A close friend from my college years is now, surprise surprise, also old. An architect and landscape designer, Mazie and I unexpectedly turned out to have even more in common than age: we both were blessed with finding our true loves quite late in life. We’ve never been happier, but also coincidentally—or is it naturally–we both struggle with elements in our families.
Mazie doesn’t live far away, but rather than phone and chat, she writes letters. I’m grateful to have them because I always learn from them. Her most recent:
So it was E’s birthday, she and J happened to be in San Francisco, so Patrick and I met them for dinner at Sam’s on Bush Street. Of course the food was great, but for some reason E’s back was up. I’ve tried to figure out why she was so bitchy—my god, I’ve been married to her father nine years!—but it only took one martini to loosen her tongue. She started on me. Up and down and sideways. How could I have taken her mother’s place so swiftly after her death? How could I keep her father from his family—not letting him…I forget what she thinks I won’t let Patrick do. How could I be so loud and have such awful children (naturally she and Posey don’t meet eye to eye on anything and she LOATHES Jake’s music)? How come I cut down her mother’s fig tree (Pat wanted the tree out, he won’t eat figs)? How come I have such absurd friends (she forgot that Hegel was her father’s friend first). Her husband just sat there with that lawyer’s pasted-on smile, didn’t peep a word. But then Jasper never speaks till the check comes and then he says, “I have to go to the bathroom.”
I finally put my fork down, had to stop eating or I would’ve thrown up all my Drakes Bay oysters, big waste. And then I had to pass on the Ghirardelli Chocolate Sundae, imagine. My angel Patrick, as you’d expect, was utterly silent, dignified in his rage…have I ever mentioned that when he’s angry, the tops of his knuckles turn white? Sure sign. They were white as a swan’s breast. I wasn’t angry because I was so busy trying not to throw up.
I am getting to a point. An interesting one. Well, after we were in bed I went to pieces. Naturally I didn’t say a word to him but I lay there thinking that if Patrick died before I did, I couldn’t possibly stay on in our house. He wants me to. It’s in his will. It’s his house, as you probably know, and while he’s leaving it to Erin and his son Matt, he wants me to live here to the end. No way, I thought… Now Matt can be really dear to me, and so is his wife Selene. But I shuddered to imagine living here with Erin barging in and taking away pieces I used that were her mother’s…standing outside the front door waiting for me to emerge so she could throw a bucket of cold water over my head…I wouldn’t put it past her to dig up plants her mother put in, like the aristocratic Tuscan rosemary…
I decided I’d rent a cottage again, like the one I had in Montecito before Pat…I was fine with that. I slept only two hours.
The next day came a surprising gift. I’ve told you about my friend Toots. She’s seventyish, a retired librarian, knows everything there is to know about everything there is to know, shares her life with a big blue Irish Wolfhound. Toots and I were walking along the ocean, blue Jimmy chasing waves, when I told her what happened. I didn’t mention my decision about the house.
And Toots said, “Mazie, you gave away your power!”
“You should have stood up—Patrick with you–not said a word, left the damn restaurant. You gave away your power.”
Well that struck me as an extraordinary idea. Pat and I should’ve quietly removed ourselves from the toxins. But you know Pat, he’s too sweet to do that. And I was too numb with shock. While Toots nattered, my mind went to the house… If Pat leaves me alone, I shouldn’t hand his children my power…shouldn’t let myself be deprived of the house that holds so many memories…has the essence of my husband warming every corner. If Pat wants me in his house, I’ll be here. (Anyway, I hope Pat and I will be hit by a truck at the same time…)
Well, there you have it, my girl. As I said, interesting, eh?
Love to you and Bill,
I googled Toots’ lesson, found it’s been on the Net for years–wonder why I’ve never heard it. Would love to know the wellspring.
No matter how old you are, what your position in life, no matter who your relatives or what they want, Hang on to your power—hold it close to your chest!
It’s purely yours.
Oh, how I loved reading this! Thank you for sharing, dear Sylvia…and thank you for writing it so well…
A fabulous letter and important for us read and remember as we navigate our days. I’m so glad you have such a cool friend. Now I’m a fan of both of you!!