10 February 2008
I wish you could join me for a cup of coffee and something sweet and comforting today.
It is sunny but bitter cold and blustery here in northern Wisconsin. I am comforting myself with small household tasks and the food that always soothes me: Unremarkable casseroles and pasta dishes. Nothing to write home about, nothing to blog about.
If you were here with me, I would tell you about Susan, who is gone, gone too soon. I read her obituary yesterday and mourned her, though we have not crossed paths in many, many years.
We were grade school classmates, she — the pretty little blond girl who was teacher’s pet — and I – the more rebellious dark-eyed and dark-haired misfit.
I say misfit, because in those days, I was one of the few non-Poles in a school still affiliated with an ethnic parish. My mother felt awkward in that nearly “foreign” church, and my father was not a church-goer. We were forced to join the parish in our part of town, and that was that. But the feeling of not belonging pervaded my years there, from 2nd to 8th grade.
She was sweet but spirited. (She got to play Mary in the Christmas pageant, a role I yearned for.) Her parents were plain, good unassuming Poles from the country who attended church together and likely prayed together in the evenings, something my parents did not do. (I thought we were on the road to perdition for that.)
Susan’s parents lived frugally in a small tract house, and remained there until retirement as far as I know. I am certain they were thrifty and sensible and good, and provided balance and good counsel in their four daughters’ lives.
In my young mind they were the ideal Catholic family, and that image followed me into adulthood, although I did not know it and did not think about it and I often ridiculed it.
Still when it came time for high school, Susan went to the public school, while I was consigned to navy blue uniforms at the Catholic school where my parents had met and where three generations of my family were educated.
We never really saw each other again after grade school.
Oddly enough, we dated the same guy once, a big boisterous blond. It was a date of convenience for me, and I recall how often he spoke of Susan while I pined for someone else.
Susan and I continued on separate paths, but I thought of her often, whenever I recalled those lonely years in grade school. I wondered, of course, where she was until sometime in the last decade when I looked her up online.
Oddly enough, I looked her name up a week or so ago, idly wondering what she was up to.
Now I know. Susan was dying.
Death seems incongruous when it happens to a golden girl like Susan, golden at least in those precious grade-school years. I suspect she lived the remainder of her life in private and without fanfare, certainly never splaying her emotions out for all to read on a blog.
Still, she was someone’s wife and someone’s mother and a daughter and a sister and an aunt.
And a classmate, a contemporary. Each time someone my age dies, all the others die all over again, friends and colleagues and classmates . . . Cathy, Kris, Eileen, Joy, Diane, Gayle, Grove, Larry, Smitty, Michael . . . each from a different phase of my life, a different workplace, a different school, a different time.
Forgive me for writing not about food, but about the need to grieve and seek comfort.