group of visitors yesterday. Our house was the venue for a very small farewell to my friend who is returning to New Zealand.
The group has met in one another's homes over the last eleven years. There were originally three other members of the group. One dropped out very early as, sadly, she has early onset Alzheimer's. We did not realise it then but she was "forgetful" and would lose her way to other people's homes.
Another just left us. I suppose she never really fitted in. We all tried to make her welcome because she has no relatives here and we felt she might need friends. It seems not. We see her from time to time at other events. She is always alone. We remain friendly but not friends.
The third to depart was someone we knew would not always be here. Her husband had a posting here in Australia. We liked them very much and thoroughly enjoy her company. We still miss her. I correspond with her perhaps half a dozen times a year. So does the member who is leaving us now.
It leaves a woman my father's age. She is almost blind. Her life has been an interesting one. She spent thirteen years in Africa. When she returned to England she and her husband found the English winters too cold. They migrated in search of heat. It has always been our New Zealand friend who has given her a ride to our gatherings.
It leaves an Italian migrant. She is seventy. She came here at the age of thirteen and has never been able to go back to Italy. It is "too late" now she tell us but admits that she would like to have gone back at least once. We know she needs friends because, apart from immediate family, she has nobody here. She lives on the opposite side of the city. I wonder how much longer she will be able to maintain her old car and use it to get out and meet people.
It leaves a member of the group we almost never see. She is however still a member of the group. She is a younger mother of twin girls. Yesterday she made a special effort to come to the farewell. Her husband was judging at a rural show so her two year old girls came with her. They behaved extremely well, as I would expect of any children belonging to her. My father enjoyed their company immensely. The blocks came out. The wooden train set came out. The farm animals came out. They played. In August they will be going to live in an Asian country for two years.
It leaves a friend who is an art conservator. She is by far the most intellectual member of the group. She likes music and literature as well as art. She is passionate about animals and cares about the environment. Our tastes are different - she likes opera, especially Wagner, and Patrick White. I like neither. We still enjoy conversation about these things. She is about my age.
I wonder what will to the group now. I suspect we will remain friends but we will no longer meet at regular intervals. If we come together in the future it may be without our nearly blind friend. She is, after all, the same age as my father. It is always possible that neither of them would be there.
And the rest of us? I suspect we know one another well enough that I could leave them to put the kettle on and make the tea themselves. It is that sort of friendship.