Monday, April 15, 2013

In the Name of the Mother

       I lost an old friend the other day.  (Now isn't that the wackiest expression?  And we all use it.  I mean it's not like the event was along the lines of,
"Where the hell did I put Mary?  I was just using her - in this very room, I think - and I reluctantly answered the phone only to immediately hang up on some wench trying to sell me something so I could get back to Mary.  And now - no hide or hair of her.  Not that noticing a longish strand of dirty blond hair with an inch of white root on a throw pillow or finding a half bitten, Mary-polished fingernail lounging on a coffee table book would aid in solving the dilemma.  How could I 'misplace' something as imposing as Mary?"
No.  The more appropriate comment should be _____ died the other day.  Or I heard that our Mary is, you know, no longer 'among the quick'.  (There I go again.  "Among the quick"?  I see myself and everyone I know dashing about like dervishes and, inducing stark noticeability, Mary just about standing still in our midst.  Which may actually be the genesis of the phrase.  Imagery's a potent little potable - unless, of course one usually washes one's Prozac down with Mescaline.)
       Perhaps "friend" is a bit of overkill (let's not go there) when it comes to my relationship with Mary.  We attended a very small Catholic high school in Brooklyn together back in the late fifties-early sixties.  "Saint Francis Xavier Academy for Young Ladies" was its formal moniker and it was among a group of similar college preparatory schools for girls all staffed/administered by the Sisters of St. Joseph - an order of nuns dedicated to education.  (Once in college, it became apparent that their dedication far outshined their accumulation but, a sedulous student could overcome the deficiencies that came rolled up in our diplomas.)
       I don't recall ever being in the same home room - but could have been - nor do I recall taking the same classes taught by the same nun - again, my recollection could be faulty (that is an interesting turn of phrase, the implication being my ability to gather up/piece together parts of this 'relationship' may not be up to the task.)  But Mary was very much a part of my high school experience.  She was a member of a clique - in which I always felt fortunate to hold membership - of ten or so gals - each of whom embodied qualities to which I futilely aspired - they were Irish, flat-chested and very funny.  My inclusion, I assumed, was my occasional bon mot and their kindness.
       Mary's inclusion stemmed from a lock on the first two qualities, a common after school neighborhood plus a few genuine 'friends' in the group.  (I was not among the latter.  Nor was my best friend, a relationship Mary spent a lifetime seeking without apparent success.)  After graduation, I was the first to lose touch as I attended college in Washington, D.C.  I was never really out of the loop, however, because my best friend then is my best friend today.  (You met her in an August, 2011 post)  Her relationship with Mary was too much + too often = too bad.
       For her part, Mary soldiered on, maintaining bonds with the original clique and then, much to her credit, assumed the arduous/thankless/enormous task of locating the original ninety-nine graduates of the class of 1962 for a twentieth reunion.  At that juncture in our lives we were focused either on family (positive and negative aspects) or career.  Mary, having conquered both - in her estimation - gathered us together in 'hometown' Brooklyn to share, re-bond, celebrate, commiserate and, under the unsolicited guiding hand of 'Mother Mary', integrate.  This last would be in a therapeutic sense as Mary was now all PhD'd in Psychology.
       Best friend had seven children and I had four.  We brought our husbands (who went bar-hopping and talked sports) and focused on 'being thin' - running after kids does that for you) while listening to/laughing with our old classmates' achievements.  All still living were accounted for save one - Marilyn Munroe, the only black girl in our class.  She'd been located living in Atlanta, but had declined to attend.  We were disappointed as Marilyn was the ONE girl in our class known for never speaking ill of anyone.  We missed seeing her.
       Mary spent the evening taking pictures and bows for her outstanding work with the decorations, the menu, the color coordination and the little verbal vignettes she elected to share with us - some bit of history, news or accomplishment of everyone in the room.  Mary had married a gentleman older than she with whom she'd had two children, one divorce and a PhD.  I recalled how little I ever heard of her Dad and how much of her wonderful Mom.  Mrs. O'Rourke was that parish lady who washed, starched and ironed the altar linens, saw to it that the good Fathers ate well and encouraged the doing of the good works Catholics pray so much about.
       The ensuing twenty years saw growth, graduations, emptying nests and burgeoning new careers.  I know this because once again, Mary spearheaded the movement to locate, consolidate and commemorate the remaining members of the Class of '62 - this time in a cruise to Bermuda.  My best friend could not make it.  I'd just had disc surgery.  Mary assured 'everyone' (who would listen) that Lorane would never come  sans best friend.  Well, Mary was wrong.  We had a ball and since movement was limited for me, the camera and I became buds.
       On one day when the group was off the ship touring, I was catching some rays on deck when a giant bee (of which I am terrified) found me - at sea!  Scrambling out of the chaise was a bear but all of a sudden Mary was standing there, swatting the little monster into oblivion.  I was NEVER so happy to see Mary O'Rourke.  My penance was the endurance of hearing every episode of her decades of suffering from Crohn's Disease, the escort who accompanied her on her final cruise last week.
       Apparently, Mary left explicit instructions for a memorial service to be held in a hotel in NYC next weekend.  (Perhaps the "full bar" will be shrouded in crisp, white altar linens for old times' sake)  Also the singing of the high school song is strictly forbidden.  So much for all things Catholic.  I'll not be attending but may hum a few bars of the song just as payback for any angst Mary may have caused friends over the years - in the name of therapy.  And, too, I'll say a few prayers for the 'bee-gone' days.  Godspeed, 'Mother' Mary.
Later, Lorane. . . .