My friend Margery died in Florida. It happened late last week, I believe, but I only heard the actual fact from her former caregiver by Facebook Messenger this morning.
I blogged about visiting her in the hospital last March. I didn’t use her name, referred to her as M, nor did I take photos of her. But I did take photos upon taking a quick walk on the boardwalk behind the wall of fancy hotels they have down in Naples, bordering the Gulf. You could see the hotels reflected in the water. As I wasn’t staying in any of them I felt like an undocumented person, without the necessary ID, but by tagging along behind a couple, as though we were a group of three, I was waved in.
I knew Margery for at least 35 years; at a certain time in my life I saw her as my second mother. She gave me a gift to buy my first computer, a portable Compaq that weighed about 15 lbs. (remember those?) and which I toted around from art colony to art colony. She was a small, pretty woman who did acting and loved the theater.
In fact, we met at the theater, when I had an extra ticket to the play Mass Appeal, with Milo O’Shea and Eric Roberts, at the Manhattan Theater Club. Sell it to the first person in line over there, the cashier told me. That first person was Margery. Naturally, we sat together, and at the end decided to have coffee. At that time we were both blondes, she asked me who did my hair, and that was the beginning of our long friendship. We both loved Sam Shepherd’s early plays and she died right after he did.
All day I get distracted by thoughts and memories of her, but two in particular mean a lot to me. I moved around quite a bit, and my homes showed it. One day she sat me down and said, Eve, regardless of where you live, make a home there. I don’t care if it’s a room or a manse, I don’t care if you live there a month or 10 years, make it your home.
She then proceeded to suggest I buy this gorgeous $2,500 sofa. I gagged—had never bought anything like that before or after—but I did as she said, on credit. More important, I never forgot her words. I lived in small rooms for years as part of a commune, then in various short-term rentals, and only in my mid-50s owned a house. Wherever I went, I made it home. For an immigrant like me, who never felt rooted anywhere, that made a huge difference.
The second thing is this: After Margery moved to Florida I visited her every year. Some 4 years ago, late one night, over a scotch or glass of wine, she once again talked aloud about the man she called The Love of My Life, whom she met when she was 17 and whom she had to break up with on account of her family. I’d been hearing about The Love of Her Life for some 30 years, so this time I turned and said, Let’s find him.
How do we do that?
I brought out my Apple laptop, put it on the dining table, and sat down. What’s his name, other than The Love of My Life? I asked her.
She told me.
What did he do?
He went on to be a pediatrician.
Where does he live?
She didn’t know, she thought California. But she didn’t even know if he was still living.
Where in California? North? South?
She couldn’t remember.
I did a search on his name and found several. When I told her what cities they were in she suddenly remembered one, so I narrowed my search, and glory of glories, hosanna to modern technology, there he was, founder of a small town clinic. His wife had died two years previously, there were grown children, and he still came to work. I wrote down the number of the clinic and said: Call him.
Don’t be ridiculous, said she.
I left the following day, but called her every week saying: Did you call the Love of Your Life?
He wouldn’t remember me.
He’ll remember you.
Darling, it happened 70 years ago.
A month later she did. She left a message with her maiden name, and he called back, asked her to let him know if she ever came out to California. Three months later she had an engagement in Los Angeles and flew there, and he took her to lunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
They never saw each other again. But that evening when I located him on my computer and wrote down his number for her, long before she actually saw him, I knew that one day I would write a story of an elderly woman who refuses to give up on love and goes to find The Love of Her Life from 70 years ago.
You should write the story of my life, she used to tell me.
Margery, I want to tell her today, that’s exactly what I’m doing.