Saturday, 21 June 2014

"I have sad news for you,"

my friend said. She did not need to say any more. I knew. Another mutual friend had died.
Like my friend who is about to move to a nursing home this friend also had lung problems. She had emphysema brought on by heavy smoking. It is a wonder she did not have lung cancer. Each time she went "for a check up" we wondered whether there would be bad news. Somehow the disease passed her by.
But, she had a great many other problems brought on by heavy smoking. Her voice was husky. Her breathing was compromised. Her circulation was poor. Her eyesight was not good. Her hands were stained dark brown and her fingernails were yellow. She did not look good.
And, no matter what the doctors said or how we tried to help she could not give up smoking. She would stop for a day or two. Once or twice she managed to stop for a week. Then she would go back to it.
She started smoking during WWII. Her husband was at sea. His chances of returning were viewed as low. She had three young children to care for, a full time job to do and other relatives also away fighting. She was stressed. Who would not be stressed?
Her doctor at the time actually suggested she take up smoking to try and alleviate the stress - and she did.
Her husband did return - a changed man. Despite that they stayed together. She went on to become the Chief Librarian of a large municipal library service. She wrote a number of short books. They were never commercially published but she passed them around to family and friends.
She read my blog and would leave me e-mails with all sorts of sharp and witty comments. She read my other writing - and refused to comment at all. "I couldn't write like that," was all she ever told me but she would keep pressing me to finish the next one so she could read it.
And she read a great many other things. I would often find an e-mail in my personal in box saying "Do look at this" and "I really enjoyed this one. Do try it." The variety was enormous and, if our tastes were not always the same, I found some interesting books in her lists. I "met" Japanese and Chinese authors - and introduced her to my favourite South American authors.
She was also a knitter. She never followed a pattern. We met for coffee in the city one day and, when I arrived, she was already there. She was sketching the mural on the wall. Several months later it became a cardigan for someone. Yes, she was a woman of talent.
In the last couple of  years I would phone her about once a fortnight. We would talk a little about her family and then about books. Knitting might get a passing mention.
All the way through the conversation I would hear her breathing and wonder how much longer we would go on talking.
The conversation is over now but the books are still there.


Vanessa Gebbie said...

What a lovely friendship you had. x

catdownunder said...

It was Vanessa - seems so odd not being able to pick the phone up and talk to her but I have been fortunate in knowing her.