Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Mrs. Moore

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.)


crafty cat corner said...

I wonder if each friend we make along life’s journey has something to teach us and once learnt we move on. Who knows , life is a mystery.

sparklingmerlot said...

I am glad noone has told your mum of the deaths of those she knew. It causes too much pain.
Friendships do change but it's sad that such a long standing one was lost to political differences. They obviously had a lot else in common.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Thoughtful reflections upon your mother's relationship with Mrs Moore. I am glad to learn that your mother was always a Democrat. Why would anybody wish to look at your room? Even in those days it was probably filled with random found objects and piles of stolen library books.

Moving with Mitchell said...

They remained friends for such a long time. Time changes everything. IO wouldn't be telling your mother about these kinds of changes either. Maybe she imagines Mrs. Moore as that dear friend she had years ago.

Ed said...

I love the irony in the top picture of the message about life being too short written in a space where they had to cram in the word short.

I was shocked as my grandparents aged and how they sort of devolved when it came to friends. I guess it was because they didn't filter their words anymore or waste time dancing around the proverbial bushes. Whenever I visited them at their independent facility, all they did was gripe about this person or that and how they found them intolerable. I'm still in the stage where I make friends easily, even if they are of extreme political faith to my centrist views.

Boud said...

I'm probably about your mother's age and have outlived all my age mate friends, and it's a loss. Probably better she's not aware.

A lot of what we describe as friendship is simply similar lives, and as lives diverge, the friendship can go with it. And I notice how many people are activity friends rather than actually close, and once the activity changes, there's little substance to the friendship. I don't find it sad, just a fact.

I'm that said, I have friends of all ages, youngest currently seven, oldest in their seventies ( kids in their seventies!)

Boud said...

That said, not I'm that said, lousy predictive text inserting words after I've typed.

Bob said...

I think people come into your life when you need them, and leave the same way; sometimes in a shower of angry words, but many times simply moving on.
I do have a handful of friends I have known for decades, but others that have simply disappeared from my life.

Jeanie said...

I love Merrily We Roll Along. The concept is fascinating. Did you ever see the movie "The Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened," which is about the original production? It's fascinating. It might be on youtube. It was on Netflix here -- not sure if it's still in the rotation.

I digress, other than to say I love how you connected your mom's relationship with Mrs. Moore to that show. It's good food for thought for all of us. I think we do outgrow certain relationships. They are a gift to us at the time -- and that time might be quite long. But for whatever reason, one or both move on. It's sometimes sad. Sometimes, just time.

Ms. Moon said...

Beautiful, thoughtful post. Reminds me especially of the relationship between my mother and a one-time friend of hers. They were both single women of about the same age and did a lot of activities together. I never liked the woman- she whined and complained about everything. She was, in fact, sort of an Eeyore. Their relationship became more fraught and the last time I saw them together, my mother was downright rude to her. Mother was in the first stages of dementia, I think.
It was weird.

Ellen D. said...

I am lucky that my best friend has been my friend since 1964. However, at different points of our lives we barely kept in touch as our lives changed. We would always exchange Birthday and Christmas cards but might not see each other as we lived farther apart. We found our way back to each other and have helped each other often along the way. Friendships can ebb and flow depending on life's circumstances...

Sharon said...

What a beautiful tribute to Mrs. Moore and your mother. It sounds like they had a great relationship while it lasted. I can relate to this situation. My friend Janet and I have drifted apart too. She's the one who used to take me to the Phoenix Sun's games. Her politics have veered to the right and even when I try to stay away from politics, it seems to creep in. We still exchange emails and Christmas and birthday greetings but I haven't seen her in person for three and half years.

NewRobin13 said...

Sometimes we do drift apart from old friends, especially if we find out that they have become radically different from who they were when we were all young. I feel lucky that all my old friends are still politically aligned with where I am, listen to the same music, and have the same hopes for the future. It's good not to tell your mom about this old friend's death since they drifted apart so many years ago.

Sabine said...

I really like the photograph on top of the story.

Most people have a Mrs Moore in their life, don't you think? Maybe it's a thing now, to be more concerned about who people are and what they stand for. I certainly remember my parents having friends over who I would never want to go near and one particular male part of a couple in my parents circle would regularly beat his wife, she often sat in my mother's kitchen in tears. And still, there they were on Canasta night with the martinis in hand.

Margaret said...

This is the story of many friendships, even for younger or middle-aged people. Unfortunately, lately politics has become a wedge, even more so than it used to be. There are good memories there so it's great to focus on those: the trips, the birding, etc.

Red said...

This reminds me of the movie "Grumpy old Men". Sometimes people change over the years and the friendship dies.

Kelly said...

The first thing I noticed in that photo was how they (almost) ran out of room writing their message. That's such a common occurrence when people make posters, etc. I don't know if it's my design background or my OCD that makes me more aware of planning my space properly. Shouldn't there be a comma (or a semicolon) after "happy"? Am I supposed to be happy that life is too short?

Andrew said...

It is rather a sad tale. People can be friends in spite of different political views but not when one because extreme and irrational in some way.

Catalyst said...

Ageing and the calcification that comes with it (as you so eloquently put it) leads to bitterness and death. It's a sad tale.

Marcia LaRue said...

Totally off topic this evening ... watching the PBS Nova program about the Crossrail project ... underground high-speed rail service beneath London.
Just wondering what you think about that and if it is actually complete in 2023.

Steve Reed said...

Briony: I guess we do find others interesting for a variety of reasons, including that they know or can teach us things we don't, and then we might find them less interesting when those depths have been plumbed.

Caro: It IS sad, and they did have a lot in common at one time.

YP: It probably WAS filled with random found objects, but I assure you I always returned my library books on time.

Mitchell: It's hard to tell what she thinks, but yeah, there doesn't seem much point in burdening her with the knowledge of her friends' deaths.

Ed: It's astonishing how FRANK some people get, isn't it?! It's a skill these days to make and maintain friendships across political boundaries.

Boud: That's an interesting observation -- that a lot of "friendships" are due to temporary commonalities or activities.

Bob: One thing I dislike about Facebook, now that I've been using it for 15 years, is that I am forever connected to people I'm sure I will never see again and perhaps only barely knew at one time. I think it's natural for people to come and go in life and Facebook eliminates that natural tendency.

Jeanie: I've never seen that movie, but I have heard of it and I've always meant to watch it! I'll try to remember to look it up! I've never understood why "Merrily" wasn't more of a hit, but I think it has been rewritten in the years since its debut so perhaps what I've seen isn't the original version.

Ms Moon: Well, and it's possible that MY mother was also in the first stages of dementia when she became so dismissive of Mrs. Moore!

Ellen D: There is definitely a natural ebb and flow, as you said, but it's great to have such an old friend who has known you for so long. I have a few like that too.

Sharon: It's so interesting that our society has become so highly politicized. I mean, people used to avoid political conversations for that very reason!

Robin: That IS fortunate, to have old friends who still more or less think like you do.

Sabine: I guess your parents felt they were being supportive of her, even though there was a sort of hypocrisy in socializing with the guy. Friendships can be a minefield!

Margaret: I think it's so sad the way politics has poisoned everything.

Red: I haven't seen that movie! At least, not that I can remember. Maybe I should watch it. (Now that I'm becoming a Grumpy Old Man!)

Kelly: Ha! The impressive thing to me is that they scratched that message on the INSIDE of the glass, so they had to write it backwards!

Andrew: And it seems like ALL politics is extreme or irrational these days. I feel like there are very few moderates!

Catalyst: It can be a sad tale, but I don't think bitterness and calcification are inevitable. It just takes work to maintain flexibility and tolerance.

Marcia: Crossrail is pretty much finished in London, I think -- the Elizabeth Line (which is what Crossrail built) is now open. Perhaps they're still doing some modifications. I've heard it's a great line but I haven't ridden it yet! I always get Crossrail confused with HS2, which is a different rail scheme to build high-speed trains between London and northern England.