Southern State on a Greyhound bus. Who plans a long bus ride for their honeymoon?
Shiny Personality lives in one of the nicest houses I've ever seen, with big floor to ceiling windows everywhere. The house is high up in the hills, with a magnificent view of the countryside, gold and white corn fields that stretch to piney woods. Outside the windows, high winds and swirling white snow marked the approach of a winter storm.
But inside, things were warm and cosy and safe. We crowded onto comfy furniture or sat on the floor with plates of food, everyone talking at once. Delivery trucks brought flowers from out of town friends, huge lovely bouquets. Shiny Personality kept bringing her mother food, coaxing her to eat something. Cousins ran upstairs to play with each other.
When it was time to leave, I gave Shiny Personality a hug. We were born the same year, knew each other as kids, went to high school together, but do not see each other often as adults, except at weddings or funerals.
"I'll see you –" she began, and then caught herself. "Well, I hope it won’t be soon."