I’ve written about my friend Mary before. You might remember that we’re phone pals because she loves our competition over the Scrabble words in the daily paper.

Mary’s a crackerjack, that she is. In her eighties, almost blind, living alone, and carrying on a social life that could daunt most anyone. She plays bridge at least twice a week, sings with a group to entertain the old folks in the home, loves local theater as well as the symphony, and attends the funerals of friends more frequently than she would like to now. She cracks herself up occasionally with a slightly risque joke, too.

She never fails to make the daily call to me so that we can compare our words, and nothing makes her happier than to have unscrambled one that has stumped me. I’m aware, of course, that all of this is about more than the words. It’s about human connection. Our calls are brief, but over the years we’ve talked about a lot of the stuff of our lives.

Two weeks ago the telephone calls stopped.

I knew that Mary wouldn’t just quit on me. I was quite sure that she was in the hospital and that she would call me when she was able to.

She called me on Saturday.

It was a bad fall in the bathroom that did her in. She broke three ribs, and in the hospital they discovered a bad infection, and she’s been fighting pneumonia. She won’t be getting out any time soon. I think she’s sicker than she wants me to know.

She said she really misses doing the words and talking to me. She’s pretty sure she’ll be able to start on Monday. (That’s today.) She has her magnifying glasses with her and she can get a copy of the paper. I told her I’d be here whenever she felt well enough to get started again. So far I haven’t heard from her, and I guess I don’t really expect to, but I’ll keep up with my words and wait.

Mary is about a decade older than I am. Suddenly I am aware in a new way that those of us who reach our 70’s, 80’s and so on are terribly vulnerable to sudden catastrophic life-changers.

In one bad moment Mary has lost her ability to be in charge of her life. Her children will make the decisions now about where she will live, who will care for her, what will be done with the treasures of her travels, everything. That is not wrong; it is necessary and right. But it is sad, and it happens too fast. Mary will never quite be the Mary I know again.

Inevitably, my own and THWAM’s vulnerability is on my mind, but there is nothing to do but appreciate the heck out of the lives we’re blessed with on this particular day.

Carry on!

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This entry was posted on Monday, June 13th, 2011 at 5:10 pm and is filed under Things to Think About. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

One Response to “Fragility”

  1. I, Rodius on June 13th, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    With everything we’re thinking about these days with other family members than you, this one is a pretty brutal one. I’m sorry for your friend, and hope she comes out OK. I’m so grateful that you and THWAM have thought and planned as much as you have. Human frailty and mortality just kind of suck, though the alternative is clearly unsustainable. Much love to you and Pops!