Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Paths We Cross

"No love, no friendship can cross
the path of our destiny without
leaving some mark on it forever"

Francois Mauriac~

For the first few months after we moved here years ago, I had to go to the laundromat.  We didn't have a washer and dryer yet.  One afternoon I stopped to do some laundry and it was pouring rain.  I had been off to see a shop about carrying my bears, and I had one in the car.  At that time I also had an old car, and the windshield leaked.  Such is the way of things when you are still young and poor.

I was afraid the bear I had in the car would get wet since it was sitting in the front seat, so I ran out and got it.  I was sitting and waiting for the washer to finish when I heard a voice ask me if that was my friend?  I looked up from my magazine into the pixie-esque face of a tiny smiling older woman with big red glasses.  I wasn't sure at first what she meant.  Then I realized she was referring to the bear.  I laughed and explained that I had made the bear.  She complimented me on such a wonderful creation and went on to tell me that she made character dolls. 

We continued chatting and she asked if I might like to join her for a cup of coffee after we finished the laundry.  Since I didn't know anyone in town, I was more than happy to find some small measure of female companionship for an afternoon.

That afternoon turned into a friendship that lasted twelve years.  It was one of the most wonderful friendships I have ever had.  Filis (her name was really Phyllis, but she always preferred the phonetic spelling) and I shared many cups of coffee, tea parties, outings to the book store, antique shops, doctor visits, iced tea on her back patio, 4th of July BBQ's at our house, and so much more.  She even accidentally backed into my car once and did a huge amount of damage..I wasn't mad though, it was just funny.

She taught me so many things about gardening, cooking, and just simply embracing the artist that I am.  Filis was never old despite her age.  She drove a big Bronco, rode a real horse which lived in a corral in her back yard and wore her cowboy hat with aplomb.  She lied about her age too, she was 69 for half of the years I knew her!

She had lived for many years in Paris, had been married to a spy she she claimed was a double agent and considered her divorce from him the best thing she ever did.  (That happened long before I ever met her, so I never met him.)  She told me stories about meeting Marlene Dietrich, and how fabulous she was.

Her house was a wondrous place that was decorated in French country and southwestern and had a red door.  It isn't something most people could pull off, but she did and it suited her perfectly. 

Towards the end of our friendship sadly her age had begun to catch up to her.  Sometimes she would be a bit belligerent, and even mistake me for Casey, who was her sister that had passed away in her youth.  It was hard to watch her slow decline.  She developed emphysema from smoking most of her life, and even had a stay at the hospital.  I was the first person she called, even before her sons.  I dropped everything and ran to see her the minute she called.  She recovered quickly and things went on more or less normally.

One afternoon she got terribly mad at me for being ten minutes late for a lunch date.  I was getting ready to leave for a show that afternoon and couldn't properly attend to fixing it though.  When I returned a few days later, I called her immediately and apologized, but she would have none of it.  I called again a week later and she was happy I had called but she seemed to rather forget in the middle of the call that she was on the phone.  I tried one more time a month later and she said we would get together but she never showed up.

I finally gave up.  I knew she wasn't doing that well, and I suspected that she was pushing me away so I wouldn't see it, and not because she held a grudge over such a silly thing.  But I wanted her to know I was always there, so I sent her a card for every holiday.  Two years went by and I never received one in return, but they didn't come back either so I knew she must be ok.  Then in 2005, she sent me a hand painted water color birthday card of a bouquet of flowers I had sent her for her birthday.  I called to thank her, but she had no idea who I was.  It was heart breaking.  I kept sending the cards though, I figured as long as they were never returned I would know she was ok.

A few days before Christmas this year, I got a card that had no return address.  It was a polite note telling me that my card had been received to their address, but they were sorry to inform me she had passed away in the summer of 2006.  I have no idea what happened to all those other cards I sent over the years.

I guess somewhere deep down I knew she was gone, but it was so much nicer to believe she was still living in her funny house, driving her big Bronco and wearing her cowboy hat, and saying whatever came to mind.  It's an odd thing to suddenly grieve for a person who has passed many years before.  But I have been.  I wanted to do my own sort of memorial for her since her sons never bothered to let me know. 

Filis was such a wonderful person, and I have missed her every day since we parted ways.  I miss her now, but I am finally to a place where I can share the tiniest piece of her life with you.  I wish you could have known her, she was an amazing person, and she left an indelible mark on mine.  I am much richer for having known her.  She told me once her greatest regret in life was never having a man who loved her the way she felt she deserved.  That may have been true, but I can tell you that her friends loved her in every way that she deserved.  I doubt we ever fully know the mark we make on people's lives when we cross their path of destiny and offer them friendship.   Goodbye my friend...I am sorry I am late...again.


Amanda said...

Thats such a lovely post, very thoughtful. I was lucky recently to trace a friend for my accountant, he had not heard off him for a few years at Christmas. He knew he lived in the states and used to run a uni theatre. Long story short, I googled his sisters address, that connected me to an email and we found he was living in Bolivia, not too well but with us. As both are 80 they were so glad to be back in touch through the sister, even if his friend could no longer write.

Thanks for sharing.

Kelly said...

That's wonderful that you helped to reunite them Amanda!

Cheryl @ Bingle Bears said...

That was a lovely post, Kelly. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. It reminded me of my times with my friend Mary Ruth before she died a few years ago. You were so lucky to have known Filis and she was lucky to have know you as well.

KellyJo said...

Nice post. Kinda made me cry. ._.

Katy Cameron said...

She sounds like a wonderful lady. I have a number of older friends, they're so much more interesting with all their tales of life :o)

Debora Hoffmann said...

Thank you for telling us about Filis! She must have been a character. Big hugs to you!

Oh, and we definitely should get together sometime for a little chatting and bear making and tea. :o)

quiltmom anna said...

It is often strange how things trigger memories of friends that have had powerful impacts on our lives. At one time they were very important people in our lives and somehow they fade away from our lives.
From what you described it sounds like Filus may have had a form of Alzheimers. My mother in law has Alzheimers and she is
88. Now, She does not know her children's names (though she does know that they are important people to her) My mother in law was brilliant and loving and fun and I miss her caring and nurturing friendship.
It sounds like you had a fabulous relationship with Filis. She was lucky to have you in her life and you were fortunate to have her in yours.
Thanks for sharing your loving memories of Filis. It was a gift that you gave us today too.
Warmest regards,

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