My late mother had a good friend whom she admired greatly. Blanche will be 108 years old in February, and she still lives alone in her own house. She gets her hair done weekly, dresses beautifully, and is generally in good health.
A year or so ago I stopped by to deliver my mother’s birthday gift to Blanche while my mother–then 90–waited in the car. I spoke to Blanche and to her daughter, and, accustomed to my mother’s deafness, used my opera singer voice.
“You don’t have to yell at me,” said Blanche, with great dignity. “I am not deaf.”
“I’m sorry. My mother is,” I said apologetically.
“I know,” said Blanche.
I picked up my mother’s mail this week, and in the piles of junk mail and solicitations for donations for every charitable cause imaginable, I found a Christmas card from Blanche, signed in a firm, lovely hand.
Somehow, in my mother’s small town, the news of her death six months ago had not reached Blanche, and it had not occurred to me to call her personally.
I will have to write a note this week. I dread bearing the news that will reduce the small circle of contemporaries for this remarkable old lady. (If contemporary is the right word. At 91, my mother could have been her daughter.) My mother used to say how hard it was when all your friends were gone. How lonely. Blanche is accustomed to death, no doubt, but each loss must surely add up, and one hesitates to add weight to so many years.
I am wondering if I should wait until after Christmas, but perhaps that would be a form of selfishness.
It’s difficult to know. But probably sooner is better.