Monday, 5 July 2010

The Plan

sunny, hot, temps 31

Stunning day!!! Full on summer. Noticing that the temperature in NYC is 36. it feels way hotter than that too. We're planning to pack underwear, and that's all. If we weren't bashful Canadians, we wouldn't even pack that. Off to NYC Thursday, back Sunday.

It's our friend Gary's birthday. Happy birthday, Gary!!!

His wife, and my great friend, Cheryl and I had breakfast outside at le Cafetier in Sutton. Sitting on the terrasse with bowls of cafe au lait, and each of us had the fresh fruit plate with yoghurt and honey. Yum.

Cheryl and I talked about 'The Plan'. I think many women have it...perhaps men do too. But while my prayer is to go before Michael, the fact is most women outlive their husbands. And most women I know I have 'the plan'.

Here's mine...and Cheryl's. We start a community. Each of us, by the age of 70 let's say (it's a vague plan), has a small home of our own design. But we'd be together in a community...with a central gathering place, a communal kitchen if we want, a place where all of us (there'd be as many people there as we'd like...all good friends...all relaxed, kind, thoughtful, tolerant people...stress on tolerant!!) We'd visit each other for dinners, or eat on our own, or go to the communal gathering spot and eat with whoever else was there. We'd see people when we want. And be alone when we want.

My home would be small, cosy. A living/dining/kitchen area. With a fireplace. Not grand. A place to curl up and be comfortable. One bedroom and a lovely, large bathroom. I would write, and listen to music and watch movies. Visit friends. Be visited. Travel.

My friends in the community would have homes of their own design. And live lives of their own design. We would support each other, but not impose. There'd be, perhaps, a small chapel - non-denominational...for prayer or meditation, or just quiet reflection.

Cheryl and I had a wonderful breakfast talking about that, and trying to decide where it would be. Anywhere in the world, presumably, since this is as much a dream as a plan. South of FRance? Italy? New mexico? Maine? the Cotswolds?

But we agreed we're daughters of Canada, and love to live here and would love to die here. So we got to thinking...we'd like to be within walking distance of a village. A place that was beautiful and peaceful. Where we could have a cafe au lait on a terrasse. We both stared into the distance...where, oh, where in Canada would be find such a place?

And then Cheryl started to laugh. She stared at me, clearly inviting me to join in, but it took me a full thirty seconds or more to get it. We already have it! And then we both laughed.

How funny....the thing we both yearn for, dream of, we already have. How perfect is that? How typical? I have all I want or need...I just need to be aware of it. And I think I am...until wake-up moments like that. Wonderful.

this 'plan' though was brought to the fore of my mind by a phone call we received Saturday. From Michael's cousin Marjorie, in Elora, Ontario. We visit her every year at least once. Amazing woman. Now 83 - never married...born and raised in Montreal but lived most of her adult life in New York City...worked at Fortune Magazine, and helped launch Money Magazine. A smart, funny, kind woman. A woman with a great gift for friendship. Who travelled around the world and took the time and effort to keep up with friends. Though she had two especially great friends in her life. margo and kay. Kay was a friend from childhood, and they did everything together...roomed together in NYC, traveled Europe together shortly after the war. When Marjorie retired she moved from NYC to Elora because that's where Kay and her husband lived. There she met Margo, recently widowed.

Margo's name was Morgan, but she went by the name Margo Oliver, and was famous in Canada as the food columnist for Canadian Living and was syndicated across the country for decades. Wrote many fine cookbooks. Marjorie loves, loves, loves food and Kay was indifferent to when Marjorie met margo it was like a gift from the gods...for both of them.

Soon all three women, elderly by now, were almost inseparable. Except that they were all independent, in mind and spirit. Kay was the intellectual, the clipping service...who read the New Yorker, The Economist, the Manchester Guardian first, and highlighted the articles she felt the others should read. Margo and Marjorie traveled Canada and the US going to great restaurants. All three had seasons tickets together to the opera in Toronto, to Stratford the Elora music festival. All put up choristers for the festival and volunteered at the book sale.

Every time we visited Elora we got together with them - and I grew to be in awe of this friendship. to admire it. And even envy it. Indeed, in DEAD COLD/A FATAL GRACE, the Three Graces were inspired by Marjorie, Kay and Margo.

But, of course, there's a terrible price to pay for a friendship like that.

Marjorie called Saturday to say that both Kay and Margo had died. Suddenly.

They were both in fragile health, but still their deaths stunned Marjorie. And Michael. And me. I can't begin to imagine what it must be like for her, to lose not one, but both. To be the one left - the one to turn off the lights.

And yes, it is right and appropriate to concentrate on the great blessing of having that relationship - one I've seen a few people achieve, but not many. But, dear Lord, the price. Worth it, certainly. But I wonder if it's selfish to pray to be the first, not the last, to go?

Something else to add to The Plan.


Linda said...

You write beautifully, Louise. As I was reading about Marjorie, Kay and Margo, the Three Graces were on my mind. Please send my condolences on to Marjorie. What a friendship she enjoyed.

Candy said...

Louise, please tell Marjorie that I'm terribly sorry to hear of the loss of her wonderful friends.

Thank you for writing about The Plan.

lil Gluckstern said...

So sorry to hear of the loss of good friends. It is hard to imagine a life without them, but how wondrous to have had them. I once had a plan similar to yours, and it is funny-good-to realize you have so much of it already. Another lesson in looking around and treasuring what you have. Thank you for your thoughtfulness.

Marjorie said...


Please let Marjorie know that another Marjorie sends her condolences for her sadness, but celebrates the fact that she had so many wonderful experiences with her two friends. What a gift to have shared.

--Marjorie from Connecticut

Dana said...

Dear Louise,
Thank you for sharing Marjorie's story. I wish for her the strength to survive such a loss.

whalewatcher said...

Those women were indeed blessed.
Your sharing was very touching. The way you worked that story into your, you're good!
I agree that being in good relationships is worth the price that life may collect.

PolioQuad said...

Marjorie is in my heart.

I used to pray to be first-- before my parents, before my husband, before my close friends. When I was very sick, it became unbearable to see them in so much pain. When I recovered, I developed "The Plan." I thought I was the only one, and until tonight, felt horribly guilty for it.

Jodi Kaplan said...

Oh Louise, that's awful. Having just experienced that myself, I know how it feels. However, Marjorie (on your blog) is right. It was a great gift.

Funny, when you described your ideal future living spot, I thought not of Sutton, but Three Pines!

As for the weather here in NY. Yeah, it's pretty bad. Going up to 100 (nearly 38C), will feel like 105 (40C). You'll need a separate milkshake fund.

The Queen is here today. Hope she doesn't melt.

Jodi Kaplan said...

Oh Louise, that's awful. Having just experienced that myself, I know how it feels. However, Marjorie (on your blog) is right. It was a great gift.

As for the weather here in NY. Yeah, it's pretty bad. Going up to 100 (nearly 38C), will feel like 105 (40C). You'll need a separate milkshake fund.

The Queen is here today. Hope she doesn't melt.

Anonymous said...

Gamache - Clive Owen or Nathaniel Parker

Sharwest said...

How sad for Marjorie, and for you, Louise. What special friendships. Something about close friendships with women that can seldom be duplicated with men, even our husbands, because we share a common in our femaleness. And like polioquad, when I've thought of "The Plan", I've felt guilty. Thank you so much for sharing.

PolioQuad said...

There seems to have been a technical problem, and Louise says my post was accidentally deleted-- so here is my attempt to give it another try.

Firstly, I would like to say that I am very saddened to hear about the painful loss of Kay and Margo, and that I am holding Marjorie - and Louise and Michael - in my heart.

Then to repeat the reference by Sharwest, I had felt very guilty for having 'The Plan' and even had thought that I was the only one. Reading all the above has really helped me to reconnect with the sense of universality of experience.

I have just downloaded all three versions of k.d. doing Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah and will listen in honor of the love of friends.


Louise Penny Author said...

Dear all,

Dear you. Dear me. How kind your comments are.

Had a fun email through the website about this post...suggesting that maybe we just create Three Pines....and all get cottages there. And instead of casting the movie, we just cast for residents of the village. Who gets to be Ruth? Myrna? Which of you is Peter and who is Gamache???

Best not to make comments about which villagers are left, and who had died, or moved or been taken away. don't want to ruin a book for someone who hasn't yet read it. We can be whoever we want - even those villagers no longer with us.

Who would like to be one of the Three Graces?

A fun idea...and not a bad plan.

Shelagh from Michigan said...

What a great idea! I would like to be Myrna!!

Susan said...

I believe I will ask to be Ruth. At aged 53, 5 years past my diagnosis with breast cancer, I have lost 2 soul sisters in the past 6 months -- one from lymphoma, one from breast cancer. Stellar women both who ate life up & dragged the rest of us along for the crazy ride.
I struggle not to be bitter, but I can see where it could lead, being the last one to turn out the lights. A blessing for a long life, but at the same time a life full of great losses and too many goodbyes. I drink Scotch, curse and defensively cast off new friends, too. Yup, I can see myself as Ruth. Strange to say it aloud.