Zinnia: thoughts of absent friends
Once upon a long-ago 1968, two life paths — mine and Libby’s — crossed in the highly combustible, hilarious, hormone-laden world of a junior/senior high school. She taught music and I was the new English teacher.
We met in the teachers’ workroom in a haze of mimeograph fumes, and quickly established our mutual love of music. I was enlisted on the spot as official accompanist for her junior-high musical extravaganzas. I do not forget the moment the curtain went up for the ballroom scene in “Die Fledermaus,” with its aluminum foil chandeliers, and the audience exploded into spontaneous applause.
Or when the 8th-grade Josephine ad libbed her lines to the 7th-grade Ralph Rackstraw in “Pinafore” rehearsal.
Or the shivering hours in Libby’s basement as she sewed the angel costumes for “Hansel und Gretel.” Her childhood on a North Dakota farm made her impervious to cold and eventually she kept a blanket just for me because she grew tired of hearing my teeth chatter.
Libby and I had the best time in those bachelor days even though she could never convert me to gin or cats. I held to a firm belief in scotch and catlessness. But, beyond bachelorhood, many were the years of friendship, many the pastries, many the morning coffees, many the long talks.
I would say now that I am dead to Libby but the fact is that for her today I never lived. She is far into dementia. She was lovely, a world traveler, opera buff, master gardener, idealist, a tolerant, inquisitive, lifelong learner, protective of all life. Cat addict.
She still is all those things; she just doesn’t know it.
I salute her today, her 93rd birthday. I will know for both of us.