I found out yesterday evening through Facebook that one of my mom's closest friends died about two weeks ago. My mom is probably unaware, just as I think she's still unaware of her own brother's death last fall. We don't know how much she understands, given her dementia, and I don't think my brother has made an effort to tell her. We both feel there's no point except to potentially upset her.
Besides, the arc of this friendship is complicated. My mom met Mrs. Moore (as my brother and I knew her) in the '60s when my parents moved to the suburbs north of Tampa and Mom joined a Presbyterian church that Mrs. Moore attended. They were both roughly the same age -- about 30 at that point -- and they were part of a group of educated women who found commonality in each others' efforts to balance raising a family with maintaining a professional life.
Mrs. Moore had a wry sense of humor that my mom enjoyed, though she could also be brusque and had a teacher's efficiency. I remember being very little, maybe seven or eight years old, and saying to her (as kids do), "Want to see my room?" And she replied, "Not really."
Anyway, after my parents divorced they sometimes traveled together. (Mrs. Moore's husband wasn't a big fan of traveling.) They went to North Carolina when I was young and brought back preserved autumn leaves for me and my brother that we both still have. After we were grown they went to Nova Scotia and to the Southwest, and they traveled within Florida on birding trips. Mrs. Moore was big on bird photography and my mom was once quite into birding.
(Disclaimer: Mom had another friend named Mrs. King who she also traveled with, and it's possible I'm mixing up who went on some of these trips.)
Anyway, they got along fine for many years, working in their church and going out to dinner. And then, as the political life of the USA became more extreme, their friendship became tense. Mrs. Moore began edging rightward in her beliefs -- or perhaps just expressed those beliefs more readily -- while my mom remained a stalwart Democrat. They got into political arguments that never seemed to stop. My mom found talking with Mrs. Moore taxing. "She's gone crazy," Mom often said.
Shortly before my mom moved to Jacksonville in 2015, she and Mrs. Moore stopped talking altogether. Mom never expressed any disappointment about this situation, though I found it tragic that such a long friendship should end so bitterly. I guess people do change, and older people can get quite cranky (as I already know from personal experience), and their relationship simply ran dry. I friended Mrs. Moore on Facebook just to keep in touch, and that's how I saw the post about her death.
Have you ever seen the Stephen Sondheim show "Merrily We Roll Along"? It was a flop when it was first produced on Broadway in the early '80s but it's seen something of a resurgence over the years and was recently restaged in New York. It's one of my favorite musicals. It starts with a cocktail party confrontation between aged, resentful old friends, and travels back in time until we see the same friends in their idealistic youth, open and generous with each other and ready to take on the world. It's a heart-wrenching, truthful depiction of the way time can gradually pull people apart.
That's how I think of my mom and Mrs. Moore. When they were young, energetic and flexible in their thinking, their friendship worked. As they grew older and more calcified, it didn't. I find that so sad. I'd always hoped they might start talking again at some point, but it wasn't to be.
(Photo: The window of a building under renovation in Teddington, last Sunday.)