I’ve been putting off writing about Connie, my 16-years-older-than-I friend, who (as she and I joked) was my beacon into what growing old was like. Way back when I first started this blog, I wrote about her.
Connie taught me what “curmudgeon” meant; it was how she described herself. She had high standards: for books, for writing, for grammar; and it was through our joint irritation with what didn’t measure up that we first became friends. She gave me a subscription to the New York Times book review, and put me on to the Patrick O’Brien novels.
She worked in client service at Scott Paper Company’s marketing research agency in New York City, which is how we met. She knew statistics, and was expert at study and questionnaire design. She also knew Manhattan: which subway lines went where, and what car to get on depending on where you wanted to get off; how many avenue or numbered street blocks were in a mile.
She liked talking about what she called “the spooky stuff,” like the cat ghost she heard once on her stairs; like knowing something was going to happen before it happened; like foreboding dreams. She had one once: she was alone, terrified, in a desolate bomb-blasted black-and-white wasteland.
After she retired, and then after her husband died, she began to forget things – first lunch dates; but then how to work a coffee machine, how to dial a phone. We had talked nearly every day, but she stopped calling. And as her competence waned, the curmudgeon took over. She was angry, nearly all the time.
She started getting lost in Manhattan, and so she moved to the country. The people in her small town pulled over to the side when they saw her car approaching; she had several accidents. Finally, her brother talked her into going into a retirement home. I wanted to visit, to see her one last time, but he said she didn’t want to see me. And then, a few months later, that she had forgotten who I was.
They moved her into the Alzheimer’s wing, and that was where she died. Alone.
Connie, if any of the spooky stuff came true, I hope your world has color, and that you’re not alone.